Designing a dazzling ‘Haven’

Presented by Houlihan Lawrence

Photographs by Bob Rozycki, Tim Lee and IMAGEination

The vibrant way Ruth Amiel and her late husband, Norman, lived their lives is reflected, most artfully, in The Haven.

The quietly elegant two-acre escape in Purchase is a testament to a love of design, the arts and truly, what life can be.

A circular driveway leads you to the estate, anchored by a stately pale-yellow residence accented with columns, flanked by urns and surrounded by modern sculptures scattered about the tasteful landscaping.

Intricately scrolled ironwork over glass on the front doors gives the first glimpse into a spacious home filled with one-of-a-kind architectural details and an endlessly eclectic collection of art.

Step inside, on the honed marble floors dotted with Oriental rugs, and immediately be embraced by the sweeping view of the back of the property. There, the spaciously inviting patio gently gives way to a view of a stunning pond with a most unexpected feature – a Japanese teahouse – creating a most captivating scene.

Imparting a tranquil tone that is sensed throughout The Haven, the focal point sums up life here.

“Nobody may go across that bridge without leaving behind, on this side, their negative thoughts and feelings,” Amiel says.

Even the Torii gate is inscribed with characters that translate to “Shalom,” or peace.

And that is palpable.

“We have kept it pure in feeling,” she says of the scene, asking a visitor to pause and simply take it all in.

“It’s not silence. It’s quiet, and there’s a difference.”

The Haven, though, is not a place suited only to contemplation.

“We’ve had parties out here, I can’t begin to tell you,” Amiel says.

Indeed, today the home is still host to special events, with family gatherings that draw dozens to the table.


“I designed the house. This is my baby,” Amiel shares.

Amiel, who trained in architecture at Cooper Union, would continue her work during World War II.

“I drafted at the Brooklyn Navy Yards,” she says.

But in designing The Haven, she would complete her masterwork.

Amiel and her husband, a salesman in the printing industry, had lived 48 years in Manhattan with a country home in Pawling.

With their three children grown, it was time to create something just for them, a dream home designed to their exact specifications.

“I spoiled us both,” Amiel says. “I didn’t need children’s space, so I got selfish.”

The home, more than 7,700 square feet, is far from indulgent, though. Every inch has a function and every design detail is thoughtful. Rooms are expansive, never cavernous.

“This house was built for two people, and everything here was for our pleasure and comfort,” Amiel says, playfully adding, “If you happen to be a guest, we have a little space.”

And while the space indeed proved a haven for the couple, it remains a home that can easily transition into a new owner’s needs.

“There’s a lot of ways to use this house and all of them … wonderful,” Amiel says.


Entering the home, you aren’t confronted by the workmanlike get-in-and-hang-up-your-coat routine. This entryway is dramatic yet warm, with a second foyer of sorts in which you find the closet at the foot of the sweeping staircase. The unexpected space is completed by a charming powder room where vivid wallpaper and German altar lamps add flair.

“What I find, I use,” Amiel says of treasures picked up on her travels over the years.

Admire the living room, a two-story space with classic appointments and artistic work surrounding the fireplace.

An impromptu tour kicks off in her husband’s office/study, a spacious room with traditional amenities complemented by a highly detailed ceiling, its vaulted imagery broken only by a pair of birds fluttering overhead.

The master suite, a wing of sorts, is expansive. Again opening out to the backyard, the bedroom itself is a study in elegant simplicity with patterned hardwood flooring and again, understated artful accents. French doors open to the outside.

“As you can see, the whole side of this house goes out to nature,” Amiel says.

And that nature is always invited in.

“Sometimes we leave all the doors open … I say sometimes – often.”

The room carries a sense of retreat, a place where you can truly rest.

“This has been a wonderful sanctuary for us,” she says. “You get up in the morning and have a cup of tea outside.”

The bedroom flows into a pair of elaborate baths, one featuring a Japanese soaking tub.

“I cannot abide by medicine cabinets,” Amiel says and indeed each bath features a full closet for toiletries and the like.

The oversize dressing rooms, created both for Amiel and her husband (whom she calls a “clotheshorse”) further enhance the sense of luxury.

A small hallway is a stunning art gallery showcasing Amiel’s Japanese embroidery, just one element of her decidedly artful life. Throughout the home, the Amiels’ collection is complemented by her own drawings, paintings, photographs and more.

They all combine, along with the one-of-a-kind architectural touches, to add layers of meaning and artistry to the surroundings.

A formal dining area leads the way to a sophisticated European kitchen, which itself then flows into an open family room and eat-in area.

This side of the home also includes a charming guest bedroom with its own bath and a mudroom from which one can access the three-car attached garage, the professional-grade laundry room and the full guest/staff apartment above.

An unfinished basement runs the length of the footprint, space now partially used for an exercise area but readily adaptable to uses ranging from in-home theater to family room to, as Amiel jokes, “a bowling alley – really.”

The second floor is, again, a place where style and function live side by side.

Climb the grand staircase and come upon a landing, an exquisite sitting area perched above the living room and again, offering stunning views of the pond and teahouse. A pull-out couch is at the ready for creating another guest space.

Continue a few steps to enter the studio, a space that simply says “art.” It’s Amiel’s own light-filled workspace, where one day she might paint or another work on her photography. There’s a comfy couch to one side, a place where, she says, her husband might have spent hours reading while she worked away.

Amiel, herself an author of 1973’s “Finally It Fits,” a patternmaking book she wrote with her friend Happy Gerhard, notes it is yet another space that could easily convert to an office or several small bedrooms. It, too, has access to the outdoors with a small terrace.


It all adds up to a home that truly has been so much more than just a place to eat and sleep.

“I come back to a serenity here,” Amiel says. “That’s hard to find these days.”

With Amiel planning to move back to Manhattan, she hopes the legacy she and her husband created during nearly two decades living in The Haven will continue.

“There is an aura that I felt was built into this house,” she says. “This house has been pure joy.”

And while she realizes the time has come to move on, she remains confident The Haven’s history will continue to grow.

“I’ll be sad to see it go, but I will be grateful if someone appreciates it.”

For more information, contact Lisa DeFonce at Houlihan Lawrence at (914) 227-5045 or 


• Purchase

• 7,785 square feet

• 2.1 acres

• Bedrooms: 4

• Baths: 5 full, 1 half

• Amenities: First-floor master suite with his-and-her baths and dressing rooms, high ceilings, private setting with pond and teahouse, convenient to Westchester airport and all major roadways, less than 35 minutes to New York City, flowing floor plan, separate guest/housekeeper quarters.

• Price: $4.4 million

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