Building character

“God is in the details” could well be the motto of Ridgefield architect Brad DeMotte.

“God is in the details” could well be the motto of Ridgefield architect Brad DeMotte.

A custom pool house in Katonah hugs rock outcroppings and curves about the irregularly shaped pool itself. A freestanding garage in Easton has a loggia on one side supported by Doric columns that both creates a façade and suggests a Greek temple. And everywhere houses and even homey commercial buildings are graced by turrets, gables, cupolas, Palladian windows, wraparound porches and verandas, giving his work a favorite DeMotte quality — character.

“Architecture,” he says, “is both an art and science, but not all architecture falls into the art category.”

The postwar era created a huge building boom as returning G.I.s and their loved ones longed for families and homes of their own, the sooner the better. It was, DeMotte says, a turning point in residential architecture. 

“Anything prior to that — the late 1800s, the early 1900s — are great buildings that are architecture-driven. After that, design definitely took a back seat to building itself. The houses that were being built were not that great in quality.”

This has been driven by a lot of things — builders building for themselves, cost consciousness and changing societal tastes. 

“Some homeowners … would rather have a bigger house with a lack of detail than a smaller one with character and detail.”

Millennial homeowners, too, don’t want what they perceive to be clutter. This is particularly true when it comes to home accessories.

“There’s no market,” DeMotte adds, “for sets of dinnerware.”

Too often, he says, the results are homes that all look alike. But not always.

“There’s a small percentage of homes built by people with money — a lot of money. They’re creating houses with great quality of space.”

Certainly, he is doing his part, working at the moment on two projects involving 100-year-old Tudors in Mamaroneck. One renovation and expansion requires gutting the interior — specifically two floors — as well as refreshing the exterior, while the other is about enlarging the kitchen and adding a family room with a multilevel terrace. But both updates will be in keeping with the style of the homes.

In these and other projects, DeMotte says he tries to balance his clients’ wishes with his role as architect-guide. He’s been doing this for three decades, though his interest in architecture began with a 10th-grade drafting class that the Haverstraw resident took at North Rockland High School. From then on he was focused on architecture. But after two years at SUNY Delhi, he realized he needed to learn how to build as well as design so he took a year off to work for a company that did both. He finished up with four more years of schooling at Kansas State University, then worked for four years at a Mount Kisco firm — three as an intern before getting his license. He was freelancing as well. When the recession of 1990 hit, he was ready to go out on his own. It was, he says of that economic downturn, “a blessing in disguise.”

Today, he heads up a firm with two full-time employees that has seen some reverse trends as homeowners not only downsize but move back downtown in their communities.

DeMotte remains focused, however, on “what makes a house unique and desirable, from curb appeal to the details inside.”

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