Apparently, “meant to be” doesn’t apply just to soul mates, but also to houses. After first falling for a Georgian-style estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, the prospective homeowners were called away to London, having to pass on their dream home. They returned stateside three years later, only to discover they were not completely over the one that got away. Fortunately, fate intervened: The beloved manse was once again up for grabs. “We toured the house for two hours and then went straight to the attorney’s office to ink the deal,” the wife says.
Tasked with the challenge of making the sizable home feel less palatial and more inviting was designer Susan Bednar Long, for whom this project marked the fourth in a string of domiciles she has thoughtfully composed for the family of seven. “I’ve seen their tastes evolve over the years,” says Long, who splits her time between Dallas and Greenwich. “They’ve become much more interested in antiques, for example, but they’ve always preferred cozy rooms with lots of layering.”
Making a space look and feel collected (think area rugs atop sisal floorcoverings and hung works of art in addition to hand-painted wallpaper) is second nature for Long, who cultivated the skill in her previous life as a store designer for Ralph Lauren. Here, antiques sourced from Paris and London contribute a certain timeworn gravitas to the elegant tableaux; the color blue, the wife’s favorite shade, is a beautiful constant throughout; a variety of textures, from rope to silk, add depth to each space; and an enviable assemblage of modern art provides an edgy counterpoint to the otherwise classic environs.
Those classic environs were created with the help of the home’s original design-build team—Judith Larson, Bill Gardiner, Jr. and Bryan Gardiner—who worked on renovations for the current owners, including the master suite dressing rooms, his-and-her bathrooms and an arched beadboard ceiling in the family room. The team had also previously outfitted the living room, a majestic entertaining zone, with a collection of intimate gathering spots, among them a piano area, game quarters and seating nooks perfect for tête-à-têtes—all showcasing Long’s talent for creating memorable design moments.
For instance, French chests in the central seating area flank a dark tufted velvet sofa, while an abstract black-and-white diptych painting unapologetically strays from the traditional setting. Zooming out, a Venetian mirror and antique Murano glass chandelier come into view; they are dynamic in the presence of the room’s rich upholstery. Deeper into the house, more examples of Long’s stylish layering abound: In the husband’s office, for instance, a stately antique walnut burl desk is a commanding presence, while a black-and-white photograph by Josef Hoflehner adds graphic impact to the wall. Those surfaces are also special in their own right, covered, as they are, in sumptuous nailhead- trimmed Ralph Lauren navy felt.
“I really like the way the color blue is interpreted throughout the house,” Long says of the distinctive mood each room assumes depending on the particular shade of blue embellishing its finery. A curved sky blue- and-cream velvet sofa infuses the living room’s piano area with Long’s modern traditional signature. The wife’s office gets its scholarly femininity from built-in bookcases painted in a serene steely blue strié, a tone echoed in the master suite, where its effect is more regal. The formal dining room’s intricately hand-painted Gracie wallpaper is, appropriately, the color of Wedgwood china. And the foyer’s wool gray-blue stair runner adds a dignified note to the space, which the design-build team appointed with soft rounded corners and a graceful arched opening.
Coming from the sculptural urns, trimmed hedges and clipped aerial trees of the formal outdoor landscape—composed by landscape designer James Doyle of Doyle Herman Design Associates, along with lead designer Taizo Horikawa, to match the grand Georgian architecture—the entry feels intimate, like a heartfelt gesture. “Our goal was to evoke elegance and warmth,” says Larson. “It’s like the house is giving you a hug.”
—Leilani Marie Labong