By Robin Jovanovich
If you had to be homebound for a year, it’s hard to imagine any place better than the 1913 Colonial classic at the corner of Forest and Manursing avenues. Unlike many grand dames of a certain age, it is aging with grace and requires no smelling salts or tinctures of rejuvenation.
Its chief benefactress is Joan Steere, owner/designer. After she and her husband Will Steere bought the property in 2005, they spent a year renovating it.
Joan, who worked for Ralph Lauren, had no difficulty figuring out what changes and improvements to make. She designed the kitchen to look like Marseilles, one of her favorite French brasseries in New York City, with the use of handmade oversized pendant lights and Laso Bianco marble countertops. She claimed the intimate room behind the kitchen for her office and had a small gas fireplace installed. To create a study for her husband, she dressed up an enclosed porch. The antique table he uses as a desk came with the house. She created another “living room” by adding a porch along the entire back of the house.
There are touches of design genius everywhere, mostly done by Calico Wood Signs. She took vintage doors and had them mirrored for daughter Campbell’s “mudroom”. The barn lanterns in the living room give the room a countrified look. The platform beds on the third floor were made from old doors. She opened the 8,000 square-foot house to the outdoors by adding pairs of French doors wherever she could. She created a rhododendron wall around the overflow parking area.
Her choice of paint colors adds gravitas to some rooms and joy to others. Our favorites were the Benjamin Moore navy on the Butler’s pantry cabinets and the blue denim Ralph Lauren paint in the study.
“It’s all about having talented and professional people to work with,” said Joan. “All the additions were done by Jim Davis, who’s now retired, and fine craftsmen are responsible for all the amazing woodwork. If you want to see all of his amazing woodworking, check out this website: www.hehabitofwoodworking.com.”
The house sits on 1.4 acres of flat land right in the heart of Rye but is totally private because the Steeres planted and preserved so many trees — magnolia, ash, holly — around the perimeter.
What they’ve loved most about the house is the six fireplaces and the sunroom in winter, and the porch in summer. “When you stand at the front door and look up, the light travels all the way up the sweeping staircase,” added Joan.
The grandeur is distributed equally and it’s of the welcoming, not off-putting kind. The house has been on several house tours and been the site of many wonderful private parties and local fundraisers.
The Steere family is moving to the west coast of Florida this summer and they leave a wonderful legacy behind at 60 Forest Avenue.