House blends unique architecture, comfortable spaces

Character, charm and casual elegance are what make Rob Saba’s and Mark Hogan’s interpretation of a c

Character, charm and casual elegance are what make Rob Saba’s and Mark Hogan’s interpretation of a coastal cottage style home a Saratoga Springs winner.

The approximately 2,500-square-foot house was built in 2009 by John Witt Construction and has elements of a 19th century home mixed with all the contemporary conveniences. There are built-in dressers and closets, Carrera marble window sills in the kitchen, a farmhouse sink and windows in a diamond pattern typical of the Spa city’s century-old carriage houses.

And while there are many well-crafted details borrowed from the past, it is the modern touches that make this home comfortable for today’s lifestyle. For example, the floor plan is open, the gas fireplace works on a remote and there are double sinks for busy professionals, a rain head in the shower, a heated bathroom floor in the master bath and lots of natural light illuminating the interior rooms.

And, as if this wasn’t enough, the home-owners drew upon their years of saving photos of house features they enjoyed and incorporated some of these unusual elements throughout their home.

For example, the second step on the back stairway extends past the railings to become a bench seat with storage underneath, the bathroom on the second floor has a porthole window looking out onto a hall space above a stairwell, and Dutch doors are used to cordon off their golden retriever, Jamison. It all works.

Extensive planning

This new home was built with an appreciation for the old and was finished last year at an estimated cost of $750,000. And while the construction took about six months, both Saba and Hogan said the project was years in the planning.

Hogan, vice president of mortgage lending for Saratoga National Bank & Trust Company, said he would study home magazines and save pictures of houses he liked, especially noting unexpected features and architectural details like the stairway bench. He created a file of visual resources that he shared with his builder, John Witt.

Still, he said, “We had a hard time explaining to John what we wanted.”

Both Hogan and Saba have sharp eyes for architectural details and as they traveled, in town and out, they photographed what they liked on other homes and showed it to the builder. The wave of the shingles on the front gable was first spotted on a home on Cape Cod and the diamond patterned windows were seen on a house near Fasig-Tipton. All of these features build character into a home.

Not that the process was without its hitches. “We spent years designing a home in another style, but as we got closer and closer to building we realized the design wasn’t working for us,” Hogan said. In a bold move, they scrapped the first idea for a cottage design by Donna Peterson of Maine Coast Cottage Company that Hogan had seen and saved.

“We took that plan, changed it to meet our needs and that’s what you see now,” he said.

“Mark thought about every inch of this house,” Saba added.

Repeating patterns

As you approach the Park Alley home, you notice its architecture, from the granite foundation to the archway over the entrance. On the front porch alone there is a hand-crafted wooden door, a beveled glass window and trim work with an unusual curve detail. It appears at once to be both solid and light, period appropriate and whimsical. Detail after detail work off one another and repeat in various places — indoors and out — tying in all the spaces.

For example, the diamond pattern on the front entrance window is echoed in the kitchen windows visible once inside the front door. From the kitchen, one window looks out to a fountain with a diamond cut out in the stonework and from the other window you see the blue slate patio set in a diamond pattern and a Charleston-style trellis with diamond lattice work that provides privacy from the next-door neighbor.

This cohesiveness is also seen in the paint colors which are limited to blues, white and khaki — and the furnishings which are predominantly neutral tones and warm woods. It feels like a vacation home.

“It has a coastal cottage feel,” said Saba, a senior development officer at Albany Medical Center. He’s right. The main living area walls are painted the color of beach glass, the crown moldings and trim a crisp white and there are a few nautical touches and tones from the paintings of sailboats to small things like brass lighting fixtures, Dash and Albert striped rugs and breezy linen drapes. It is uncluttered, clean and ready for entertaining.

The first floor space is one large room, from the front door through the living space, dining area and kitchen. When there’s a party, “the whole space is used. You can see and talk to everyone,” Hogan said.

Private spaces

While the first floor has the more public spaces, the second floor has two bedrooms with cathedral ceilings, and two television viewing spaces, large closets, built-in dressers and ample bathrooms with unusual vanities. For example, in the upstairs hall bath the sink is a double farmhouse utility-style sink with handsome nickel faucets.

Saba and Hogan worked with Saratoga interior designer Beverly Tracy to select the paint colors and furnishings. “The furniture and accessories complement the space but are not the focal point,” Saba said. Indeed, it is the architecture that adds the drama — from archways and curved walls to rounded corners.

The studio space, which is accessible from a hallway off the kitchen, provides an additional 500 square feet of space with sleeping quarters for visiting children and guests.

It is designed like a yacht with a seaman’s sensibility and lots of creative imagination. Every inch counts and every space is used to its maximum efficiency. For example, the hallway is lined with built-in bookcases and storage. The brass lighting fixtures have a nautical character and aged patina.

And one room could be the captain’s quarters. The bed is raised with four drawers beneath, two small closets flank the door, a flat panel TV hangs on the wall and a curtain provides privacy from a galley kitchen and living room, which holds a day bed as well as a sofa. Here you will find a mix of antiques and surprises such as a weathered wooden bench — a treasure purchased at the Round Lake antique fair.

The old and new blend so well that guests have asked how long it took to renovate what they think was a complete house overhaul. For the homeowners, this is the ultimate compliment.

“I wanted the house to feel like it has been here forever,” Hogan said. He succeeded.

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