Eastward Ho - Page 2

New York’s trio of bonafide Eichlers—an anomaly with something magical going on
The Brix-Bayer family gathers in the kitchen for dinner preparation (L-R): Carl, Martina, Vitus, and kitty.
The Brix-Bayer family gathers in the kitchen for dinner preparation (L-R): Carl, Martina, Vitus, and kitty.
Three different views of the beautiful Brix-Bayer Eichler today.
Three different views of the beautiful Brix-Bayer Eichler today.
Three different views of the beautiful Brix-Bayer Eichler today.
Three different views of the beautiful Brix-Bayer Eichler today.

In California, this would be a challenge. In New York, it’s much tougher.

“Sometimes we feel like lost children. To find contractors who understand this kind of house,” Martina says, then pauses. “We are lost because nobody does.”

The neighborhood of wooded, rolling hills, originally called Dexter Park, is in the village of Chestnut Ridge, which is part of the town of Ramapo. Many residents commute to New York City, driving or via bus or rail. The area, once rife with pharmaceutical firms, still has some, and other business parks are nearby.

It’s an ethnically diverse area, with large clusters of Orthodox Jews, plus Asians, African Americans, and Hispanics. Haitian immigrants have recently arrived.

Chestnut Ridge is also the center of North America’s largest community of Rudolph Steiner adherents. Martina and Carl say they came to the area because of Green Meadow Waldorf School, which is inspired by Steiner’s Anthroposophical principals. Their son Vitus, 12, a drummer and cellist, attends the school. “A holistic approach to education, lots of play and nature,” Martina says.

The surrounding area is gorgeous. Hikers in nearby Bear Mountain and Harriman state parks can gaze out at a river and forests and barely spot a human habitation.

The three Eichlers blend into their forested neighborhood well. All are well set back from the street. There are no sidewalks.

The homes are by Claude Oakland & Associates and Jones & Emmons. Two have atriums; Martina and Carl have a courtyard. Two homes have flat roofs. Tim and Larry have a home with steep central gables.

Dave and Beth Silberstein love hearing rain patter on their roof, though they’re less amused by the falling acorns. “They’re like golf balls,” Beth says. “All night long,” Dave adds. One night they heard what seemed like a prowler up there. Turns out it was a turkey. Other neighbors include skunks, raccoons, and deer.

The Silbersteins’ home has unusual, vertical bedroom windows that pop out from the façade in the form of triangular bays. Their dog, Remy, takes advantage of the view to gaze longingly at her owners whenever they depart.

The three homes originally sat side by side, but after Eichler sold out, other developers moved in and one non-Eichler home was inserted between the Santos-Callahan and the Silberstein homes.

Surrounding homes range from traditional to ranch, to some that are lightly modern in feeling. “This whole neighborhood has a little contemporary ranch look,” Dave says.

Still, there’s nothing around like the Eichlers, and it was the Eichlers that attracted all three current owners.

Martina and Carl were new to America, where Carl had come to work as an environmental engineer for BMW, which has offices nearby. Martina works there too, as a buyer.

Carl, a furrier and photographer, and Martina, who designs turbans and bracelets and other adornments for the body, have also collaborated on a clothing firm, Martina Brix Design, but have little time for it these days.

“But you can never stop designing when you have it in your genes,” Martina says.

“Bauhaus design freaks” both, they knew they didn’t want to live in a “typical split-level or McMansion,” Carl says.