A Growing Family Moves to a Long Island Manor from a Brooklyn Heights Brownstone
The graceful 1940s home gets a 21st-century update.
A lawyer married to a lawyer, Kevie Murphy had been living comfortably with her husband in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone. However when she had her first child, she decided to stay home to see how she liked being a mom. “I liked it so much,” she jokes, “that I had three more kids.” When it was time to go back to work, she made yet another big change. Instead of returning to her law firm, she enrolled at the New York School of Interior Design.
But during her studies, the patter of little feet started to become more like a scamper and a scuffle. The family was growing and the Brooklyn Heights brownstone was not. Suburban-sized homes with suburban yards suddenly seemed enormously appealing. The Murphys went house shopping and eventually settled on a 7,200-square-foot center-hall Colonial on a one-acre corner lot in Manhasset’s Flower Hill enclave, not far from where Kevie grew up.
With six bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, the house is large enough that everyone in the family now has his or her own room. And the structure comes with a history, too: It was built in 1940 for J. Peter Grace, one of the grandsons of William Russell Grace, who founded W. R. Grace and Company, a longtime player in the shipping, banking, and chemical industries, in 1854.
The house needed a lot of work, so everything Murphy was learning at school came in very handy. “Basically, we did a gut renovation,” she recounts, “since we had to remove the original plaster walls to replace all the systems.” With the construction underway, Murphy started choosing and collecting fabrics, paint colors, and wallpapers.
Her first purchase: the whimsical wallpaper in the foyer, a Pierre Frey fantasy called Jardin De Mysore, a riot of plants and animals inspired by an Indian garden. “I’m sure it’s not supposed to be used in a foyer,” she comments, “but I just love it, so I bought it. I pulled every color in the house out of that wallpaper.” And Murphy likes color. “What am I going to do, design a 13-foot curved sofa and cover it in a beige fabric? I like beige, but things need to be fun. This house has kids living in it!”
During the renovation, Murphy endeavored to make changes without disrupting the home’s original footprint. The Graces had added a conservatory with a flat wood-beamed ceiling, so Murphy raised it and gave the space a dramatic coffered dome. Elsewhere, she closed off a three-season porch to create a dressing room and closet for herself, in addition to carving out space for a home office.
Throughout the house, the attention to detail is immaculate, like the Adam-style plaster medallions she had made for the ceilings in the living and dining rooms. And while every molding, baseboard, and panel in the home is new, all revere the past. In some families, though, some things never last. “The kids already want to do their rooms over,” Murphy laments wryly. “All of a sudden, my daughter has decided she doesn’t like pink!”
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Classic Comfort.
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