A Mix of Contemporary and Traditional in Wilton
October 30, 2019
Text by Paula M. Bodah Photography by John Gould Bessler Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent
So what if most of their friends have traded in the family home for something smaller? Amy and Mark Rice may be rattling around a bit in their old house now that the children are grown and gone, but they don’t plan to downsize any time soon. “It’s much more house than we need,” Amy says. “But we love it.”
Every room holds a lifetime—literally—of memories. The couple were only in their twenties, young parents to the first of their two children, when they decided their tiny eighteenth-century dwelling was too small to raise a family. A new house wouldn’t do, however. Instead they got together with a man whose passion for old things exceeded even their own. “His name was Bill Norton,” Amy recalls, “and he had a business called 18th-Century Company, which no longer exists.”
Indeed, William C. Norton was something of a celebrity among historic-building lovers in the 1970s and ’80s, renowned for his work at salvaging time-worn barns and reconstructing them elsewhere. He found what would become Amy and Mark’s house, an eighteenth-century barn, in Chaplin. Piece by piece, he took it apart and put it back together on the Rices’ Wilton property. “He reassembled it like a dinosaur,” Amy recalls. “He was so cool. We have all this cool stuff in the house because he insisted on authenticity. If we had an old door, he’d find some old wood to build the frame.”
What Amy fondly calls “a crusty old house,” looks and feels surprisingly fresh inside. Even with the original wood bracing in place—scorch marks from ancient lanterns and all—and with every door, hinge, latch, fireplace mantel, and floor authentically eighteenth-century, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the place. That’s because Amy, a co-owner of the Greenwich home furnishings shop Oomph, has an eye for good design of any period. In her home, the present effortlessly coexists with the past. The living room’s easygoing sofa and a raffia-topped coffee table, both from Oomph, are right at home with the vintage maritime-themed painting above the fireplace and the antique wooden birdhouse hanging high up in a corner. “That’s the Christmas tree corner,” Amy says. “The ceiling is about thirty feet high.”
When the kids and grandkids visit, the living room may be the gathering spot, but when Mark and Amy are by themselves, they’re more likely to pass the time in the family room that sits in the smaller 1825 barn they added to the house. The cozy spot, just off the kitchen, has the same comfortable mix of old (a brick fireplace set into a wall of wide paneling painted the perfect shade of Georgian blue-gray from Farrow & Ball) and new (Oomph sofa and chairs outfitted in Quadrille’s Les Indiennes fabric) as the rest of the home.
For further proof that contemporary and traditional can happily cohabitate, witness the steel-and-glass marvel that replaced the heavy chestnut door at the front entrance. And for further evidence that Amy and Mark mean it when they say they don’t plan to leave, note that the new entryway was a 2019 project. For them, the beloved home is still making memories.
Interior design: Amy Rice, Oomph, Greenwich, Conn.
Steel and glass entry fabrication: Jared Baldyga, Greenwich Construction and Development, Ansonia, Conn.
Custom-crafted entry lamppost: Fourteenth Colony Lighting, Memphis, Tenn.