When looking for all the notable features at Peter C. BonSey and Jan Hamilton’s home in Snyder, it’s not always what you see.
Sometimes, it’s what you don’t see.
There’s no clutter, for starters. They are minimalists.
There’s no typical front yard. A vegetable garden is planted off to one side of the driveway; BonSey estimated it produced 230 pounds of produce this season.
Nor is there a third bedroom in what was built in the 1950s as a three-bedroom ranch. Some years back, they converted it to a spacious master bath and well-organized dressing room.
Their home appeared in The Buffalo News’ Home of the Week feature in July, after BonSey submitted a few photos. The News recently visited for an interview and photo shoot to see more of it.
Their home, they say, reflects their unique style. That includes some quirks.
“I don’t like corners. I find them very abrupt,” said do-it-yourselfer BonSey, co-founder in 1990 of the English Gardener landscape business, which he sold 11 years later.
To eliminate a backyard corner, he built a rounded wall of tumbled Pennsylvania bluestone in front of it.
Inside, in what was once the square-shaped third bedroom, he explained how the curved wall now separating the master bath and dressing room came to be.
When determining how to divide the square room, he wanted to avoid ending up with two rectangles. The curved wall created a larger bathroom than a straight one would have. He said the irregular shape better accommodated the toilet, bath, vanity and shower.
As part of the renovation, the couple updated the living room fireplace with a high-efficiency wood stove insert with blower. The red brick fireplace in Hamilton’s office was tiled to brighten up the space.
They also installed solar panels. “We are solar – not totally but we produce 80 percent of our electricity,” BonSey said.
Further exploration of the home revealed some vanishing acts that BonSey enjoyed pointing out.
Pots and pans in the blue and white kitchen are hidden away but not stacked in cabinets or drawers. Instead, they hang on a pegboard inside a floor-to-ceiling corner cabinet. To ensure their return to the appropriate hook, BonSey drew the outline of each pan on the pegboard.
There’s more: He installed a pull-out trash can into the wall shared by the half bath on the other side. When the sliding unit is closed, the trash can is hidden under the enclosed bathroom vanity on the other side.
Rather than going with standard 24-inch-deep cabinets, BonSey built his own cabinets and made them just 14 inches deep. It keeps all their contents in view, rather than hidden behind each other. The cabinet doors came from Ikea.
More creative ideas are found outdoors.
Among the highlights:
• A 6-foot-tall sculptural vase in front that BonSey created by dry-stacking 1,800 pounds of discarded slate tiles he acquired when a roof was being replaced at an old church.
• A pear tree with branches trained to grow flat climbs up the front wall of the house, espalier-style.
• And the “catio” – or cat patio – near the front vegetable garden has a bench, planted catnip and shade umbrella – a favorite spot for Hamilton and the two female cats, Stella and Star.
“I sit on the ‘catio’ with my girls a lot. If I go out there, they go out with me. If I go back inside, they go in,” she said.
The added-on conservatory leads to the backyard. BonSey built a structure for dining and relaxing on the patio. Beds with mass plantings have paths winding through them and cover most of the yard. A tall mirror strategically placed in one back corner tricks visitors into thinking the brick path leads to another garden. It’s just a reflection.
“I don’t follow any of the rules of gardening, such as short in front, tall in back,” BonSey said.
After 38 years of marriage, he credits his wife – whom he calls his journeyman – for her remarkable patience as he takes on project after project.
Yet they share the same vision.
“Instead of focusing on the dollar value for when we maybe sell it one day, we focus on living in our home the way we want to live now,” BonSey said.
The blue print
Here are highlights from Peter C. BonSey and Jan Hamilton’s Snyder home of 21 years. The selling price in August 1997 was $130,000. The ranch is approximately 2,300 square feet.
Layout: Kitchen; large combined living and dining area that opens to plant-filled conservatory; guest room; master bedroom; 2½ half baths including the adjoining master bath and dressing room that was once the third bedroom; first-floor laundry, and Hamilton’s office. Full basement with living space, bar, fireplace and workout area as well as separate rooms for storage, BonSey’s office and workshop. Attached garage, impressively organized.
Floors: Hardwood topped with area rugs; hardwood with ceramic tile inlays in the kitchen; slate floor (originally from living room) in conservatory; porcelain tiles in baths; ceramic tile that mimics wood planks in the basement; epoxy coated floor in garage.
Furniture: Red microfiber sectional and leather swivel chairs in living room. Granite-top dining table with a stainless steel base.
“We don’t have modern taste, but we somehow end up with modern things,” BonSey said.
Window treatments: IKEA panel curtains, often used as room dividers, hung in layers on triple track rails in living room. Solid-colored shades in office and kitchen. Traditional patterned draperies in bedroom.
Lighting: Recessed LED lighting throughout because they like that “it looks like daylight.” The kitchen also features a section of translucent wall panels illuminated from behind by lighting installed between the wall studs.
Accents: BonSey’s photographs. Cobalt blue glassware in blue and white kitchen. Cat sculptures. An old grate-like piece that BonSey found at curb side on garbage day, then framed and hung on the foyer wall.
Gardens: Vegetable garden and “catio” (patio for cats) in front; perennial gardens in back along with potted bougainvillea, hibiscus, lemon tree and other plants that were recently moved into the conservatory for fall and winter – about 50 in all. A backyard structure was built by BonSey. They call it their Taj Mahal.
Love your home? Tell us about it.
One of the most popular features in the Sunday Home & Style section is the Home of the Month, which features a local home and the people who live there. Today, we feature the Snyder home of Peter BonSey and Jan Hamilton.
Our Home of the Month is also online at buffalonews.com – along with a gallery of photos by a News staff photographer showing interior and exterior shots as well as details throughout the home.
Last fall, we launched another feature that appears online only – the Home of the Week. This lets readers inside even more homes throughout Western New York. It, too, has become a very popular feature. Who doesn’t like to peek inside other people’s homes?
The Buffalo News continues to look for other local homes and the stories behind them and their décor. Those chosen will be displayed in the weekly feature at buffalonews.com. As with today’s featured home, the residence also could be chosen as Home of the Month with an article in a Sunday edition of The Buffalo News.
Here’s what to do if you’re interested: Tell us about your home in 150 words or less, and email 10 hi-res images (in .jpeg form) of the interior and exterior to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s OK to send the images split among several emails. Please include your name and the city or town where you live – and a phone number.
While we can’t return a personal response to every submission, we plan to let you know via email that we received it.
We will contact those chosen to be featured on buffalonews.com. We will include your first and last names and the city or town in which you reside but not your exact address and certainly not your phone number.
Single-family homes, condominiums, lofts and apartments are eligible. For the online feature, we will publish some or all of the photos you submitted.
If your place is chosen for Home of the Month, we will visit your home for an interview and our own photo shoot.
We welcome responses from single people and couples, young parents and empty-nesters, multigenerational households and down-sizers ... anyone with a story to tell.
* In case you missed our September Home of the Month - a family home in East Aurora: