Haven: Moorestown home blends modern, farm elements

A sculpture by Ernst Neizvestny, "Mask and Hand in Bronze," is a modern touch.
A sculpture by Ernst Neizvestny, "Mask and Hand in Bronze," is a modern touch.
Posted: September 16, 2013

Their house sits at the end of a winding trail off a country road in Moorestown. As it comes into view, its angles and elevations are revealed, but slowly.

Contemporary, yet with definite touches of the French countryside, part farm and part sophisticated retreat, the home that Renee and David Weisband built back in 1989 reflects how the couple have managed to synthesize their divergent tastes.

Renee, an actor/director/drama teacher and producing artistic director of Isis Productions, a regional theater company, remembers how she initially rejected the notion of moving when her physician husband found a lot in what seemed to be wilderness compared with their suburban home at the time.

"I was happy in our Cherry Hill neighborhood, and happy in our simple house," she says.

But the family was growing - the Weisbands have four daughters - and that Colonial in Cherry Hill was bursting at the seams.

David, usually the solid anchor to Renee's soaring sail, had stumbled on a piece of land that captured his imagination, and he was smitten.

"I could picture the wonderful house we could build on it," says David, an orthopedist who happened upon the hidden Moorestown enclave when he picked up a daughter from a play date. "I finally convinced Renee that it was definitely the right spot, and it's turned out to be a wonderful decision for us."

Building a house, some insist, is the surest route to a nervous breakdown and/or a divorce. But the Weisbands would argue otherwise. For them, it was an adventure that allowed them to create a nature preserve, a retreat and center of gravity for their lively, close family.

Not to mention the alpacas.

About 18 years ago, on a plane ride home from a professional meeting, David read an article about the investment possibilities of raising and breeding alpacas. He learned more and more, even attending an alpaca-breeding convention in New Mexico, and decided to have a barn built on their property that would house some.

Currently, five male and six female alpacas are in residence in a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned, air-purified barn David is as proud of as he is the house.

And yes, both he and Renee tend to their unusual pets. On occasion, she actually steps in as midwife.

"They're part of the family," Renee says.

The house the humans occupy has design elements unique to their needs and their eclectic tastes. One of its standout features is an indoor pool that Renee, who has participated in triathlons, uses daily for physical training. The real challenge was, literally, building the house around the pool.

An adjacent atrium with a waterfall and abundant lush plants also provides a dramatic view from the master bedroom above it.

The decor is a seamless blend of country French style, which Renee loves, and modernism, the design direction toward which David leans.

Warm fabrics and textures are Renee's influence, as reflected in the floors of unglazed clay tile that stretch through much of the downstairs.

But the home's bones are those of modern architecture, as reflected in the floating staircase at the entry that is a balm to David's contemporary eye and soul.

The living room's neutral palette allows the art and sculpture that are abundant there to command attention amid features such as a massive stone fireplace and a handsome baby grand piano.

A large medieval-motif needlepoint tapestry created by David's grandmother hangs near the floating staircase, adding yet another "Wow!" factor.

An expansive home studio space is where Renee teaches drama. But on many days, she is with her husband, doing what they both love.

Out near the barn, the Weisbands greet their beloved alpacas, calling out to "Drama Queen" and "Snowflake," "Topaz," and "Fascination," feeding them their banquet of wheat, oats, and rye pellets. They know each animal by name and personality.

"We've been very fortunate," says Renee. "Our daughters, and now our grandchildren, have grown up in the embrace of nature, and nature is never static. This is just a wonderful place to experience all its gifts."

Haven: >Inquirer.com

For more photos of the Weisbands' home, go to www.inquirer.com/weisband

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