A Greenwich Home With Points of View

above: Original moldings and ceiling medallions were carefully preserved; The living room fireplace was enhanced by a custom hand-painted mural.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBERT BENSON

The more formal décor was changed into something fresh and family-friendly.

Like the original owner of this elegant estate, the homeowners—a young family with four kids—were seduced by its prime location on Long Island Sound. More than a century ago, yachtsman and construction tycoon Henry Steers selected this impressive piece of land with 440 feet of shoreline to build a grand U-shaped masonry house known as Eastover. Featured in The Great Estates, the European-style house built for Steers in 1916 included a large, raised stone terrace with staircases leading to an expansive lawn and down to the water with a stone pier and sandy beach. Steers, it seems, was an early adopter of indoor-outdoor living, which 100-plus years later is a focus for the current homeowners, too.

Throughout the house, voluminous drapes were traded for simple-yet-elegant panels to keep focus on the views.

“My husband always wanted to live by the water,” the homeowner says. “It calms him and reminds him of when he lived in California. We took one tour of the house and fell in love with the location and the finishes.” Key original details of the house include nine fireplaces, a grand staircase, cornices, moldings, ornamental ceiling medallions and stonework that all add to the home’s pedigree, giving it a sense of place and history that distinguish it from any new build.

left: A substantial deep-water dock is one of the many assets of this shoreline estate built in 1916. right: The exterior went from pink Mediterranean with terracotta roof to a crisp white-and-black scheme.

“It felt like Jay Gatsby was about to throw an epic party,” says the homeowner, who was attracted to the high ceilings and moldings as well as the incredible views. Though the spacious house has excellent bones and had been renovated previously, at the time of purchase it needed significant restoration work as well as a décor overhaul, transforming it from something formal and a bit stuffy (think voluminous drapes and heavy fabrics) into a home that’s comfortable and livable for a busy, active family of six.

To bring this century-old classic up to modern living standards, the homeowners called on Rob Rizzo of Cobble Court Interiors and Charles Hilton Architects, a team of pros she loved, saying, “you’ll find their names under G.O.A.T. in an urban dictionary.” Rob had worked with the family previously and understood their tastes and preferences. “He knew right away what I wanted,” she says. Charles Hilton and Nick Rotondi, project manager, had started work on the house with its last owner, so they understood the challenges and requirements for updating the property while preserving its character.

For this new front-entry vestibule and balcony, Charles Hilton Architects called for classical pilasters, paneling and trim, all constructed in cellular PVC for easy maintenance. The exterior door and windows were fabricated in mahogany by Artistic Doors and Windows.
Inside the entry hall, the staircase is original as is the fireplace, which acts as a focal point along with contemporary art hanging above it.

Design goals included making the most of the panoramic views and furnishing the house for wash-and-wear life with four kids. The homeowner says, “Our must-haves included a mudroom with a locker/launchpad for each kid, a family room that would be near the kitchen and a basement that can host sleepovers and Nerf gun battles.”

While addressing these needs, the architects along with general contractor Colin Christensen, also worked on dealing with many functional issues, such as making the building envelope more efficient and installing new windows and French doors that complement the house’s style, yet can withstand the weather demands of its waterfront location.

left: For the hallway near the front foyer, the designer chose a hand-painted wallcovering by Schumacher that has such depth and richness there’s no need for art. right: Pretty arches and a hallway finished in a soft geometric paper lead to the homeowner’s “cloffice,” a combined closet and office space.

The team collaborated to blend function with aesthetics. Outside, the house’s former Mediterranean look of pink stucco with terracotta barrel roof was replaced with a more understated black-and-white scheme. Inside, the palette of calming blues, grays and creams was inspired by the hues of the Sound. An addition allowed for an expansive kitchen, that must-have mudroom as well as extra garage space for the family’s minivan. To make better use of the home’s already generous square footage, a few rooms were swapped to improve flow; upstairs, bedrooms were converted into en-suites.

left: In the breakfast room, the family can gather at this custom round table and take in views so direct it feels almost as though they’re on a boat.

Light and Livable

To create an open kitchen and everyday living area, Rob moved the dining room and converted that space adjacent to the kitchen into a comfortable, multipurpose family room where the kids gather to play, do homework or work on puzzles while their mom is cooking. All the family room furnishings are designed for durability. The walls are finished in a wipeable vinyl wallcovering from Surfaces by David Bonk and couches and swivel chairs covered in high-performance fabrics from Cowtan and Tout.

This sitting room in the primary suite doubles as a spot for the family to curl up and watch TV together.

“They look lush and plush, but they’re all washable and user-friendly,” says Rob, who chose a textured fabric that never shows stains. The kitchen was reconfigured to encompass a breakfast area with a custom round table. “With the floor-to-ceiling windows you can really enjoy that panoramic view in the morning,” Chuck Hilton notes.

The team worked with kitchen designer Mary-Beth Oliver of Karen Berkemeyer Home to plan a kitchen that isn’t all white. Counters are finished in a book-matched surface that resembles the sand on the beach, and the oversized wall tiles have a reflective surface that gives them a sheen.

Working with Karen Berkemeyer Home on the kitchen, designer Rob Rizzo opted for mirrored insets on the highest cabinets to make them more practical for storage and add light and shine in the space.

“The homeowner is a glam girl, and she wanted a little sparkle,” Rob explains. Echoing the home’s setting, the granite topping the island has lots of movement to it, like waves, and the La Cornue range is a beautiful pale blue.

“Older homes can be reimagined. This is a great contemporary example of that. You wind up with a more unique and special home than you would have if you started from scratch.”

For entertaining or more formal meals, the family’s dining room was relocated into a what was previously a sunroom/garden room that still has hose spigots and drainage in the floor (for hosing off plants). The room’s intricate trellis detailing on the walls was carefully preserved and painted a pale blue-gray. Old brick floors are topped with a lush custom carpet from Castelluxe Rugs. Doors open onto the stone patio with its picturesque vista.

Situated between the dining room and family room, the formal living room remained in place but underwent a stylish update. The pale-green fireplace wall serves as focal point. Rob hired a French company to create the textural, hand-painted mural that surrounds it, decorated with 24-carat gold bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that appear to fly off the wall. With the layers of decorative moldings in this room, the designer looked for more contemporary lighting. Of the impetus behind his choices, Rob says, “They’re a young couple with young kids. This is not our parents’ house. Let’s have fun!”

Sweet Dreams

For the second-level bedrooms, Rob designed around not only the husband and wife’s preferences but also each child’s wishes. He interviewed the kids, two boys and two girls, to learn their vision for their bedrooms. One son was not shy in sharing dreams that go beyond Long Island Sound: He longed for a tropical vibe and palm trees. Rob made it happen. He stumbled upon some faux trees at a boutique in Palm Beach, and the canvas-and-wood trees with bendable leaves are now flanking the fireplace in the boy’s room. This son’s room also has a new desk nook with built-in bookshelves and views that must distract from any homework.

A pair of canvas and wood palm trees lend a subtle tropical touch to this beachy boy’s bedroom.

The other son’s nautically themed bedroom is wrapped in a vintage sailboat-motif wallpaper from Hermès. The youngest daughter asked for rainbows and wound up with a multicolored custom coverlet on the bed, sheer drapes enhanced with little sequins and purple Quadrille paper on the wall.

left: One daughter requested a rainbow theme for her bedroom, and the designer delivered in sophisticated style with a Quadrille wallpaper and custom coverlet. right: A boy’s nautically themed room features striped bedding and a vintage Hermes sailboat wallpaper.

The husband and wife’s bedroom is more like a wing of the house, consisting of a sitting room with fireplace, the sleeping room, separate his-and-hers bathrooms and her favorite room, which she calls her “cloffice.”

left and above: The former primary bedroom was painted yellow; a fresh blue-and-gray scheme with contemporary furnishings now elevates the serene room. right: One of nine working fireplaces in the house

It’s a walk-in closet with a sofa and a second vanity installed so her kids can do their homework or makeup next to her. Her glam bathroom is decked out in trippy Trove floral wallpaper in multi shades of blue, while his is very masculine with rich wood detailing. In the actual bedroom, the team worked to preserve the formal empire trim and restore the old brass hardware—“unbelievable details you would never find today,” Rob notes.

This chic “Hers” bathroom is enlivened by the modern Trove wallcovering and a graphic carpet between the vanity and shower.

Play Space

left: For this new elevator, an increasingly popular home feature, the interior is fitted with white oak paneling. right: Throughout the lower level pipes are cleverly concealed behind lighted cove moldings.

While the lower level rec room is now a much-loved zone for the kids to spend time with friends and for the husband to play nine holes on his golf simulator, renovating this area was definitely not fun and games. Both architect and homeowner noted this being one of the biggest challenges of the project. “Prior to 2020, I didn’t know the word Radon existed,” she says, adding that they had to put safety precautions in place to keep it at an acceptable level. The basement was previously “a dark cavern, a little warren of service rooms,” Chuck says. The area needed to be completely opened up, and careful planning went into redoing the mechnicals in a strategic manner so the pipes and ducts are not visible.

To accommodate the golf simulator from Full Swing, the team had to create more headroom—a 10-foot minimum. Hard rock ledge below the house needed to be jackhammered down about four feet, a process handled very carefully to avoid undermining the masonry walls. The whole space also needed water-proofing. Now that it’s finished, the lower level also houses two gyms, one for adults and one for the kids.
“My teens live in the basement and host hangouts and study groups downstairs,” the wife says. “Thank goodness there is a door, so I don’t need to see the mess every day.”

A Full Swing golf simulator is one of the big attractions of the finished basement rec space.

The Great Outdoors

Even with all the lovely rooms and fabulous amenities inside this home, the outside surroundings hold equal, if not greater, appeal. Every room on the first floor has double doors leading out to the large terrace, ideal for family use and entertaining; guests can mingle inside and out. Beyond the expansive lawn there’s a sizeable stone pier with deep-water access for swimming and boating.

“Our children have learned to love the Sound,” says the homeowner. “What’s not to love? In the summer my kids like to go on a kayak or paddle board. We also like to be on the water and are blessed with friends who can pick us up from the dock.” In the summer months, the family enjoys watching regular fireworks displays from neighboring yacht clubs.

The home’s excellent outdoor space is about to become even more enjoyable as a pool and pool house are currently under construction. Of course, the owners turned to the same dream team to make it happen, pros who have the vision to preserve a classic house while rendering it incredibly well suited to modern living. “Older homes can be reimagined. This is a great contemporary example of that,” Chuck says. “You wind up with a more unique and special home than you would have if you started from scratch. We now have a house that will live well for generations.”

As for the family living in it now, the world is their oyster.

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