The agent contacted the owners, who invited the Kozarskys to see the house. The Kozarskys offered the asking price for the midcentury custom house on a deeply wooded lot, and yet the owners refused it.
"It was very discouraging," Joan recalls of that initial foray. But weeks later, they heard the sellers had changed their minds. The house was theirs.
Joan and Eliot will say, all these years later, that for them, this house had a certain determinism: They were meant to own it. But that doesn't mean it was an easy or perfect fit.
This couple saw a wonderful home and wanted to take it to the next level. "The very first thing we knew we had to do was remove a full wall of closets just beyond the front door that blocked the views and had no grace," Eliot recalls.
Both he and Joan are bold in their vision. After many years of working together as partners in their company, Universal Synergetics, they make a smooth design team.
But for this home, one of the first in the region to use the then-groundbreaking post-and-beam construction, they also sought outside help. The goal was to blur the boundaries between inside and outside. Helping them to accomplish that was industrial designer Bill Bienhoff of Ohio, a business colleague who also fell for this unusual home and took pleasure in rethinking some details.
The repurposed foyer lost its closet and became a transition to the indoors, with a "garden" of sculpture, plantings, and stones.
A few steps beyond, a balcony adorned with an unfurled Japanese obi sash overlooks the main living area of the home, creating a dramatic feature. ("Areas," not "rooms," define this home, the opposite of the couple's former traditional suburban split-level where they raised their two sons.) The master suite and a home gym are located on that second level.
Under the open stairway is a small area with art and contemporary seating, an intimate space that also can serve as an auxiliary social spot during parties the Kozarskys host for business and pleasure. Guests from abroad are frequent visitors, and so are family and friends.
"This is a wonderful home for parties," Eliot says, "but also a sanctuary for just the two of us."
The living area is slightly more formal than other parts of the house, but it's clearly not a "sit-up-straight" setting. A patterned rug in muted neutral tones anchors upholstered pieces in off-whites and beiges. The focal point is a stone fireplace climbing up the back wall that's set off by an abstract painting in the same rich grays as the stones. Instead of competing with the wall, the painting seems to have been created for it.
Antique recorders, and Joan's original paintings of the instruments, are showcased in a dining room spare enough to feel Asian. Even the kitchen has a pristine quality. "Our house rule is no ‘tchotchkes' — less is more," says Eliot.
But with all this — the sleek Frank Lloyd Wright look and feel of the Kozarsky home, the wood sculptures by artist John Schackerman of Collingswood, and the decorative art pieces — it is the outdoors, constantly present, that is the scene-stealer.
Behind the house, multilevel decks are surrounded by plantings, manicured shrubs, and bursts of colorful flowers. A Zen garden and its walking trails, an homage to the couple's Japanese daughter-in-law, have recently been enlarged, and speakers provide music that enhances tranquillity.
A fire pit throws its reflections into the living room, and at night, perimeter lighting around the facade creates instant drama.
It's a retreat for two — or 200, the number of guests at a 60th-wedding-anniversary party for the Kozarskys in 2010.
Those mailbox notes may keep coming. But this house is happily occupied.
"For now," says Eliot, "this is exactly where we belong. This is home."