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July 2008


FEATURES

Sea Worthy
By Liz Arnold
Photographs by Paúl Rivera/archphoto

A MARTHA'S VINEYARD RETREAT BUILT TO HONOR WATER AND LAND

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We bought the property because it was phenomenal," Jesse Fink says of the 20 acres on Martha's Vineyard he and his wife, Betsy, bought for their summer home. "It gave us everything we wanted. Our son loves water, our daughter rides horses and to find land that offers both is remarkable."

Anyone could fall for such picturesque property, but for the Finks, who own an organic farm in Wilton that supplies high-end restaurants, what's beyond the front and back doors is as celebrated as the rooms in between. "We wanted a house that would work with the land," says Betsy, who grew up around farms in Ithaca, New York. "We wanted a house that would work with the land." They called upon longtime friend Diana Sawicki, the Argentine-born, Westport-based interior designer who has done several projects for the couple, and chose Roger Ferris and Robert Marx of Roger Ferris and Partners in Westport to design the house. Ferris, whose firm is designing the new Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Stamford, has a reputation for building houses that are sensitive to the geography. Sawicki notes about the five-bedroom residence, "When you're planning a home of that dimension, you want it to be part of the environment."

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Ferris and Marx's design is a perfect solution. The house is composed of a series of angled wings, oriented to respond to views, prevailing breezes and solar angles. Bedrooms face the morning sun and primary areas are arranged for morning, midday and afternoon activity. Jesse thinks of the layout as having four quadrants. The front door leads to land; the back of the house is on the water; one side has informal courts for sports; and the other has a peaceful garden. "When you walk out from any of the four sides, you feel like you're on a different part of the land," he says. "It's very activity-based."

Sawicki's 12-year relationship with the Finks informed some of the fundamental principles for the interiors. She knew they preferred rustic surfaces over polished ones, and that they liked cozy spaces rather than huge rooms. (The architects maintained scale in the living room's double-height space by making lower and upper windows single-story, rather than going for floor-to-ceiling grandeur.) She knew they'd want a screened-in porch and a kitchen with a separate dining room to entertain guests. And of course, rooms in this relaxing getaway should be comfortable and take advantage of the scene.

Sawicki based the palette on the sea and sand. Colors are mainly taupe, off-white and blue-greens that range from light to dark, and woodwork throughout the house is walnut. "It's stained an even deeper shade than the espresso color that's popular right now," she says.

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