French Fashions in the Connecticut Countryside

A part-time expat, her American family, and an array of animals roam this 35-acre farm.
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In keeping with the notion of an old house that has been added on to over the years, the drawing room is meant to feel as if it was once an open-air loggia, now enclosed. Photographs by Thomas Loof.

Shortly after this client inherited a château in her native France, she felt a desire for an equivalent in Connecticut—one that would honor its democratic American locale. Her husband was American and her children had been born here, so she developed a deep, lasting bond with this country. Indeed, she feels a profound connection not only to the land her house now occupies, but also to the menagerie of animals she has brought to live on it—horses, goats, miniature donkeys, dogs and cats. Also indicative of her spiritual roots is a labyrinth configured by landscape designer Miranda Brooks replicates a medieval design; upon navigating it, one is said to reach a certain contemplative state.

The building of this house began during a conversation the client had with Tino Zervudachi, her Paris-based interior designer. He, in turn, introduced her to Ferguson & Shamamian, recognizing that what she wanted was exactly what the firm could deliver—houses, as she says, that are historically accurate. He also introduced her to Brooks, knowing that his client and Brooks share a mutual reverence for spiritual matters.

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One of the horses, Flair, makes an appearance at the drawing room door. Photographs by Thomas Loof.

The client knew from inception how she wanted to live in the house and how to best utilize the surrounding thirty-five acres for riding and roaming. Brooks took advantage of what is referred to casually in geological terms as “glacial drag”, the phenomenon whereby advancing and retreating glaciers leave behind remnants. Many of the stones used for the house were gathered from the surrounding woods, as well as regional quarries.

A cadence of dormers defines the main portion of the house, while gabled wings appear to have been added over time. Ferguson & Shamamian purposely fostered a slight asymmetry to suggest a modest beginning and also further the idea of a house that had long been in place but onto which additions had been made. Long, low-rising stone walls function as visual boundaries, as well as suggestions of former buildings that once stood there. The kitchen occupies what would seem to be the oldest part of the house.

As for the floor plan, the drawing room includes a designated dining area; the library evokes in its colors and woodwork a room in Ireland’s Lismore Castle, a favorite of the homeowner’s; a year-round conservatory functions much like an orangery, complete with fruit-bearing trees; the kitchen, with an eating nook configured in a bay window, has a more country feel to it, akin to that in her residence in France; and a screened porch functions as a year-round dining spot, with windows easily installed off-season.

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The dining terrace with metal pergola designed by Brooks is shaded by handmade willow mats until the wisteria grows. Photographs by Thomas Loof.

The homeowner also wanted the stair hall to be spacious enough to highlight her collection of art. Zervudachi had the walls painted Hague Blue, an apt description for the moody hue against which hang a stellar collection of Old Master Dutch still lifes. Also filling a portion of the entrance area wall is a glimmering abstract tapestry composed of soda-bottle tops by the contemporary Ghanaian artist El Anatsui.

Zervudachi used bold, saturated swaths of color elsewhere in the house. A guest bedroom sports two tones—a dark green and a sun-bright yellow, accented with curtains featuring a sunflower motif. That corner room is situated on the ground floor, with views to one of many gardens. A bar area off the library features deep gray velvet on the walls, again harkening to Dutch Golden Age interiors.

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The distinctive shape of the main bedroom ceiling results from the exterior roof lines. Photographs by Thomas Loof.

As with all their projects, Ferguson & Shamamian emphasizes the requirement that architects need to listen to their clients. Here, the architects discerned the homeowner’s desire to build a world around her infused with existential meaning. The architects, the interior designer, and the landscape architect were all aware that she was fashioning a place in which she could move on to her next chapters. The very materials of the house bespeak the client’s desire for permanence. It’s not going anywhere. Here, the client is, and remains, at home.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Kindred Spirits.
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