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Open Air

A world-traveling couple creates a home that reflects their past and present

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“This was my vision house,” says Terri Jaffe of her home in Westport. She and her husband, Joseph, originally hail from South Africa, where climates are warmer and homes are built to encourage year-round enjoyment of the outdoors. When they moved to Westport in 2003 after nine years in New York City, they found a lot of the houses drew a more distinct line between indoor and outdoor. “That wasn’t the way I was used to living,” says Terri. “That wasn’t the way I wanted our family home to be.”

After years of dreaming about building something to suit their lifestyle, the time was finally right—and who could better understand their vision than a fellow South African? Builder Peter Greenberg of Able Construction in Fairfield was uniquely qualified for the job. “I understand her vision because I share a similar vision,” says Greenberg, who was instrumental in transforming the Jaffes’ empty plot into the home and garden of their dreams.

Together, they settled on a shingled New England Colonial style for the home’s exterior, and a more modern interior with an open layout and a palette of stainless steel, concrete, and glass. From there, “it really evolved” says Greenberg. “We started with a basic set of plans, and then all the details—the glass railings, the windows, all the things that make it a special house—kind of came out along the way.”

One very important feature of the home is that from the front door, one can see all the way through the back windows—left uncovered on the first floor—to the pool and patio in the backyard. And that open layout is as much for aesthetics as it is for function. “The entire house is used,” says Terri. “When I sat down with the architect, one of the prevailing things that I said was that we wanted a house that was going to be lived in, and it really is.” The open floor plan, which includes a dining room to the left of the front door and living and family rooms to the right, encourages family togetherness. “It’s a very unifying house,” says Terri.

The interiors are nearly all white—a bold move for a couple with kids ages twelve, ten, and six. “We built the house that we wanted. With me it’s always aesthetics first and then figure out how to make it work,” says Terri, who decorated the home’s interior herself. Although with all the glass used in the design, “we go through a lot of Windex wipes,” she laughs. The kids also hang out in the comfortable, carpeted third-floor guest suite, and the arcade-like basement, complete with Wii, table tennis, gumball machine, pinball machine, and more.