In the wilds of Cheshire rises a French chateau for the ages
When someone who builds homes for a living sets out to build his own dream home, the results (depending on the skill and taste of the design-builder, of course) can be downright dreamy.
The sweeping ground floor of the Polkes’ home houses an open kitchen (foreground) and family area.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Steve Blazo
Gregory and Pamala Polke sold the 2,200-square-foot saltbox Greg had build in Prospect to move to Cheshire so their daughter and son, both athletes, could attend Cheshire High. In particular their daughter, a swimmer, wanted to swim for legendary coach Ed Aston, whose girls swim team has not lost a dual meet since 1986 and last fall set a national record for most consecutive dual meet wins (235). (AstonÂ’s secret: Â“Those girls swim more miles than most college programs,Â” says Greg Polke.)
But first, they needed a home. They discovered a three-acre wooded lot on Terrell Farm Place, just north of Wallingford Reservoir that separates Cheshire and Wallingford. Because the previous owner had calculated (incorrectly, obviously) that the lot was too wet to build on, the Polkes were able to negotiate a favorable price on the lot.
Then the fun began. For Greg Polke, who describes himself as a Â“builder/painter/remodelerÂ” (he is principal of PolkeÂ’s Painting & Remodeling), it was an 18-month labor of love.
The result, cheap tramadol in 2004, was a picture-perfect 4,200-square-foot home in an eclectic European style that some compare to a French chateau.
Â“We came up with the French country look to add a European flairÂ” to the design, Pam Polke explains. To get it right, the Polkes poured over dozens of architecture books and magazines featuring distinctive Old World homes. Indeed, while Â“French countryÂ” probably comes closest to describing the finished product, the house also has Italianate and Mediterranean touches as well.
Pam and Greg Polke put their feet up in front of their family-room fireplace. At rear is a dark-walnut-paneled billiard room.
Because neither Polke is an architect, the couple worked closely with Drexel Yeager, an architect with Atelier Associates in Waterbury. But most of the design elements came from the couple, and Greg Polke built the structure, literally from the ground up.
Outside, the Â“chateauÂ” effect is striking and immediate: Although the home is just three years old, Polke Â“antiquedÂ” the exterior stucco by making the third and final coat of stucco extra-rich with Portland cement, which resulted in a (very deliberate) cracking effect that appears to add a couple of centuries worth of charm and grace.
Inside, Â“We wanted something bigger [than the Prospect home] without a living room, because we entertain a lot,Â” says Greg Polke. Â“And we wanted a big kitchen to be the center of the house.Â” Indeed, the physical psychological and emotional center of the home is also the most expansive piece of interior real estate: the combined island kitchen and sprawling family room/entertainment center where much of the familyÂ’s Â“livingÂ” takes place.
Because of their homeÂ’s combination of open and enclosed living spaces, the Polkes arenÂ’t exactly sure how to answer when asked how many rooms their house has. Â“ItÂ’s a weird layout,Â” Pam Polke says with a laugh. Counting aloud using his fingers, Greg Polke comes up with the figure ten.
In lieu of a formal living room the couple decided that a billiard room would be more their style. And the dark-walnut-paneled billiard room suggests late nights swathed in a haze of cognac and fine cigar smoke.
Another unusual approach to assigning functions to spaces came with the PolkesÂ’ decision to locate the master bedroom suite on the first floor, effectively ceding the upper storey to their two children. (Now that both are away at college, Greg and Pam are pondering what to do with the upstairs spaces, which include a second sprawling entertainment center with a flat-screen TV monitor so big Greg Polke claims not to know its actual size. And maybe he doesnÂ’t.)
The Polkes know their wood. Downstairs, rich white pine floors are laid in planking of irregular widths, from 16 to 24 inches, which further enhances the feeling of one-of-a-kind old-school craftsmanship.
Exposed ceiling timbers from Vermont were roughed up by Greg Polke to suggest that they were hand-hewn.
And a pair of dramatic downstairs doors are made of alder wood imported from Mexico. Luscious.
Lifelong connoisseurs of antiques, the couple have filled their home with treasures from the past as well as tasteful reproductions. Dining room beams (above) were roughed up by Greg Polke to suggest hand-hewing.
The decorating theme is eclectic, and antiques and tasteful reproductions abound. All the bathrooms, for example, have wash-basin sinks. GregÂ’s predilection for sniffing out great deals in improbable locales is genetic: his mother is an antiques dealer in Stratford, and the Polkes are frequent habituÃ©s of the semi-annual Brimfield, Mass. antiques fairs, which are among the NortheastÂ’s largest.
cheap ambien Polkes consider their home a work in progress, although to the casual visitor it certainly appears Â“done.Â” The landscaping, for example (Pam Polke does her own gardening), is completed in the front of the house, but not yet all the way around. Similarly the first-floor master bedroom suite, with its 15-foot vaulted ceiling, remains a work in progress, as the couple have only recently settled on the color the will paint the walls (for the record, pale yellow).
Atop one wall is a recessed space that may house a cozy loft, or perhaps built-in bookcases accessed by a rolling ladder.
Since their second child left for college last autumn, Pam and Greg Polke have been adapting to their new life as empty-nesters. (Â“You get used to it,Â” Pam Polke allows.) Their homeÂ’s second storey, once the near-exclusive domain of the kids, feels a bit abandoned, especially the top-of-the-stairs entertainment center with its home theater and leather chaises.
Their daughterÂ’s bedroom features a lovely antique bed-and-bureau set and cozy window seat. To compensate their daughter and son for the hardship of having to share a bathroom (Â“Our one regret is not building two bathrooms up here,Â” admits Greg), their parents installed wash-basin sinks in each of their bedrooms Â“so they donÂ’t have to fight over the bathroom Â— they can take a shower and get out of the bathroom and get ready in their own rooms,Â” Pam explains.
The sonÂ’s bedroom, swapped with the originally intended office space to lend the teenager more privacy, is of course more masculine, and is distinguished by the presence of what may be the worldÂ’s largest beanbag chair Â— a good six or seven feet in diameter. (During sleepovers the sonÂ’s friends fought over who got to sleep on it, says Pam.)
In the office are matching loveseats custom-made by Angel House Designs in Brookfield, Mass., which specializes in antique reproductions. The pieces, the idea for which came from a photograph in a magazine, once graced the living room of the PolkesÂ’ Prospect saltbox.
That home, which the couple admit they miss, was a charmer. But itÂ’s hard to avoid the conclusion that with their new home, Pam and Greg Polke have traded up. Way up.
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