Newcomers: Stephanie Sandler & Libby Kountzman

Nov 23, 2022

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In the now almost-three years since covid hit, one-third of all houses in the B&NC Mag area have been sold to newcomers – the vast majority of whom are young families!…Welcome!


To illustrate the evolution, we’ve featured four young newcomer families in this issue: Dr. David Gordon and Marisha Pessl; Dr. Evan Goldstein and Andy Yu; Stephanie Sandler and Libby Kountzman, and; Coltrane Curtis and Lisa Chu. And to lay out the Welcomemat, our cover feature in this issue focuses on the New Canaan Newcomers Holiday House Tour’s five fabulously furnished residences. 


You newcomers – one-third of the 25,000 most-affluent homes receiving B&NC Mag – were drawn to the local lifestyle, with a location only one hour from New York City. You’ve paid covid-inflated top-of-market prices to join our ranks, including a record number of Five and Ten Million Dollar homes. The greater-than-normal turnover will revitalize our community. We’d experienced a lower-than-average rate of turnover, dating back at least to the financial crisis of 2008, so the community had aged.


Newcomers mean a lot more school-aged kids for the public and private schools. Newcomers mean thriving downtown shops and restaurants. Newcomers means work for plumbers and electricians, decorators, and landscapers. Newcomers means retail consumer and discretionary luxury spending… 

“New Canaan wasn’t even on our radar screen until about five years ago, when friends brought us up one cold weekend in the Fall to tour the Glass House and experience Grace Farms,” Libby starts.

“Cultural literacy and sense of place are important to us and we were amazed by these two capitols, and all the programming Grace Farms, in particular, has to offer. Then we went into downtown New Canaan for a bite…and we were sold!

To us, the town feels so quaint and country – like Amagansett. …When our daughter, August, was born in 2019, we decided it was time to move out of New York City – and we realized Rhinebeck, where we’d been weekending and summering, was just too far to commute to the City. Then covid hit and houses shot up in price and became pretty scarce. It took us until Fall 2020 to close on a house, and we didn’t move in until March 2021.”


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“I’m a New York City girl,” says Stephanie. “My father – anointed as the ‘King of Madras’ by Women’s Wear Daily – had a textile company in the garment center. My mother was in public relations, and worked for George Plimpton. I went to Riverdale Country School, K through 12. Then Washington University in St. Louis, where I double majored in Political Science and International Studies, with a minor in Spanish. And then, thinking I was going to be an entertainment lawyer or something like that, I went to Brooklyn Law School. …I guess I have fashion in my blood, and instead of entertainment law I got an internship at Chanel, and was then the youngest lawyer they’d ever hired.”


“And I’m from Pasadena, California. My dad was a senior executive at  Trane, and my mom was an educational therapist and a docent at the Scott Gallery in the Huntington Library. I went to Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena and then to Washington University in St. Louis, where I first met Stephanie – although we didn’t start dating until we met up again in New York City 15 years after college. I have a graduate degree in Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. I always knew I wanted to be in art and design. My career in architecture began in the offices of Frank Gehry and Richard Meier, and ultimately brought me to New York to work for Peter Marino on the CHANEL account…which is actually how I reconnected with Stephanie. When we started dating, I was design directing the retail portfolio at the Oculus at the World Trade Center. Then, when our son Alistair was born in March 2022, I decided to create a design advisory to partner with key real estate developers, architects, interior designers and private individuals on passion projects,” Libby explains.


“In our minds’ eye, we were looking to find a house from the 1700’s, but the practical reality was picking a somewhat cookie-cutter classic 20th Century Colonial that’s down a quiet, shared lane on the south side of New Canaan,” Libby recounts. “Libby took the generic box and has added the patina of age and mystery and a layering of elements that’s given the house the kind of warmth we were looking for,” Stephanie adds. “But the best part of this house is the little neighborhood on our lane. Three of the five families are European or have lived abroad extensively. There are lots of kids out playing together on the trampolines and in the adjoining yards. We already feel like a part of the community. August has lots of friends, including a group from a French music class we’ve been hosting. And we’re making friends doing local activities, like the monthly community dinners at Grace Farms. The Newcomers Club is a great resource, and emails lists of things happening around town. I play tennis at the New Canaan Racquet Club and Libby is a big fan of Spencer’s Dog Run at Waveny, where our dog Winston is a regular. We already feel ensconced in the fabric of the community, have fallen in love with ‘country life’, and recently had friends visit from San Francisco…who fell in love with New Canaan…and bought a house here!”


Stephanie is now US President of the French-based luxury-market research firm IFOP, and although she works from home, the job involves frequent travel to Paris and Milan. And Libby, also working from home, continues to build her clientele. She has an eye for interiors and bringing a creative vision to life, oftentimes \leveraging her deep ties with artists and artisans.


The couple are friends from their days at Washington University with Nathan Friedman, who is August’s and Alistair’s father. He lives in Manhattan but stays in New Canaan often, doing things like picking-up August from school on Fridays, and lunching with the family in town. “We’ve come up with a dynamic that’s thoughtful and feels good for all three of us,” says Stephanie. “We’re not trying to set an example – we’re just focused on raising happy and healthy kids.” Stated simply, ‘it takes a village’ – and the Sandler / Kountzman / Friedman family is the epiphany.


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