For the longest time, Stacy DeMeo peppered her husband, Mark, with one question: “Can we look at the plans again?”
The “plans” were the blueprints, the drawings, the pages ripped out of catalogs detailing their dream house.
“Sure,” Mark recalled saying, good-naturedly rolling his eyes, “let’s look at the plans again.”
The DeMeos bought the eight-acre parcel of land at the end of a dead-end street on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs in 2000 with the intention of building their home overlooking Pitney’s corn fields to the west.
The negotiated land price? $10,000. Construction wouldn’t begin for four years, but enduring the bureaucratic delays was made a bit easier by thinking about that bargain purchase price, Stacey said. “We thought, ‘Heck, for $10,000 we’ll walk our dogs there!’ ”
Months of planning board meetings and zoning board hearings stretched into years of delay. Phrases such as ‘illegal subdivision’ took on ominous, deal-breaking significance. Family members offered the opinion that the DeMeos would never be able to build on the parcel. A neighborly agreement, put in place by the previous owner — which allowed farming and produce-sharing on a piece of the property that technically was theirs — raised several red flags.
The building phase
Finally, the legal T’s were crossed, the I’s dotted, the necessary permits were awarded, plans were drawn, fees were paid (all told another $2,000) and now, in 2004, it was time to hire the subcontractors.
Mark, a contractor himself, intended to serve as the general contractor on the project. Construction costs hit $300,000.
Throughout the yearlong building phase, DeMeo hired a dozen subcontractors “and had three nervous breakdowns!” he said. “Dealing with subcontractors,” he added, “is an art in itself.”
One guy took his check and never returned, Mark said. Another estimated a time frame in which he could get a particular job done without taking into account the possibility of a rainy day. The architect just couldn’t get the wall of windows drawn the way the DeMeos imagined it. “He tried three different times,” Mark said. “He just couldn’t draw it the way we wanted it. So we made on-site changes and I ended up personally building the windows in the middle there.”
“But our stair guy was wonderful,” he said. “It was so refreshing to have a subcontractor stand by his word.” An open circular stairway dominates the foyer and draws the eye toward the second floor landing. “I love stairs,” Stacy said, smiling. The stair situation was complicated by the fact that from the time the engineer drew the plans to the time the permit was applied for, New York state changed the tread regulations for circular stairs. Re-drawings and reconfigurations ensued before stairway construction could begin.
Before Mark settled on a stair subcontractor, he solicited bids from a few companies. “I remember one bid from a company in the Midwest. They said for $35,000 they’d ship the staircase to us but we would need to get someone to install it. Needless to say, we didn’t go with them.”
The DeMeos spent much of that construction year searching clearance sales at area home stores in search of molding and columns, comparing prices, shopping around.
Home at last
They moved into their dream house in March 2005. The 3,600- square-foot, brick, two-story house sits at the end of a dead-end street in Saratoga Springs. The property abuts the 220 acres of Pitney’s corn fields. The DeMeos and their two daughters, 7-year-old Victoria and 4-year-old Cristina, are entertained by the wildlife just outside their windows. “There are all kinds of animals,” Stacy said. “Fox, deer. Just the other day, I saw three foxes rolling around out there.” A large woodpecker regularly visits and other birds find their meals in the creek on the property.
The house boasts four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen with marble countertops in shades of beige, a great room with a 20-foot-high ceiling, a dining room, a sitting room, an office and a large playroom for the girls. There are three gas fireplaces; one of them is a “through” fireplace, fronting both the great room and Mark’s office. Two furnaces warm the house and the one in the attic is tied into air conditioning, as well. Six chandeliers and nine sconces — all Waterford cut crystal — sparkle throughout. Much of the flooring is hardwood; the kitchen floor is porcelain tiles and the foyer is marble. Five pillars decorate the great room, supporting the ceiling and setting off the intricate molding throughout. The downstairs is painted in shades of crème and white.
The front of the house is powdered brick — the powder softening the deeper red of the brick. Mark recalled the day he came home and, upset that the front of the house was less than pristine, took it upon himself to clean up. “So I started power-washing the front and washed off some of the coating,” he said, laughing. “Had those guys cleaned up everyday, our powdered bricks would have been perfect!”
Two decks (both built by Mark) and a balcony off the master bedroom help blend the indoors with the outside. The porch in front remains unfinished, but as Mark said, laughing, “We never use that door. We come in through the garage.”
‘What’s a garage?’
“Speaking of the garage,” he said, “my car won’t fit in it. We took three feet off the plans and added a bathroom, a closet and a nook. As we looked at the plans, we were sure [the garage area] was big enough. But what is a garage? A man’s closet. You keep your bike there. Your grill. And, oh yeah, your car.” Both DeMeos keep their cars in the driveway because while they can drive into the garage, they can’t then open the car doors.
But none of that matters. Asked if he would do it all again, Mark looked around at his dream house and said, “In a heartbeat.”