“It’s a bit like an aerie,” observes designer Asia Baker Stokes of this lakefront Mill Neck residence. “You’re up high, overlooking the water, surrounded by incredible birdlife—ospreys, bald eagles and the most beautiful swans, who raise their babies on a tiny island that was formed in a hurricane.” It was this sanctuaried, storybook setting that prompted Baker Stokes’ client, an old friend from childhood, to purchase her very first home.
Perched high in the tree line, with sweeping views of the lake and a private dock, the property was perfect. However, the home’s original interior layout—which placed main gathering areas upstairs to best capture the views—had received a handful of micro renovations over the years, largely divorcing it from the bucolic surrounds.
“It seemed like the house was almost asking for us to open it up,” shares Baker Stokes, pointing to the previously segmented rooms and heavily paned windows that obscured the sightlines. So the designer and her team began their work by unbuttoning the interiors, removing errant doors and rearranging passageways for more fluid movement. They also installed large picture windows in key areas, such as the dining nook off the family room and the cozy sitting area in the primary bedroom.
Meanwhile, the kitchen, which was sketched by Baker Stokes and fabricated by a local cabinetmaker, marked the most dramatic transformation. Joining a new fenestration and opened-up floor plan, crisp white cabinetry, brass hardware, a custom trimmed brass hood and a white Lacanche stove speak a distinctly feminine language—which is, of course, by design. “She’s very practical, but also wants things to be beautiful,” notes the designer of her client. Even in its most utilitarian moments, adds Baker Stokes, “the home reflects a strong femininity, because that’s who she is.”
A feminine mood similarly manifests in the new living room wet bar, which the designer appointed with lattice-paneled cabinet fronts and an antique mirrored backsplash. Baker Stokes prioritized such delicate details throughout, relying on patinated flourishes and vintage finds to craft a soft, storied ethos. “I like to give houses a sense of nostalgia—a feeling that pieces have been collected over time,” she explains. “Rooms should feel lived in and loved and timeworn.” This outlook can be seen in the various decorative wall finishes she had commissioned, such as the dainty, hand-painted strié in her client’s bedroom, which gives the room “a little bit of an age,” she notes. Placed at the foot of the bed—and cleverly concealing a television on a lift—a custom cabinet sports the same textured robin’s egg blue, giving it the feel of an earlier piece.
Further building the impression of a home composed over a lifetime, furnishings blend different eras, from the living room’s 1970s lucite coffee table to a pair of 19th-century Biedermeier end tables in the primary bedroom. Baker Stokes was particularly thrilled to find a home for an etched silver German cocktail table she discovered years ago at the Brimfield Flea Market, reserving it for just the right project. The designer nestled that piece—which glimmers in the sunlight like a piece of jewelry—in a corner of the living room, wrapped by a banquette with antiqued woodwork and pale blue upholstery that echoes the lake.
When it came to her materials palette, Baker Stokes opted for clean and tactile, favoring cerused oak finishes, raffia and grasscloth wallcoverings, and neutral linen fabrics. Yet she took care in adding dashes of romance (the floral upholstery on the primary bedroom’s headboard and accent chairs) as well as practicality (the many performance fabrics that thread throughout the central living spaces.)
Take the casual family room off the kitchen. There, the designer outfitted the sofa (which the client’s three beloved rescue dogs have claimed as their throne) in a hardy outdoor fabric. “They like to sit there, where they’re at the center of things,” laughs the client. And she too favors the degage perch—especially at golden hour, when the warm sunlight off the lake casts the room in a honeyed veil. “I can see the sparkle on the water, the birds taking flight and the trees glowing,” she says. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”