Maureen and Louis Van Dyck own a three-story, red brick townhouse in the 800 block of Park Ave.
Purchased in 1999 for $137,000, it is still being renovated. Maureen Van Dyck considers the house "always in a state of rehab," in spite of nearly $500,000 they've spent to transform it into her dream home.
The couple, both 61, decided after years of living in a co-op at 700 Washington Place to buy the Mount Vernon home and get involved in the community.
The home has a tile floor and double-door entrance that provides an unobstructed view beyond the wide hallway's grand oak staircase to the back yard. There, a wooden deck, a stainless steel pool and a brick carriage house that has been transformed into a brick loggia offer a villa-like atmosphere.
South of the entrance, two doorways curtained in iridescent silk taffeta welcome visitors into the living room.
"These houses are just one interesting thing after another," Maureen Van Dyck says.
The home was once a dentist's office and contractors turned two rooms with fireplaces into one grand space, creating the living room. The two fireplaces remain, each of a slightly different height.
Maureen Van Dyck, believing there are always new local artists to support, donated all of her antiques, opting for a contemporary, minimalist feel to the house and its furnishings.
An ebony baby grand piano sits between the living room's two large front windows. Modern paintings of sheep and cows, and an 8-foot-high, gilt-framed mirror all rest against the walls, rather than being hung from them.
Maureen Van Dyck takes particular pride in her wall treatments, having opted to use a powdered soy, mixed with water, as a rich colored wash throughout much of the home's 5,500 square feet.
For example, the living room is painted soft pink over yellow, producing a layered, almost fabric-like effect. Wide, ornate ceiling molding is painted medium gray, as are the two, huge plaster ceiling medallions, giving a soft contrast to the walls. A hanging, flower-shaped light fixture, 5 feet in diameter, is made of wrought iron covered in red spandex.
This ceiling fixture, Maureen Van Dyck notes, was procured from the prop department at Center Stage. "From the outside, it looks like the house is on fire," she says.
The east wall of the living room contains side-by-side, transom-topped mahogany French doors, reaching almost to the 12-foot ceiling. One door opens to a pantry, the other to a portico, where the house is no longer joined to its neighbor.
Halfway to the back end of the house are new oak floors and glass cabinets. Hidden behind sliding partitions sits an industrial kitchen on one side, with Viking stove, deep sink and stainless-steel work stations that can be pulled into the middle of the room. The other side of the room opens onto a stainless-steel serving bar, sink, a dishwasher and a refrigerator. A walk-in pantry lies behind this section.
"If I lived here by myself, I'd have half the furniture I have [now]," Maureen Van Dyck says, leading the way to the second level of the house via the oak staircase. At the first landing, the staircase splits, one leading to the front of the house, the other to the back.
The same holds true on the third level.
Louis Van Dyck points out that this often is referred to as a "good morning staircase," because the landing is a meeting point for the front and back of the house and where family members often met when leaving their bedrooms.
At the top of the home's west wing, long windows are covered in eggplant taffeta draperies and room-darkening shades. In the center of the room, behind a large glass coffee table, are two black leather reclining chairs facing a marble fireplace over which hangs an 8-by-6-foot screen for television and movies. It's perfect for film buffs, say the Van Dycks.
The rear and center portion of the second level consists of a master bath, done in pine flooring and tumbled marble. There also is a dressing room and a master bedroom that is lava colored with yet another intricately carved marble fireplace.
Maureen Van Dyck acknowledges that the third level needs work. Two guest bedrooms are furnished with wrought-iron beds. A bathroom has a distressed pine floor and a circular plaster shower stall.
The back room of the third level is clearly Maureen Van Dyck's domain.
"I never had a room that I could mess up," she says, pointing out a large worktable to spread out clothing patterns, a separate table for her sewing machine, an office area and dress mannequins.
Maureen Van Dyck relates how, when looking for a property in Mount Vernon, she lost what seemed to be the house of her dreams. Now, she says, she realizes that "you always get the house you're meant to have. Friends say: 'This is your house.'"
Paul Warren, the Van Dycks' next-door neighbor, considers the renovations a fine mix of old and new.
"We [his two small boys included] love her pool. It's so wonderful to walk out her back door and hear splashing, and to look out upon the loggia. [Maureen] has done a great job."