Chic at the Shore

A beach getaway offers all the casual comfort a family needs without sacrificing the metropolitan sophistication everyone wants.

Text by Maria LaPiana Photography by John Gould Bresssler Produced by Stacy Kunstel

The picturesque hamlet of Noroton Bay is both affluent and affable. In fact, it was the town’s close-knit feeling that made it the perfect place for a busy urban couple in search of a weekend getaway. “Because we live in New York City, we wanted a sense of community on the weekends,” says the wife, perhaps seeking an echo of the way life was when she and her husband were growing up in Michigan. “We wanted a neighborhood where the houses are closely clustered, and we didn’t want a lot of traffic.”

They also wanted a country house that didn’t feel “country” at all. It had to fit in from the street, but they wanted it polished, urbane. In sum, adds the wife, “It had to be serene and sophisticated.”

Familiar with Connecticut’s Gold Coast and especially taken with the Darien area (where Noroton Bay sits), the couple decided to buy one of the enclave’s characteristically small, 80-by-100-foot lots and build new. Today the family, which includes two young children, is comfortably ensconced in the beachside community—and in their distinctly refined home. They stay at the house nearly every weekend and move up for the summer.

By design, the home looks and feels like many of its neighbors, but on closer inspection it’s more than the sum of its parts. “This house stands out, not for its size or grandeur, but for the subtle surprises found in the architectural details,” says architect Robert A. Cardello of South Norwalk.

It’s clad in stone and natural cedar shakes in the vernacular of the waterfront community. It has a defined outdoor entertaining space (with requisite barbecue and fireplace), and landscaping is minimal. Hiding in plain sight are those distinctive details: a stone water table that wraps around the house,deep bull-nose sills on the windows, a barrel-top dormer, and a southwest-facing window whose glass turns a corner, adding both light and interest. Among the architectural surprises found inside: coffered ceilings, detailed trim, and Lucite stair rails.

Cardello’s biggest challenge was finding a place for everything on the couple’s wish list. They wanted four bedrooms, four baths, roomy public areas, and enough “away spaces” so that adults, children, and guests could all have privacy, if desired. “I like to say we had to fit ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag,” says Cardello. “We had to be smart about the spaces and configuration while at the same time conforming to local zoning and flood regulations.”

And yet, because the homeowners have a “Manhattan mind-set,” they understood how to live in smaller rooms, why built-ins were needed, and, in general, how to use space judiciously.

At just under 3,000 square feet, the summer house features an open plan; most of the living space at ground level is dedicated to a kitchen/living room, a den for getting away from it all, and a stunning dining room that the wife describes as “the most beautiful room in the house.”

Visible immediately on entering, but separate from the busy traffic pattern, the dining room was designed as a special place: “It’s a reward to be there with friends and treat them to something special,” she says.

Greenwich-based interior designer Kat Rosier had a hand in making the room so enchanting. Rosier came on board during construction and says her collaboration with Cardello and the homeowners was seamless. She instantly understood what the couple wanted in a sophisticated home at the shore. And she knew that a few carefully chosen finishes and custom furnishings—not too many, because the rooms are petite, after all—could make that a reality.

Rosier describes her style as “classically hip,” which happens to suit these interiors quite well. The goal, says the designer, was “an open, airy, yet elegant look,” which she achieved with a beachy palette—predominantly silvery grays and blues—creative lighting, and deliberately placed accessories. “Gray and silver have always been my favorite colors,” says Rosier. “There is something incredibly calming about gray. It is the perfect color in design, as it can be soft and feminine as well as strong and masculine, which provides a great balance.”

The dining room is a case in point. Setting the mood for the rest of the house, Rosier installed a silver wallpaper and lacquered the ceiling a high-gloss blue. The cabinetry was painted light gray for contrast. The showstopper? “The bauble chandelier makes an unexpected statement, yet works with the classical table and chairs,” says Rosier.

The designer planned the open family space (also in those favorite tones of hers) to be welcoming to children but sophisticated enough for nighttime entertaining. “The fabrics had to be durable, yet glamorous,” says Rosier, who designed the custom sofa, chairs, and ottomans. In the kitchen, velvet quartzite on the countertops blends in while giving the space its own feel; a glass mosaic backsplash adds glimmer.

The tucked-away sitting room departs a bit from the overall theme, in color as well as style. The space has to work pretty hard, as it serves as both a TV room and playroom for the children. There’s storage (in the oversized ottoman), and the palette is casual and neutral, with pops of orange. A patterned rug and pillows add a playful touch, while midcentury-modern lamps and end tables lend the room a stylish edge.

Back to silvery grays and a captivating shade of lavender that wasn’t easy to come by, the master suite is a retreat in the truest sense. “When I first suggested we do a lavender bedroom, the husband wanted no part of it,” says Rosier.

It took some doing, but she was finally able to convince him it would look cool, not froufrou. “The wall color we used has a subtle undertone of gray so it wasn›t as ‘girlie’ as he thought it would be,” she explains. “The white lacquered nightstands, Lucite bench, and shag rug give the room a Hollywood Regency feel.”

Elegance accomplished. •

Architecture: Robert A. Cardello
Interior Design: Cat Rosier, Hom Sanctuary
Builder: Joe Filanowski, J & J Custom Builders
Landscape Design: Bruce Bennett, Kent Greenhouse and Gardens

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