‘Ar­chi­tect’s eye’ spots a keeper

Connecticut Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ta­tiana Flow­ers

WEST­PORT — When Leigh Over­land first saw a colo­nial farm­house on Ro­seville Road, he had no in­ten­tion of buy­ing it.

He had re­cently di­vorced his wife and was on the way to his tem­po­rary liv­ing sit­u­a­tion when he stum­bled upon the home by hap­pen­stance.

The open house sign caught his at­ten­tion and he de­cided to take a look with his two daugh­ters, just for fun.

But the three had se­cond thoughts on their way back home and min­utes into the drive, they de­cided to turn around and take a se­cond harder look.

“I looked at it with an ar­chi­tect’s eye in­stead of a Sun­day-let’s-take-a-look eye and re­al­ized how spe­cial the house was,” Over­land said.

The 1883 home was in­trigu­ing to him, and he won­dered about the nos­tal­gic

sto­ries that lay within it. The more he and his daugh­ters in­quired, the more ex­cit­ing the house be­came.

“I called a Re­al­tor and I said, ‘Buy the house,’” said Over­land, who has been an award-win­ning res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial ar­chi­tect for more than 35 years.

He was fea­tured on ABC’s “Ex­treme Home Makeover” in 2007, af­ter pro­duc­ers se­lected him from a group of more than 100 dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tects. On the show, he helped de­sign, de­mol­ish and re­build a Vic­to­rian home for a Bridge­port woman in need.

In 2012, he built a cas­tle in New Canaan.

Over­land said he has a knack for find­ing unique homes that have “po­ten­tial” and has a pas­sion for pur­chas­ing and ren­o­vat­ing them. His West­port home at 173 Ro­seville Road is the third com­pound he’s moved into and trans­formed.

Since he pur­chased it in 2007, he’s dou­bled its size by adding a new kitchen, din­ing area, fam­ily room and mas­ter bath­room. The house now has walk-in clos­ets, a three-car garage, mul­ti­ple fire­places and heated floor­ing.

“It was re­ally an ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture, and how do I make life as con­ve­nient and en­joy­able as pos­si­ble, in your own home where you spend 60 to 80 per­cent of your life,” he said.

Over the years, he’s kept to that vi­sion, giv­ing the tra­di­tional home a con­tem­po­rary flare.

The light­ing, heat­ing, air and alarm sys­tems are au­to­mated, mean­ing he can con­trol his tele­vi­sions, ra­dios, and fire­places from his cell­phone or with the push of but­ton from in­side the house. To make the house more ef­fi­cient, he in­stalled en­ergy ef­fi­cient light­ing and heat­ing.

Last win­ter, his heat­ing bill was just over $1,750, he said. For a 3,300-square­foot home, a heat­ing bill would gen­er­ally cost about dou­ble the price, he added.

The home’s trans­for­ma­tion didn’t start with Over­land.

In 1929, well-known sculp­tor Berthold Nebel pur­chased the place and soon af­ter, added a liv­ing room and a guest room. Nebel, fa­mous for his por­trait stat­ues in front of the Con­necti­cut State Capi­tol in Hart­ford and in the ro­tunda at the U.S. Capi­tol in D.C., had se­cured a new job with the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian and The Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety Mu­seum in New York City and built a stone stu­dio be­hind the house to cre­ate ad­di­tional work­ing space.

Af­ter Nebel died, the de­ci­sion was made to split the prop­erty, sell­ing the house — which Over­land even­tu­ally bought — and keep the stu­dio in the fam­ily. Nebel’s daugh­ter Lu­cia Nebel White lived in the stu­dio un­til her death last year at age 92. Her grand­son and great-grand­son live there now.

As close neigh­bors, White and Over­land of­ten spent time to­gether, carv­ing pump­kins or talking about her father’s art­work, which still fills the stu­dio.

Over­land said she told him tales about the ma­roon-col­ored chair that sits in his at­tic. White’s mother used to breast­feed in the chair and af­ter her death, White was con­vinced it brought good luck — an idea Over­land has bought into.

Over­land met his cur­rent wife af­ter mov­ing into the home and, he said, his ca­reer has con­tin­ued to take off since his de­ci­sion to keep the chair.

“I’m kind of con­vinced this house is full of good luck,” he said.

Still, Over­land is ready to move on, hav­ing pur­chased a new place in Fair­field.

“This house is so spe­cial, I want it to go to an­other spe­cial fam­ily,” Over­land said about 173 Ro­seville Road .

The 5-bed­room home, which sits on about 1 acre, is on the mar­ket for $1.5 mil­lion, real es­tate agent Wini Mola said, adding that it is ac­tu­ally worth much more.

“Leigh took a very sim­ple home, and with his tal­ent,” said Mola, of Wini Mola Real­tors, “he cre­ated this mag­nif­i­cent home filled with charm and beauty.”

Contributed pho­tos

A din­ing area in the house at 173 Ro­seville Road in West­port, a 3,300-square-foot home owned by Leigh Over­land, a com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial ar­chi­tect of more than 35 years. The home was built in 1883.

The ex­te­rior of the house at 173 Ro­seville Road in West­port.

A liv­ing room in the West­port house.

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