A HOUSE IN THE COUNTRY

by Marisa Marcantonio


When my mother, Nancy Marcantonio, an interior designer living and working in Southport, Connecticut of NHM Interiors, wanted to build her own home, she turned to the Classical American architecture firm of Fairfax and Sammons, a New York and Palm Beach-based husband and wife team who design homes in the classical style with a nod to the needs of how we live today.

My mother has, over the years of working in design, developed a passion for Jeffersonian architecture and Georgian antiques. When the opportunity arose to design her own home, she took the time and did her research to find the right person to execute her vision. It became a wonderful journey. Her priorities included just six requests made to Richard: the living room must be central to the house and should be designed for living in. All the major rooms must have access to the garden; the master bedroom should be on the ground floor; the dining room must be an octagon (a pure bow to Jefferson), and the house should have a walled and private garden. And finally, the garages should not be seen when observing the facade or the garden (they were finally placed entirely underneath the house). For the exterior, a walled garden was designed with a 10 foot high battered wall, which, for the uninitiated means that, as in the old days, no mortar was used.

The creative dialog between architect and interior designer was alive and well from foundation to roof line, where proportion and symmetry were the key elements. Jeffersonian concepts and modern day living were fused, and it was a learning process for me, as I was privy to much of the process. From visiting the job site, to spending time with the amazingly knowledgeable Anne and Richard, to reading the exquisite hand-drawn plans and observing the various phases of construction, the house became a project my sister, Amanda Reynal, an interior designer with her firm Reynal Interiors, and I were a part of. The home took 6 months to plan and design on paper, and 18 months to build. The comfortable scale found at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Edgemont, a house my mother had discovered before her project began -- was inspiration. For materials, clapboard and flat board with wood quoining made the home look like a Jeffersonian house, built in wood not brick, to work within the Connecticut vernacular. The house turned out to be everything my mother had hoped for and more.

Fairfax and Sammons drawings define precise scale and symmetry. The layout and roof line of Lillifields was based loosely on Villa Malcontenta by Palladio.

The back of the house faces the road and sits behind a 10 foot battered wall, to keep the entrance private. The design for the garden is Italianate and rather more formal than the traditional English cottage garden. The house is turned around and the sunken garden creates privacy. The bay windows that flank the loggia have a 1930's Swedish classical feel.

In keeping with a New England vernacular, Lillifields is constructed of clapboard and wooden quoins. The steep roof functions well to throw off the snow of a New England winter. Tall chimneys give the house a strong presence.

The entry foyer with spiraling staircase flanked by columns define the rectangular space.

The living room is defined by an entablature, a cornice with medillions identical to the cornices on the exterior of the house, here rising to a barrel vaulted ceiling of 22 feet in height.

The octagonal dining room/library, a Jefferson favorite, is defined by a round dining table.

The kitchen with breakfast room and garden beyond, create a pastoral view. My mom wanted a chef's kitchen with tons of counter space and storage.

Elegant cabinetry and sky blue marble defined the master bath with classical detailing and made good use of the space.

A soaking tub was set in below floor level and the shower and water closet flanked the tub behind closed mirrored doors.

The loggia with barrel vaulted ceiling painted sky blue reflects light by diffusing it. The herringbone patterned brick of Boston Pavers provide an aged patina.