This home is light and youthful,” designer Thomas Jayne says of the weekend retreat that he decorated for a family of sailing enthusiasts on Centre Island, the exclusive coastal enclave on Long Island Sound’s Gold Coast. Perched at the top of a gentle hill and surrounded by woods, the two-level structure’s traditional shingle siding and cedar shake roof belie the ethereal feeling that Jayne and project designer Egan Seward created inside. “It’s a family house,” Jayne explains. “The owners wanted it to be harmonious, fresh and contemporary while still fitting into the traditional setting.”
The project is one of several that the designers, along with architect Kathryn McGraw Berry, designers Jayson Michael Fay and Aimee Lopez, and landscape architect CeCe Haydock, created for a matriarch who wanted her children and their families to have their own respective retreats close by. “It is a grandmother’s dream to have what I call casual contact,” the owner says. “I like how the house sits overlooking trees and that I can easily visit with my grandchildren in their own space—their natural habitat, if you will.”
Comprising three distinct pavilions connected by interior links with peaked ceilings, the sprawling shingle-clad structure nevertheless feels cozy and intimate, with private spaces on either side of a cavernous central living and dining room. “You enter into a compressed space, and there’s a juxtaposition of large and small spaces throughout,” Berry explains. “The circulation space defines the rooms and creates interest.”
This central space allows for a range of activities, with various areas that cater to everything from intimate conversations to piano recitals to group dinners in front of a fireplace. To create a warmer feel in such an expansive room, Berry designed simple wall moldings in conjunction with Fay and Lopez to add texture and break up the wall massing, as do a pair of exposed ceiling supports. “The trusses give the big room a human scale,” Berry says. “This is a country house after all.”
Enhancing that country house sensibility is a mix of furnishings that play off both the architecture and the owner’s extensive art collection. “We believe having a wide range of things from different periods makes a room richer, more interesting and more enduring,” Jayne says. “Our rooms are not modish, so they will still look good 10 years later.”
In the open and airy great room, a pair of modern chandeliers made of a mix of glass spheres in nautical-inspired hues purposely contrasts with the grid of painted-wood wall paneling. “We wanted something playful and contemporary against the older-appearing architecture,” Jayne says, noting that Seward selected the colors and adjusted the heights of each of the glass globes. “It was like designing a DNA chain on the ceiling.” Complementing the chandeliers is a colorful early-19th-century Persian rug with a repeating circular pattern motif that relates to both the wall paneling and the whimsical lighting fixtures—a lively juxtaposition that balances the unexpected with the traditional.
The designers employed a similarly playful approach throughout the home. In the master bedroom, for example, a metal canopy bed coexists easily with an antique rug and a Swedish Deco daybed made of walnut, ebony and birch, while fabric-clad walls add pattern and texture. “You have to be willing to experiment and not rely on a formula,” Jayne says. “It’s about making a collage, taking elements and putting them together in an artistic way.”
This carefully planned yet unexpected take on the décor extends to the outside. On either side of the main entrance, there are bluestone terraces with pavers that have been laid in a random rectangular pattern. On the public side, a brick-and-wire wall provides privacy without totally obscuring the view. “We made this entranceway that is sort of magical and enclosed,” Berry explains. “It’s like an old-fashioned front terrace.” The patio overlooks a meadow of wild flowers and native grasses that Haydock and landscape consultant Larry Weaner, of Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, created along the winding, sloped driveway. In addition to remediating the poor soil quality, the wild, open space attracts monarch butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. “When the family is sitting on the terrace, they feel as if they are in nature,” Haydock says of the space, which includes evergreens and berry-bearing shrubs that ensure color year-round.
Indeed, the house is a hit with the family, who gathers there for weekends and holidays, and with their grandmother, who envisioned the project in the first place. “We love the light from all of the many windows,” she says. “The lighthearted feeling of the house just makes us all smile when we arrive.”
— Tate Gunnerson