Self-proclaimed Italophiles Chris and Pam Tuzzo have spent many of their family vacations trolling the art galleries of Florence and exploring the quieter parts of Sicily. So, when they bought their new home, they wanted to bring everything they loved about the historically rich European country to their upstate Armonk dream pad.
To fully capture the aesthetic they craved, the Tuzzos hired Manhattan-based architectural and interior designer Neal Beckstedt with the utmost confidence that he would deliver the kind of home they’d want to spend the rest of their lives in.
“To suit their high taste level, everything had to be super-designed but also blingy,” says Beckstedt. “The challenge was marrying the two because we wanted it to be casual and not too stuffy and to have a sense of ease and timelessness.” That meant balancing their love of heavy, intricate moldings and travertine mosaics with refined furniture, such as a sofa from Christian Liaigre in the living room and a pair of suede Ralph Pucci club chairs in the den. “We wanted something current and not dated in any way,” he says. “It needed to show Roman and Italian influences because they love Italy so much.”
First, though, Beckstedt had to convince the Tuzzos that things were looking up—literally. To set the mood for and provide a focal point in each space, the designer brought in tricked-out and overstated chandeliers, pendants and sconces for each room. Their favorite—not surprisingly—is situated over the dining table: It’s a vintage glass biomorphic showstopper that once hung in the lobby of an Italian bank. Another masterpiece in its own right, a twig- like chandelier with a milky-white plaster finish that now hangs in the double-height foyer, however, took a little more convincing. Without the bling factor, Pam did not think the contemporary piece would be a fit in her new home. But Beckstedt pressed on, and when the project was complete, she was smitten.
In the kitchen, Beckstedt reveled in those finer details by using as many different finishes and materials as the Tuzzos would allow him. “Instead of treating all of the cabinetry the same, I delineated areas by using different materials and styles based on their function,” he says. “The wall of rosewood cabinets houses the china; the hammered oak armoire is the pantry; and the island is transformed to look like a long table with its turned oak legs.”
The Tuzzos’ zest for design and demand for meticulous work impressed general contractor Mary Larkin. “We walked the stone yard so we could hand-pick each slab,” says Larkin, describing the trips she took with her clients when they were looking for the perfect marble to use in the dramatic foyer. “I also took Chris to the foundry to meet the guy who hand-molded the bronze pulls in the kitchen. He wanted to be sure the patina was just right. That was the level of the Tuzzos’ dedication.”
After a three-year-long renovation, Beckstedt and the Tuzzos have a bond that goes well beyond the de facto client-decorator relationship. “For me, it was all about figuring them out and reflecting their personalities in the home,” says Beckstedt. “Relationships like this one are so much a part of my life as a whole, and I am lucky they love what I’ve done for them.” For their part, the Tuzzos are quick to give credit to the designer who made it possible for them to live out their la dolce vita in their dream upstate estate. “Neal built our vision,” says Chris. “He didn’t build a generic house. The difference is in the details.”