A gracious retreat

Bill and Linda Kaye have nurtured the evolution of The Willows, their 13-plus-acre weekend getaway in Pound Ridge, for decades. Now, they look back on a life well lived and a property well enjoyed.

A Pound Ridge couple melds home with the elements

Photographs by Bob Rozycki and Tim Lee

Bill Kaye invites a pair of visitors to enter through an Asian-inspired gate and make their way to the graceful contemporary home that anchors nearly 14 acres of woodland property in Pound Ridge.

It’s a gentle amble to the door, a walk that includes a few twists and turns – by design.

“The Japanese concept is (that) no path is a straight line,” Bill, soon joined by wife, Linda, explains.

Indeed, the pathway is meant to meander, offering the chance to enjoy the surroundings and savor the moment.

It’s a small detail, but serves as a fitting introduction to life at The Willows, which has been the weekend, summer and holiday retreat for the Manhattan-based Kayes and their now-grown children (and grandchildren) since they purchased it in 1973.

It has also been a home that has gently evolved over time, a place that has reflected the Kayes’ lifestyle, interests, travels and aesthetic.

“We did not want to ruin the property by making changes to it,” Bill says of their earliest days in Pound Ridge.

As Linda says, “We weren’t in a rush. I think one of the joys about owning a house is letting it evolve.”

And from the start, the home itself was more than pleasing.

“The house, where it sits, is ideal,” Bill says, noting that when they came to see the property there was virtually no landscaping – just a long dirt driveway that led them right up to the front door of the home designed in 1959 by Ann Renehan, a Yale architecture graduate. The Kayes would go on to form a longtime association with landscape architect Kaneji Domoto, who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright. They worked with him to create harmonious surroundings that respected the land while taking advantage of its strengths.

“You have to use what nature has meant to have on this property,” says Linda, noting everything from the ferns to moss, pachysandra to rocks.

Indeed, stones from the property have been integrated throughout the exterior and interior design.

Secret rendezvouses

A big part of life at The Willows is enjoying the surroundings – in every season.

The remainder of the property unfolds in an easy manner, with moss-covered rock paths and quiet places for reflection.

A glance one way yields a tennis court; another, a basketball court. It all comes together in a manner that evokes the most charming of vintage summer camps. Nothing is jarring. Nothing seems brashly modern.

There is a built-in pool that simply blends into the surroundings, its rock-lined rim seemingly there by nature. There’s a golf green with tees set up at two points across the pond, a focal point that over the years has hosted more than a fair share of swimming, fishing, boating and even ice skating. A portion of it even has a sandy beach.

There’s also a lakeside cottage with a decidedly retro aura. It’s most often used as a beach house by the Kayes, though the former owner used it for a bit more lively activity, Bill notes.

He and his wife bought the property from Dr. Ernst Wynder, the noted cancer researcher who founded the American Health Foundation – and reportedly also had quite a way with the ladies.

“Wynder lived here with Kim Novak when he was building the house,” Bill says with a smile, adding the actress was one of many Wynder paramours.

Even after selling his home, Wynder would return for unannounced visits with a beautiful woman on his arm, the couple said.

The Willows, it seems, was born for entertaining.

Today, an expanded deck now features a generous seating area, where a dozen can easily cozy around a fire pit.

One of the newest additions is carved out of the space beneath the deck, anchored by stately stone pillars. As Bill opens the massive door and invites you to step in, it’s a rush of cold air before you realize you’re deep within a lovely wine cellar complete with a dining table elegantly set for a lavish meal.

“The idea was not to put it in the house, because we wanted it to be a destination place,” he says of the near-secret escape. “Everyone is surprised by it.”

Inner beauty

Of course, much of the home’s interior is visible from the expansive property – “inside out” living, as Bill says – but it’s never an issue in such secluded surroundings.

“With this house, everything is a window to the other part of the house.”

The 10-room home is itself a study in gracious living. Ceilings soar. Wood and glass create sweeping perspectives. Stonework adds reassuring heft.

“The stone fireplace is what really drew us,” says Linda.

The commanding double-height stone fireplace takes center stage, offering warmth to the spacious living room, dotted with Stickley rocking chairs and other period furnishings, and also to the charming nook on its other side where leather armchairs flank a chess set.

“There’s a spot for everything,” Bill says. “This is a great place to play chess or have a dinner before the fire.”

A generous kitchen, again a space filled with windows, has an eat-in area. It’s also connected to an elegant dining room that – thanks to cleverly artistic pocket doors and panels – can create an intimate space for celebrations.

A private hallway signals the entry to the master suite, from where you can watch the sun rise out yet another wall of glass. Adjacent is the spa area, highlighted by an oversize copper tub, stone shower and generous stone counter complete with double sinks fashioned in pottery. Two additional bedrooms are part of the home’s mix, each spacious and airy in its own right.

Personality is felt throughout. A turn-of-the-last century canoe hangs in the media room, an anniversary gift turned into a decorative element. A gym is featured in the garage area.

Over the years, the couple has engaged noted architects and interior designers, including Scott Cornelius and David Collins to tweak things along the way.

A balcony library is a charming “dead end” thanks to the removal of an unwieldy spiral staircase that cluttered up the space.

Again, the move was based not on a desire for dramatic change but rather on listening to what worked for the flow of the house.

Looking ahead

The Kayes convey that the home is a tangible reflection of the way they have lived.

It’s been something that has grown as they have, Bill says. The Willows gave them a way to set down Westchester roots and watch them evolve over decades.

“It’s a very interesting, European philosophy… the evolution of a home,” he says.

And now, they are ready to concentrate more on other threads of their life.

Work is a constant. Linda is a longtime Manhattan-based party planner, while Bill has a business-consulting company.

They are fully entrenched in city living, though travel is also taking up more time.

But no matter how far the Kayes are from Pound Ridge, it’s a good bet The Willows will remain in their hearts.

For more information, contact Mary Anne Condon at Houlihan Lawrence at (914) 764-1800, Ext. 323, at (914) 299-9956 or MACondon@HoulihanLawrence.com.

[stextbox id=”gold” caption=”THE WILLOWS AT A GLANCE”] • Pound Ridge
• 4,725 square feet
• 13.267 acres
• Bedrooms: 3
• Baths: 3 full, one half
• Amenities: Beach, deck, exercise room, first-floor master bedroom suite, fireplaces, gardens, golf green, high ceilings, pond, patio, pool, privacy, tennis court, waterfront, water view, wine cellar with dining room.
• Price: $3,950,000[/stextbox]
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