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With Manhattan only a short train ride away, a family of three gets what it wants the most—serenity and skyscrapers
New York City. Carrie Stimmel, who originally hails from Michigan, fell instantly in love with the ever-lighted metropolis when she moved there in 2000 to further her career. Her husband, Jon, is a native, so his affinity for urban life started as a child. Likewise, their young son, Jason, developed an early passion for building and the towering skyscrapers that make New York a place of wonder and possibility.
As a 3-year-old, though, Jason was diagnosed with autism. His sensory processing issues made living in Manhattan, an island of sensory overload, not in his best interest.
“We had several specialists helping us determine what was best for Jason,” Carrie says. “It hadn’t occurred to any of us that New York offered too much activity. We love New York but understood that all day every day was too much for our circumstances.”
The Stimmels embraced their situation—and a Tudor home in Pelham, New York, just north of Manhattan in Westchester County. It was the perfect spot to begin a new chapter.
A bay window invites glorious sunlight to illuminate a round table and two chairs that play light against dark. Drapery panels with an understated but playful zigzag pattern keep the room from being too serious.
Jon was an easy sell. “He really wanted a barbecue,” Carrie says with a laugh. And with her best friend living in Pelham, Carrie was equally excited to create a new home. She also wanted the things that had been recommended for Jason—a trampoline, tent, and medicine ball—in a big yard that a city apartment could not provide.
Jon and Carrie Stimmel’s Pelham, New York, Tudor home was built in 1927.
With demanding careers and an appreciation for design but no desire to execute it themselves, the Stimmels found New York designer and 2018 New Trad Rajni Alex. The designer fashioned interiors that are light, bright, and dramatically different from the darkness that initially defined the house.
“This house had all of the characteristics of a typical Tudor home,” says Alex, noting the structure’s dark woodwork and leaded-glass windows. “It was too dark for the client. Everything they showed me as inspiration was consistently light and uplifting, so the trick was to apply a completely opposing palette without stripping away character.”
Leaded-glass French-style front doors open to expose a something old, something new concept. Ethereal drapery panels in an au courant ombré effect melt soft white into gray and frame the original threshold. Meanwhile, not wanting to divorce the historical vibe of the home’s architecture, Alex left the intricate stairwell -details in a dark stained finish. Against the all-white surrounding elements, the dark wood highlights one of the greatest hallmarks of Tudor design.
“When you mix an on-trend element with elements that are modern, it can look too trendy—but paired with classic design, it gives a purposeful point of view,” designer Rajni Alex says of the foyer’s ombré panels.
Flooded in natural light, both the living room and sunroom exhale elegance and confirm that a colorless palette is anything but boring.
To combat the linear elements in the living room (made especially prominent by the grids in the windows), sofas in ivory-color velvet add curves. The easy mobility of an X-base stool covered in hide provides extra seating wherever it is needed.
Velvet sofas—a pair of curved versions in the living room and a contemporary tufted form in the sunroom—add sumptuous depth to spaces that welcome summer-like light even during the chilliest of northern months.
The all-white complexion of the sunroom makes the iron-gridded windows pop as a modern, graphic feature instead of a dated, dowdy detail. Ivory drapery panels with a dot detail soften the architecture. Deliberately specified with a cushioned top, the ottoman/cocktail table establishes a relaxed, feet-up attitude. Klismos-style chairs circle the modern pedestal table in a corner that’s sometimes used for breakfast. “Even with the walls of windows, it was like a dungeon before,” Carrie says of the original space.
The house exudes gracefulness, but Carrie didn’t need everything to be pristine. “Give me some rock ’n’ roll,” she told Alex. The designer did just that in the dining room. A stately round table with a sculptural base, an industrial-style chandelier of overlapping lighted rods, and an asymmetrical mirror provide the edge that satisfies Carrie and Jon’s love of urban influences. A facelift for the original fireplace gave it a new ivory finish and black honed marble tiles—placed over existing tiles to avoid expensive demolition.
A table with a sloped base, an angular chandelier, and an asymmetrical mirror bring a modern edge to the classic fireplace.
The couple’s demanding work lives called for simplicity and serenity in the master suite. A pale gray palette gains prominence from a bed covered in velvet and a sleek tailored settee.
After spending their workdays in the city, Jon and Carrie yearn for calm. Their master bedroom, simplified by a monotone palette and a few key pieces without a lot of clutter, provides them with a neutral space to decompress. Jon’s closet doors were covered in a high-gloss gray paint to reflect light and provide a touch of glamour.
Carrie’s closet, meanwhile, with its new cabinetry and island, provides room for her wardrobe to be on display. “In the city, Carrie’s shoes were all in their original boxes,” Alex says. “They are so beautiful, and we wanted them to show.”
As the only room in the house to be structurally reconfigured, the closet lost two entry points but gained enough square footage to provide ample storage for Carrie’s wardrobe. It includes a high-gloss island and floor-to-ceiling, built-in shelves that house and display Carrie’s shoes.
Their devotion to New York City notwithstanding, suburbanites Jon and Carrie now savor a feeling of loving something they didn’t even know they wanted. And for Jason, the revamped environment has been his ticket to run, play, and grow.
“Living here has done so much for him,” Carrie says. “We made the decision to go into Jason’s world instead of forcing him into ours. We realize now that this is our world together. We are a unit, the three of us. This is our forever home, and we are happy here.”
Aiming for a palette that is boyish not babyish, Alex bathed Jason’s room in gray with variations in sheen from matte to glossy.