Home Highlight - Stephanie Albanese & Gary Whelpley

This next Home Highlight is one of my personal favorites. Why? Two reasons- First of all, the occupants of the home are two of the most charming, interesting, and charismatic people that I know. Secondly, the house is, simply, magnificent. It’s the kind of house that you stumble upon while languidly thumbing through a back issue of Better Homes and Gardens or Architectural Digest. The kind of house that everybody dreams about someday owning. The kind of home that is the subject of house envy.  The gardens are immaculate and bursting with color. The art, unsurprisingly, is spectacular. Why is everything so amazing, you ask? Well, it probably has a little something to do with the fact that both Stephanie and Gary, two of my closest friends, are artists, professional photographers, woodworkers, water colorists, painters…. the list goes on. Their passion and vibrancy seep into every crevice of their home, both inside and out.

After retiring this past winter, Stephanie and Gary spent all of their newly freed time doing all of the things that that they love to do. They drew, they gardened and woodworked, and they traveled. Retirement for them, however, is not about slowing down. Gary joked that Stephanie is like the “Energizer Bunny,” and I can attest! This great couple takes tremendous pride in their house which is a reflection of who they are and where they’ve traveled. As a canvas for their artwork and creativity, the house is full of meaningful memories and inspiration. When asked about their three favorite things, here’s what they had to say…


No. 1 – The Gardens

The exterior of Stephanie and Gary’s home is a show stopper. The gardens and outdoor living spaces are stunning and unlike anything that you might see nestled within the City of Rochester. In fact, the gardens, although entirely different at the time, were the reason that the couple decided to purchase the house ten years ago. The previous owners had spent an exorbitant amount of money on hardscaping. This blueprint provided Stephanie and Gary a starting point which allowed them to visualize how it is that they wanted their yards to look and function. The entire backyard was reconfigured into small, intimate outdoor rooms. Stephanie described it as their own private sanctuary – and that’s exactly what it feels like. Every inch of space is utilized to its maximum potential, whether it’s to enjoy breakfast on the deck, sip coffee by the workshop, or to dine on the patio. Even the old two-car garage was converted into a workshop for Gary, who is perpetually building and creating. They described the transformation as “creating an environment to create.”


No. 2 – Open Floor Plan

One of the things that Stephanie made sure to mention was their annual two month pilgrimage to Mexico, from which much of their inspiration stems. The openness of a Mexican home inspired the couple to knock down a wall that divided the kitchen and dining room in their residence. This transformed the aura of the residence, giving it a much more open, breezy feel. Gary also built French doors off of the kitchen leading to an outdoor deck. In doing so, they brought the outdoors in and made it a central part of their living space throughout the year.

No. 3 – Art Studio

This charming part of Stephanie and Gary’s dwelling actually used to be the attic. The couple knocked down some walls and converted it into their personal art studio. Half of it is Stephanie’s, and half of it is Gary’s. Stephanie joked that they spend most of their time up here, “playing all day long.” In retirement, the two are no longer encumbered by the burdens of their old jobs – although both loved what they did. Stephanie used to spend a majority of her time editing wedding photos. Now, this space has become their new home-base – a space where they can create, try out new things, and enjoy each other’s company.