As the quintessential country retreat for some of the 20th century’s most affluent families—with surnames like Rockefeller, Gimbel, and Post—the tony Connecticut town of Greenwich is littered with sprawling estates that wear their traditional aesthetic like a badge of honor. But in their 22,000-square-foot home, one West Coast family of five decided to shake off the dust of the old and infuse the house’s iconic structure with a dose of contemporary vigor.
“The house had such a strong point of view when we entered the project,” says New York–based designer Sara Story of the classic shingle-style property, which was originally designed by renowned architecture firm Shope Reno Wharton in 1996. “It felt really heavy and dark, and it was chopped up in an unusual way. But the scale was really nice. We just needed to give it a little bit of a facelift.”
She began by knocking down walls and consolidating rooms to allow light to penetrate the house’s interior, replacing some of the more masculine wood finishes with white plaster to establish an elegant, timeless look that leans more on European minimalism than old-school American grandeur. The kitchen required a gut renovation, but the vast majority of the changes remained cosmetic. “The bones were really good, so it was more about trying to figure out how to make the space what it should be for the client—how to put their stamp on it,” says Story.
With the aim of modernizing through shape and form, she opted for a neutral palette layered with cool tones and a sophisticated blend of materials, as well as a collection of museum-quality artwork and sculptural vintage and custom furnishings and accessories that are masterpieces in their own right. “The homeowner has great taste and knows what she likes,” says Story. “But it was important that the rooms feel elevated and bright and airy yet also comfortable and durable enough to really be used.” In the family room, a pair of midcentury Swedish armchairs upholstered in a sinuous Le Manach fabric plays off a graphic wall covering by Porter Teleo; they sit opposite a custom sofa upholstered in a hardworking Holland & Sherry wool. The vibrant panda marble in the primary bath is truncated by wainscoting to create a sense of intimacy as well as a visual break to keep the space from feeling too heavy. And a custom wall installation by artist Amy Kao injects a lively dose of personality into the dining room.
The result is a home that artfully balances luxury and approachability—an indoor pool and solarium with a yard full of chickens. “At the end of the day, we wanted the rooms to be inviting and comforting,” says Story, “because this is ultimately a family home. It was designed to stand up to all the nuances of everyday life.”
Explore an Art-Filled Connecticut Family Home That Balances Comfort and Sophistication