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Escape Artists

With plenty of space for entertaining, this impeccably designed, attached pool house on Greenfield Hill is the family’s instant getaway.

Shortly after moving into this 1948 Colonial designed by renowned architect Cameron Clark, a Greenfield Hill couple decided to convert the home’s  600-square-foot cabana into a roomy pool house. Hospitable sorts who delight in inviting friends and family over for large candlelit dinner parties on the patio, they were on a mission to maximize the full entertaining potential of the two-and-half-acre property. In short order, the renovation had to accommodate a kitchen suitable for caterers, a bedroom for overnight guests, a satellite playroom for their four boys under seven—and full access to the pool and yard. 

Southport architect Jack Franzen designed a straightforward plan that connected the new structure to the main house via a breezeway amply illuminated with sunlight, thanks to several sets of glass doors.


“Our objective was to amplify the character of the existing building, harmonizing it with the main house but not making it grander,” says Franzen whose final scheme measures 1,650 square feet.

The structure is anchored by a pair of symmetrical gables linked by a railing along the roofline, which lends overall continuity to the building. The peaks flank a spacious covered porch, a nod to the porches of Charleston, where one of the owners grew up. Beyond the porch is a demilune bluestone patio, braced by a dry-stacked fieldstone wall with a fountain in the image of a lion.

On either side of the patio, granite slabs lead the way down through a softly terraced parcel (originally designed by Clark’s wife, the noted landscape architect Agnes Selkirk Clark) to a rectangular pool bounded by bluestone and boxwood spheres.  Many of Selkirk Clark’s old plantings, including an ancient wisteria now supported by an elaborate trellis affixed to the exterior of the new building, were left intact.

From the outset, the client—herself a trained interior designer descended from antique-dealer stock in Charleston, South Carolina, who has dabbled in antique sales in Stamford for seven years—made it clear that from the inside as well as out, the pool house needed to look as though it had always been there.

“I loathe buying anything new,” she says. “It’s something in my DNA.”

What resulted is an informal but stylish aesthetic heavy on natural materials and accented with choice mid-century furniture and objects that lend color and modernity.

“We wanted it to feel natural,” said interior designer Lisa Hilderbrand of Welhil Interiors whom the couple hired to flesh out the interiors. “But not as though we were trying too hard. And we didn’t want it to be dated in five to 10 years.”

Fabric selections were made with particular care, according to Hilderbrand, in light of the children of the household. “We didn’t choose anything too precious,” she says.

In the living room, beneath a soaring ceiling, a bucolic landscape in green and yellow sets the tone for the overall color palette. A pine mantel, reclaimed from a house in Virginia and stripped of its paint, became the focal point of the room, inset with a blue-stone surround. The mantle is flanked by two custom alcoves that accommodate recessed green-and-white draperies, and above it hangs a wood and metal mirror with a rustic patina.

 A duo of 1940s bent rattan chairs are paired with a Braswell ottoman covered in herringbone raffia and a 1950s armchair from Irwin Feld. The floor is covered in a custom white cowhide patchwork rug from Argentina, and above the entire vignette hangs a lantern fashioned from a late-19th-century Victorian lamppost, hints of its original yellow-and-green paint job still evident. (The lantern is evidence of what Franzen calls the client’s “light fixture fetish.”)

The unabashedly utilitarian kitchen betrays a bit of the owner’s flair for rough-hewn and repurposed items. A stainless steel industrial kitchen relic from the 1940s with a butcher block top serves as an island and offers additional storage. Fitted with a slab of Carrara marble, it doubles as a breakfast bar to three vintage stools, ebonized and upholstered. Other details include a deep slop sink with a broad apron and another lantern, this one in sandblasted steel. A collection of blue-green pottery (the owner’s mother collected McCoy) provides a spot of color.

The color palette mellows somewhat in the bedroom where the walls are covered in a brown grass cloth from Phillip Jeffries. A Paul Frankl bureau was ebonized to a dark brown and topped with a pair of turquoise mid-century glass lamps. Draperies feature an embroidered botanical pattern, and a custom upholstered headboard is tufted with rosewood buttons like barrels.

In the bathroom, Hilderbrand and her clients got creative. They papered the sloping walls in the blue-and-green aeronautical charts that the man of the house used when he flew his own plane.

According to its occupants, in addition to achieving all objectives—quiet quarters apart from the household fray for out-of-town in-laws; supplementary play space for the boys—the pool house offers a benefit they didn’t anticipate:  a place for a date night without leaving the property.

J.P. Franzen Associates Architects, 203-259-0529; franzenarchitects.com
Gilberties, 203-227-4175; gilbertiesherb.com
Lisa Hilderbrand, Welhil Interiors, 203-722-9642; welhil.com