Designing a home from the ground up is rarely a swift process. For architect Dan Contelmo, the task at hand involves carefully weighing and balancing the specifics of the site, zoning laws, and norms and expectations in the greater community—and of course, the homeowners’ wish list, which is usually lengthy.
Such was definitely not the case with this house in Stanfordville. “The clients really didn’t know for sure what they wanted,” says Contelmo. They had no Pinterest boards to use as jumping off points. Nothing on Houzz to pore over. “They didn’t have a single inspiration photo,” he recalls with a chuckle. “Not even a handwritten list.” In other words, they were starting from scratch.
Many long, winding conversations ensued between Contelmo and the husband-and-wife property owners, who had purchased the 300-acre parcel several decades back. (The New Jersey residents spent weekends in a house on an adjacent piece of property they also owned.) His food-for-thought questions often centered around, “What do you want to do here?” and “how do you want to live here?” he says. “We spent full-day Fridays together for months, talking things through.” Contelmo came away understanding that she wanted a house with a really nice kitchen where she could cook for her family without being cut off from them and a comfortable space for dining and entertaining. He asked for a two-story great room with a view that would never get old. Also, the couple has two adult children. As options were talked through, it was determined that they would each have a devoted full suite for their visits. The possibility of an indoor pool was raised but turned out to be logistically impossible, so a plan was devised for a fully enclosed outdoor pool accessible from the house year-round by a covered walkway with a radiant heated floor.
Smartly curated wood tones, mixed metals, neutral textiles, and natural stone create a rustic but elegant vibe.
Over the course of 2019, a thoughtful design came together for a spacious home that earned a thumbs up from the local planning board. Construction began in 2019, continued through the pandemic, and wrapped in 2021. It’s no accident that the house is set in a picturesque knoll to take full advantage of the views of the barn and the hills, a spot the couple liked to stand on over the years to admire their land. The house is all about the vistas and totally responsive to its setting, according to Contelmo. In the end, his firm devoted thousands of hours to this project, which far exceeded the norm. “Somewhere around 1,000 hours is reasonable for clients who have extremely specific needs and wants and come to us with inspiration photographs,” he says. “Three-thousand is more in line for a highly collaborative project with a lot of back-and forth.” Building a legacy? Turns out that takes considerably more time.
Meet the Architect
The son of an artist, Dan Contelmo started translating ideas into sketches when he was still a kid. After studying at the New York Institute of Technology, stints at several architecture firms and a landscape design company cemented his skill for creating structures that meld his clients’ wishes with the property and the community. He has won over 50 industry awards.
Making a large house feel personal, warm, even cozy, comes down to including eye-catching details that get noticed and spur conversation.