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At the time it was filled with fine antiques, chintz and animal prints as directed by the British designer Keith Irvine, who is credited with bringing the English country home look to American interiors. Befitting the grand dame who lived there, the house had numerous tiny (but lovely) rooms. It was very English, a cozy place for drinking tea and sitting by the fire while listening to the waterfall tumbling below the foundation outside. Every few years, Carole would write a note to the owner asking if she was ready to sell. The response was always no, but it was a polite refusal, so she would inquire again. After the lady passed away, Carole bought it from her estate.
Then she set about remaking it entirely. To be clear, Carole is not one to criticize another's taste or way of life. ("She was so cool," Carole says of the prior owner.) However, for the mill house she envisioned a modern look—paradoxically so, as the home is 211 years old. She imagined lofty spaces with walls of windows offering sweeping views of adjacent marshlands and the Sound beyond. She also saw a muted palette that would unify the rooms while reflecting the changing colors of light on water—pewter, a dull dove, metallic silver and, sparingly, a tremulous blue.
Petisi's new open floor plan presented one of the more imposing design challenges, as her kitchen appliances would be visible from the chic living room, or while dining by the fire. She built a gorgeous limestone island to partially enclose the kitchen space, adding swank but practical seating: lucite Ghost bar stools topped by white, curly lamb throws. She contracted one of her many craftsmen and artisans to panel the refrigerator with an antique mirror. There's also a black-and-white enamel Aga cooker, as graphic as a domino.
Along with her near-constant renovation projects, Carole also works in fashion—and it shows. Her decorating process is akin to the way a stylish woman pieces together an outfit; there's room for improvisation.