Barn Again—and Again
Renewing the Historic Hobby Barn
It was love at first sight,” says Paula, who came to Pound Ridge to look at the Hobby Barn in 1996 with her then boyfriend, Ira Resnick, and real-estate agent Anthony Cutugno. “We’d been together for a couple of years and were looking for a weekend house,” adds Ira, now a film historian and gallery owner who serves on the board of the Bedford Playhouse. The 19th-century former cow barn they were touring had been converted to a community center by businessman and humanitarian Hiram Halle in the early 1900s.
In 1952, decorators L.T. Luke Kelly and John W. Scoville kept many of Halle’s eclectic touches—the double red front doors rescued from a New England church, the bullseye glass windows, and a massive Palladian window—when they transformed it into their home. Subsequent owners made updates and added a north wing, so by the time Paula and Ira arrived with Cutugno, it oozed quirky charm but was architecturally puzzling.
The nine-acre property featuring a swimming pool, stone amphitheatre, and pond complete with a romantic wrought-iron bridge, held the trump card—two intertwined Japanese maple trees. “It was a sign. It was so joyous to fall in love with the house at the same time as I was falling in love with Ira,” recalls Paula.
Soon after they moved in, Ira proposed, and with plans for a backyard wedding in 11 months’ time, they felt pressure to get the house into shape. “We brought in Lee Mindel, an architect who had designed an apartment for us in the city,” says Ira. “We wanted to embrace the barn aesthetic in a more modern way.”
Out went the chintz and stucco and what Architectural Digest called the “Pizza Hut meets Pepperidge Farm” décor. “Our mandate,” Mindel’s partner Peter Shelton told AD back in 2000, “was to retain the romance of classical American barn style but to purge it of sentimentality.”
The wedding (and marriage, for that matter) was a huge success, and the Resnicks happily settled in. After starting a family, they realized they needed to make more adjustments, so they hired architect Joeb Moore to address some pressing engineering issues, redesign the kitchen, and integrate fresh architectural elements, including large windows, glass doors, and transparent canopies, setting a great precedent for mixing modern and historic. And with that, you might think the Resnicks’ renovations were done.
Alas, there was another celebration coming up. Paula needed pillows for additional seating in the living room, and she happened to pop into OOCK, architect Carol Kurth’s studio-based architecture and interior design boutique in Bedford Village. “We had instant chemistry,” says Kurth. “After a few meetings, Paula and Ira developed a wish list of interior renovations and enhancements. This eventually led to my firm redesigning their apartment in the city, and then ultimately to a significant renovation of the Hobby Barn”
Kurth explains that the puzzle of the house was complex; it’s close to the road, it’s an historic structure, and it has wetlands issues. On top of that, the L-shape and multiple levels made the interior flow convoluted.
A visit to the Hobby Barn involves a journey both back in time and forward into a 21st century lifestyle. And, it all begins with the gates. “The integration of steel and wood brings the architecture to the road,” says Kurth, of the exterior sliding wall that features “Halle-red” accents, inspired by the historic hue of those double front doors. With a swish to the left, our passage is clear. Kurth and I follow a gravel path to the main entrancewhere the Resnicks open a glass door, and inside the two-story entry hall, the house unfolds.
To the left is the terrace level of the original barn where milking stanchions once stood, and to the right is a modern north wing. The transition from old to new here is seamless. “One of the first changes that Carol suggested was raising the height of the old one-story entry hall and guest wing,” says Paula, who is founder and executive director of The Meeting House, a Manhattan-based non-profit. Kurth then explains that this alteration enabled her team to design a bridge that creates a layered effect while connecting the upstairs levels of the barn and the north wing.
The motivation for the expansion was that the two Resnick children had outgrown their first-floor playroom, and their parents wanted to take back the garage space that had been incorporated into the playroom by Moore.
Sliding barn doors now open to reveal a cozy family room featuring two of Ira’s treasured vintage movie posters, a wall of stacked stone, and a cantilevered glass staircase to the second floor. Beyond the fireplace wall, is the restored garage.
“Designing sleek stairs emerging from a stone wall was a logistical challenge,” notes Kurth. The result is striking and compels a visitor to climb to the next level where a large, light-filled, grown-up playroom is bisected by a stacked-stone media wall. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors in, and a guest area is easily accessed through sliding doors.
When the Resnicks arrive from the city, they usually head left from the entry hall into the contemporary kitchen featuring an antique stone fireplace and a selection of Ira’s curated photo collection. Ancient bedrock emerges at the base of the walls.
The adjacent dining room boasts expansive views of the property, and along opposite walls, there are console tables created from cast iron eagles left behind by previous owners. Several of Ira’s prized Annie Leibowitz photos hang atop the consoles.
A flight of stairs leads to the heart of the historic barn. Artwork by Norman Rockwell and Red Grooms line the hallway that leads to the children’s bedroomsand the living room recently updated by Kurth. Full-height windows overlook the terrace and reflecting pool.
Doubling back, the master suite is tucked atop a handful of steps. It is here that Ira proposed to Paula more than two decades ago. This room is still Ira’s favorite place in the house. The view is unbeatable on any day, but today, just as on the day of the proposal, the sunset is glorious. “It’s the happiest house,” Paula says. “It’s a magical place.”