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Water Color

A contemporary home in westport blends picturesque views with a design that showcases the family’s extraordinary collection of art

Having lived along the tidal shore of the Saugatuck River for two decades, a Westport couple was well acquainted with the charms of this sought-after estuary. So when a parcel down the lane from their existing house became available, both husband and wife knew immediately that it was the perfect site for the place they had dreamed of building.

The lot created an opportunity for a home with a wraparound view of water—the river, the Sound beyond, an inlet at the property’s far point—and a protected dock. So the pair did not resist temptation and quickly purchased the land. Inspired by the natural beauty of the place, they hired architect Peter Cadoux to draw up a plan based on their wish list.

“We worked with Peter for a year before we broke ground for the house,” recalls the wife. “For the design, we were motivated by the property and by the privilege of living in a place like this. We wanted to maximize the views, but at the same time, we wanted a house that would blend into the surroundings. What we visualized was a combination of country barn and contemporary.”

“My clients came up with some ‘wow’ ideas,” says Cadoux. “Originally, an old carriage barn occupied the lot. It had been condemned by the town and had to be removed. But it inspired the notion that the house could be designed as if someone had added on to a carriage house. That’s the concept we ultimately adopted.”

Using this theme, the design evolved with a traditional-looking façade; its “old” wing linked to a more contemporary structure. The water view elevations have a distinctly modern feel, with large expanses of glass that capture the spectacular scenery and provide exquisite vistas for every room.

“From the beginning,” notes the architect, “the homeowners’ desire was to create something warm and comfortable. They wanted to juxtapose seemingly opposite materials—old wood and sleek stainless steel—but use them in a way so they would speak together comfortably.”

The ultimate joinery of wood and metal, traditional and modern, can be seen in the home’s connective spaces. A broad, spiraling stairway, made of stainless steel and reclaimed wood, links the home’s three levels in a masterful, nautilus-like construction. Cadoux designed the stairs with wide treads and gentle rises so that they would be easily and smoothly negotiated. To craft this marvel of engineering, he enlisted the help of Peter Constandaki and his fellow artisans at Arctime Metal of Norwalk, who spent nine months constructing the dramatic staircase. The company, which specializes in metal fabrications, also built the steel bridge that overlooks the home’s main foyer and connects its second level to the master suite.

Central to the public space is a wide-open great room. Massively scaled posts and beams, reclaimed from a huge antique Vermont barn, span the living area. The salvaged lumber appears to form the support structure, but this exposed framework is purely aesthetic. Each piece has been hollowed out—“hogged out” in builder’s vernacular—to contain the steel framing that actually holds up the house. 

Notes Cadoux, “Installation was a strategic feat in itself. We used staging, winches, and lots of other equipment and manpower to get the exposed wood in place.”

To enhance the modern-traditional mix that is expressed in the design, the wife realized that she would need to sift through hundreds of samples and swatches to decide on finishes and furnishings. Although she could see the big picture, she wanted help with the details.

“Until you start thinking about this, you have no idea what’s available. I wanted a vocabulary for what’s new, interesting, and exciting today. That’s what a designer’s knowledge is all about. Before we broke ground, my husband and I interviewed quite a few, and then we happened to see Lynn Cone’s work. Once I met her, I realized that she was on top of the market and could bring what I needed to my attention.”

Recalls Cone, “What began as a fifteen minute sit-down wound up as a three-hour conversation. It was an instant click.”

As Peter Cadoux and the builders—Jason Wojnarowski and his team—began construction, Cone took on the interior plans, working in collaboration with her clients, particularly the wife, an accomplished artist whose large, mixed-media paintings and photography would feature prominently in the finished house. 

“Her art was the color,” says the designer. “As she focused on the pieces she planned to display and decided on placement, we put the interiors together.  We played with fabrics, settling on an approach that uses layers of texture in a neutral palette. The final plan provides a perfect backdrop for the art, and the views.”

“The house works beautifully in terms of scale,” notes Cone. While the floor plan is generous, thoughtful use of space and careful arrangements of furnishings give family and visitors alike a feeling of warmth and comfort within. The level of craftsmanship also figures in the enfolding coziness of the rooms. With its windows focused on the forever views of water and sky and the almost Old World serenity of the interior surroundings, the home is yacht-like in its beauty and intimacy. 

Once the house was completed, the couple entrusted landscape architect Alice Eckerson and property management specialist Andy Stewart with creating natural surroundings for the home, pool, and entertainment areas. Key spots in the landscape are anchored with the homeowners’ collection of sculpture by internationally recognized artists. The landscape team installed a sinuous path that parallels the shoreline and explodes with color in spring and summer. At the same time, the walkway acts as a buffer against erosion in less benign weather.

The Cadoux-designed pool seems to reach out and touch the Sound beyond it, an optical illusion that erases the boundary between land and water and one more way that the home connects seamlessly with its surroundings. The couple has aptly named this dreamscape Paradise Point.

Says the homeowner, “It’s a lot of magic.” 

Peter Cadoux Architects, 203-227-4304; cadouxaia.com
Lynn Cone,  Lynn Cone Interiors, Greenwich, 646-515-1300
Wojnarowski & Sons, LLC, 203-375-7689;
Alice Eckerson,  Eckerson Design Associates, LLC., 203-212-3679; eckersondesignassoc.com
Andy Stewart, Property Management, 203-938-3154