I like to think of our home in the Shore Acres community of Mamaroneck as being the Hamptons without the drive,” owner Lori Gelhard says as she stands on one of her rear porches overlooking multiple terraces, a pool, a salt marsh and the Long Island Sound shimmering in the distance.
The comparison is apt, because Gelhard and husband Michael, both from Australia, have completely transformed the 12-room, 5,800-square-foot, six-bedroom house into a light-filled airy space with an open floor plan featuring dark, burnished wood floors and bright white walls punctuated by dozens of pieces of vivid contemporary artwork. Comfortable furniture is in the modern style.
But the house didn’t always look like this. When the Gelhards purchased it in 2009, it was very dark and dated, covered with homely aluminum siding and practically invisible from the street.
The house was previously owned by Leonard Goldenson, president of ABC for 35 years, followed by a second couple. Many friends and people in the industry came to the house for screenings of feature films and television pilots in the large screening room he installed. ABC classics like “Roots” and “The Thorn Birds,” among many others, got their start in the Mamaroneck house.
“After we bought the house, we did a total gut renovation inside and out,” Lori Gelhard says. “We moved in here in 2010 and the change was so complete, many of our neighbors actually thought we had built a new house.”
The Gelhards have a wealth of experience in home renovations, with Lori Gelhard taking the lead in refurbishing many homes both here and in Australia
The couple met in high school in Sydney and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on March 15.
They have strong ties to their native country and have lived in Melbourne and Sydney. “Between l988 and 1998, we renovated a number of homes in Australia and re-sold them,” she says. “Michael is a banker and, in 1998, he was transferred to a new position in Singapore, so we moved there with our three children, Marnie, Wilson and Spencer.”
She describes Singapore as an “amazing expat community.”
“The schools are wonderful and there is a tremendous mix of nationalities, including many Australians, English, German, French and Americans. At the time, our kids were 6, 5 and 3, and they just loved it. We stayed for three and a half years before moving to New York in 2001, a month after 9/11. We loved the New York area and so we stayed.”
Blessed with keen visual and stylistic talents, Lori Gelhard, with her husband’s blessing and financial backing, decided to go back into home renovations.
“In 2005, we bought our first house in Shore Acres, which we renovated and sold. We then decided to return to Australia in 2006, intending to reconnect ourselves and our kids with their roots. Michael retired from banking and we decided to make a career of renovating and re-selling homes. We bought, renovated and sold five homes in Australia. But we really missed New York.”
SHORE ACRES RE-DO
As luck would have it, Michael got an “out of the blue” offer in banking here and decided to come out of retirement to take the position.
“We moved back here in 2008 and started looking for a house that would be a real project and offer some challenges,” Lori Gelhard says. “We only wanted Shore Acres and were lucky enough to find this house. The kids were happy and so were we.”
The house at The Parkway had everything the couple wanted — ample size, spacious grounds and a high site that afforded panoramic views from the rear.
The family moved in after the painstaking renovation was complete.
“After Mr. Goldenson moved on, the home was bought by a couple who did not do their best in keeping it up.” Lori Gelhard says. “They put up the aluminum siding and the entire property became totally overgrown to the point where you couldn’t even see the house from the street. Transforming the outside went along with transforming the inside. We removed more than 40 trees and completely cleared the grounds out before doing extensive replanting and landscaping. But we never changed the footprint of the house. That remains exactly the same.”
The Gelhards replaced 53 windows and French doors but kept them the same size. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the original house intact, including preserving some original floors and moldings,” Lori Gelhard says.
The couple has renovated eight houses in Mamaroneck, including the one at The Parkway. Michael is now retired, again.
“Some we sell and some we rent,” Lori Gelhard says. “We prefer to concentrate on cosmetic rather than major structural renovations. We like to stay within the original footprint and do a complete landscaping job outside. Often well-built houses just need a total interior refurbishing, some room reconfiguration, a new kitchen, baths and floors.
The Gelhard home is sited on almost an acre of high property and is set back from the road for total privacy. The large backyard, which faces Long Island Sound, features not only multiple terraces but a heated gunite pool, covered porches, beautiful lawns and thoughtfully-designed landscaping.
The house comes with membership to the residents-owned Shore Acres Point Club, just a short walk down the street. The club has its own pools, beach, boat slips, moorings and a new clubhouse.
After more than seven years at The Parkway, listed at $3.4 million, the Gelhards are ready for yet another renovation challenge.
“We have bought a home in Palm Springs, which is halfway between the United States and Australia,” Lori Gelhard says. “We have already started to do work on the house, which is in the classic Mission style. It’s a really good project for us and we look forward to the final result.”
For more, contact Rona Calogero, associate real estate broker, Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty, at 914-833-5984 or 914-806-0213.