Designing for the Man of the House
Sunrises are likely sensational from this enviable two-acre spot across the road from the glinting surface of Long Island Sound and particularly from the master suite on the second floor where light bounces on every surface under a vaulted ceiling. There, from a substantial king-sized bed flanked by side tables and alabaster lamps, it would be easy to feel like the Sun King himself, minions scuttling in and out, serving your meals, pressing your trousers and busily tending to the fireplace surrounded in stone.
The suite is one of the few private spaces in the 5,200-square-foot, center-hall Colonial built in the 1970s and clad in white clapboard and topped by a shingle roof; otherwise it is dedicated to entertaining family and friends, a mission explicitly stated by the bachelor businessman and avid golfer who bought it as a homestead for himself and his two grown sons.
Meticulous and exacting by nature and frequently abroad for business, he was on a fast track to decorate his new home in a way that was welcoming, restful and suitable for entertaining. There would be minimal structural alteration, he decided. And he had a precise budget in hand—and a blisteringly fast timetable in which to work: two months in one hot summer.
His go-to partner in the Great Race to Decorate was Christina Lake, a partner in the Fairfield-based interior design firm of Forehand + Lake, formerly known as Raymond Forehand, where she has worked for the last twelve years. Lake led the design, procurement and installation effort for the project and was supported by a team of two from the thirty-year-old firm.
“This job was an exciting new challenge for us because of the compressed timetable,” she says, adding that her projects frequently take her as far away as Vermont, Sun Valley, Washington, D.C., Palm Beach, the Cape, Maine, Nevis and elsewhere. “So achieving our client’s objectives in this case gave us an opportunity to be really creative and resourceful.”
Among the novelties on display in this age of bespoke coasters and custom-tailored andirons are sections of broadloom carpet the firm bought in a series of colors and then had sewn together to effect the look of a color-blocked area rug.
“We gave it a Tibetan feel,” she says.
Painted sheetrock walls were covered with subtle patterns and texture. Furniture and fabrics were bought off the floor rather than being customized in any great depth. The spoils of this endeavor include a pale blue carpet that passes for an antique and runs through the front hall and up the stairs is not. In addition, matching Macassar ebony chests—one mounted with an enticing dining-room bar—were purchased from existing inventory, and several chairs were bought from manufacturers but upholstered more cost-effectively elsewhere.
“You should have seen what it looked like before,” says Lake of the wall-to-wall floral carpeting and pink and teal faux finishes she encountered at the start of the job. “This was a transformation.”
The flowery colors faded away under the new color palette Lake developed to evoke the masculinity within the walls—though she gave her hues a muted and sophisticated feminine treatment: blue, camel, caramel, cream and gray. The result is a calming, monochromatic oasis that could soothe many a frayed nerve. The look of the interiors sits squarely in the realm of the transitional, without fuss and frill but with a comfort sometimes absent in the midst of hardcore contemporary forms and shapes.
Lake used her colors and a mix of materials and textures in every combination she could fathom—check, gingham, plaid, herringbone, squares, rectangles and an occasional roguish line that could be considered a diagonal. A gray and taupe wall-covering depicting a loosely threaded plaid adorns the entry and the stairs up the second floor; thick blue and white accent pillows feature a boxy edge rather than a knife; another ivory and camel pair flaunts the exaggerated swag of a herringbone motif; and cork flecked with mica gives a shimmer to the walls in the dining room.
Though the bulk of the art has not yet been purchased—the owner hopes to acquire it on future travels—there are a few high points. These include a bold red, green and blue portrait of a Carlos Serrao image of Jack Nicholson smoking a cigar, a pair of photos of undulating water that are printed on canvas by Norwalk artist John Harris and several series of abstract reproductions—collage on paper, graphite on paper with an acrylic wash—procured by the firm.
In keeping with the tradition of granting a client’s every wish no matter how unconventional, Lake and her team turned the formal living room into a billiard hall. It features a pool table with a camel top that is eight feet in length, a television mounted over the fireplace and pool cues in a rack on the wall with a well-used cube of chalk.
Another one of Lake’s secrets, she says, is that all of the materials throughout the house are indestructible. This probably comes handy on the occasion that a guest knocks over a goblet of a California Cab while trying to sink a ball into a pocket.