Sister Sister

Who says you can’t go home again? These sisters live side by side under one roof, right where they grew up. (Photos by Melabee M. Miller)

They were always close, but it was a twist of fate that brought sisters Patricia Yannuzzi and Barbara Spano together again.

Following the death of their parents, the sisters went through near-simultaneous divorces. That was when the two decided to revisit their childhood home in the heart of Westfield to figure out how they could live there again. “This house has been in the family for years,” says Yannuzzi. “The property was available, so why would we want to go anywhere else?”

The house was purchased by their father in 1946 from the adjacent First Baptist Church for the whopping sum of $1, then moved around the corner to property owned by their grandfather. Decades later, after years as a rental property, the house was in disrepair. “It was falling apart,” says Spano. Exploring the concept of renovating it and actually living together, the sisters approached local architect Carol C. Hewit. The problem was that “prices to renovate were outrageous,” says Spano.

“The house had already been converted into a two-family,” says Hewit, “and it had little bits of rooms. Plus, the sisters didn’t like the top-and-bottom thing—they both wanted to walk in the front door.” The best thing to do, she says, was to knock it down and start over. So they did. Designing a mirror-image, railroad-layout was challenging because the new house had to be built on a narrow 33-foot lot subject to strict zoning laws. “Now, you look at the house and you’d never know it was a two-family. With its expansive front porch, it blends in with the norm in Westfield.”

Then, the fun began: enter interior designer Tammy Kaplan of Images in Design in Cranford. “The sisters have completely different taste and different ideas,” she says.

“I wanted my place to look like a New York City penthouse,” says Yannuzzi. “Lofty, open, and contemporary, but comfortable.” Spano wanted to incorporate Asian flair. “I knew I wanted a Shoji screen and bamboo floors,” she says. The sisters had all their appointments together, says Kaplan, despite looking at different styles. “It was a true group project­—each space has a style all its own. The only thing they have in common is functionality”—which in a relatively tight space is important.

Note: Interior Designer Tammy Kaplan (interiordesignernj.com) guided the sisters through their individual projects. The architect was Carol Hewit, PE, AIA (908-789-9417).

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