The house by Hunterdon Hills

Doctors Dave and Dan with their two children at home for Christmas
Doctors Dave and Dan with their two children at home for Christmas. Photos by Johnny Walsh
Out Homes

Doctors Dave and Dan know how to celebrate. Together for 15 years, and recently married, they approach life in celebration of one another, their two beautiful children, hard work, and in celebration of Christmas. Having met on a blind date, both have a background in family and pediatric health care, currently running two successful pediatric dental practices in New Jersey. Professional entrepreneurs of sorts, Dan’s passion lies within his day-to-day interactions with clients, saying, “We didn’t know if we’d have kids of our own, so why not work with kids every day?” Dave, a Harvard graduate and also passionate about family care, helps to run the practices, intending to continue growing as a practice. Together, they make two partners with eyes set upon not only making a difference in the lives of their own family members, but also the lives of many families.

As I pulled up to this outstanding home, I immediately noticed an intentionally designed landscape. Acres of carefully kept trees seasoned the property, previously a forest, but later turned into a grove. A red stone driveway traveled through a beautiful, lush lawn, still expertly maintained even as winter soon neared. I pulled up in front of a house surrounded by lit columns and large windows. It was Sunday, and Dan greeted me at the door with a warm handshake and a smile. Lights lit up the inside of every window, and I followed Dan into a circular foyer. A marvelous statue greeted me, surrounded by a staircase that wrapped up to the second floor.

David rounded the corner, and I sensed a blazing spirit of “welcome home” meeting the couple. Music played throughout the house. Soon, their children Dominic and Juliet appeared at the top of the staircase, running down to see what was happening downstairs. All around me, I noticed spiral staircases leading to lofts and hallways, overlooking libraries and large rooms with cathedral ceilings, and fireplaces provided warmth from the cool air outside.

“We had a vision that we could redo this house and turn it into something kind of special. Christmas is our holiday to host, so we were desperate to update the dining room. It was formerly peach and gray, but we added my favorite color, red, and widened the door frame to give it more of an open feel.” With deep red wine walls, and dark wainscoting, the center of the room held a table large enough to imagine many guests in sincere celebration of the holidays, and I imagined the aroma of Christmas dinner, which soon led us into the kitchen.

Dan shared that the kitchen was formerly dated, and that the recent passing of his mother, a woman who adored cooking, inspired its renovation and redesign. Dan explained that his mother taught cooking classes and taught him everything he knew about cooking. To honor her memory, this prompted a sense of urgency in their renovation of the kitchen. Large windows adorned the kitchen, and enough counter space to cater the Christmas of a lifetime. While we talked about the kitchens design, Dave mentioned that the property was formerly owned by the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse and suggested walking the property before exploring the other rooms. “Come on, put on your shoes,” Dave charged. We were going to walk the grounds. While we had been talking, Juliet had written a colorful note, “I love you dad, and I love you Dominic, and I love you Daddy.”

The grounds of the house were vast. As mentioned, the property was previously forest laden, but to accentuate the property, they chose to work with local arborists to remove unwanted brush and trees, some trees felled by Hurricane Sandy. They left only the most beautiful trees, the strongest trees. A tree stood every 5-10 feet, with thick grass surrounding them as the lawn prepared to sleep until spring. It was like walking amid acres of artwork. Retired stables, a volleyball court, a beautiful lake, and the previous foundation of the house surrounded us. As we rounded the back of the house, Dan pointed out a beautiful wooden arbor, built for their wedding held a week prior, standing delicately in the middle of the lawn. They explained the back yard view of their home as their favorite view, and what a perfect place to commemorate their love for one another.

Walking back into the well lit foyer, Dan led the kids to bed while Dave showed me his favorite room, a library with cathedral ceilings set off at the very end of the house. “This is my room, the one I’ve been excited to renovate from the beginning.” Stepping into the library, a fireplace sat centered on the outer wall, while a spiral staircase sat towards the back leading up to a small loft that looked over the room. Dave painted a clear picture of his goals with this room, building walnut bookshelves up to the ceiling on each wall. “I want to make this into a two-story, cathedral, reading experience,” he explained, and this will project will soon be underway.

We moved into the living room to sit beside the hearth, carefully decorated with poinsettias and stockings and a very unique statue imported from Mexico. With their wedding having passed only a week prior, we took the time to talk about the attention to detail that went into their planning, which I knew would be fascinating with the attention to detail within their home. Dave often lit up with Dan quietly listening as he described their vows to me, which I later had opportunity to read. They spoke about how important the essence of family was in their wedding, and laughed about their officiant. “He was a little buttoned up at first, but I said, ‘listen, don’t pretend to know us, twelve minutes or less and keep it fun. I suggested he share his experience previously officiating a gay wedding saying, “first I was afraid, I was petrified.”

Dan shared some background history of their relationship, about meeting on a blind date through a friend, and later describing days living together in a matchbox apartment. The idea of two extraordinarily successful doctors living in a matchbox apartment encouraged me in my own journey. Fast-forward to today; Dave shared his experience being back in school, studying to be a dentist, working alongside of people a generation younger than he. I asked questions about how this plays into their family dynamic. “What does it do for you spiritually, Dave?” I asked. Dave shared how working with younger 20-something’s does shake him at times, a paradigm shift to be managed, but that it also gives him energy and insight into a grander worldview. Dan fondly added that on the other side Dave’s graduation that Dave will be able to do what he’s passionate about too, that is, managing more practices and working alongside of one another.

At Dan and Dave’s core, running two practices, raising a young family, and managing added pressure of a continuing education doesn’t intimidate them. Though maybe at times they may be afraid, may be petrified, what was obvious as one with the privilege to peer in from the outside was that these two men will continue to make it, without compromise of the most important things in life.

Merry Christmas, Dan and Dave, two wonderful men who find strength in one another in a chaotic season, eyes firmly set upon their goals, and may your holidays be filled with great joy.

Johnny Walsh
Johnny Walsh is Out In Jersey magazine's special features editor. He is a pianist, writer, and entrepreneur who has performed in over 20 states and two countries. Johnny is passionate about human rights, creativity, and the arts, and longs for the sentiment of social justice to flow through his writing.