You are here

Weekends at a Renovated Farmhouse

A close-knit Italian family reconnects in good-looking, dialed-down comfort.

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Werner Straube

    The Sarnataro sisters grew up sharing bedrooms, clothes, and inside jokes about their family foibles. As adults they continue to share, rallying nearly every summer weekend with their mother at a circa-1700s farmhouse in northwest Connecticut.

    "I practically live there in the summer," says Patricia Sarnataro, a New York City interior designer. While she and her two New York City sisters, and their mother, Lydia Sarnataro, are the most frequent visitors, the entire close-knit group, including all five siblings and their families, often reconnect for holiday weekends such as the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

    "We're an Italian family, so much of the activity centers on food," Patricia says. Locally grown foods are the mainstay of weekend fare, with the sisters, a brother, spouses, boyfriends, and their mother clustered in the kitchen, chopping vegetables or washing just-picked herbs from the garden. Meals are especially savory when sister Geri Sarnataro and her boyfriend, both New York chefs, are in residence. "My sister's boyfriend makes an amazing guacamole," Patricia says.

    Sliding doors in the light-infused sunroom stand open as people traipse outside to dine on the terrace, sit by the pool, or take a run around the lake. Canines are family, too, and are a welcome part of the mix. Patricia's long-haired Chihuahua, Lily, and Lydia's King Charles Cavalier, Kiki, are regular visitors. When brother Robert Sarnataro and his family come from New York, they unleash Cooper, a chocolate lab, who gleefully romps across the grassy expanses.

    It was all that activity--indoors and out--that prompted the family to enlarge and update the kitchen, sunroom, and outdoor spaces. "It was all about family and being together," says Jimmy Crisp, the Millbrook, New York, architect who, along with associate Sandee Mahoney, oversaw the renovation. "The family wanted space for everyone to hang out and enjoy being together, whether they're cooking or just relaxing," he says.

    Like most 200-year-old structures, the farmhouse had been renovated and added onto over the years, with small parlorlike rooms in the original front portion of the house winding back to newer and larger spaces. While the existing kitchen and sunroom were livable, they lacked architectural details befitting the historic house. The 1970s kitchen was in need of an update, and the floor plan cramped this family of foodies.

    Staying within the basic footprint, the kitchen and sunroom interiors were gutted, with doorways widened to nearly 6 feet to connect dining room to kitchen to sunroom. Space-saving glass-paned pocket doors allow the rooms to be divided, although they rarely are.

    The new kitchen floor plan is anchored by a large (nearly 7x6 feet) marble-topped island, with plenty of room for family members to maneuver side by side. Shaker-style stools at one end offer counter seating without intruding on traffic patterns or work space.

    "The kitchen layout was all about movement," Patricia says. Geri, who teaches at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, spearheaded the kitchen design, organizing efficient work zones and choosing high-performance professional-style appliances. Patricia, the family tea aficionada, requested a beverage center in one corner for making and storing teas, and a built-in cappuccino machine satisfies the coffee drinkers in the crowd.

    Traffic flows easily into the adjoining sunroom, which hastransom-topped sliding glass doors on the east, west, and south walls. "Light spills over from the sunroom into the kitchen during the day, which is wonderful," Crisp says.

    Beamed ceilings, crown molding, and an antique stone fireplace were added in the sunroom, making it more in sync with the old house. Reclaimed antique wood floors in the dining room and kitchen give way to smooth bluestone in the sunroom and outdoor terraces that wrap around the house.

    Patricia anchored the sunroom with two linen-covered couches that face each other in front of the fireplace. "The antique fireplace gave the space a certain character, and I wanted to respect and focus attention on that," she says. "The goal was to maintain that beauty, which had a certain kind of quietness and simplicity."

    Scale was an issue, too. It was essential to have enough seating to accommodate a crowd and yet stay clear of the sliding glass doors that make up three of the walls. "The doors are usually open and needed to be accessible," Patricia explains. Plush armchairs were custom-made to complement the scale of the couches without eating up floor space. "They're actually small in scale, but they don't feel that way when you sit in them," she explains. Patricia covered the chairs in a large floral-print fabric that helps "bring the garden inside."

    Lavish flower, herb, and vegetable gardens designed by landscaper Judy Murphy surround the home, creating enchanting escapes for outdoor grilling, family dining, or time alone. Everyone has a favorite spot, but most of all, this is a home to share. After all, sisters do that best of all.

    Photography: Werner Straube
    Produced by Karin Lidbeck-Brent

    Architect: James Crisp, Crisp Architects, 3788 Route 44, Millbrook, NY 12545; 845/677-8256,
    Interior design: Patricia (Trish) Sarnataro, 917/701-6271.
    Builder/contractor: Albert Ginouves, Holland & Chamberlain et Al, 22 Meadow St., Lakeville CT 06039; 860/435-0790.
    Garden designer: Judy Murphy, Old Farm Nursery, 158 Lime Rock Rd., Lakeville, CT 06039; 860/435-2272,

  • Werner Straube

    Three walls of sliding glass doors are topped with transoms, all contributing to the wonderful light that defines the cheerful sunroom.

    Pair of club chairs (custom): Albert Menin Interiors, 212/876-3041.
    Chair fabric (by Boussac): Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524,
    Floor: bluestone.
    Side tables: Michael Trapp Inc., 860/672-6098,
    Coffee table: Joseph Stannard Antiques, 860/542-5212,
    Sofas and fabric: B&B Italia, 212/758-4046.
    Lamps: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Console table (custom); pair of iron stools; fireplace screen: Joseph Stannard Antiques, 860/542-5212,
    Mirror: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Cushion fabric on stools: Peter Fasano Ltd., 413/528-6872,
    Planter: Joseph Stannard Antiques, 860/542-5212,
    Mantel and firebox: Exquisite Surfaces, 212/355-7990,
    Old books: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Sculpture: Interieurs, 212/343-0800,
    Throws: Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507,

  • Werner Straube

    Linen couches from B&B Italia introduce modern lines while complementing the antique stone fireplace.

  • Werner Straube

    A round glass-top breakfast table, supported by a trio of antique columns, is a favorite dining spot.

    Round pedestal dining table with glass (custom): Joseph Stannard Antiques, 860/542-5212,
    Dining chairs: Treillage, 212/988-8800.
    Chair fabric: Peter Fasano Ltd., 413/528-6872,
    Floor: bluestone.

  • Werner Straube

    French doors expand living to outdoor dining and sitting areas with views of a pond. A durable and easy-to-clean wool rug was custom-designed, drawing on colors in the drapery fabric from Clarence House. Reclaimed wood-plank floors installed in the dining room and kitchen visually unify the spaces.

    Table (antique); chairs (antique): Country Loft Antiques, 203/266-4500,
    Chair fabric: Pierre Frey, 866/707-1524,
    Drapery: Clarence House, 800/803-2850,
    Rug (custom): Michaelian & Kohlberg, 908/522-1004,
    Side table: Joseph Stannard Antiques, 860/542-5212,
    Art (by Curt Hanson): Curt Hanson, 860/672-0576,
    Glass vase; white ceramic vases: The Privet House, 860/868-1800, Chandelier: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,

  • Werner Straube

    Wide doorways and open areas allow easy movement between the rooms.

    Cabinetry: Allmilmo Kitchens, Hardware (custom): Nanz, 212/367-7000,
    Countertops (marble): David Mitus, Studium Marble, 212/486-1811, Tile (Belgian tiles): Exquisite Surfaces, 212/355-7990,
    Chandelier: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Range: Wolf, 800/332-9513,
    Wood basket on island (antique); pitchers: Monique Shay Antiques, 203/263-3186. Bar stools ("Shaker Stools"): Ian Ingersoll, 800/237-4926,
    Window treatment: Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Lights over island: Ann-Morris Antiques, 212/755-3308,

  • Werner Straube

    In the master bedroom, a painted Italian vanity from Lexington Gardens in New York City is paired with an antique chair from Sentimento Antiques. Patricia covered the chair with a pretty embroidered floral from Travers. "We wanted a peaceful, quiet room," Patricia says. A soft cream-colored rug from Stark keeps the mood serene.

    Painted vanity (Italian): Lexington Gardens, 212/861-4390, Chair: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Chair fabric (by Travers): Zimmer + Rohde, 866/627-6899,
    Rug (wool sisal): Stark Carpet Corp., 212/752-9000,
    Art prints: Sentimento Antiques, 212/750-3111,
    Paint (custom blend): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Werner Straube

    A necklace by designer Soledad Twombly lies on the vanity.

    Necklace on vanity: by Soledad Twombly,

  • Werner Straube

    Draperies and fabrics on the four-poster are from Travers.

    Bed ("Tiger Pencil Post Bed"): Ian Ingersoll, 800/237-4926,
    Fabric on bed post (by Travers); drapery (by Travers): Zimmer + Rohde, 866/627-6899,

  • Werner Straube

    Patricia's Chihuahua, Lily, relaxes on a John Rosselli chair covered in Travers fabric. Behind her are French doors to a small balcony that was added to overlook gardens and a large pond.

  • Werner Straube

    In 2004, a pool and pool house were added to the property.

  • Werner Straube

    "We wanted to create a little jewel," explains architect Jimmy Crisp, who designed the pool house. "It's all about enjoying the light, the water, and taking in the long views."

  • Werner Straube

    Architect Crisp worked closely with landscape designer Judy Murphy, who added stone steps that lead to the pool house, as well as winding stone walls, terraces, pergolas, and multiple gardens surrounding the pool and main house.

  • Werner Straube
  • Werner Straube

    Patricia Sarnataro, shown with her mother, Lydia Sarnataro.