Home Sweet Home (Plus Business) Is More the Trend

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

Diane Dudzinski and Don Blauweiss commute to work each day by walking less than 30 feet from their bedroom to their offices housed in the historic James Coutant House, located in the Town of Eastchester with a Bronxville post office address.

Built in 1821 and named for its first owner who was one of the founders of New Rochelle, the house with five bedrooms, three baths, living room, formal dining room and solarium, might be considered too large for a family of just two,  were it not also the location for Don Blauweiss Advertising & Design, Inc.

“After spending two years on assignment in Belgium, where we lived in a farmhouse in the bucolic Flemish countryside, we knew that we wanted to find more open space when we returned to work in New York City and found ourselves living in a West Side apartment,” Blauweiss said during a recent visit to the property. “We found this beautiful historic home on an acre of property just 30 minutes from the City,” added Dudzinski, “and at first, we planned to use it only as our residence.”

However, when Blauweiss decided to branch out on his own professionally after serving as a creative director for several iconic advertising firms, he found that their home also lent itself well as a place to work.  Dudzinki, formerly a marketing executive with American Express, joined forces with her husband’s firm in their unique setting. “When our clients come to visit us, they love the unique experience of our historic home, where we might have meetings in our solarium or formal dining room,” she said.

Now the home is on the market, beckoning either a large family to a lovely setting or residents seeking to set up a professional office where they happen to live. The latter option seems to be a growing trend, and just might be a reprieve for historic homes that may be too large for the average-sized family today.

There was a time not that long ago when most towns did not permit professional offices in residential zones. In many cases today, however, it is permitted, either with considerable ease or strict guidelines. In my town of Yorktown, for instance, a business office is now permitted in a private home with a special use permit, and without the owner having to actually reside on the premises. In other towns, such as Eastchester where Dudzinski and Blauweiss live and work, the town code allows a professional office in a residential zone without a special use permit, but with certain guidelines for space limitations, the number of employees and types of businesses.

With credit to the Internet, as many as 50 million people now work at home at least part-time, including the publisher, editor and reporters of this newspaper.

At the low end, all that is needed for a working space is just one room, either a former den or bedroom. However, there are certain types of homes that lend themselves well to a professional office where clients can visit and where workers can be employed.  My town encourages this use for historic homes that might be on a major road and whose size might otherwise be deemed impractical for one family. Indeed, this has been the experience for my wife and me in our historic home, operating first an antiques store, then a nursery school and currently, a public relations firm.

Where clients would visit, some considerations for a business office in a residential zone would be the defined space of separate rooms, which is why historic homes, rather than contemporary structures with open floor plans, serve well in that regard.  There must be enough parking for visitors, preferably with some visual screening from any neighbors close by.  And, ideally, the business might have a separate entrance to that of the residential space.

At Blauweiss Advertising, Dudzinki works from a central room which, if utilized as a residence only, might be a great room or family room. It features a big bay window overlooking an acre of landscaped grounds. Blauweiss works in a large office with a fireplace upstairs which originally would have been a bedroom. 

Is there a downside to having a professional office at home? Not according to the owners of the James Coutant House.  “I’m a fairly organized person who likes structure, and to have it in this environment is a great benefit,” Dudzinski said.

“The beauty and interest around us is part of our working experience,” she continued. “This can always be a regular home for a large family again, but for anyone wanting to work where they live, this is ideal.”

A video of this property, on the market for $997,500, can be found at www.youtube.com by searching for “The Coutant House.”

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker and founder of Primavera Lifestyles Marketing, a public relations firm. His websites are: www.PrimaveraHomes.com and www.PrimaveraPR.com.  For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.