For Tod and Bonnie Greenfield, commissioning a home designed specifically for them and their two teenage daughters just made sense. After all, Tod runs the family company, martin greenfield clothiers, which for decades has been tailoring bespoke suits for U.S. presidents, pop stars and hit cable television shows. So when the couple decided they wanted a home that would need less maintenance than their aging 1960s-era split-level, they called on architect Stuart Narofsky to build anew. “The original house needed a lot of repair work, and so we chose to start from scratch instead of renovating what we had,” Tod explains, noting that the original abode’s wooden shingles needed to be scraped and painted regularly. “We couldn’t find any place that we liked better than our special piece of land, so we opted to just knock our house down and start over.”
The result is a modernist concrete home clad with reclaimed wood milled from black locust trees that grew on the site before being felled during Hurricane Irene. “Right from the beginning, Stuart was interested in creating a kind of pathway that wound around a central courtyard with a series of almost pavilion-like rooms that were building up as they spiraled around,” explains architect John DeFazio, who assisted during the initial planning stages. In fact, the J-shaped home literally straddles a dip in the landscape, allowing the lawn to pass underneath the building. “The landscape actually moves through the house,” explains Narofsky, whose firm handled not only the architectural plans but also the construction and interior design.
According to structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer, of Silman, using concrete to build a home is more complicated than using it in more typical commercial designs. “The column grid and layout were predicated almost entirely on walls and partitions inside the house rather than the usual, simpler structural grid,” he explains. “Because of this, we had to be very conscious of the size, layout and profile of the concrete.” to minimize the impact of the construction on the land, landscape architect Jeff Dragan transplanted many of the plant material, including English oak, Japanese umbrella pine and Colorado blue spruce trees, as well as a variety of shrubs, to a temporary nursery. “We moved the material and then put it back after construction,” Dragan explains. “The house didn’t need a lot of foundation planting or accents.”
Indeed, because nearly every room has direct access to the rolling green lawn, the house seems to be part of the landscape. To bring the sunshine inside, the courtyard side of the house was clad in a translucent polycarbonate panel, which floods the home with daylight. In the evening, the panel is illuminated from the inside, which creates a warm glow in the courtyard. “The house is full of discoveries,” Narofsky says.
In places where drywall would ordinarily be, Narofsky either exposed the rough concrete surface, which was poured into wood forms that lend the surface an organic appearance, or he covered it with custom MDF panels that had been screwed onto oak framing. “We expressed the oak framing rather than hiding it,” Narofsky notes. “It became a real arts-and-crafts endeavor.”
In fact, nearly every railing, bench and vanity in the home was built using wood salvaged from the property. “We had to figure out what we had to work with and how to implement that in the house as we went along, all while making it a luxury home that’s super-functional,” explains interior designer Katrina Hermann, who worked alongside interior designer Jennifer Rusch. “As you go through the house, you see all these interesting elements, which come either from the deep recesses of our brains or from the backyard.”
To contrast the reclaimed wood, mottled concrete and other organic elements, the designers took special care to create other, more decorated areas. “We tried to find places in the home that we could kind of polish for bonnie and achieve that high level of design within this deconstructed atmosphere,” says Rusch. In the kitchen, for example, sleek counter surfaces—white Corian for the island and stainless steel for the perimeter—complement contemporary cabinetry from Eggersmann. “We felt that the kitchen should be this sort of glamorous, smooth and seamless millwork masterpiece,” Rusch adds.
The living room was furnished with oversize sofas that were designed to resemble large boulders coming out of the ground. “We upholstered them in raw cut buffalo hide and let the natural cuts define where the seams were going to be,” Hermann explains. “While they look very rigid, they are actually very comfortable and seat a lot of people.”
Narofsky’s favorite spot in the house is a sunken seating pit surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the forested backyard. “You step down into it and you’re hovering off the corner of the house,” he says, noting that it was inspired by the iconic 50s-era Eero Saarinen-designed miller house in Indiana. A custom bookshelf creates a sense of separation between the nest and nearby living room. “I put the nest in the prime viewing spot of the property,” he says, “and it’s the most wonderful place to sit. Whenever I visit the house, I’m just in awe.”