MY OLD HOUSE AS B&B – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In 1933, my father bought 40 acres of farmland in Easton, Connecticut for around $10,000. In 1934, he built a beautiful, stone Tudor house on a hill overlooking a field. The house was built by stonemasons from Italy who had been working on church projects in Italy when the depression hit and they were put out of work.

There was also a stone garage on the other side of a large circular driveway and a beautiful stone retaining wall edging the front and side lawns. My dad also dug a pond in the field at the bottom of the hill that could be seen from the house.

In 1948 my father married my mother and I was born the next year. We all spent winters in New York City where my parents were both therapists and I went to school, but we spent three months every summer on this idyllic property. (In my teen years, we started to go to the CT house on weekends in the fall and spring as well.)

Porch, other side of house and lawn

My grandparents wanted to be with me as much as possible, so after I was born, they moved across the street from us in NYC and spent summers in my parents’ house in CT. This did not work out too well for my mother. My grandmother (her mother) was critical and intrusive and she drove Mom crazy. So when I was two, my mom convinced my dad to build another house on the property for her parents, to get them out of her house and her hair.

View of pond and fields from house

My parents and grandparents hired an architect and designed a two-family house that was built onto the back of the garage – close enough but not on top of each other. The structure was completed in 1953, commemorated by my handprint in cement next to the front door. One side of the house contained a one-bedroom ‘cottage’ for my grandparents and the other side of the building, but not connected to my grandparents’ house, was another, smaller one-bedroom house for caretakers of the property to live in full time.

Garage and 2nd house

Around the same time, my parents built a swimming pool, next to the pond at the bottom of the hill. That became an endless source of fun for me and my friends and later for my own kids.

Pool

Everyone who came to visit fell in love with the house and the grounds. We always knew we had something special and other people’s enthusiasm confirmed our own, biased opinions.

I loved summers growing up, in part because I could walk back and forth to my grandparents’ house whenever I wanted, which was a lot. I watched Grandma cook and bake and in the fall, my Grandfather and I would pick concord grapes that grew wild near the pond and then I’d help Grandma make them into delicious jam. I also played cards with my Grandparents, watched TV with them and talked endlessly, particularly to my Grandmother.

My Grandfather, unlike my parents, loved to be outdoors. So he and I went on adventures together – we dug for worms and went fishing in the canoe on the pond, we caught frogs, hiked through the woods and explored the stream and waterfall that I look at every day now from my kitchen window. Our dog loved to tag along with us and I’d often find the dog hanging out with my Grandfather on his patio. Grandpa also had a small garden (my mother had a bigger one) and I happily ‘helped’ him with his tomatoes and beans. We also spent hours together in the pool since Grandpa was a great swimmer.

View from pool to house

My grandparents’ house was very simple. It had rote iron furniture on the screened-in porch and standard patio furniture on the patio outside – you know, the kind that had plastic slats on the chairs and lounges. The round plastic table had a hole in the middle for the large umbrella that shaded the table. There was no air conditioning – my Grandmother just opened the windows at night and closed them first thing in the morning. That was the one thing I didn’t like.

The kitchen had the Formica counters of the day and a bright yellow Formica and metal folding table we couldn’t open all the way because the kitchen was too small. The floor was linoleum, changed many years later to a tacky indoor-outdoor carpet. The living room had grey and white stained wood built-in sofas, catty-corner, banquette style in an ugly orange fabric with brown dots. The beautiful wood floor was covered with a beige area rug which was later changed to an appalling wall to wall carpet with a brown background and large orange and beige flowers on it.

The downstairs bathroom tiles were blue-green and the tiny master bathroom had pink tiles with black trim around the room. None of this was particularly attractive in any design period.

My parents’ lawn with lawn furniture

My Grandfather died in 1972 when I was 22 and my Grandmother died in 1975 when I was 25 and had recently married. Before she died, it was decided that my husband and I would move into her house on my parents’ property as a weekend and vacation house. My Grandmother made me promise that I wouldn’t make any major changes to the house, but in truth, we didn’t have the money to redecorate anyway.

We stayed in that small house, as it was, for fourteen years, until our kids were four and nine. (We did add air conditioning but changed little else). At that point, the only living space in the house served as a living room, playroom, and kids’ bedroom. It was constantly cluttered with kids’ toys and was no longer a pleasant place to hang out for long periods. Fortunately, we finally had enough money, with my mother’s help (my father had died), to design and build a beautiful house in the woods behind my Mom’s house, on land that she gifted to us.

Even after the move, we all still spent a lot of time at my mom’s house, at the caretaker’s house (because he had become a dear friend over the 20 years he worked for my mom) and, of course, at the swimming pool, which my kids loved as much as I had growing up.

My mom’s porch and view to lawn

So I spent the first 53 years of my life passionately attached to my parents’ Connecticut property. As a child, I used to make my father promise that he would never sell the house so I could keep it forever. But forever ended in 2002 when my mother died and we had to sell the property to pay my mother’s estate taxes. It broke my heart. It’s the next house down the street from me and for years I would get choked up whenever I drove past my beloved property.

Skip ahead fifteen years. The people who bought my parents’ property had worked in the food industry and in marketing and they loved the property as much as I had. They combined the two halves of my grandparents’/caretaker’s house into one larger house and rented it out. Then they decided to redecorate the house and landscape the backyard/patio AND the pool and patio and turn it all into a B&B!

They created a zen-like garden in my grandparents’ backyard, complete with stone-filled walking paths and a fountain. The additional patio, as well as the plantings, sculptures, and landscaping around the new pool, make it look like an elegant spa or resort.

Patio area behind the house

Gardens on the old lawn of cottage

Now the whole place looks like it belongs in a magazine! It is beautiful, inside and out, classy and high end in every way.

My old living room now

My old bedroom as a room for up to three people

My old pink and black master bathroom

The couple established a catering company that provides breakfasts as well as other meals on request. They cater to banquets, weddings and all other kinds of events, large and small. Their impressive marketing expertise has put their “Fox Pond Farm” on the map. You can go to Fox Pond Farm online and their B&B marketing sites will pop up, complete with beautiful photos.

Catered events at Fox Pond Farm

I am so thrilled that the beautiful, peaceful property I grew up on has reached its full potential as a magnificent place that people can come to for relaxation and enjoyment of country life. It’s odd though to think that I can sleep in my old bedroom at the cottage if I’m willing to pay something like $600! But I’m so glad that lots of other people can get to experience and enjoy the property where I grew up.



Categories: Ellin Curley, House and home, Photography

Tags: , , ,

12 replies

  1. I swear everyone had that same yellow table. I know I grew up with one in the kitchen. It must have been one of the most ubiquitous pieces of American furniture. Not our finest hour, but it screams “Made in USA.”

    What luck to be able to get those stonemasons to build the house. It is exquisite, a piece of perfection in the Connecticut woods.

    Like

    • I wasn’t sure if I could find a photo of a yellow formica table from the 1950’s, but there were dozens of them! I knew that style of table was common, but yellow?

      Like

      • Avocado was even worse. When we moved into our house in Uniondale, everything was avocado. It was horrible. I don’t like painting, but we painted. What wasn’t avocado was that hideous yellow or some vague shade of salmony pink. Painting really helped!

        Like

  2. What an exquisite place. Those were the days when houses were built to last! And they looked beautiful to boot. What an interesting history of houses, I enjoyed this. tyvm

    Like

  3. What a spectacular setting Ellin. No wonder you have many happy memories of this lovely place.
    Leslie

    Like

    • We always knew that the house and the setting were special and, even in those days, unique. We had 40 acres of unspoilt land around us with fields, woods, and a pond and pool to look at. B&B’s were not a thing back then but if I had known about them, I would have realized that this is the perfect venue for a B&B. I’ve been to many beautiful ones in France and England and this one stacks up. If I were staying there, I would be taking photos of the grounds to send to my friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting history of houses!

    Like

    • When I started to write this, I didn’t realize how complex my relationship to the ‘cottage’ really was. But I must admit, I also didn’t realize how lovely the interior of the cottage would look when decorated properly. It was always homey and had a giant picture window in the living area that made it feel open and part of the outdoors. But I never knew how dramatic the fireplace wall and staircase truly was.

      Liked by 1 person

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