Details, Details!

Inspired by a Shingle Style house featured in a Diane Keaton movie, a Dutchess County man oversees the construction of his 6,400-square-foot dream house in Poughkeepsie


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A few years ago, David Silver fell in love with Diane Keaton’s sprawling, Shingle Style Hamptons beach house in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. For 20-something years, he’d been gathering ideas for his dream house, and that place seemed the epitome of what he wanted. “I had a pile of clippings and tearsheets, books... Being around architecture all my life, I always wanted to build a really beautiful house,” says Silver, whose real-estate business owns apartment buildings up and down the Hudson Valley. “That movie really got me excited.”

At the time, he was living in Warwick with his wife, Mary Ann, and their two daughters, but planned to move to Poughkeepsie. The time was ripe to bring the dream to reality. He just needed the right architect. In Beacon one day, Silver ran across Jeff Wilkinson’s offices and went in. “When I found out Jeff had worked with Robert Stern, who brought that Shingle Style into contemporary architecture — that was it,” Silver says.

dining areaSunny side: The casual, sunlit dining area and family room open onto a patio with the best views of the property. Mary Ann Silver chose all the wall colors and fabrics for the house

In 2006, Silver bought a Dutch Colonial Shingle house in one of Poughkeepsie’s leafy enclaves, and engaged Wilkinson to add wings to it. “He made me see Something’s Gotta Give,” says Wilkinson. “I told him, ‘That’s a set, it doesn’t exist.’ It’s a Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren Americana — kind of an imagined past. But he wanted to replicate that mood.” (Silver wasn’t alone in his ardor over that movie set, by the way. It sparked so much interest, and inspired so many copies, Architectural Digest featured it.)

As Wilkinson drew up plans, Silver came up with more and more ideas — including raising the house’s ceilings — and it became obvious that it would be simpler to start from scratch. Still, the new design called for rebuilding the original house — the entrance hall flanked by the living and dining rooms — but with 10-foot ceilings and a new basement. New wings on either side, with a pool and poolhouse at the rear, form a courtyard. Drafting the plans took a year. “There were so many details,” says Wilkinson, “that when we walked into the building department, they didn’t know what to do — it was like 70 sheets of drawings.”

house exteriorTriple custom: Silver had the garage tucked away (top, at left) so it wouldn’t spoil the look of the house’s exterior. A Meyda-Tiffany stained glass chandelier adds a playful note in the master bedroom (below), where armoires are built into the dormers

master bedroom

From the outside, the new house has all the old Shingle Style hallmarks. “I promised myself I’d build something classic, with no fake materials, so that it would look even nicer as it gets older,” Silver says, looking at it affectionately.

The house is about 6,400 square feet, “or 10,000 if you include the basement,” says Silver, which you might, considering that’s where you find his fully equipped photography and framing studio; a snazzy bathroom with a pebble floor; the exercise area; the girls’ hangout space with its 70-inch TV; and the movie theater, complete with murals of the family’s favorite film characters. But even though it’s a big place, it’s not “showy,” as Wilkinson points out, and the rooms are scaled for humans and flow well. A full catalog of architectural elements — coffered ceilings, built-ins, wainscot, paneling, chair rails, moldings, and decorative floors — are the main focus, while furnishings are fairly simple and traditional.

As Silver strolls around the house in the wake of a posse of cleaning ladies, he tuts and rolls his eyes, tweaking lampshades and curtains back into alignment. Is he a perfectionist? “It’s my curse,” he replies. But apart from a slightly askew lampshade here and there, the place is immaculate, particularly in its construction. Silver points out how the wainscot in the foyer is high enough to align with the wainscot two steps up. Moldings around all the doors are extra thick so that the chair rail didn’t need to be shaved back where the two meet. “Everything was designed, or adjusted on-site, so it all flowed and fit perfectly together. Details — that was my whole job,” says Silver, who oversaw every aspect of the two-and-a-half year project. The phrase “adjusted on-site” is telling. “We had running jokes,” says the architect. “The carpenters would say, ‘Are these the a.m. plans or the p.m. plans? Do you want it double custom or triple custom?’ ”

Silver takes the ribbing with good humor. He wanted it triple custom. But his considerable pride in the place has less to do with possession than with what he has helped create — and the meticulous craftsmanship he engendered.

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