If houses could talk, some would be boisterous and others would barely utter a whisper. A new Shingle style home on a rocky ridge in Rye, New York, resonates with a lilting language all its own. The architect, McKee Patterson, AIA, of Austin Patterson Disston Architects in Southport, Connecticut, achieved a delicate balance of subtlety and grand presence through finely wrought details that allow the homeowners’ art—and the stunning waterfront setting—to shine.
Substantive yet graceful, the two-story home reveals the details slowly, over time. Patterson was pleased to hear the homeowners, who entertain frequently and host book club gatherings, relate little things their guests have discovered about their new home. “They like the detailing, and enjoy hearing quiet conversations about it,” Patterson says. This aligns perfectly with the philosophy of Austin Patterson Disston Architects, which has a second office in Quogue, Long Island, New York: “It’s having the right sensibilities to work through forms and be true to them,” Patterson says. “It’s also playing with subtleties that people discover more and more as they are there.”
Set back from the street and positioned about six feet above the grade, the award-winning home greets visitors in gracious style, appearing smaller than it actually is. “On the street side, we’re hiding the massing,” Patterson says. Working with the builder, Paul Tallman of Tallman Building Company in Fairfield, Connecticut, Patterson and the project manager, Gabriella Albini, took care to save old-growth maple and oak trees, giving the home a longstanding air.
The classic Shingle style exterior is perfect for displaying small touches: a rope frieze on the front windows; portal windows with decorative lacy framework that bookend the house; and diamond-pattern windows over the attic. Garlands of grapes stamped in zinc hang above a trio of window frames over the front door, a nuanced reference to the owners’ appreciation of wine. In back, a spacious screened-in porch set above a fieldstone foundation complements the exterior beautifully, while also giving the homeowners a comfortable way to enjoy the fresh air and another view of Long Island Sound.
The bright spirit continues inside, starting at the entry, where Patterson designed a center hallway colonial setup, with a series of columns standing to each side. The elegant colonnade connects and separates the living room, on the right, and the dining room, on the left, and leads the eye toward the water directly ahead. High on the walls, between the columns, are screened portal openings, another artful touch. An etched apothecary light, reflected in the shining dark oak floor, creates a bit of ornamentation.
“There’s a fine line between something looking too ornamented and not ornamental enough,” Patterson says. “It’s tricky to know where to stop and where to go.” Patterson and the homeowners agreed that the home should strike a balance, encouraging an easygoing pace without sacrificing beauty. As Patterson says, “It’s hitting the right balance of trim and décor, being welcoming and not stuffy.”
See more photos by Jeff McNamara
The setting, a rocky ridge with spectacular views, had held a ramshackle house where the homeowners lived while they raised their children. The structure, which originally had served as a pool house for a large estate, had outlived its purpose. “It made no sense as a house,” Patterson recalls. “It was all one story and was a piece of this, a piece of that, added together. None of it made sense.”
The couple brought their dream to Patterson: a home that would be cozy enough for the two of them, but large enough to accommodate their children and grandchildren, who visit for several weeks in the summer, spending long days swimming, sailing, and kayaking. They also wanted space to hang their art collection. Overall, a relaxed air was important to them, but so was elegance. “It was all about getting the right proportion of house to fit their program and fit on the lot, and not make the lot look small,” Patterson says. The gambrel rooflines of the 6,100-square-foot home gave Patterson a way to “sneak in some attic space,” which houses a children’s playroom, as well as storage.
The family spends a lot of time in the kitchen, breakfast room, and family room, a perfect place for the homeowners to express their love of classic boatbuilding. Thin mahogany columns, paired with cream-colored cabinetry, recall the work of Nathaniel Herreshoff, the iconic yacht designer and innovator.
In the kitchen, counters beautifully interpret the mahogany-and-cream combination, especially set against the ribbing above the stovetop and the stained-oak floor. In the circular breakfast room, deep windows and the thin column forms add depth and show off the water view. Off the kitchen, hidden by beaded panel doors, is a boot room where visitors can leave their outerwear. The kitchen, boot room, and family room all lead to the terrace, where a bracing water view awaits. All the rooms on the waterside—living room, family room, kitchen, breakfast room, and several bedrooms upstairs—offer views. After all, in this home, Patterson says, “it’s all about the water.”
It is about the water—mostly. The couple’s fine art and antiques collection also has plenty of light and space to shine. The bright living room, with a high coffered ceiling and built-in shelving next to the fireplace, is a perfect setting for paintings and art objects, working with the balanced ornamentation to hit just the right note. As Patterson says, “The intent was to not overdo it, but to make it sing.”