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September 2008


FEATURES

Everything Old Is New Again
By Krystian von Speidel
Photographs by Keith Scott Morton

DECORATOR LOU MAROTTA'S SAVVY RECREATION OF A LITCHFIELD COUNTY RETREAT

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It's not surprising that someone who once curated a show entitled "The Chair as Sculpture" should decorate his Litchfield County retreat with eclectic examples of chairs. For decorator and sometimes antiques dealer Lou Marotta, the Bridgewater house he shares with his partner is an extraordinary testament to not only exquisite taste, but the consummate belief that new and old can happily coexist. Everything about the house—fondly called "Dragonfly" after the beguiling insects that make their home on the estate's two ponds—is dedicated to the desire of creating an environment that is at once inviting, while maintaining the modern sophistication found throughout the designer's projects. "People get too caught up on trends. If you're confident and buy with your heart, there will be a natural continuity and joy."

The 12-acre estate was acquired by Marotta and his partner seven years ago, after he sold their Washington Depot home to a client. Bordering preservation land, it was the site of an "unfortunate" house that had been built in 1987, which the couple decided to tear down. Marotta says that they were drawn to the site because it combined his preference to be within walking distance of the tiny village of Bridgewater and his partner's preference for the privacy the location affords them on weekends.

The thoughtful attention to detail, which strives to emulate time-honored building traditions, is immediately apparent to visitors who are frequently greeted by the couple's Irish wolfhound, Blue. Dragonfly's bijou of a foyer is dominated by a 17th-century Italian chair, whose threadbare tapestry upholstery is offset by pale pink walls. "I really like pieces that haven't been restored and are closer to their original finish," says Marotta. Passing into the kitchen, the interiors of its glass-fronted cabinets painted robin's egg blue, one is immediately struck by the massive island that dominates the room, the top of which is reclaimed flooring from a 17th-century French church. Throughout the house, all of the woodworking in the kitchen was custom designed by Marotta, employing a laser cutting technique.

The living room's wainscoting was purposely made to be an eighth-of-an-inch off in width rather than being perfectly fitted, providing the sense that the treatment was original. "It is not trying to faux something but trying to give it a sense of age," says Marotta. For a time Marotta worked in commercial design, which he says taught him about the importance of space. "There is a certain amount of space that I like around furniture. Things look more modern with space around them." The myriad collections throughout the house provide a sense that the pieces were acquired over time by generations of Dragonfly owners. Much of the furniture in the room is 18th-century Italian, for which Marotta has a particular affinity, and which permeates the design aesthetic throughout the house.

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Stepping down into the house's study—the floor of which is the same 18th-century limestone found in the kitchen—the room's dark walls are highlighted by crown moldings painted in the same shade, but in a high gloss finish. The room is frequently used as part of the master bedroom suite. Marotta designed it anticipating that he would have a direct view of the study's gas fireplace from bed. Rather than having a traditional headboard, he designed a series of windows that run the length of the bedroom. Marotta loves to gaze at the 19th-century French portrait of a nun above the study's mantel, the background of which is a dark brown that inspired the room's coloring. The bathroom's wainscoting is the same as in the living room, lending an air of continuity to the suggestion that the room may have been a later addition.

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Indeed, it is most apparent when stepping outside to admire the property's fields, ponds and orchard that the house's architecture mirrors an older farmhouse across the street and mimics a design that was expanded over time. Marotta says even the exterior trim was inspired by neighboring homes as a means to suggest that the same architect had designed Dragonfly. "I wanted the house's exterior to borrow architectural elements from the neighborhood." Marotta is happy to surrender credit, preferring that Dragonfly's design be considered timeless.

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