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March/April 2009


FEATURES

London Calling
By Mollie Magill
Photographs by Durston Saylor

AN OLD GREENWICH HOME COMBINES RELAXED WATERFRONT LIVING WITH A DASH OF BRITISH REGALITY

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Great architecture never stands alone. It often works in tandem with Mother Nature, either subtly taking the backseat to the landscape, other times slightly elevating a site's character. For an Old Greenwich waterfront home with stunning architectural elements and even more breathtaking views, this theory strikes an even balance.

When the current homeowners, a married couple with three teenagers, decided to widen their property along the water, they turned to McKee Patterson and his Southport-based firm Austin Patterson Disston Architects, who had worked with the couple before on a renovation project. "We had a good, solid working relationship and the project was truly a collaborative effort," says Patterson. The existing home was pushed back from the shoreline to a new plot and sold, creating a fresh waterfront slate to work with.

The homeowners presented a clear vision: It was important that the home be sensitive to the landscape and combine surrounding architectural styles with the ones the couple found particularly interesting. "They wanted it to contain New England shore house elements as well as those of a more formal English home (they lived in London for a period)," says Patterson. "And they wanted all major first floor rooms and second floor bedrooms to have water views." The team designed a U-shaped structure where each room overlooked the water rather than the front yard or neighboring properties. A "single-loaded" construction aligned rooms along the back of the home facing the water, flowing into each other via a continuous hallway along the front of the house. An exterior barbecue area and terrace were designed to extend the home further toward the water, providing outdoor spaces to enjoy during the summer months. To ensure added comfort during the sometimes harsh New England winters, six working fireplaces were installed—one each in the breakfast room, family room, dining room, living room, library and sun room.

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Because each room is visible from the next, it was necessary to maintain consistency in both the architecture and the interior design. "The design objectives and aesthetic were both derived from the necessity to create an ultimate flow," says Pat Healing of Healing Barsanti, a firm the homeowners chose for much of the interior décor.

Deep-brown ebonized ash wood flooring throughout the home grounds the eye from space to space; on the lower level, neutral wall colors and simple, complementary window treatments offer other unifying elements. An elegant raw silk was chosen for the living room, study and dining room, where it is paired with Vermicelli paper, a neutral selection from Farrow & Ball that's named for an 18th-century textile. The regal space, bedecked with formal furnishings including pewter sconces from England and antique furniture passed down through the family, is punctuated by modern Foscarini pendant lights.

Nowhere does the lighting amaze more than in the spacious entryway, where another Foscarini pendant, the graphic Big Bang, suspends from the groin-vaulted second floor ceiling through a wide, circular opening in the first floor ceiling. To further impress, a wide mahogany-railed staircase sweeps up to the second floor and around the opening, providing a perch to greet visitors from above.

"Our springboard was the interesting architecture, from which we derived many ideas, including a circular motif," says Healing. Her team chose an oversized round dining table for the octagonal-shaped breakfast room where the views are as impressive as the homeowner's artwork, on display throughout the house. The astrological Zodiac pendant from Circa Lighting, complete with zodiac markings, is a nod to the observatory-inspired feel of the room.

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To give the kitchen special touches of its own, Patterson chose unusual materials that make a statement. A stainless steel mesh was applied to the faces of the cabinets and refrigerator, offsetting the alabaster cabinets. The center island became a multi-functional space that provides extra seating and storage and creates a visual divide between the kitchen and adjacent living room.

To avoid competing with the architecture and landscape, the homeowner opted for a palette of subdued tones of sage green, dusty blues and classic neutrals in place of the more colorful English fabrics she would otherwise favor. Certain pieces were brought from the old home and reupholstered; others were purchased new or built custom. All spaces were accessorized with interesting personal objects and artwork.

One very special grouping of art in the living room—a series of maps of London framed in gold leaf—represents the conjunction of the many elements that define this home: a sense of place, personality and history in landscape.

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