Larry and Kathy Cosman have traced the roots of their property back to the Palatine settlers of 1709. Their family cemetery is up the road, along with Revolutionary-era graves of the original settlers, now listed on the National Historic Register.
The land, in the Town of Newburgh in northern Orange County, has been in Larry’s family since 1923. His grandfather originally was a dairy farmer but the family switched to other crops as the markets changed, finally settling on apples. They grew and sold apples under the Happy Bee label.
Several bad crop years and falling prices forced the Cosmans to face an economic reality that has stalked many of the valley’s apple farmers. “Over a five-year period we had acquired a million dollars of debt,” Larry says. “The business was generating slightly over a million dollars in revenue a year. Our two daughters didn’t want to go into the business. Our banker said, ‘Don’t you know what retire means?'”
The third-generation farmer decided to give it up.
“Fortunately for us, the land had value beyond the debt level—we could sell and come out whole, with some money for retirement. Between capital gains tax and the debt, 50 cents on the dollar went to someone else.”
The Cosmans kept some of the family land and built a home on the acreage Larry father’s had intended to build a home for his wife. At an elevation of 750 feet, the property overlooks the expansive valley with views north, south and east.
Their 3,400-square-foot, open-floorplan ranch, built in 2005, overlooks the former family property and the Hudson River beyond. Taking full advantage of the elevation and orientation, a deck runs the entire length of the house; a retractable awning provides shade on demand. The open, cantilevered screened porch off the kitchen (“Where everyone wants to sit”) provides a dreamy, tranquil space and views on three sides.
The custom-designed kitchen includes amenities and details the Cosmans required, and a few they just, well, wanted. Wider clearances and higher counters make moving around the kitchen area, working and cleaning easier (both Kathy and Larry are over six feet tall). After years of living by the whims of the weather, radiant heat provides even, invisible comfort.
The kitchen plan was designed to create a gathering place that would be open and airy—to provide the cook with air and space and company. The Cosmans are serious about cooking and entertaining: They host most occasions and holiday meals for their large, extended family; an Easter pie bake and holiday cookie bake are fetes in their own right. A five-burner cooktop and two convection wall ovens can handle the demand. The Corian apron-front sink in the island mixes modern material with old-fashioned farmhouse design and carries through the detail of the backsplash tile. The central island is massive and wide enough for guests to gather on one side without interfering with the prep and cooking on the other side. On occasion, it doubles as a buffet.
The custom cabinetry, designed to look like furniture, includes plenty of drawer storage. Cherry for the island gives a warm wood tone while the chocolate-washed ivory finish of the wall cabinets lightens the room and lends an old-fashioned feel. A cabinet depth refrigerator is masked by a cabinet-front door. For convenience, refrigerator and freezer drawers (also cherry-fronted) are tucked into the island. Major food storage is in a separate pantry off the kitchen.
The main dining area flanking the kitchen is anchored by a massive farm table (it easily seats 10 with room for service plates), a gift from their son-in-law, who built it from pre-Revolutionary barns salvaged on the property.
Throughout the kitchen and the house, evidence of family history is intertwined with the history of the apple business. Custom tiles featuring apple company labels are randomly placed throughout the backsplash. Glass-fronted cabinets and nooks display Kathy’s collections of bowls and old milk bottles discovered while excavating the property. The scale was salvaged from the apple warehouse.
“Like we said,” Kathy concludes, “We wouldn’t have the house without the apples.”
Refrigerator: GE Profile, cabinet depth
Drawers: SubZero refrigerator and freezer drawers
Range: Viking 5-burner gas cooktop
Oven: Viking convection wall ovens
Countertops: Silestone countertop (38-inch height)
Cabinets: Custom cabinetry