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June 2010


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FEATURES

BARGING IN
By Sarah Firshein
Photographs Keith Scott Morton

WHEN TWO ROW HOUSES WERE MOVED TO DARIEN BY BOAT, THEY CREATED A HISTORIC SHELL THAT DESIGNER MELINDA TWEEDDALE NOW EMBRACES WITH CONTRASTING TEXTURES AND RICH DETAILING

Click on any photo for a larger gallery view.

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STEEPED IN HISTORY
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SEVENTY YEARS AGO, LURELLE GUILD, a set designer with a particular fondness for crafts and antiques, decided that early American architecture would make the town of Darien really shine. So he did what any dilettante design hound would do—he plucked a number of 18th- and 19th-century row houses out of their native Greenwich and sent them adrift by barge. "He obviously had great vision," says designer Melinda Tweeddale, who's on the board of the Darien Historical Society and who just so happens to live in two of Guild's displaced houses—a 1780 row house and a 1810 row house positioned side by side. "My home has character and a wacky history."

Tweeddale and her husband were still living in the city when they started to look for homes in the suburbs. "We had a 1 year old and a 2 week old in a great apartment that was starting to feel jammed with tot bicycles," she recalls. "This house was totally neglected and in disrepair, but we love houses that have character. Besides, as a young couple looking at houses, you don't always notice all the faults. It seemed charming and quaint."

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KEEP IT NATURAL
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It was only when they were about to close on the house that the previous owner, who had purchased the property from Guild directly, told them about the fascinating backstory, shedding light on structural curiosities such as higher ceilings on the 1810 side.

As part of a massive 15-month renovation, the couple moved the structure forward on the property and onto a proper foundation—before, Tweeddale says, "it was dropped onto a concrete slab"—and replaced its onion dome with a Georgian-style cupola. The windows on the 1780 portion of the house are spaced wider than those on the 1810 side, so they moved the front entry into a peaked two-story addition to balance what looked like asymmetry. Tweeddale gutted the kitchen, turned a fourth bedroom into the master bath and repositioned a few interior doors, but she was careful to leave most of the layout intact. "You walk in and it just feels right," she says. "There are no gigantic spaces; it feels cozy and comfortable."

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