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Paula Brusco uses bird’s nests to bring the outdoor indoors. Her home and gardens are among the highlights of the Through the Garden Gate benefit tour for the Ivoryton Library on Saturday, June 15. Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier

Paula Brusco uses bird’s nests to bring the outdoor indoors. Her home and gardens are among the highlights of the Through the Garden Gate benefit tour for the Ivoryton Library on Saturday, June 15. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Saturday House and Garden Tour Benefits Ivoryton Library

Published June 12, 2019

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The problem: how to satisfy the never-ending curiosity about how other people live and feel virtuous while doing it? The solution: a house and garden tour like Through the Garden Gate on Saturday, June 15 in Ivoryton and Centerbrook to benefit the Ivoryton Library. The tour features houses old and new, renovations that capture the spirit of the original and renovations that take traditional in new and imaginative directions.

At first glance, the yellow and blue residence of Lia Coppolecchia and Michael Speranza may look like a standard 1960s Cape-style home, but the original garage is now an expanded kitchen.

“I’m Italian. I love to cook,” Coppolecchia explained.

The couple has built a new three-car combination garage and music studio for Speranza, a bass player, on the side of the property.

The renovated kitchen is not the only place to cook. They have also added an extended patio with an outdoor kitchen, complete with barbecue, sink, and refrigerator.

The house did have one problem, and it was this problem that brought the residence to the attention of Leslie Barlow, who, with Charlene Doane, chairs of the upcoming event: It was the geese from the Mill Pond that borders the house. They wandered up on the lawn, leaving their droppings.

After seeing a social media post about the problem created by the geese, Coppolecchia called Barlow. The result was not simply constructing the fence that blocks the geese’s approach, but also including the house on the tour.

The raffle basket, with gift certificates to everything from garden centers to restaurants will be located at the Coppolecchia-Speranza residence.

Barlow, too, has a fence at the edge of her property and for the same reason. Her home, a converted carriage house, features extensive gardens that border on the Falls River, and a fence to keep the geese off the lawn.

Melissa Chieffalo, whose lawn runs down to the Fall River with beautiful views, tried a different solution to the ever-present geese. She has three full-sized plastic models of coyotes, complete with furry tails, stationed at different points overlooking the river. The success of the imitation predators, however, was short-lived.

“It worked for about a week,” she says.

The Chieffalo house, which with a former owner had been on an earlier tour, has a completely different look. The exterior of the 1808 Colonial is unchanged, but the interior is an airy, modern residence.

“Everything is based on the water view,” Chieffalo explained.

The water view includes not only the river but a new free-form gunnite pool on the back terrace.

Another home on the tour, the Plage residence, also sits along the Fall River. The front of the house, built in 1893, features the iconic emblem of homeownership: a white picket fence. Along with extensive plantings in the back, there is a dock at river’s edge.

Nature is outside, interior decorating is inside, but not in Paula Brusco’s home. Vines are twined around fixtures and realistic models of birds and bird’s nests perch in unexpected places. The large back gardens of the property give a sense of tranquility and privacy, but the most remarkable thing about the residence is that Brusco has created this island of calm on one of the busiest corners in Centerbrook, bordering a popular ice cream store and a gas station.

Cars regularly pass Brookside Farm on Route 154 without an inkling about the gardens, the gazebo, the brook, and the pond that are part of the property. Nestled between the road and the railroad tracks, it is easy to pass by without noticing the extent of the landscaping that Anne and Jan Bishop have done to the 1907 homestead. Once, there were donkeys and goats at Brookside Farm; no longer, but the birdhouses remain, some antique, some built by Jan Bishop, who has done much of the building and planting on the grounds.

It’s impossible to miss what Michael Pressman and Laura Copland have created in their front yard, a butterfly garden with varieties of milkweed that sustain monarch butterflies, along with an assortment of native plantings to attract other species of butterflies as well as birds and bees. Copland checks the plants daily to see if there are new eggs, covers them in a mesh screen as the baby caterpillars hatch, and even moves the tiny insects to new areas as they eat through milkweed plants.

“I read an article that monarchs were in decline. I thought I could do a good thing, so I just started doing it,” Copland said.

The Schaefer residence in Ivoryton took advantage of an old adage, applicable in this instance to gardening: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The boulders, too big to move, around the edge of the house were incorporated into the stone wall surrounding the property. The wall encloses manicured English borders and elegantly landscaped beds.

Tour participants also have the opportunity to visit the extensive gardens that surround the Copper Beech Inn and to see the exhibits in the library on Ivoryton’s past, including its place in American industrial history.

Through the Garden Gate

Through the Garden Gate, a benefit tour for the Ivoryton Library, is on Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Ivoryton Library, 106 Main Street or 860-767-1252, in advance ($25) and on the morning of the tour ($30).

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