Alicia Orrick Creates a Fresh, Contemporary Home for an Active Family

The breakfast area features a handcarved Dessin Fournir table, a custom banquette covered in Perennials sailcloth and laced-rawhide chairs from McGuire Furniture. Christian Liaigre's black coffee table adds a modern touch. Throughout their married lives, Wendy and Michael Hill have lived in many different parts of the world, most recently in mid-country Greenwich. After nine years in the same house, the couple decided they were getting entirely too comfortable. “We needed a change,” Wendy recalls with a chuckle. With three teenagers, they wanted to live closer to town and found a corner lot across from the boys’ school within easy walking distance of downtown. The only kink in the works: an existing house, a grand Colonial Revival that—though handsome on the outside—was not suitable for the family’s relaxed, modern lifestyle. 

“The house had some good architectural details, but oddly proportioned rooms, low ceiling heights, and fireplaces in the wrong places,” says interior designer Alicia Orrick, who worked on two previous projects for the family. 

Reluctantly, the couple decided to tear it down and start from scratch. They had a short wish list: a large family room and kitchen plus a big finished basement. “We entertain constantly,” Wendy says. And they wanted a serene, comfortable retreat from the outside world. “We live very hectic lives,” she adds. “When I come into my house, I want calm, order and serenity.” 

 The client enlisted architects Jim and James Schettino and landscape designer Robin Kramer to help bring their vision to life. The Schettinos conceived an L-shaped design that gives the family the space and privacy they craved. “It’s based on a Nantucket sea captain’s home,” notes Jim Schettino. “The front is very simple, and then it really opens up to the pool and privacy in the back.” 

In the entry hall, with high ceilings and beautifully detailed custom millwork, the traditional merges with the modern in a simple but dramatic way. “There’s a sense of quiet and gracefulness the minute you walk in,” says Orrick. Both the capacious family room and large open kitchen and breakfast area are designed to accommodate a crowd. French doors lead to the terrace and pool, which are screened from the neighbors thanks to Kramer’s clever use of perimeter plantings. The dining room and living room are more intimate. “The couple wanted this to be a comfortable family home,” she says. 

 Overall, the feel is modern and fresh with a transitional edge. “The dining room table and chairs are more traditional,” says Orrick. “The metal and wood sideboard is contemporary; the rugs have an Old World feel, and the window treatments are soft and unfiltered, allowing a wonderful textural play of light throughout.” There are unexpected touches: The ceiling detail in the family room reflects the pattern in the custom Elizabeth Eakins rug; a bookshelf to the left of the fireplace is really a secret door to the study. 

For the interiors, Wendy initially pushed for a cool color palette of grays and white, but Orrick gently steered her in a different direction. “I wanted to make sure I did something that would still look fresh 10 to 15 years down the road,” Orrick says. Her solution: give her client the grays and whites she wanted but with a mix of tans and warmer hues. “Moving from room to room, the changes are so subtle that you’re not even aware the color is shifting,” she adds.

Given the family’s active lifestyle, furnishings and fabrics are designed to hold up for the long haul. “The rugs are so durable—you could drive trucks over them and they’d be fine,” Orrick says. As for the sun porch, “it is meant to be a place where people can sit in wet bathing suits,” she notes. Which is a good thing, since the house has become a magnet for the sons’ school friends. “I have boys in here throughout the day,” says Wendy. “They come to swim between classes.” 

A version of this article appeared in the June 2017 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Party of Five.