I am an architect and until I moved here a few years ago, I was living and working in a summer resort area on Chautauqua Lake. My studio projects consisted primarily of summer homes for people from other parts of the country. I had renovated a 1910 house for my home and studio and life seemed great. It was a little strange that the community turned into a ghost town around October when most residents left for their homes out of town, but the area was beautiful and life on the lake was easy going. And while I made great friends and had interesting clients it was like they say about Los Angeles – there was no there, there. No village, no shops and in winter, no people.
A friend told me about a very old farmhouse just outside of the Village of Westfield. Except for various wild life, it had been vacant for years and the last human tenant had stripped everything from the interior. Built around 1850, the house was solid brick with no insulation, plumbing, heating or electricity, no kitchen and the huge front porch was falling down. It was perfect. I was hooked. The grounds were beautiful with huge maple trees probably the same age as the house and the farm were within walking distance of the village. The current owner was willing to sell the house and a couple of acres from the 140-acre farm. So as they say – I bought the farm – literally and figuratively.
A local contractor and I spent the next five months getting the house into a minimal condition where I could live and work. I was left with sheetrock walls, heat and light and still no kitchen. For the first eight months it was like camping, except camping eventually ends and you get back to civilization. After the first five months, the construction budget was spent (and then some) and I was on my own trying to build a house and an architectural practice at the same time. The house is a work in progress and will be for years to come. Even unfinished, the house has become a home to live in, a studio to work in and show-off to potential clients and building my own design work is like play to me. And when I’ve built something here that I then have to rip out and the work becomes less than play, somebody, a stranger, from the area will stop in and thank me for saving the old wreck of the farmhouse on the outskirts of town. They’ll get a tour, probably a glass of wine and when they leave they are no longer strangers. I went looking for a farmhouse and found a community.
Peter Di Pietro graduated from Brocton Central and Georgia Tech and was a senior associate for a large firm in Atlanta designing health care facilities. In 1986, Peter moved back to Chautauqua County to start his architecture and furniture design studio. PETERDI PIETROARCHITECT is a full service award winning design studio in Westfield.
Visit Peter’s Website: www.peterdipietroarchitect.com