@home (January 2003)


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Transforming Plain into Perfection

by Don Rosendale

Every fortnight or so, my travels would take me up North Mabbettsville Road, past what tragically seemed to be the ugliest house in this town if not the entire Tri-State region.

It was a square cinder block ranch with no architectural distinction; the block facade hadn't even been softened with a patina of paint, the blocks having cured to the color of mouse fur.


Then, one day not terribly long ago, on driving by I noticed that the cinder block appeared to have been cloaked in clapboard giving the house an instant facelift.

What I didn't discover until later was that under the watchful ministra tions of Millbrook architect Jim Crisp, the cinder block soul of the house lived no more. that actually and metaphorically, new owners had jacked up the roof and slid a new house underneath, and out of sight of the road they had added an 1,800 square foot addition to the back housing a cook's kitchen and a soaring "great room" with fireplace where the family now spends most of its time, more than doubling the size of the house.


Crisp currently has more than 20 projects underway in Dutchess and Columbia counties in New York and Litchfield and Fairfield counties in Connecticut . While he designs many new homes, a large part of his practice is in additions and renovations.

This seems to stem from the fact that Eastem Dutchess and Western Connecticut abound with old homes, which the owners love because of their historical romance. At the same time they're frustrated by small rooms with minuscule windows and low ceilings, houses built to keep the occupants warm when most of the heat came from a fireplace, and the 21st century occupants want to, without destroying the old patina, make their houses livable and rooms inviting.

In steps Crisp, with a style incorporating high ceilings with century-old beams, masses of windows; many of Crisp's renovations include the use of antique, wide board floors salvaged from old houses. At all time, the renovations (not restora tions) are compatible with the 18th and 19th century provenance of the homes. They feature kitchens Martha Stewart fans would love and bright white walls and lots of French doors and windows - the new owners of what used to be the cinder block house say there are 64 of them which they know because "they pay by the window to have them washed" - but yet look comfortable with century old Dutchess county farmhouses in the neighborhood.

(end of excerpt)

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