Tour a Connecticut Home Nestled Along a River

Nautilus Architects designed this abode to honor its setting.
Living Room

Custom sofas in a DeLany & Long fabric and chairs re-upholstered in Holland & Sherry jacquard provide seating in front of the river room fireplace. Photography by Willie Cole

“When the homeowners asked me to give them a house that looked like it belonged on the river, I set about assembling a kit of parts or a palette comprised of materials and shapes I observed in my travels up and down the river’s shores—the Dutch lap siding, River Jacks and deep overhangs with exposed rafter tails, to name a few,” says architect Christopher Arelt of Nautilus Architects. “Then I paired these with the house’s form, which is quite organic but also evokes the sense of an old summer camp in Maine, or an inn on Block Island or the Vineyard.”

Side Door

Exterior lighting is through Arroyo Craftsman Lighting, and brick is from Glen-Gery. Photography by Willie Cole

The bucolic setting informed the colors, textures and materials of the furnishings selected by interior designer Kathy Hodge of Sage Design. “I wanted the inside to be quiet and reflect the colors of the river and greenery,” says Hodge. “The outside is the hero here!”


The light fixture above the island is the Wolcott by Uttermost, and the bar stools are through deVOL Kitchens. Photography by Willie Cole

The heart of the home is the “river room”—an open space surrounded by glass that encompasses the kitchen, dining and main living areas. “Many people have noted that they didn’t realize one could achieve modern concepts like panoramic glass and an open plan within a familiar vocabulary,” notes Arelt. “The kitchen, dining and living zones flow into each other, but in the form of a shifted trio of rectangles that thereby retain an aspect of traditional compartmentalization.”

In the dining area, custom walnut chairs surround a table made of wood from the property by City Bench, a furniture maker in Higganum. A focal point in the living room is a floor-to-ceiling fireplace made of River Jacks—small smooth stones from the river bed. “I found several buildings nearby, notably a well house, constructed entirely of these,” notes Arelt. The serene palette continues with Hodge’s selection of sofas in a DeLany & Long fabric and chairs recovered in a Holland & Sherry jacquard.


Arched doorways that lead to the winter room flank artwork (acrylic paint on stretched canvas) by Willie Cole. Photography by Willie Cole

Arched doorways lead to adjacent compartmentalized rooms—the butler’s pantry, the “winter room” and the “plant room”—each with a distinctly different character. These rounded portals introduce a slight nautical flair and take on an air of handmade, custom furniture. “Rounded edges imbue a space with feelings of softness and comfort—customized and with purposeful intent,” says Arelt.


In the pantry, butcher-block counters and backsplash are by City Bench, and the paint is Donald Kaufman 19. Photography by Willie Cole

The vintage-styled butler’s pantry features a soapstone sink with an oversized backsplash plus butcher-block countertops. “The butler’s pantry blurs the line between extension of and complement to the kitchen,” says Arelt. “The lower cabinets have the same profiles, but there are glass uppers, whereas the kitchen has no upper cabinets. Each distinct type and location of cabinetry is assigned a specific hardware, so there’s intentional and logical variation.”


The winter room walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Bleeding Heart. Perennials Rough and Ready fabric covers the sofa. Photography by Willie Cole

The perfect seasonal complement to the river room is the winter room with paneling painted in Benjamin Moore’s Bleeding Heart—a deep, dramatic charcoal with blue undertones. “The TV and piano are here, so it is used as a music salon and a cozy space to watch a movie,” notes Hodge, who furnished the room with a custom sofa and chairs in durable Perennials fabrics. Walls of bookshelves flank another fireplace, this one made of brownstone. “All the brownstone used in New York City came from a quarry nearby and traveled right past the property on barges,” notes Arelt.


The plant room is furnished with a Brown Jordan loveseat, chair and ottoman through with cushions in Perennials’ Sailcoth. The wood paneling is by North Cove Construction. Radiant-heated brick floors warm the space in chillier weather. Photography by Willie Cole

The wood-paneled plant room is outfitted with large windows, a heated brick floor and tiled wainscoting. “The plant room is so called because it emulates a solarium that can become enclosed in winter to contain plants that are not suited for year-round conditions in this climate, like gardenias and lemon trees, and which also have delightful fragrance that permeate the adjacent spaces through interior windows,” explains Arelt. Here, Hodge selected Brown Jordan outdoor furniture that can easily be relocated to the covered porch.


A line of classic Adirondack chairs beckons by the riverside. Photography by Willie Cole

With a unique design that honors its riverside location, this home has found a true sense of place. “The result is something that looks and feels familiar, yet I would defy someone to find another house that looks anything like it,” says Arelt. “And I realized that, although I do a lot of contemporary design, it’s not the style that is so satisfying: It’s the invention. This project has so much invention and was thereby so satisfying.”

The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Sense of Place.