Litchfield, My Muse

Finding design inspiration during the change of seasons

As I write this month’s “Country Life” column, summer is taking its last breaths; the leaves are changing color and the nights are cooler. I’m feeling a bit anxious … the transition from summer to fall is a difficult one, especially for a parent with school-age children. In reality, the transition is quite fluid in Litchfield County, where there is so much to look forward to in the seasons ahead. Here, just a few of the places where I find design inspiration.

There are many gorgeous gardens in Litchfield County, but probably none as lovely as those at Hollister House in Washington. I had the good fortune to go to the annual benefit there and, even in deep August, these were alive with color and interest. From structured yew allees to natural water features and lush perennial borders, the gardens are the perfect synthesis of the formal and the natural, an American interpretation of such classic English gardens as Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and Hidcote. Hollister House Garden, 294 Nettletown Hollow Rd., Washington, 860-868-2200,

When I visit any of Litchfield County’s many farmstands, I always feel inspired—by the many colors of heirloom tomatoes to the range of purples found in eggplants. Painter Ridge Farm in Washington not only has some of the most beautiful vegetables, fruits and flowers for sale, you also get a chance to gossip with proprietor Hank Ference. And the views are breathtaking. This is truly one of those places that reminds me why I love my community. (Hank also sells great Christmas trees and trimmings around the holidays.) Painter Ridge Farm, 94 Painter Ridge Rd., Washington, 860-868-2743.

When I heard that Arethusa Farm had opened a retail dairy store in Bantam last summer, I could barely wait to visit. I remember the first moment I walked in with my 12-year-old daughter: She immediately spotted the ice cream freezer, while I was taken by how simple, chic and edited the space was—to be expected given the owners are executives of Manolo Blahnik. My whole family loves their fresh ice cream (especially the strawberry and the mint chip), and their camembert cheese is divine, as are the milkshakes. Private tours of the farm are available by appointment. Arethusa Farm Dairy Store, Bantam, 860-361-6600,

And what could be more inspiring than art? On October 22 and 23, the Washington Art Association studio tour offers the public an opportunity to visit 30 of the best painters, sculptors, ceramicists, iron mongers and woodworkers in the county. All proceedssupport the Washington Art Association. This is the perfect fall excursion! For information, contact the Washington Art Association, 4 Bryan Plaza, Washington Depot, 860-868-2878, or

Of course, one never has to go far for inspiration … for me, there’s nothing better than running the three-mile loop around my own neighborhood, enjoying the unspoiled vistas of farms and woods, in any season.