By Mary Shustack
Photographs by Bob Rozycki and Tim Lee
Presented by Houlihan Lawrence
There’s a home nestled within the Mount Holly estate area of Katonah where a European-influenced way of life flourishes.
A visitor passes through the entry gate off a winding drive, the surroundings providing a bucolic welcome as the path leads to a graveled courtyard anchored by a stately front entry.
The visit to Villa Amore, where the love seems to be for life itself, has begun.
At this secluded home and property of nearly 12 acres, privacy is a given, enhanced by the surrounding 250 acres of the Mount Holly Preserve. Villa Amore’s amenities and beauty quietly unfold during a visit on a recent morning, sunlight flattering every aspect of Barbara and Drew Cervasio’s home.
The custom-designed Colonial, built in 1998, features a showcase pool and spa. The sprawling grounds include an English greenhouse, organic gardens, an outdoor dining pavilion and a series of decks and terraces.
The main living areas boast a formal parlor, a mahogany library, a screened porch, a stunning kitchen, both formal and informal dining rooms and a dramatic Great Room.
Five bedrooms include a sumptuous main-level master suite complete with a master bath that would rival those found in the finest European hotels.
Villa Amore is filled with gentle arches and antique beams, trellises and lanterns, oversize windows and tasteful décor.
It is at once spacious yet warm, elegant yet incredibly welcoming.
And it’s all by design, says Barbara Cervasio.
“I saw the land when it was all woods,” she says. “Of all the lots we saw this was the most private.”
The couple, with a second home in Florida, were able to custom-build their Westchester residence.
“I made all the selections,” Cervasio says of the initial construction.
Cervasio, then an interior designer who had built her previous home in Waccabuc, had a clear vision.
“It was very important for me that it had the proper feng shui,” she says. “When you use feng shui, it creates a certain kind of energy.”
That approach to a balanced way of life was complemented by elements integrated into the work, which gave a nod to the travels of Cervasio and her husband, Drew, who’s in the diagnostic medical business.
“A lot of the materials were brought in from Europe,” she says. Antique cherry floors, French limestone and antique rough-hewn beams are among the standout design notes.
The landscape and outdoor features are never far from sight, or thought.
“I wanted everything to be able to lead to the outside,” Cervasio says. “It has a flow.”
And there was also much attention paid to the ambiance created by the décor.
“I wanted it to also be a kicked-back, kind of relaxed atmosphere,” she says. “I had to figure out how could we make this huge space welcoming.”
And she clearly did just that. Rooms are grand in scale but never overwhelm. They seem designed for luxurious comfort, the perfect backdrop for family and friends.
“We have several different eating areas as you know we love to entertain,” she says.
There is a formal dining room, a more casual dining room complete with a charming seating alcove and tall chairs that surround the kitchen counter for the most casual eat-in space.
Then, there are the outdoor options. A dining pavilion under a trellis, where wisteria is just coming to bloom, stands in the shadow of a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. A classic English greenhouse is also nearby.
The pool, stone steps below this level, is surrounded by chairs, where one might linger with refreshments, while a large built-in outdoor kitchen offers yet another option just steps away.
Back inside, Villa Amore is indeed a space that is all about fine living, starting with the master suite.
“I love having a master on the first floor,” Cervasio says.
And the airy space has French doors that are often opened.
“I just wanted to, in the morning, sit out there on my chair with my cup of tea,” she says.
The bedroom also features an incredible en suite, with double showers and dramatic finishes.
Throughout, what might be perhaps workmanlike rooms, from offices to wine cellars, workout spaces to guest bedrooms, were clearly thought-out and well-designed.
A cavernous attic space that right now is used for storage is even ready to step into use.
“Somebody can come and do a great au pair space,” she says.
Highlights also include a screened-in porch and a library that seems to invite settling into the leather couches for a cocktail or spot of reading.
The library has seen little change over the years, “very little because I went so classic,” she says.
There were, though, other changes made over time.
A health issue a few years ago led to a dramatic lifestyle change for Cervasio. She took stock and decided to transition into a new field, now not only practicing mindful, vegan living but working as a health and nutrition coach.
She wanted more control, growing her own vegetables and herbs, ensuring they weren’t exposed to dangerous chemicals.
“My whole theme here is farm-to-table and that’s my philosophy,” she says.
An accompanying renovation also echoed the new outlook, with Cervasio working with Bedford-based architect Carol Kurth on a project that redid the kitchen and expanded the surrounding spaces.
The renovation work was a project, Cervasio says, completed with “green” or eco-friendly materials. It’s another sign of the healthy approach to life, as well as the influence of travel. The Great Room windows, which all open out and allow fresh air to fill the home, are yet another nod to the European villas the Cervasios have visited.
And then, there is the kitchen, which for Cervasio ties everything together.
“We pushed out the kitchen and made it larger,” she says of the space where she often hosts nutritional and cooking demonstrations.
And for ingredients? An herb garden just steps off the kitchen and then a full vegetable garden on the grounds are both at the ready.
“Everything fresh: That’s the way Italy and France are,” Cervasio says.
With the entire property fenced in, there is little cause for concern about invasive wildlife. Even the cutting gardens burst forth with blooms that are used to decorate throughout the house.
“I think flowers are life and they just bring me happiness and joy,” she says.
Such indoor-outdoor living is part of Cervasio’s background, having grown up on the east coast of Florida.
And at Villa Amore that way of life has continued, expanded to include the Cervasios’ tastes, travels and outlook.
It’s all about, Cervasio says, “your beliefs and how you want to live your life.”
Now, with the couple looking to relocate, Villa Amore awaits its next owners, who will no doubt settle in and savor its European-influenced way of life – and make it their own.
For more information, contact Caroline Shepherd at Houlihan Lawrence at (914) 393-2795, (914) 234-9099, ext. 22336 or cshepherd@HoulihanLawrence.com or Jean Farber at (914) 715-1773, (914) 234-9099, ext. 22361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VILLA AMORE at a Glance
• 8,750 square feet
• 11.65 acres
• Bedrooms: 5
• Baths: 6 full, 1 half
• Amenities: First-floor master bedroom, decks and terraces, expansive European-style kitchen, exercise room, seven fireplaces, high ceilings, salt-water pool, sauna, sprinkler system lawn, wine cellar, walkout basement, privacy, perennial gardens, English greenhouse, outdoor dining pavilion, close to railroad.
• Price: $6.995 million