Wendy Dinneen and Bob Walker are about to celebrate the 12th Christmas in their spacious Upper Saddle River home. They’ve come a long way.
Dinneen remembers her family’s first holiday in the Bergen County house. “We had no furniture at all, so we stretched several folding tables in front of the fireplace… covering them with plaid linens and pine cones.”
Holidays have progressed since then. When Dinneen and Walker moved in, they had just one infant son. Now, they have three boys and a wealth of family and friends in the area. The couple loves to host large events. “This house shines best when a lot of people are here,” says Dinneen. “That’s when it’s serving its purpose.”
The five-bedroom, five-bath, 5,200-square-foot home is set high atop a long, winding driveway. Dinneen remembers the moment she first saw it.
“It had beautiful reclaimed barnwood on the ceiling and sidewalls, and this huge rock fireplace,” she says. “With so much inherent natural character, I was immediately convinced it should be our house.”
The previous owner built the house with great attention to detail. Take, for instance, the aforementioned driveway. “The boulders were transported for months up and down the driveway to surround the house,” says Dinneen. “It’s rare to find a house that has a personality and makes everyone feel comfortable.”
Dinneen, a native of Arizona, added her own touches to the home as her family grew; the family now comprises West, 13, Teague, 12 (born one week after moving into the house), Kilian, 10, and a fat rabbit named Carrot.
“The house was built like a fortress,” Dinneen says. She refers to its style as “rugged elegance.” The massive wrap-around porch leads into an inviting two-story foyer. Virtually every room has rustic details. “The previous owners put in at least a dozen different species of wood,” she says. “It’s all quality, and it’s unique in every room.”
The massive family room, complete with an enormous rock fireplace, is the fan favorite. Dubbed the barn room, it’s here where the family spends most of their time and where Dinneen added her personal style. Something of a Renaissance woman, Dinneen has always been in creative lines of work, from designing a clothing line to running a retail shop to her current passion project, promoting a luxury brand of “healing water” from Romania, containing colloidal gold and silver.
The barn room reflects Dinneen’s Western roots. The worn leather furniture sets the stage. The Western-style collectibles are not just props; the boys have worn (and outgrown) every cowboy boot and hat. “We’ve collected them over the years,” she says. The massive iron chandelier was shipped from Arizona. Dinneen meticulously lights each votive on celebratory evenings.
[RELATED: A Basement Transformation for the Books]
The home lives up to its purpose during the holiday season. “I bring in tons of poinsettias, festive lights and greens. It doesn’t take much to decorate this house,” she says. “It’s really a seasonal chameleon.” The three boys decorate the tree for the holidays with ornaments that have been collected over the years.
The holiday spirit is not just celebrated inside. A spacious side patio—a favorite hangout for the boys—is ideal for a firepit and s’mores. “With three boys, there are all sorts of antics going on,” says Dinneen. “People are always inside and out. It’s so festive.”Click here to leave a comment