A few years ago, David Silver fell in love with Diane Keaton’s sprawling, Shingle Style Hamptons beach house in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. For 20-something years, he’d been gathering ideas for his dream house, and that place seemed the epitome of what he wanted. “I had a pile of clippings and tearsheets, books… Being around architecture all my life, I always wanted to build a really beautiful house,” says Silver, whose real-estate business owns apartment buildings up and down the Hudson Valley. “That movie really got me excited.”
At the time, he was living in Warwick with his wife, Mary Ann, and their two daughters, but planned to move to Poughkeepsie. The time was ripe to bring the dream to reality. He just needed the right architect. In Beacon one day, Silver ran across Jeff Wilkinson’s offices and went in. “When I found out Jeff had worked with Robert Stern, who brought that Shingle Style into contemporary architecture — that was it,” Silver says.
Sunny side: The casual, sunlit dining area and family room open onto a patio with the best views of the property. Mary Ann Silver chose all the wall colors and fabrics for the house
In 2006, Silver bought a Dutch Colonial Shingle house in one of Poughkeepsie’s leafy enclaves, and engaged Wilkinson to add wings to it. “He made me see Something’s Gotta Give,” says Wilkinson. “I told him, ‘That’s a set, it doesn’t exist.’ It’s a Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren Americana — kind of an imagined past. But he wanted to replicate that mood.” (Silver wasn’t alone in his ardor over that movie set, by the way. It sparked so much interest, and inspired so many copies, Architectural Digest featured it.)
As Wilkinson drew up plans, Silver came up with more and more ideas — including raising the house’s ceilings — and it became obvious that it would be simpler to start from scratch. Still, the new design called for rebuilding the original house — the entrance hall flanked by the living and dining rooms — but with 10-foot ceilings and a new basement. New wings on either side, with a pool and poolhouse at the rear, form a courtyard. Drafting the plans took a year. “There were so many details,” says Wilkinson, “that when we walked into the building department, they didn’t know what to do — it was like 70 sheets of drawings.”
Triple custom: Silver had the garage tucked away (top, at left) so it wouldn’t spoil the look of the house’s exterior. A Meyda-Tiffany stained glass chandelier adds a playful note in the master bedroom (below), where armoires are built into the dormers
From the outside, the new house has all the old Shingle Style hallmarks. “I promised myself I’d build something classic, with no fake materials, so that it would look even nicer as it gets older,” Silver says, looking at it affectionately.
The house is about 6,400 square feet, “or 10,000 if you include the basement,” says Silver, which you might, considering that’s where you find his fully equipped photography and framing studio; a snazzy bathroom with a pebble floor; the exercise area; the girls’ hangout space with its 70-inch TV; and the movie theater, complete with murals of the family’s favorite film characters. But even though it’s a big place, it’s not “showy,” as Wilkinson points out, and the rooms are scaled for humans and flow well. A full catalog of architectural elements — coffered ceilings, built-ins, wainscot, paneling, chair rails, moldings, and decorative floors — are the main focus, while furnishings are fairly simple and traditional.
As Silver strolls around the house in the wake of a posse of cleaning ladies, he tuts and rolls his eyes, tweaking lampshades and curtains back into alignment. Is he a perfectionist? “It’s my curse,” he replies. But apart from a slightly askew lampshade here and there, the place is immaculate, particularly in its construction. Silver points out how the wainscot in the foyer is high enough to align with the wainscot two steps up. Moldings around all the doors are extra thick so that the chair rail didn’t need to be shaved back where the two meet. “Everything was designed, or adjusted on-site, so it all flowed and fit perfectly together. Details — that was my whole job,” says Silver, who oversaw every aspect of the two-and-a-half year project. The phrase “adjusted on-site” is telling. “We had running jokes,” says the architect. “The carpenters would say, ‘Are these the a.m. plans or the p.m. plans? Do you want it double custom or triple custom?’ ”
Silver takes the ribbing with good humor. He wanted it triple custom. But his considerable pride in the place has less to do with possession than with what he has helped create — and the meticulous craftsmanship he engendered.
The kitchen windows overlook the swimming pool and poolhouse
One end of the house holds the dining room, which is tucked into the big L-shape formed by the kitchen, a casual dining area and the family room — all flooded with light. French doors let onto a patio that overlooks the prettiest part of the property. The formal living room, on the other side of the foyer, is furnished with silk couches and a Chinese-style coffee table that the family brought from their old house. The walls are lined with an impressive collection of French Impressionist paintings, but Silver wants to show off the curved marble hearth, one of five in the house designed the same way.
He points out some of the other triple-custom touches: inch-thick doors in the butler’s pantry “to give ’em a little meat”; the handmade wallpaper depicting Chinese figures in the powder room — a double-width, four-foot-repeat pattern that creates the illusion of a mural; the onyx and wood floor in his clubby, paneled library whose pattern mirrors that of the beams on the coffered ceiling.
House proud: Happy owner David Silver (at right, in the library doorway) loves to show off the special touches in his home. A “secret” pocket door disguised as a bookcase (bottom left) connects the girls’ rooms; the barrel-vaulted roof of the porte-cochere continues into the foyer (below right), visually as well as physically linking outside and in
You enter the other wing via a pristine, mudless mud room, where each family member has a locker and shoe drawer. “The door is solid Honduras mahogany, two-and-a-quarter inches thick, like a safe,” notes Silver. “We waited for the glass for that door for about 50 million years.” Was it exasperating for him to have the project take so long to complete? “I wasn’t fed up, but it gets near the end and you can kind of taste it — you just want it done,” he replies. “I had to slow down to make sure I was getting it right. I had a couple of meetings with myself and said, ‘Take it easy. Don’t rush. This is the most important part.’ ”
Mary Ann’s crafts room and a six-sided solarium occupy the rear of the wing and overlook the swimming pool, which was deliberately positioned out of sight of the patio. The 1,000-square-foot, two-story poolhouse is done up Adirondack style, and homey enough that the family lived in it for six months as they waited for the main house to be completed. Pine trees from the property were used for the wainscot and the barrel ceiling, and the old beam serving as a mantelpiece was salvaged from the original house. “It’s such different architecture, you can come here and really feel removed,” Silver observes. There are toys, too: He pushes a button and a bar rises up from a built-in on one side of the stone fireplace, a TV on the other.
Counter-clockwise, from left: Marble splendor in the master bath; the hickory paneled library has an an onyx-and-wood floor and an alabaster chandelier from an Austrian bank; even the stair carpet has custom foam inserts in the binding
Back to the main house: The staircase, with its wide, curved wall, was a three-month project, running over partly because Silver realized the single row of windows in the original plan didn’t look right, so he had three stepped, lower ones added. Upstairs, a hallway running the length of the house serves as a gallery for Silver’s own photographs, and those of Eisenstadt and other masters he has collected. “I love everything built in,” he says of the armoires and closets tucked into dormers in the inviting guest room.
The master suite has a kitchenette and a sitting room with comfy chairs. More built-in armoires on either side of the bedroom hold sheets, towels, and Silver’s neatly arranged clothes. “I wanted to have an English-style bathroom,” he says, throwing open a door to reveal a sight few English people are familiar with: an expanse of grey marble on every surface, including 12-inch tiles cut into smaller pieces that were hand-sanded on their edges before being arranged in herringbone and other patterns. A shower with 12 heads and a bench has a glass door that matches the frosted one on the regal-looking loo opposite. Next door, Mary Ann’s big walk-in closet has the same feel as Silver’s study, with hickory paneling, shelves, and drawers.
Pool resources: The poolhouse, which is decorated in Adirondack style, is so comfortable that the family lived there while the house was being completed. The pool surround is limestone rather than bluestone because it stays cooler in the hot sun
Looking at all the work that’s gone into the place, it seems Silver must have single-handedly shored up the Dutchess County economy during a rough time. “On one day, there were 32 men here,” he agrees. “All locals except the stone mason and the guy who did the wrought iron. People asked me, ‘How could you do all this and not kill anyone?’ But it was a wonderful experience. Nobody who worked here had done anything like it before, with so many details, and they all rose to the occasion.”
Though the focus was on design, Silver paid attention to energy efficiency, too. State-of-the-art, super-efficient little Viessman boilers, tucked into what he calls Command Central in the basement, provide radiant heat and hot water. Near the swimming pool, 10-kilowatt solar panels — arrayed almost like a display of modern art — generate about four months’ worth of electricity a year.
The house was finished last fall, but already looks established. That’s thanks in part to the people at Vision Landscaping, who did all the wrought iron and stone work, designed the plantings, and trucked in mature specimens by the tractor-trailer load, “so that it wouldn’t look just done,” Silver remarks.
“The only thing that could have been better was if I’d been using somebody else’s money,” Silver jokes. “We’ve made friends here, and Mary Ann loves it. I achieved what I intended to do. It’s funny, I used to drive around looking at houses, getting ideas. Now, when I drive by this house, I think, ‘There’s the perfect house for me.’ ”
CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
General Contractor: David Duff, Hudson Highlands Properties, Beacon
Engineer: The Chazen Companies, Poughkeepsie
House Trim Carpenter: Total Detail Carpentry, Poughkeepsie
Library Millwork: Executive Woodworking, Chester
Painting: Plimley Painting, Beacon
Kitchen & Built-ins: Craig Baier, Masters Touch Design and Installation, Monroe
Lighting & Technology: Cyber Home Networks, Stormville
Molding Supplied By: Erich’s Fine Woodworking, Hyde Park
Exterior Trim: Crosscut Construction, Pine Bush
Pool House: Tinnerello Construction, Warwick