Step inside a storybook stone house in pastoral Connecticut
When interior designer Nina Farmer was asked to design a house for a family of four, the idea was to build from scratch. A mother and father, along with their two teenage children, were considering buying land in Westport near the beach in Connecticut.
But when they stumbled upon a deteriorating home in the Connecticut hamlet, their plans changed. “It’s a fairy tale house, from the minute you step into the main entrance circle,” says Farmer. Shortly after, the designer was tasked with reinventing this decrepit structure steeped in history. Although preserving the bones of the house was paramount, her ailing condition meant that a lot had to be changed. In terms of design, the challenge was to find the right balance between old and new.
As for the exterior, Farmer chose to keep the beautifully aged weathered shutters that line the windows, as well as the sills inside. The interior, on the other hand, needed a significant amount of change: “The flow didn’t work out,” Farmer recalls. This, added to the state of the structure, meant that it had to be completely gutted.
“I think sometimes it’s hard when you’re given an empty box,” she continues, “And in that house, even though we were emptying it, it was like, oh, there’s a real story here. I understood in which direction it could land.
Clever ways have been devised to preserve the historic atmosphere of the house throughout its interiors. These included the incorporation of sleek white plaster walls, as well as ceiling beams made from reclaimed wood, and the installation of terracotta flooring that resembled the original. Vintage furniture and bespoke pieces have also been brought in to help further propel the overall aesthetic.
In the dining room, for example, an antique chair and light fixture cluster around a bespoke table based on a vintage piece (but scaled to fit the space perfectly), while an arched door leads into the living room. . The spotlight, however, goes boldly to the painted ceiling. After adding wooden beams, Farmer hired a decorative artist to paint them in a classic geometric design with a modern slant. “I wanted to let the architecture speak for itself,” she adds, “but with things like these you get some really interesting moments.”
These moments begin upon entry, when visitors are greeted by a richly stocked and richly tiled bar with a reclaimed wood counter. This was a point of debate for the designer and the owners, who originally wanted to close off the space. In the end, they decided it made sense to leave the space open and add a bold green zellige backsplash. It was unconventional and I felt good. “I don’t like houses that are too matched, [where] you have the same color everywhere,” remarks Farmer. “But I love when a repeated color comes in a different view or shape.”
This is perhaps best exemplified in the limestone detailing seen throughout the house. Each instance is unique but works subtly to help tie the space together. In the living room, for example, Farmer used the material to design a custom fireplace (inspired by the one she saw in the Netflix series Narcos Mexico, interesting way). In the bathroom, the stone is in the way of a delicately carved basin. pattern. With the juxtaposition of a more modern Moroccan checkerboard, the room, like the rest of the house, is an old soul with a youthful heartbeat. “We wanted it to stay relevant, it’s a young family,” she admits.
Finally, there’s the kitchen, where a rough, thick limestone slab adds a rustic touch to the countertop: it’s a sturdy, stain-resistant option that fits right into the pastoral location. The room is brought together by stone tiling made to replicate the exterior of the house. The result is cozy yet connected to the outdoors, which includes a swimming pool and surrounding garden that can be seen through a set of doors and windows.
Upon close inspection, it’s also almost impossible to tell that the stone was a new addition. As with countless other details throughout the project, Farmer’s methodical approach lent itself to the timeless structure, heartily bringing a bygone home into the modern era. “I really like this idea of seeing craftsmanship all over the house and not feeling like you have a whole new interior,” she shares. “I wanted there to be a layer, where you weren’t sure what was done or what was touched, even though every surface is new.”