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HOME August 2009

House & Garden Sustainable Landscapes Light On Maintenance

Into The Garden Highs & Lows Of The Season

Craftsman Aesthetic With ‘Cottage’ Appeal

Home of the Month A Bucolic Retreat Rowayton

The Darien Times The Ridgefield Press The Weston Forum The Lewisboro Ledger

Bryan Haeffele

Greenwich Post New Canaan Advertiser The Wilton Bulletin The Redding Pilot

Vol. XIII, Number 8

A Hersam Acorn Special Section


Funky dunkin’ by Ben Guerrero

Ben Guerrero

One of the things they stressed in nursing school was the importance of good hygiene to prevent the spreading of germs. Our instructors, after lining us up behind sinks, would watch us soap our fingers and wash them in very specific and clinically effective ways. If we took short cuts or failed to meticulously scrub each finger to their liking, we’d be sent to the back of the line to do it over or worse – drummed out of the corps. It’s no secret that nursing instructors are a harsh lot, but their strict standards were not formulated to strip us of our last shreds of dignity. The point they were making and reinforcing and pounding into our otherwise empty heads was: Germs are everywhere, often on our filthy hands, and ready to spread if we were not hyper-vigilant.

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Now that I work nights, I have gotten into the habit of stopping at Crusty Crullers, a ubiquitous pastry/coffee chain, for a mammoth coffee on my way to the office. Working while the rest of the world sleeps requires copious amounts of self-discipline and buckets of caffeinated beverages. In spite of the fact that I have discovered that sleep deprivation soundly trumps caffeine, the habit is entrenched. I like coffee. It is warm and soothing (unless it is iced coffee and then it is cool and soothing), and I like the size of the containers available at Crusty Crullers, even if the coffee itself is kind of lousy. The pink and orange logo is familiar, and the staff seems to spend a whole lot of time training the new people to polish the fixtures and mop the floor. Obviously, there is a corporate policy regarding cleanliness that is strictly enforced, depending on the franchise. At 6:15 p.m., which is my regular arrival time, the employees are invariably hard at work – cleaning, sweeping and polishing – tending to the overall clutter-free ambiance that is typical of Crusty Crullers. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit, I’ll have a donut now and then. Prior to recent heavy marketing campaigns pushing their coffee, Crusty Crullers got its start as a purveyor of donuts. In my youth, each branch of this concern had a bakery in the back, rolling out dough and dropping it into roiling vats of hot fat. Nowadays centralized kitchens, serviced by delivery trucks, keep the racks full of donuts, bagels muffins and cookies. Anatomy buffs know that the skin is the largest organ in the body. It is a remarkable organ that, among other things, keeps our insides on the inside. Our skin also serves as a shield, the first line of defense against malevolent microbes that are as ubiquitous as the ubiquitous pastry/coffee chain that has been mentioned repeatedly in this article. To that end and armed with that knowledge, you see a lot more safety precautions in your day-to-day life. From the dental hygienist to the auto mechanic, every-

one is wearing gloves. And at Crusty Crullers, there are systems in place to ensure that the pleasant baseball-capped food handlers are following what can only be company policy when it comes to food/hand contact and precautionary hygiene. Like so many other places I go to get food that will kill me in other ways, the person behind the counter has the good habit of donning a fresh pair of disposable gloves prior to preparing whatever cheese-laden porcine taste orgy I order. Before touching my filthy money, the gloves are removed, the cash register is operated and fresh gloves are put on prior to serving the next customer in line. When a donut is ordered at Crusty Crullers, the employee grabs a clean paper bag and pops it open with a flick of the wrist. Then to ensure a barrier between their hands and the pastry (even though they are mandated by signs in two languages to wash their hands after using the facilities), a hermetically folded waxed paper square is employed to pick up the requested pastry/donut, which is then deftly dropped in the bag. As a health-care professional, this procedure works for me. I am sure that scientists with petri dishes could demonstrate that either it makes no difference or it does the job. I believe the best defense against these bugs is routine exposure and the natural development of antibodies. But with a whole new generation of super scary mutations popping up hither and thither, I appreciate the gesture on the part of Crusty Crullers. Tongs are another way of handling it, but who knows if the tongs have recently been through a dishwasher? So, after going to the trouble of carefully using the wax paper to safely move my donut from the rack to the bag, please don’t throw the waxed paper square into the bag. It ruins the effect. And it makes me sick! periodically blogs at ■

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Light on maintenance by Jeannette Ross When the company they worked for offered less than satisfactory customer service, Paul Fujitani and Christopher Baliko started their own property-maintenance company in 2002, offering lawn services, plant and flower care, pruning, and tick management. Today, Growing Solutions ( is a full-service company offering landscape design, property maintenance, plant care, seasonal displays, tick management, irrigation services, night lighting, and tree care, including take-downs, pruning and cabling. They also offer organic plant and lawn care as well as organic tick management.

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“Our frustration was, we felt our old company wasn’t offering good customer service,” Paul said. “We felt we could improve upon it. We are responsible to our clients, and we retain a lot of clients year after year.” The first step when working with Growing Solutions is a free consultation. Some of the services are straightforward, but others, like landscape design, can be more complex. “We do a lot of listening, especially in the beginning,” said Chris. “We try to be very functional with what we do.” As in many aspects of life, some people know exactly what they want, some haven’t a clue, and others are somewhere in between. Peoples’ lifestyles, including how much they are willing to work to maintain their properties, are as important as siting, light and soil condition. “We try to make each design unique and interesting,” Paul said. “We don’t want them to be the same.” Growing Solutions has a full-time landscape designer in Brid Craddock, who is president of the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. With everyone’s time at a premium, Growing Solutions specializes in sustainable designs. If you use the literal definition of a perennial – a plant that returns year after year – the designs tend to include layers of shrubs and perennial plants, most often low-maintenance native varieties as opposed to high-maintenance or disease-prone ornamentals. “They are gardens that will come up year after year, whether they are flowers, trees or shrubs,” said Paul. “We get the right plant in the right place,” Chris added. The company can also provide theme gardens, such as those that attract birds and butterflies. Sustainable gardens may be enhanced from spring through winter with seasonal displays of annuals, container gardens and holiday lighting. See Sustainable landscapes page 16

Landscape designs focus on low-maintenance gardens that feature shrubs and perennials.


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HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn.


Craftsman aesthetic WITH ‘COTTAGE’ APPEAL by Janis Gibson

Janis Gibson

The home is both secluded – at the end of a long shared driveway at the end of a long dead-end street – and quite visible, set on a hill overlooking a large pond that parallels a Metro North track and Simpaug Turnpike in Redding. Several years ago, those who regularly travel the area noticed a change. When Paige Davison and Wolf Boehme bought the 20-acre wooded property in 2000, there were two cottages – a primary residence and a caretaker’s home – that were built in the 1930s, which were later connected and added onto. “It was very hodgepodge ... had all kinds of weird things,” said Paige, “as well as an interesting history.” The original property, subdivided into three parcels in the 1960s, was about 35 acres and developed by Charles Burns, a professional photographer and a show-dog

There are many eye-catching details that enhance the Arts and Crafts style.

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breeder. He had a kennel on the property, which included a promenade bowl and Paige also wanted as many rooms as possible to have a view of the water; the pond a winner’s circle overlooking the pond, both of which remain. There was also a dog was originally visible only from the living room. There is also a large barn called cemetery with headstones, which is now on one of the other parcels, although one of “Wolf ’s dream,” which was constructed on part of the original foundation. the headstones was incorporated into the new porch’s stonework. “We wanted a casual living environment – to have a cottage feel rather than Paige and Wolf bought the property for the land – “I had summered on a lake as McMansion. We don’t have a formal dining room or family room; we knew from a child and loved it,” Paige said – intending to build a house to their specifications. our other houses that those rooms were basically obsolete for us. We only have They had previously renovated two houses, giving them some experience and knowl- rooms we really use,” said Paige. The overall aesthetic is Craftsman style, which Wolf edge for the project they were about to undertake. is partial to. “We both have an interest in architecture,” said Wolf, “and I’ve been reading ‘Fine Homebuilding’ for years, which helped me to know what worked and what to ask See Craftsman page 15 for, but we had to learn all about building codes and what to specify. I was in charge of the mechanicals, and Paige was in charge of the aesthetics.” They had ��� �� ��� � � � some definite things in mind. �� �� In contrast to much of what was ������������������������������������������� being constructed in 2004, Paige and ������������������������ Wolf wanted to build relatively small and efficient. The original house was about ������������������������������������� 4,100 square feet and the new one is ��������������������������������� about 3,500, yet it feels more spacious.


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Highs & lows of the season by Donna Clark It’s harvest season again, and if you are like me, you are wondering why you planted so much. I freeze a good share of my excess in the form of soup. A recipe for zucchini soup was given to me years ago, and I find it so easy to make. The good thing is it uses up lots of zucchini. There is a perennial that blooms in July and August called Astrantia. I have the variety Magnum Blush, which has large pink buds opening to delightful, pinkblushed pincushion flowers. They are great for a cottage garden or in a woodland setting. They do self seed, but are not as invasive as the white variety. They like moist, humus-rich soil, and are best in partial shade, where they grow two to three feet tall. We planted the new Monarda, Pink Lace this year and were not surprised that it is taller than advertised. The description is lipstick-pink flowers with purple centers atop dark stems. They grow to 16 inches tall and bloom from midsummer to early fall. We loved the sounds of that, and planted it at the front of the border. When it reached 16 inches tall in early June, I started cutting it back by about six inches. That worked, and they bloomed again in July at 16 inches tall. I think I’ll move the plants to the second row of the border, just to make life easier. Late blight on tomatoes and potatoes is here this year. This is a very destructive infectious disease that kills the plants. It is the same one that caused the Irish potato

famine in the 1840s. It has been in the United States for more than a century, but not as early or as widespread as this year. Early symptoms on tomato transplants are brown lesions on stems, with white fungal growth developing in moist conditions. Later symptoms appear as large (nickel-sized) olive green to brown spots on leaves, with slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside. If the lesion has a yellow border and is occurring on the bottom of the plant, it is likely due to early blight or Septoria leaf spot, and not late blight. The thing to do is remove the plants, place in a plastic bag, seal and discard in the trash, or completely bury plants deep enough so they will not re-sprout. I just read a bit of information on butterflies. There was a study (University of Kentucky) which discovered that when it comes to zinnias, widely recommended for attracting butterflies, all cultivars are not equal. The Lilliput variety attracted more than double the number of butterflies. Lilliput is an 1870s heirloom plant that seems to have a better quality and quantity of nectar. This year I grew garlic in the vegetable garden. You plant it in November and harvest it in July. I bought three heads of German extra-hardy Stiffneck garlic and put them in about three feet of my garden bed, which is three feet wide. I mulched them once the ground was frozen, and then removed the mulch in the spring. The garlic

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August 2009

sprouted and grew nicely, giving me scapes in June and a nice harvest in July. I am impressed and will order more for next year: Johnny’s Seeds @ I think I’ll order more than three heads and really commit. We have a client in Wilton with a really lovely garden. While we were working on it, she told us that her neighbor, who is from the South and has a really wooded lot here, asked if she could come over with a bottle of wine and sit on a bench to enjoy the garden. You know, of course, the way to really enjoy a garden is to sit on a bench, relax and watch as the work progresses. Another client, who came home while we were still working, let the dog out and then came to pick some rosemary for his chicken that night. Well, he mentioned Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and off we went: Yes, I love her and have all her cookbooks and watch her on the food network and have you tried this, etc. His three-level garden is built with stone walls, and was installed a couple of years ago. It was a challenge for me to design, but then it came to me: herbs on the bottom near the driveway and front door, English perennial garden on the second tier and roses on the top. Its now in its second year, and I’m very pleased with the look. I shouldn’t say this, because his wife was the one giving me suggestions on

what she would like to see in the garden. This particular day, however, he was asking why there was no basil, and as I started to say his wife felt it was not a pretty herb, he See Into the Garden page 14



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A Bucolic Retreat

LOCATION: Wilson Point in Rowayton is an ideal settin this picturesque house. PROPERTY: One acre holds many appealing aspects that the enjoyment of this unusual home: several patios, a koi p and luxuriant landscaping. HOUSE: This Provenรงal-style home is an oasis of privacy, rounded as it is by gardens, patios, pond, guest cottage and barn-like garage. It features high-pitched ceilings with beam built-ins, wide-plank floors and antique shutters that lend charm to the living room with fireplace and the dining roo French doors open onto the koi pond. Sliding barn doors to a verdant patio. The kitchen has concrete countertops, a island and pantry. The master bedroom has a luxurious ba French doors that open to a private patio. GARAGE: Two-car detached. OUTBUILDINGS: Cottage/studio in front zoned comme PRICE: $2,175,000. REALTY: Halstead Country Living. Agent: Pamela Stutz, 203-966-7800, x492. Photography: Bryan Haeffele.

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Raindrops (not exactly) kept falling on my head by Tim Murphy A drop of water landed on my head. Then another. And another. A few minutes before, when I was taking a shower, that progression wouldn’t have been noteworthy. But now that I was standing at the sink, preparing to shave, it caught my attention. I looked up. There, on the ceiling right above me, several more drops were forming, about to descend like tiny paratroopers behind enemy lines. I stood on the toilet seat and noticed a small, bubbling ridge that felt warm to the touch. Couldn’t be good. I ran into the bedroom, got dressed quickly, and then stopped back into the bathroom. The drops were now steadier, falling to a faster tempo. The ridge on the ceiling had widened and spread. I raced upstairs, to the condo unit on the fifth floor. For more than a week now, the owner had workers in redoing his bathroom, located directly above mine. My wife and I had heard them moving things around, making the usual noise that workers do. Fortunately, they never started work too early.

After a few rapid knocks, a tall young guy in his mid-20s opened the door. “I’ve got a leak in my bathroom downstairs,” I told him. “Damn,” he said. When we got back down there, the drops had segued into a steady stream, as if someone had the left a faucet on. “I’ll go to my truck and get some buckets,” he said. With no buckets of my own, I went to the kitchen and grabbed the biggest vase I could find, placing it under the heaviest part of what was becoming a downpour. A few minutes later, the worker was back, with several good-sized buckets. He placed them along the route of the falling water. When we looked up, the situation had worsened. The clear outline of a large, buckling area was visible – my bathroom ceiling looked as though it was pregnant and in labor. Soon enough, it gave birth. Although the worker had raised his arms in some instinctively Herculean attempt to save the day, the effort was in vain. “It’s coming down,” he said, before quickly exiting. Outside the bathroom, I saw that he was prophetic. Pieces of two-inch thick dry wall broke apart and crashed to the floor, leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling, only half of which was still there. “Unbelievable,” I said, repeating the word several times.

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The worker, whose name was Mark, went back to his truck to get more equipment for the clean-up. While he was gone, I stared into the ceiling hole, trying to make sense of the vast network of pipes and woodwork. My sense of disbelief and frustration succumbed to a more powerful and unsettling feeling of helplessness, as I wondered how long that hole would remain if it were up to an English major like me to do the repairs. Thankfully, Mark returned and began picking up the shards of dry wall. About a half hour later, his boss, a contractor named Brendan, and an older, semi-retired plumber also arrived. They went upstairs and turned on several water lines, but Mark and I could spot no sign of a leak. Slightly mystified, the plumber came down and immediately pointed up to a highly corroded piece of pipe. “That has to be where the leak is,” he said. Mark, the tallest member of the expedition, felt the area behind the pipe. “Yep, it’s wet back there,” he said. “Those pipes look old,” said Brendan. “Where do you think I can find something like that?” “The 1950s,” said the plumber. Believing that they were responsible for the collapse, Brendan and Mark were helpful and apologetic. When I happened to mention that I was also the president of the condo association, they became even more helpful and apologetic. “Don’t worry,” said Brendan. “We’re going to get this taken care of and make it livable today.” Their mood lightened considerably when the plumber told them that the brownspotted dry wall and the mega-corrosion on the pipe suggested that water had been accumulating for some time above my bathroom ceiling. “There’s no way that happened in a week,” he said. “That’s been leaking for a while now. You guys didn’t cause that.” The cynical part of me half expected Brendan and Mark to bolt after hearing

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August 2009

that bit of good news. But they persevered in their clean-up efforts, and Brendan left to get a sheet of plywood to temporarily cover the hole. Several hours later, with the plywood already in place, they returned with the unit owner, also named Mark, who was staying in Manhattan with his girlfriend while his bathroom was being remodeled. My wife and I had met him a few times, and he seemed like a decent fellow – always a reassuring quality in those living below and above you. “I’m sorry about all this,” he said several times. As with his workers, Mark might also be off the hook. If the leak springs from a tub trap, regarded as a common element in the condo bylaws, the cost of repairs will be See Racking One’s Brain page 19





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Donna Clark

Astrantia Magnum Blush is ideal for cottage gardens or in a woodland setting.

Into the Garden continued from page 9 already knew the answer. We will have basil next year – basil can be pretty, and after all, Ina has a really good pesto recipe in her book Back to Basics. Questions or comments: ■

ZUCCHINI SOUP 6 medium zucchini, sliced 1 medium onion, sliced 4 stalks celery, chopped 6 cups chicken broth 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon tarragon 6 tablespoons butter Sauté the onion and celery in the butter until limp. Add zucchini, sauté 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer until soft. Blend in food processor until smooth. Stir in salt, pepper and tarragon.

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Craftsman continued from page 7 Paige likes to collect architectural elements and enjoyed being able to say, “I want this size window here, or that incorporated there.” The design for the prominent wraparound fireplace in the living room was borrowed from a previous home, and much of its stone was taken from the property. “As a kid growing up scraping and painting my grandparents’ house,” Wolf also knew that he wanted a maintenance-free exterior. There is no wood on the outside, he said. “We used a cement siding called Hardy Plank that looks like wood, and the trim is Azek, which is also a synthetic.” After much discussion, research and sketches, the couple took the plans for their dream house to Chris Wheway, “a fabulous draftswoman from Sandy Hook,” Paige said. They broke ground in the beginning of July 2004 and finished five months later. The result is a welcoming home that draws you inside while inviting you to appreciate and explore the outdoors. It is warm and spacious, full of surprises and details that delight the eye and other senses. It feels perfect for a quiet evening at home or a large gathering of friends.

The home is entered through a covered porch, and a half wall separates the stone entry from the large living room that overlooks the pond. It features a coffered ceiling and fireplace, and a double doorway leads to the kitchen. The stairway to the second floor has a banister supported by distinctively carved balusters. Recesses along the wall hold books, and one at the foot of the stairs has a decorative piece, which is back-lighted. The kitchen/dining area is one large room, virtually the width of the house, with the cooking and eating areas separated by two-sided glass-door cupboards. See Craftsman page 18

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Sustainable landscapes continued from page 5 In addition, landscaping services are not limited to plant matter. The company also offers masonry and hardscaping, be it walks, patios or walls. In one interesting project, they used a crane to move a pair of large boulders from the front of a property to the back, adding bamboo, grasses and cut-leaf maple trees to create a Japanese-inspired garden. Organics On The Rise

Whether it is landscaping, lawn care or tick control, an expanding part of the business is organic services. All the technicians at Growing Solutions, including Chris and Paul, are accredited by NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farming Association. “People are looking for safer ways to care for their property,” Chris said, explaining the growing popularity of organic land care. “They are concerned about their kids and pets. They want to be environmentally friendly.” They are also asking for organic vegetable gardens, Paul said.

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203.331.0287 LIC# 544869


The company started feeling the effects of the “go-green” movement back in 2006. “As we educated ourselves, we could see it’s really common sense,” Paul said. “You can see the dividends in lawns that have switched over.” Going organic is more than just switching from synthetic to natural herbicides and pesticides. It also involves a change in attitude. For example, lawns are the most resource-intensive aspect of a landscape. They require lots of water, and the mowers that keep them trimmed consume gasoline and emit pollutants. As a result, Chris said, “We suggest minimizing lawn whenever possible and using more sustainable flower beds.” Steps taken in treating a lawn organically include aerating in the fall, top dressing with compost and returning grass clippings to nourish the soil and prevent weeds from sprouting. Lawns are also cut a little higher to shade out weed growth. The soil is tested to ensure proper nutrients are used to improve soil structure, which encourages deeper roots so the grass doesn’t need as much water. Ticks, Chris and Paul said, can also be managed organically. The company uses an insecticide based on the natural pyrethrums from chrysanthemums. It is applied three times a year when ticks are most active: early May, mid-June and October. Other management techniques include creating a three-foot border of mulch between lawns and

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– Complete Excavation Services – Drainage Systems – Driveways – Lawn Installation – Masonry/Stonewalls – Walkways/Patios – Material Delivery – Trees/Shrubs – Complete Landscape Services

August 2009

wooded areas. The places where people and children play and congregate should be 10 feet from wooded areas. Other simple steps, Chris said, include cleaning up wood piles and stone walls and crown-trimming tall trees to allow more sun to filter through. “You won’t have ticks in a sunny area,” Paul said, noting they prefer cool, moist and shady areas. For crown-trimming or other tree work, clients can get a free consultation from Dan Dalton, an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) board-certified master arborist. He can also advise on feeding, cabling, transplanting, and taking down trees. Paul Fujitani has an undergraduate degree in horticulture and turf management from the University of Rhode Island and 15 years of landscaping experience. Chris

Baliko has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Connecticut and an associates’ degree in horticultural technology from Northern Virginia Community College. He is also a licensed arborist. Growing Solutions, which has an office in Danbury, is licensed to work only in Connecticut and limits maintenance services to lower Fairfield County, from Ridgefield and Redding down through Greenwich and Stamford. They will travel farther afield for landscaping projects. For more information, call 203-730-1103 or go online to ■

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Craftsman continued from page 15 Cherry paneling covers two thirds of the walls and carries through to the cupboards. The granite countertops are from a riverbed in Brazil, the pattern created by rocks embedded in the stone. Another fireplace with an elaborate fire screen designed by Paige is a focal point. A door leads to a stone deck along the pond side of the house, and a pocket door slides to reveal a short hallway leading to the master suite, which includes an office,

Janis Gibson

Paige Davison designed the distinctive screen for the fireplace.







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August 2009

a bedroom with French doors that open onto a screened-in porch (which can also be entered from the patio), and a bathroom with a shower and deep soaking tub. A half bath with a pedestal sink is near the laundry room, with its abundance of hooks and cubbies, which is located across from the spacious three-car garage with nine-foot-wide doors. There are four bedrooms upstairs, which are connected by two Jack and Jill bathrooms, one of which opens to the hallway and has a stained-glass window to let in light while retaining privacy. For the times their two sons – one in high school and the other in college – want to play video games or hang out with their friends, there is a TV in the basement, which has 10-foot ceilings. Other details include a “pet (and people) pantry” off the kitchen – “cats eat on the counter, the dogs on the floor” – heat grates flush with the wood floors, and black inserts in the white tile on bathroom floors. And anyone who enjoys Christmas candles in the windows, but not the time it takes to turn them on and off each night, will appreciate the outlets below each window that are connected to a single switch. It is a home Paige and Wolf look forward to enjoying for many years. ■

C A R P E T I N G • N AT U R A L S T O N E Beauty for your home…

200 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 203.762.0169

Racking One’s Brain continued from page 13 covered by the association. Another plumber, who is familiar with the condo, will now make that determination before the new dry wall is installed. After everyone had left, my wife looked in the bathroom and noticed the vase that I had used. It was slightly dusty and had a bunch of small pieces of dry wall inside. “What’s that doing here?” she said. “It’s vintage.” ■

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August 2009

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