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Schaefer-designed home is part of Niskayuna-Schenectady Holiday House Tour

Schaefer-designed home is part of Niskayuna-Schenectady Holiday House Tour

Berrys' Niskayuna home features tavern in basement, Adirondack feel
Schaefer-designed home is part of Niskayuna-Schenectady Holiday House Tour
The Berry house on Cayuga Road in Niskayuna will be part of the Junior League Homes for the Holiday House Tour.
Photographer: marc schultz

Some people have spent months -- even years -- of their lives seeking out Paul Schaefer homes. 

They admire the architect/conservationist’s philosophy and rustic aesthetic, and since Schaefer died in 1996, there are a limited number of his designs. 

Karyn and Jeremy Berry stumbled upon one in Niskayuna just four years after Schaefer’s death, and are incredibly grateful that they did. 

“With our style, because we love the Adirondacks, we walked into this and we thought, ‘This is a perfect fit,’ ” Karyn said. 

They had originally hoped to buy a Cape Cod-style home on Cayuga Road in Niskayuna, but it was sold before they could give it a good look.

“All we were going to do was just turn around and there was a for sale sign on this one, and my husband said, ‘Let’s look at this one.’ So we walked through the house, and once [my husband] walked into the basement he was like ‘I’m buying this house,’ ” Karyn said. 

The house, which features a tavern in the basement, as well as three bedrooms, will be on the Junior League Homes for the Holiday House Tour on Friday and Saturday. 

Schaefer built the Cayuga Lane home using reclaimed beams, hardwood and bricks. It echoes an Adirondack look, which was ideal for the Berrys.

“We’re both very much into the outdoors. We camp, we hike, we fish, we ski, snowboard, you name it. We spend as much time in the Adirondacks as we can,” Karyn said. 

Their neighbors, one of whom was good friends with Schaefer, frequently told them stories about the architect, and brought over articles and news stories about him. Their newfound knowledge only increased their appreciation for the home and the person who designed it. 

“I felt so fortunate because we just walked into this. I have a neighbor who literally drove around for years and waited for some homes. She bought Paul Schafer’s secretary’s home. If you know his [work] there’s a calling to certain people,” Karyn said. 

“When we first moved in, we wanted to keep everything aesthetically the way that it was. We stripped all of the windows on the exterior out and my husband reglazed them, and we repainted them,” Karyn said. 

One year, they had ice damming on the slate roof. Jeremy, with help from his family members, had to replace it, trucking in 10,000 pounds of slate from Vermont. 

The only major change the couple has made to the house since moving in is to the kitchen. 

“Paul Schaffer was notorious for functionally small kitchens. My kitchen area was composed of a sink, then it had a corner cabinet/counter space, and then the fridge [and a] stove. ... With our growing family, we knew that we needed to expand,” Karyn said. 

During a three-year process, they worked with John Alvarez at Landmark Consulting to construct an addition that would honor Schaefer’s aesthetic. They used reclaimed hardwood from a barn in Saratoga Springs for the floors, recycled windows and, while they couldn’t use slate for the roof of the addition, they used another natural material, copper.

To Karyn’s relief, the project was finally completed last January. Though the addition is new, it features a W.H. Bundy punch clock from the early 1900s that still works. 

While Karyn worked with Karen Splendido of Splendid Stems to get the house ready for the tour, she had a few holiday treasures of her own to display, including an impressive collection of  Putz houses, which come together to create a Christmas village scene. The houses are made of intricately decorated cardboard and cellophane, and many were made in Japan. In the basement tavern, there will also be an Adirondack-themed Christmas tree to suit the holiday and the heritage of the home. 

This weekend will mark not only the first time the Berrys' home will be on the Holiday House Tour, but the first time a Schaefer home will be a part of it. 

Presented by the Junior League of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties, the tour has been running for decades, raising funds for programs such as Back to School and Kids in the Kitchen. Many historically and aesthetically stunning homes have been featured on the tour, and this year there will also be homes in the GE Realty Plot and Edison Woods, as well as Mill Lane Lofts, located above Frog Alley. 

The tour runs from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, and can be purchased at Experience & Creative Design, Anthology Studio, Felthousen’s and all Schenectady locations of First National Bank of Scotia.

For information, visit jlschenectadysaratoga.org or call 518-852-8867. 

Here’s a look at the other homes on the tour: 

  • 1198 Stratford Road, Schenectady: Specialty arrangements by Experience & Creative Design, LTD.
  • 2336 Cayuga Road, Niskayuna: Specialty arrangements by Karen Splendido of Splendid Stems.
  • 1039 Lamplighter Road, Niskayuna: A designer showcase by Denise Maurer.
  • Mohawk Harbor,  221 Harborside Drive, Unit 516, Schenectady: Specialty arrangements by Felthousen’s Florist.
  • Mill Lane Lofts above Frog Alley, 108 State St.
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