A Barn is Transformed into a Home That's Perfect for Entertaining
In 1985, documentary filmmaker Pamela Page and husband Igor Jozsa, an architect with more than 40 years experience in high-end residential projects, moved into a cottage on their eight-acre property in Bethel. The cottage was on the small side, and they decided that the barn on the property, built in 1890, would make an ideal living space. However, local building restrictions required that they incorporate the existing barn into the new residence. The expansion consisted of two additions: a kitchen on the north side of the barn and what Jozsa and Page refer to as “the tower” on the rear of the structure.
Page is from New Orleans, and Jozsa was born in Trieste, Italy. Their common love of food and entertaining was a big factor in determining their home’s design. While the exterior is traditional to the area, the inside has the warmth and beauty of a European farmhouse. Guests find it easy to imagine they’re in Tuscany or the south of France, especially when in the kitchen, which boasts 150-year-old handmade floor tiles that Page located in a town not far from Nice. Josza is usually the one behind the large Viking range, as Page explains, “he’s the cook, I’m the farmer.” He’s also famous for his homemade jams and pepper jelly.
The home’s four dining rooms easily accommodate the couple’s weekly dinner parties. The table in the screened-in porch is used if it’s raining; another is located in the library across from a stone fireplace; and a dozen guests can be hosted in the kitchen. But their favorite dining area is outdoors under the pergola, in view of the expansive fruit and vegetable garden that Page lovingly attends. Since one of Page’s goals is to get people to eat in a healthful way, dinner guests are encouraged to explore her potager and pick some produce for the evening meal.
The abundant beauty of the 65-by-150-foot garden is due to meticulous planning. Page carefully plots out the location of each item—from berries and melons to pumpkins and cabbages. She orders seeds in the winter, then starts them indoors, cultivating rare and heirloom varieties that are hard to find in the area. “If you buy run-of-the-mill transplants, you’re limited,” she says, “and the point of this garden is that it’s limitless. I’ve grown three dozen different tomatoes, a dozen pepper varieties, a half-dozen types of cucumber, okra and beans, all in a single season.” Aside from fruits and veggies, Page originally planned on including only edible flowers, but soon learned that additional varieties were needed to attract pollinators. Her friend Frances Palmer started her out with a gift of dahlias, which weren’t in the original line-up. Now she has something blooming throughout the entire growing season.
Such an undertaking might seem daunting for this busy couple. Josza is now director of the interior design department at the acclaimed Arquitectonica firm. And Page, whose documentary projects span from the legacy videos she produces for private clients to the series she co-wrote, directed and edited for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (her film The Compleat Beatles helped coin the term “rockumentary”), is currently working on No Time for Trouble, which tells the story of a marching band formed to keep kids out of gangs in a remote South African province.
When guests remark that work in the garden must be very demanding, Page nods her head in agreement. “I try to look very tired and don’t let on that when I garden, I’m hardly working,” she admits. “I listen to bees, sniff the mock oranges, stretch and look. I’m learning, playing and having the time of my life.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Labor of Love.