A Modern Southport Home with Organic Minimalism


Modern Neutral Living Room with Brown Leather Sofa

Designer Mar Silver saved the original ceiling beams in the living room before introducing contemporary yet comfortable furnishings, most notably a supple leather sofa and a pair of J.J. armchairs, all from B&B Italia. The custom Orchid cocktail table and hand-tufted silk rug are both from the Mar Silver Collection.

Modern Neutral Living Room Vignette with White Daybed

A classic Mies van der Rohe daybed completes the seating arrangement in the home’s living room. Oak with exposed knots and other natural markings was selected as the perfect flooring material for a modern beach house aesthetic.

Modern Neutral Exterior with Stucco-and-Steel Addition

Shingles repainted a soft gray and the divided-light windows of the original structure, both more Arts and Crafts style than classic Connecticut, contrast with the crisper, more modern lines of a stucco-and-steel addition that houses the mudroom and powder room. The minimalist river rock garden complements the new building.

Modern White Mudroom with Gray Limestone Floors

Form meets function in the gallery/ mudroom. Created to connect the main house with the garage, the room boasts ample wall space to display art and, on the more practical side, a bench fashioned from the salvaged living room fireplace mantel serves as seating for removing shoes and boots. The dark gray Italian limestone floors are from Paul’s Marble Depot.

Modern Neutral Shelving with Ceramic Pieces

Open shelving serves as a divider between the living and dining rooms. Composed of plywood with a high-gloss paint finish and vertical steel elements, the multifunctional unit includes drawers on the dining room side for storage and the counter-height shelf can do double-duty as a buffet. The one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces on display include a 14th-century water jug from Southeast Asia on the lowest shelf.

Modern White Staircase with Antique Wood Carving

Thanks to the glass wall on one side of the staircase, it is possible to see and appreciate the complex set of angles formed by the converging elements of wood, glass and steel. The mid-19th-century wood carving is from East Timor.

Modern Neutral Family Room with Vintage Rocker

An oversize sectional wearing Holly Hunt fabric and a custom rug, both by the designer for her collection, are grounding elements in the family room—a favorite spot for playing games and watching movies. The coffee table is by Brent Comber, and the vintage rocker wears handwoven fabric also from the Mar Silver Collection.

Modern Neutral Dining Room with Linen Chairs

The newly created dining room space features a variation on the Orchid table by the designer seen in the living room. The chairs are covered in Chivasso linen, and the vintage chrome-and-glass light fixture is from the Mar Silver Gallery. A vintage chaise from B&B Italia is visible in the foyer beyond the staircase.

Modern White Kitchen with Quilted-Leather Counter Stools

A floating center island with a concrete top and wood facing makes an architectural statement in the kitchen. A Viking Professional Series range hood is built into a custom stainless-steel fascia; the quilted-leather Kekke counter stools by Piet Boon feature black-metal handles. A vintage steel-and-gray-glass chandelier is from the Mar Silver Gallery.

Modern White Kitchen Vignette with Open Shelving

The marble back slab from Paul’s Marble Depot is backlit to create a warm ambience at night. The veining in the stone beautifully complements the stainless-steel countertops, and the casual open shelving is suitable to the modern beach house design.

Modern Neutral Breakfast Nook with Tree Trunk Stools

Windows in the breakfast nook provide natural light and garden views. Stools carved from tree trunks found in France surround a Poul Kjaerholm table; the custom light fixture is fashioned with handwoven hemp from the Mar Silver Collection.

Modern Neutral Dressing Hall with Hide Rug

An Edelman hide rug adds a textural layer to the master suite dressing hall. A bank of stained-oak built-in doors and drawers with custom leather pulls provide storage; the hair-on-hide chair is from the Mar Silver Collection.

Modern Gray Bedroom with Handwoven Custom Bed

Serenity talks in the master bedroom, where the water views are calming and the billowy Calvin Fabrics draperies softly modulate the flow of light into the room. The custom bed and handwoven textiles are from the Mar Silver Collection, the midcentury chair is Danish, and the 1960s Italian glass table lamp is from the Mar Silver Gallery.

Modern White Bathroom with Oak Flooring

The Zen vibe continues in the master bathroom with a tub and filler both by Zucchetti. Silver designed the custom vanity that is topped with a faucet also by Zucchetti; the draperies are again by Calvin Fabrics.

Potential. There was no question a Southport, elements with the new,” says Lee, who felt that same Connecticut, house, with its enviable views of Long Island Sound, had it, but how to unearth the possibilities from under the shell of hunter green shingles, beadboard walls and red-stained pine floors was another matter. Even for a savvy homeowner with a background in interior architecture and art history, the path to the light- and art-filled beach home that Lee Baldwin envisioned eluded her. “I was delighted to find a place with privacy, property and even a pool,” says Lee about the house that was less than two decades old. “But I wasn’t in love with the finishes, floor or flow.”

Then, Lee went on a local home tour, met interior designer Mar Silver, and knew what she imagined for her blended family that includes her partner, Dr. E.J. Zebro, and their four girls could be realized. “I really liked the house on the tour, especially how Mar married the older elements with the new,” says Lee, who felt that same concept was critical to her remodel. “But more importantly, we immediately clicked on a personal level.”

Silver felt their instant simpatico, as well, and, like her client, was instantly attuned to the structure’s underlying assets. “It had amazing bones that were clouded by too many disjointed materials,” says the designer, who immediately starting eyeing what could be salvaged. “We agreed to keep the inherited elements that would work with the modernization of the building.”

For the exterior, that modernization translated into painting the green shingles, which were more reminiscent of the Adirondacks than Fairfield County, a lighter marine gray to better meld with the waterfront environs. In the living room, the reclaimed-wood beams made the cut, and rather than demolish the existing brick fireplace, Silver wrapped it with Cristallo stone that stops short of the ceiling to allow a hint of the home’s original brick, now painted white, to peek out. “The theme of the house is organic minimalism and blending the old and new is part of that concept,” she says.

In the family room, the original fireplace crafted from local stone that nicely complements the predominantly white-and-gray palette remained intact, while the shape of the domed ceiling was altered to accommodate a skylight. Here, and throughout most of the house, unstained character-grain oak floors replaced the more garish stained ones and cold-rolled steel was used to top built-ins, wrap shelving and provide fireplace accents. “There are no crown moldings so the steel acts as trimwork,” says Silver about the modern interpretation.

After reorienting and reconfiguring the staircase and eliminating the first-floor hallway—clever maneuvers that both improved traffic flow and created space for a separate dining room—Silver designed a switchback stairway that synthesizes the black steel, character oak and glass elements. “The stair is a piece of sculpture that anchors and penetrates the entire house,” she says.

But though hard-edged surfaces establish a commanding backdrop, never once did the designer lose sight of her client’s overarching desire for “a sophisticated beach house with a soft, soulful, sophisticated essence.” With pieces such as the living room’s Mies van der Rohe daybed and an Orchid table conceived by the designer purposely selected to work with the home’s sculptural lines, according to Silver, almost everything else is part of a larger story with layering as the central narrative. “The difference between cold contemporary and warm modern is the layering of materials,” explains the designer, who rounded out the space with a soft leather sofa, hide sling chairs and a hand-tufted silk rug. “It’s the nuance of the textiles and different shades of wood that add warmth and character.”

A swatch of gray-stained wood fronting the concrete- topped island is an unexpected textural and rustic touch in the kitchen, while in the master suite, it’s the custom bed swathed in luxurious silk-linen and gentle folds of gray-blue drapery that prevent the room from feeling static. About the latter Silver says, “The fabric takes on different personalities throughout the day and becomes moody and opaque at night.”

Elevating the house to yet another level of complexity is the artwork. In the foyer, a contemporary painting and a trio of sculptures depicting ancient Bactrian idols set the stage for what lies within. Even in what Silver aptly refers to as “the most sophisticated mudroom in the world,” a boldly colored painting juxtaposed with a tranquil image of birch trees is transformative, while a wall of built-in drawers and closets provides functionality.

But it’s the combination of the art collection, deliberate layering and carefully repurposed architecture that turned the house into an evolving statement of its own. “With the reflections of the art and architecture in the glass, the wall color altering with the movement of the sun, and the shadow play that occurs throughout the day, there’s this ethereal sensibility,” says Lee. “Everything is constantly changing, and I can’t ever imagine anyone getting tired of this house.”

—Mindy Pantiel