A Long Island Estate Stuns With Its Waterfront Views and Ornamentation


Meditteranean waterfront home

One might imagine Jay Gatsby standing on the terrace, but this historic home overlooking the Long Island Sound is now the year-round home of a young family. The renovation maintains the original spirit of the house, while clever space-planning meant no changes to its footprint.

mirrored cabinet silver wallpaper

In a turn-of-the-last century home brought up to date by architect Charles Hilton and designer Robert Rizzo, a hallway near the foyer was papered with a hand-painted print by Schumacher. The clients’ ginger jars sit atop a Jonathan Adler cabinet.

bas relief wallcovering living room

At one end of the living room are two Ferrell Mittman sofas wearing a Rosemary Hallgarten fabric and a coffee table from Swaim. Above the fireplace are Vaughan sconces and a mirror from Ironies against an MJ Atelier wall relief.

blue trellis dining room

Rizzo paired a walnut table from Parish Co with Vanguard Furniture chairs upholstered in a Zimmer + Rohde fabric in the trellised dining room. Above is a Murano chandelier from Bella Figura and underfoot is a rug from Castelluxe. In the corner stands a monumental antique drum.

blue bedroom canvas palms

The children’s rooms were designed to inspire creativity. Case in point: the son’s bedroom with its playful canvas palm trees. The woodgrain wallcovering is Nobilis, the drapes are a striped Michael S. Smith fabric and the rug is from Rosecore.

It isn’t hard to understand why Henry Steers, an early-20th-century construction tycoon, chose this site on Long Island Sound to build his own family home 1916. The setting, which includes a private dock and access to an exclusive beach, must have appealed to the yachtsman—in fact, the sight lines from the home, perched atop a sloping lawn, give the distinct feeling of being at sea. “It’s a spectacular waterfront setting with views from Long Island to Manhattan,” says architect Charles Hilton, who has spent a large part of the past 18 years preserving its legacy.

The home, once called Eastover, was designed as “an austere, masonry-stucco house consistent with European country homes,” Hilton explains. “Our involvement began in 2005, when we were hired by the previous owners. At that time, the house still had a flat roof and the original stucco siding had been covered with an exterior insulation system with a pink finish.” In collaboration with colleagues David Newcomb and Daniel Pardy, Hilton designed a full exterior facelift (adding a new roof and cornice) and replaced the windows and doors. The team also tackled extensive water damage in the ocean-facing rooms.

When the restored house changed hands over a decade later, its new owners asked Hilton back to compose its next chapter. “It was great to have a second opportunity to enhance our original vision,” the architect explains, noting the contributions of project manager Nicholas Rotondi and general contractor Colin Christensen. Work for this second renovation included enlarging the kitchen and adding garage bays, a mudroom, and ensuite bathrooms for every bedroom. The basement went through an extensive overhaul, gaining entertainment areas, a wet bar and staff suites. One of its sections was even excavated (“Through the hardest rock in the state!” Hilton adds) to make room for a golf simulator. Finally, both the interiors and exteriors were given new finishes. “Outside, the owners allowed us to complete the unfinished trim work, stain the terra-cotta roof black and refinish the stucco to a brilliant white,” Hilton shares. “Everyone thought the previous pink exterior needed to go, and designer Robert Rizzo’s new black-and-white concept complements the more modern interiors the clients wanted. It was a dramatic transformation.”

Knowing the homeowners through prior projects, Rizzo understood their contemporary aesthetic and family-oriented lifestyle. “Robert listened when I told him that, as a mom of four littles, I needed them close by while I work in the kitchen,” the wife shares. Rather than reconfiguring the home’s gracious layout by knocking down walls, the designer simply reassigned spaces. Notably, the former dining room off the kitchen became a family area with cozy seating and a big table perfect for homework or crafts. “It’s not an open-plan house, which is kind of nice,” Rizzo notes. “Plus, each room has big pocket doors that can separate spaces.”

In a clever stroke, the designer then turned the trellised garden room into a formal dining room, painting Hilton’s woodwork a neutral gray to meld the wife’s favored pale blues with the original tile floor. The living room remained much as it was, with Rizzo using its generous proportions to create seating groups at either end, placing stools in the middle to unite the spaces whenever extended family or friends convene. Bringing a sense of ornamentation in keeping with the adjacent dining room and eschewing a more expected large painting for the fireplace wall, he also customized a hand-sculpted bas-relief wallcovering depicting flowering plants, bees and butterflies.

“Many people want new houses these days, but older homes have architectural details that make them unique,” Hilton muses. “They’re part of the fabric of historical neighborhoods and worth a little extra time, effort and imagination to preserve.” That the couple has since brought the design team back to build a pool and pool house is proof of their commitment to enjoying every inch of this enchanting estate for years to come.