Country house meets city house in a marriage of architecture and interiors
This home by Southport-based architect McKee Patterson, of Austin Patterson Disston Architects, boasts interiors with a warm, modern feel, thanks to Michael Cox and Mary Foley, of Foley & Cox.
It’s not an uncommon sequence of events: City couple marries, and, later, decides to have children, realizing a bigger family means the urban life they love may not work. Like it or not, the couple gives up a metropolitan address for the suburbs. Certainly, it can be a dilemma for those who aren’t quite ready to give up on sophisticated city life. So what’s a couple to do? For these New Yorkers who decamped to Old Greenwich to start a family, the solution was to simply have it all without leaving the comfort of their own house.
The house in question was a turn-of-the-century center-hall Colonial revival that they enlisted Southport-based architect McKee (Mac) Patterson, of Austin Patterson Disston Architects, to transform into their dream home. However, after due consideration, Patterson decided that adapting the current property would not fit the program, and he started afresh. The house is essentially two building masses, joined in the middle by a circular shape that almost acts as a hinged joint connecting the two structures and separating the two parts of the house. On one side of this joint, which houses the kitchen, are the more formal rooms, while the other side hosts the more relaxed spaces. It’s zoned for family life and adult life, elegant and formal, but relaxed and approachable at the same time.
Inside, where it’s classically appointed with every detail perfected and endless white moldings, one might expect traditional Greenwich furnishings and finishes. But the interior belies the classical architecture with its warm and modern feel, thanks to Michael Cox and Mary Foley, the duo behind New York–based design firm Foley & Cox.
“We got involved at the point when our primary focus was interior furnishings and the final layer of finish,” says Cox. The clients had a clear vision of how they wanted it to function, and Foley and Cox were able to give the graciously sized house dual functions, essentially city and country life in one structure. A formal living room is well suited for adult entertaining with a custom parchment cocktail table, Milo Baughman barrel chairs and slipper chairs upholstered in a zebra stripe. The more contemporary pieces play off the traditional architectural details, drawing an interesting contrast instead of everything melding together. Off the grand entry, a dining room is rich in luxurious textures and materials with references to the Deco period. “She [the client] didn’t want it to feel like she was in the suburbs. She wanted to be able to have a beautiful sit-down, served dinner in the dining room and a cocktail party in the living room,” says Cox. “She wanted to maintain a little bit of that urban sensibility while creating a comfy nest for the family.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, situated behind the oval-shaped kitchen, is a family room with a comfortable L-shaped sectional covered in a kid-friendly Holland & Sherry ultrasuede. Textures and subtle colors, like a coffee table covered in sheets of mica with an exposed walnut edge, chunky wood lamps and a strie hemp and jute rug, give this room a neutral ground that is as practical and forgiving as it is striking. The quiet, contemporary palette is a study in balance: country and city, traditional and modern, masculine and feminine. There is a formality to it, but it is certainly not stiff, evident in the mink velvet lacquered powder room tucked behind a staircase. It’s sophisticated but unpretentious, and, perhaps most importantly, the interior coheres perfectly with the architecture, creating an inviting space that is used from stern to stern. “Every time I go over there,” notes Patterson, “I say, ‘It works better each time I’m here.’ And that’s exactly what you want to happen.”