LONG BEFORE THE PHRASE “YOU'RE fired!” became inextricably linked with mega developer/builder Donald Trump, architect William Devereaux was on the receiving end of a much more welcome phrase: You're hired! Five years ago, “The Donald” tapped the McLean, Va., architect to design the residential component of the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. (For fans of the television show “The Apprentice,” that's where first-year winner Bill Rancic distinguished himself as project manager for a one-day celebrity golf tournament. It's also where boardroom judge and Trump executive vice president Carolyn Kepcher is COO and general manager.) Trump wanted the best for his latest development endeavor—16 villas and a condo building along with a complete overhaul of a tired golf course. He already had famed course designer Jim Fazio on board for the $30 million links' renewal, and plans were under way to demolish and rebuild a fully loaded clubhouse. Next up on the hiring schedule was an architect who could deliver the kind of upscale housing that Trump envisioned for his first non–high-rise project.
“He'd seen other projects that we'd done in Westchester County, N.Y., including the Doral Greens, which he loved,” says Devereaux. “It was all stucco, a combination of flats and townhomes around a golf course. It's gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, but what impressed him was that it sold well for big prices in the last recession. Trump couldn't believe it—when nothing was selling, this project was selling like crazy.”
Suburban Chic Given Trump's high-rise track record and his reputation for urban glitz and glam, the design surprise with The Residences at Trump National Golf Club and the still-on-the-boards condo building is that they are so restrained and so ... well ... tasteful. Some might even call the 16 clapboard-and-stone villas safe, which is not a word that's normally associated with television's latest reality star. But Devereaux is adamantly clear about one thing: The Big Apple native knew exactly what he wanted, and he knew what would sell.
“Trump likes the clapboard look, which he thinks is the Westchester County look, and he's probably right,” says the architect. “There's Georgian brick and Federalist architecture and a little bit of everything in Westchester County, but the vast majority of it is probably clapboard and that kind of thing. What we were trying to do was to give a rich feeling to a clapboard-looking building. He wasn't interested in doing a whole lot of stone, but stone accents and detailing were important. We used James Hardie, but the idea was that each of the villas was to feel like real clapboard and have rich, elegant details. That's what we were all looking for because he was throwing out numbers like $800 to $1,000 a square foot, which, at the time, was unheard of. But the Trump name carries a premium on the square footage cost.” (For the record, the villas go for about $500 per square foot.)
Devereaux's firm came up with designs for two villa styles: the larger Dorchester at 3,402 square feet (6,660 square feet with the unfinished garden level) and the Carlyle at 3,159 square feet (5,426 square feet with the garden level). Because they were located on Trump's spectacular golf course, they had to look as good from the back as they did the front. In fact, Trump wanted the back sides of the houses to look better than the front. “His constant concern was, ‘Here I'm going to spend all this money on the golf course,'” Devereaux says, paraphrasing Trump. “‘I don't want to mess that up with housing.'”
Key to these plans was knowing the target market, which was not retirees, but empty-nesters. “We knew that the buyers would probably be a successful, fairly dynamic couple who aren't afraid of volume and aren't looking at every cent spent on heating and cooling,” says Devereaux. “So the idea was to give them a house that's probably a lot smaller than what they're moving out of but to give them more drama, or as much drama, as the house they're leaving.”
Both plans feature double master suites (one up and one down), tray ceilings in the dining room, second-story lofts, and the kinds of details that spell luxury in subtle but measurable ways: 10-foot ceilings on the first floor, 6-inch base molding throughout, 6-inch crown molding in the entry foyer, and a chair rail in the dining room.
The list of manufacturers represented at The Residences, which are being built by Trump Briarcliff Manor Development, reads like a who's who of top-notch industry players: clapboard exteriors from James Hardie; oversized Marvin windows; Royal Dura Slate slate-style roof shingles; Kohler tubs and sinks; and GE Monogram appliances. But many of the finishes used throughout the homes—granite countertops, ceramic tile, marble vanity tops, mantels, and marble fireplace surrounds—come from the Trump Collection.
“Those are things that Mr. Trump selected or had to approve,” says Sandra Broas, sales manager of The Residences at Trump National Golf Club. “He approves everything,” she adds.
“He has a very high level of attention to detail,” says Brett Bisceglia, Trump's project manager at The Residences. “He knows what to look for more than an absentee developer. He's really on top of everything.”