By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Armed with maps, overviews, a bit of curiosity and the spirit of the season, over 400 people signed on to tour five private local homes Sunday afternoon that were part of the Westport Historical Society’s 25th annual Holiday House Tour.
Each home was trimmed in festive décor and manned by docents or the homeowners themselves, who provided background about the history and features of each structure. Visitors came from all over the state to see the various architectural and interior design tastes represented.
“We like doing these house tours every year,” said Linda Wixted, who traveled down from the Southbury area with her friends Helen Fernandes and Tina Aucella. They listened attentively to docent Dutch Wynkoop in what was once a calfing room in a bank-barn style home at 3 Charbeth Lane, owned by Pam and Jerry Singer. The couple has owned the home and an adjacent carriage house, located a stone’s throw from the grounds of the Fairfield Hunt Club, for the past eight years.
The barn home, built into the bank of a hill and once used to store hay and wheat, has been done over in pastels and carries accents reminiscent of Provence. It sits on a “Long Lot” that was granted by the town of Fairfield to Richard Osborn for his service in the Pequot Indian War.
Cars jammed the street outside 9 Greenbrier Road, the second home on the Tour, owned by Nicole and Dan Donovan. A small stone family home built by Frazier Forman Peters in 1930 was the original structure, and was occupied until recently by Dan’s mother Mollie, a long-time volunteer at WHS, who recently passed. The Donovans added a massive stone and clapboard extension in 2007, complete with a soaring foyer, living room with marble fireplace, dining room with a tray ceiling, spacious kitchen with marble countertops, sunny breakfast room and many more rooms and features that relegated the original quarters to a guest wing.
“Our home evokes family, and we really live in it,” said Nicole. “We both grew up here, went to Staples and the kids now go to school here.”
Thirty-seven Red Coat Road was also abuzz with visitors, who padded through the elegantly appointed manor-style home owned by designer Kelley Taylor and her husband Stuart Aronson. “Our home was virtually undecorated four months ago,” said Aronson. “When we decided to put it on the tour, Kelley went into action.”
The author of Holiday Decorating for Dummies, Taylor said she wanted to make the large space (over 11,000 square feet) warm and inviting. “I like to mix a lot of high with low,” she said, “like IKEA frames hanging above Lillian August couches, or Costco tree tip decorations on our tree, next to imported Austrian glass ornaments. I shop everywhere from consignments and Target to a lot of small local stores.”
A more modest-sized Tour stop was 140 Compo Road South, a pre-1700s farmhouse converted to a saltbox in 1897. Alanna and Damon Conte, a contractor, purchased the home in 1999 and immediately began restoring and updating it and an adjacent barn. Ceiling beams are exposed throughout and wide plank wood floors provide a rustic base. To the older features, the Contes have incorporated modern flourishes that mesh in style.
Damon held court in the barn this day, displaying artifacts – bottles, tools, newspapers – found in and around the property. He also told of the visit of Helen Leptic, an elder woman who was born and raised in the home and was able to provide much detail about its history. Leptic’s stepfather had conducted the 1897 renovation.
The endpoint to the Tour was 32 Sasco Creek Road, an 1865 Gothic Revival owned by Cheryl Sugel, of Millie Rae’s of Westport. Highlights included a parlor with Victorian-era furniture and a working wood burning stove. A new addition off the kitchen featured a dining area, fireplace and lounging space.
Post-tour, a Twilight Soiree was scheduled to take place late afternoon at 61 Maple Avenue South, a new Heike Hein transitional farmhouse where wine, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction were to be featured.