Beach living at its finest
It took nearly six years, but Wende
Cohen and her husband Rick Levin finally finished building their dream home at 46 Compo Mill Cove.
Known as "Sandbar," with picturesque views of Compo Mill Cove and the Long Island Sound, the 4,475-square-foot custom built home is more like an oasis than a dwelling. Yet Cohen, who has owned Bungalow, a French antique and gift store in Westport, for 14 years, and Levin, who retired as a partner from a Wall Street firm, fell in love with another home. Now, the couple and their five children are heading west.
"We both fell in love with our home in Aspen, which we also purchased furnished, by renowned decorator David Easton," Cohen said. "Our home is a beautiful compromise between classic and modern, filled with many of the features of Sandbar, including the same floors, skylights and incredible windows which bring in the sunshine and the amazing views of the three ski mountains, Ajax, Highlands and Buttermilk."
"Throughout my career," Cohen added, "I have been excited about discovering beautiful antique mirrors and tables and chairs, sconces, chandeliers and everything in between in the markets of France and Europe, and merchandising my finds in a way that showcases the beauty of each piece. In a way, building our home in Westport was a culmination of this for me, where I have been able to acquire magnificent furniture and lighting and art that could be displayed in an equally magnificent setting."
To find out more about what went into this labor of love, the Westport News posed the following questions to Cohen and Levin:
Who was the architect?
We were very fortunate to work with Brooke Girty, of Brooke Girty Design, in Lyme. Brooke has spent much of her career creating and renovating classic beach homes such as those in the remarkable deco enclave of Fenwick, Old Saybrook.
Who was the builder?
We started construction with Shaw Builders, and completed the project with Michael Greenberg of MG Builders.
How long did it take, from conception to
We began working with Brooke, our architect, in early 2002. Actual construction began in September, 2004. We received our Certificate of Occupancy on June 27, 2008.
What was your inspiration for the project?
We wanted to create a home that was timeless, supremely comfortable yet sophisticated, and fun for our family or for entertaining, and that felt as if it grew out of the dunes and had always been there. The site itself was the true inspiration. Reachable only by footbridge over a rushing tidal stream, and surrounded by wide vistas of sand, sea and sky, it called for an open home that brought the light, the waves, the magnificent tides and majesty of the weather inside.
Our design facilitated the flow of cool breezes throughout the home in summer, and a warm and cozy feeling, with five working fireplaces, in winter. The site offered us sea grasses, breathtaking visuals and the beach, temperatures much cooler than on the "mainland," the absence of cars, and the simplicity, charm and "from another era" ethic of bringing groceries by wheelbarrow. So we were also inspired to create a home where the opportunity and the convenience of feeling like we were living far away, perhaps in the Hamptons or Nantucket, existed, in fact, in the midst of Westport and only 50 minutes from New York.
What was the most challenging
aspect of the project?
The site logistics were, by far, the most challenging. Since we were unable to bring equipment or supplies to our site, other than by footbridge, for the first few years of the project we leased a World War II Higgins landing craft that delivered building materials, construction machinery, dumpsters, site trailers and portable toilets, all of which had to be staged out of a dock in Bridgeport.
And while it took some time for vendors to get comfortable with walking over the bridge with their tools in a wheelbarrow, almost without exception, the site, with its cool breezes, remarkable visuals, and our absolute commitment to excellence, became an absolute favorite for all.
What is your favorite room in the home, and why?
We smiled when we decided to take the entire back of our home, facing Long Island Sound, as our master suite. After all, why not treat ourselves to everything our site had to offer? Since we were surrounded by water, each of our kids rooms would still have great views!
As a result, every spot in the master feels as if we are on a ship, looking out to sea ... from our bed with huge sliding doors that open to a bronze screened sleeping porch; from my bath that offers complete privacy with a free standing tub perched as if it is on the dunes; from the sitting room and Rick's office with fireplace that shines its light and warmth throughout the suite; from my office, tucked directly aside our bed; from my very feminine curved walk-in closet and Rick's teak closet and bath; and from our year-round outdoor shower, on our deck.
As wide open as our suite is, 10-foot hidden pocket doors can close off Rick's office and my bath, to ensure privacy when needed. Watching the sun rise, or a storm roll in while tucked in bed, or keeping an eye on our 5-year-old with his dog out on the totally safe sand flats at low tide from Rick's desk, we feel as if we are outside, yet we are protected from the elements and surrounded by incredible comforts everywhere in the master suite.
It appears that you spared no
expense in designing and furnishing the home. How did you decide what materials to use?
Our home is meant to feel as if it grew from the site, so everything is meant to co-exist quietly and, at the same time, dramatically, with the surroundings. Part of the art of Sandbar is finding that place that function reigns supreme and yet, so does form.
Our 100-year-old French oak flooring has been walked on throughout its life, by everything. Not only is it invincible, it has a spirit and a patina that feels of the earth and a visual and tactile uniqueness. The slate dining room table top lived inside of an english water tower for 200 years, so just as the waves caress our sand, waters have caressed this special centerpiece. Donald Kaufman custom created a unique color palate for Sandbar, with subtle tones that pick up the sunset, or the sand, spreading warmth throughout our home.
Just as nature breathes on Compo Mill Cove, all of our fabrics are the finest cashmeres or wools, or cottons. There is nothing synthetic anywhere. The 2-inch calcutta marble in the kitchen, the french pavers in the mudroom and laundry room, and the stone and marble throughout the house, are highly functional, while exciting and understated at the same time. Yes, there is lots of drama with the German Silver Sink, the custom balusters and the tactile uninterrupted handrail, but each element knows its place.
Everything in our home is meant to be natural and comfortable and practical and beautiful.
How could you build this beautiful home, in such a breathtaking location, and not want to live there?
Of course, we absolutely love our home, its spectacular location, and all of the magic that it offers. And there is no question that after the huge effort to build, and quest for perfection, leaving this jewel has some scratching their heads. We do feel great pride and accomplishment in building the exact beach home we sought to create and its lifestyle that we aptly named Sandbar, after the awesome sand flats at low tide, and the fun that we have had with friends at our "beach bar."
But both of us look forward not back. Life is short, and neither of us need to be in Fairfield County at this stage of our careers. When we bought our home in Aspen at 81 Herron Hollow two years ago, we planned on moving to Colorado after our daughter graduated from Greens Farms Academy. When Sarah transferred to the Cate School in Santa Barbara, Calif., we were totally free to move with our then 4-year-old.
Because my husband and I both love to ski, hike, bike and be very physical everyday, we found Aspen to be just an incredible wonderland, filled with people who love the outdoors, and great restaurants, and lots of culture. It's also a place all of our kids want to visit ... an important theme as we think about being with our family in the years ahead!
The air is light. There is no traffic, and we are fortunate to have a summer home in Nantucket for that all-important beach fix.
So, I guess we are now, in fact, really traveling to Nantucket!
For more information about Sandbar, on the market for $9,900,000, contact Billy Nistico at (203) 682-0897 or visit his Web site, www.billynistico.com