When Casey Brooks, a native of Rye, New York, returned to the northeast after a stint building custom homes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he initially pursued a career in advertising. But after he renovated a home for himself in Greenwich, he realized the pull of a career in construction was too strong to resist, and he soon went to work for a friend’s boutique construction advisory firm. For ten years, he worked on renovation projects, new builds, and real estate development in Greenwich, Darien, Manhattan, and on eastern Long Island before starting his own business, Stone Hill Management. One of his favorite SHM projects is the one he just completed for his own family.
“We were living in a Hiram Halle house in Pound Ridge,” Casey says of the historic home he shared with his wife Dana and their two children until recently. “Dana grew up in Bedford, and we wanted a smaller house and to be back in Bedford. So, we had an accepted offer on our Pound Ridge house and were fully intending to rent for a year while I watched the market. But, while Dana was out of town, I heard about a new listing for an antique house around the corner from where she grew up on Baldwin Road and decided to go see it.”
“I was in Montana, and I said to my sister, ‘please go see it with him’ because he had surprised me by buying a house without my knowledge before when I was out of town on a school trip,“ says Dana who is a teacher at New Canaan Country School. “So her sister came, and I made an offer,” adds Casey with a laugh.
The house is old—some parts older than others, perched above a dirt road, and the seven-acre property includes two charming old barns. According to local lore, the original part of the house, which has a stacked stone foundation and hand-hewn timbers, once served as the blacksmith’s house on the former Baldwin estate. Due to a few additions over the years, the place had a quirky flow and dated decor, so once the Brookses closed on the purchase, they temporarily moved into a rental house, and Stone Hill Management got to work.
With the help of Dana’s sister, designer Alix LaMotte of Van Ness Designs, Casey opened up the first floor. They took down walls and borrowed space from adjacent rooms to create an open, entertaining-friendly kitchen, while converting an oversized bathroom and fifth bedroom into a mudroom, laundry room, and powder room. To make the home more energy efficient, they installed new windows and added blown insulation.
This was a passion project for Casey who likes working on historic houses and barns. “I like finding houses in total disrepair and breathing life into them—bringing them back to their former glory or renovating old, abandoned barns to make them usable again,” he says.
Inside the house, Casey and Dana wanted a classic yet casual vibe. “I didn’t want a formal living room,” say Dana, as she leads a tour of the sun-filled great room, decorated in soft neutral shades with blue accents. “This is where we all hang out. On winter nights, I lie on the floor in front of the fire with the dogs and kids. I wanted it to be a place where we could all put our feet up. No rooms off limits.” So, when it came to details, Casey and his team salvaged old hardware, updated the bathroom fixtures, and Alix helped Dana find new light fixtures, furnishings, and upholstery fabrics that could stand up to an active family lifestyle.
The kitchen, designed by Kitchens by Deane of New Canaan, features an oversized island where the family frequently eats meals together and appliances from Albano in Pound Ridge, including a steam oven that Casey claims is his “favorite thing in the kitchen.” A casual dining room is to the left and leads to Casey’s library in the southwest corner of the house. Boasting a fireplace, custom built-ins, and ultra-high-gloss, peacock blue walls, it is his refuge. Upstairs, three family bedrooms and a guest suite accommodate the couple, daughter Whitney, son Jamie, and overnight visitors.
Outside, Casey added copper gutters and replaced the damaged wood siding with composite shingles. “There were no gutters what so ever, and the house was riddled with woodpecker holes when we took possession; it looked like Swiss cheese on the north end,“ he recalls. “So, as a contractor and homeowner, I never want to be replacing rotten siding again, and the composites and synthetic lumbers last forever.”
The property perfectly serves the family’s needs, as well. One barn houses Casey’s vintage 1964 Porsche 356C—a family heirloom—and his workshop downstairs, while a recreation room is located on the second floor. The second barn is used for storage. Whitney, 10, is an avid equestrian who eagerly welcomes visiting ponies to the paddock, and Jamie, 12, enjoys riding ATVs on the lawn and hillside. On warm evenings, after a barbecue on the back terrace, Casey and Dana love nothing more than to walk out front to their two Adirondack chairs to watch the sunset and greet neighbors as they pass by. While Dana is most pleased with the intimacy of her new, smaller home. Casey says, “I love the vibe of being on a country, dirt road. Everyone is friendly and relaxed.”