Tour a New Old House with Southern Style in Litchfield County
Location, as every real estate agent will tell you, might be key, but, when it comes to new construction, context is everything. So when a Fairfield County couple found the perfect piece of land in Litchfield County—a pasture with rolling views of the Berkshires—they took their time breaking ground. “We spent a lot of time sitting on the land,” says the husband, “getting to know the views and the site and what we wanted to capture.” The house, they decided, needed to look like it had been around forever. “We came up with this story that this house was built by a Northern gentleman who married a Southern bride and brought her up to Connecticut; making up stories of what the history of the house might have been. It needed to speak to the vernacular of the location but have a feel of an old Southern house.” They built a Greek Revival farmhouse, designed by architects Peter Coffin and Eric Flanders from Connecticut-based Doyle Coffin Architecture, with two levels of porches to take advantage of the views. “We wanted it to feel like you stepped back in time, but not like you were at your grandma’s house,” says the wife.
The couple, who love antiquing and have amassed quite a few collections over time, brought Birmingham designer Tammy Connor on board to help them with interior finishes and decorating. “I kept seeing her work [in magazines],” says the wife. “She was really embracing the classic and the old traditional while bringing a fresh perspective.”
“They liked our aesthetic of updated traditional and a little bit of that Southern hospitality,” says Connor. “We like to use fine things but put them together in a way that feels inviting and comfortable. They wanted the house to look like it had been around forever, casual and collected over time. But to pull that off you have to use restraint. It’s more complicated than it looks.”
She set the tone with a warm palette of melon, persimmon, golden ochre, yellows and greens. In the living room, Connor started with a linen English floral chintz and layered it with a velvet sofa and a ticking stripe that takes the serious tone of the room down a notch. The curtain panels—a small floral Rogers & Goffigon print—are simple, but well executed. An antique Oushak rug sits on a larger grass rug. “A lot of what I emphasize is quality, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Connor says. “It’s a more Southern approach. Natural grass and antiques give the patina of age, so the house didn’t feel brand-spanking new.”
In the dining room, Connor installed a wow-factor paper by Gracie at the initial hesitation of the client. “We aren’t wallpaper people, so it took us awhile to get our head around it,” says the husband. “We came to realize that Tammy was right as usual.” Connor surrounded a Louis 16th–style dining table with Sheraton chairs and placed pieces from the clients’ assorted collections—mini portraits, a round mirror, various artwork—around the room. “It was a big puzzle with the things they had,” says Connor. “It took a lot of thinking outside box: How are we going to put this together in a way that makes it fresh? We just went for it. If you don’t take things too seriously, you can mix different materials and eras, but it must be well thought through.”
Adds the client, “We like curiosities, and I was amazed how Tammy could take some of our crazy things and find a place for them. She never got flustered. Every time she came to meet with us, we’d have some new collection, and she would find a way to incorporate it into the design. She worked with us to realize our vision, and she made our dreams a reality—a house you felt like you could step back in time with.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 2018 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Curated Past.