Sitting Pretty

Regal yet welcoming, this jewel of a home was designed as the primary residence for a 'captain of industry,' says custom builder Jordan Saper, who calls the $14 million home in Greenwich, Conn., his own - for now.

January 01, 2003


This remarkably detailed mansion fits perfectly in Greenwich, Conn., where traditional architecture is de rigueur. Builder Jordan Saper selected finish materials that lend the home a sense of history. The exterior features a combination of four types of hand-chiseled granite imported from Africa and Italy that Saper chose for their light, natural coloration. The hand-split cedar shingles are three times the thickness of their modern counterparts and reminiscent of a 50-year-old product.


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Regal yet welcoming, this jewel of a home was designed as the primary residence for a "captain of industry," says custom builder Jordan Saper, who calls the $14 million home in Greenwich, Conn., his own - for now.

"When I build a home for myself, it is always with an eye toward reselling it," says Saper, who with Eric Schwartz operates Pemberwick Building Corp., the largest builder of spec homes in some of the most exclusive residential markets on the East Coast.

The secret to Saper's success at turning out marketable, multimillion-dollar spec homes is his keen understanding of what his discriminating buyers desire. "They want a very traditional home. Anything that even hints at being post-modern is the kiss of death for this area," says Saper. "But I find that while my buyers are drawn to an old home because they love its character, they still want it to live like a new house. This combination of features just does not exist in a home that is 40 or 50 years old or more, and it is too expensive to try to accomplish this through remodeling."


Saper's goal with this home was to have the type of bright, open interior that today's buyers want but modify it so it would not compromise the home's traditional design. Large windows and glass doors ensure that the formal living room remains light and inviting, yet Saper tempered the amount of glass in the room by adding trim. "This way, you notice the details before you notice the brightness," he says.

Saper's goal for this 20,000-square-foot, Colonial-style showplace was to balance what his market perceives as traditional design with a bright, open environment that reflects how people want to live today. "You have to be able to achieve this without sacrificing the traditional character of the home," says Saper, who uses elaborate millwork and historically inspired architectural elements to artfully "age" a home's interior.

Saper has amassed a library of historical architecture books that he has painstakingly cross-referenced to highlight favorite design elements. "I note things like great fireplaces, chimneys and even gardens," he says. "With this project, I looked for features that interested me and then incorporated them into its design. I like to weave a variety of elements together in the house."

Saper's eclectic approach works beautifully in this home, interior designer Patricia Hill says, because of his consistent use of things such as Brazilian cherry flooring, detailed trim and period fixtures of crystal, pewter and brass. "In addition," she says, "the rooms are large enough to allow each to have its own character. There is also a great flow to the floor plan that makes it very livable."


Inspired by the architectural designs of Thomas Jefferson, the grand staircase in the entry foyer serves as an example of the exquisite detail Saper incorporated into this project.

The modernness of the home's living space is subliminal by design, Saper says. "The floor plan is much more contemporary in terms of room arrangement than one would realize at first. We created big, open spaces, not by eliminating walls, like in a contemporary home, but by using much larger door openings."

The main floor has formal living and dining rooms, a library, a sun room, a spacious kitchen and family room, and two guest rooms, each with a private full bath. Upstairs, the master retreat has a sitting room and his-and-her baths separated by an exquisitely appointed dressing hall. Five bedrooms access a 1,200-square-foot playroom with a kitchenette and built-in media center.

Saper opted for cathedral ceilings rather than attic space for the rooms on the upper level. "Nobody really uses attics anyway, and this becomes another great way to add drama and light to a room," he says.


In a house of this magnitude, the kitchen must be designed for entertaining, interior designer Patricia Hill says, yet still be functional for everyday use. This elegant, country-style kitchen has two refrigerators and two dishwashers. Venetian gold granite counters with tumbled marble backsplashes top the hand-glazed maple cabinetry. Flooring, as throughout most of the home, is Brazilian cherry.

Another important element of this home is a 7,000-square-foot finished basement that includes an indoor pool, a home theater, a play center and even batting cages. "People love a finished basement," Saper says, "but they want it have walk-out access because this makes it feel more like real living space."

Saper had extra-tall foundation walls poured and added structural steel supports in the ceiling so vertical support columns weren't necessary. "Nothing interrupts the space," he says. "It's one big, indestructible room."

But having a walk-out basement be visible from the outside of a home is objectionable, Saper says, particularly for such a grand, traditional house. So in addition to using stone walls and mature trees for landscaping, he had the site regraded with more than 10,000 yards of additional soil to disguise the walk-out element.

"The addition of the living space in the basement increases the scope of the home's market appeal," Hill says. "It's a wonderful place for a homeownerÆs children or grandchildren."

More than 5,000 square feet of exterior terrace surround the home, which sits on a 5-acre site.

Style of Home Colonial

Location Greenwich, Conn.

Total Square Footage 20,000

Hard Costs $400 per square foot

Market Value $14 million

Builder Pemberwick Building Corp., Greenwich

Architect Moisan Architects, Woodbury, Conn.

Interior Designer Patricia Hill Designs, Greenwich

Interior Woodwork Renaissance Millwork, Brookfield, Conn.

Major Products Used Appliances: Sub-Zero (refrigerators, freezer, wine cooler), Viking (six-burner stove, griddle, charcoal grill, ovens), Miele (dishwashers) | Specialty Wood: Enkeboll Designs | Marble/Tile: Walker Zanger | Countertops: granite | Cabinetry: custom maple | Windows: Norwood

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