A Brave New World
October 12, 2012
Text by Megan Fulweiler Photography by Laura Moss
Their quest? Find the proverbial needle in a haystack. In a neighborhood of gorgeous classic homes, Tony and Anne Greenberg were searching for something different. “We wanted a contemporary house in the land of colonials,” quips Tony.
The couple’s hunt eventually circled back to the first dwelling their real estate agent had suggested: a rare 1960s design. Never mind that the structure warranted serious updating. The Fairfield County location was ideal and the backyard landscaping (pool included) was lovely.
The Greenbergs (Tony is president of Up Ventures, a New York real estate development and investment company; Anne is an entrepreneur and co-founder of the Society of Lacquer, a media company focused on the nail enthusiast) took possession and, with two little daughters in tow, moved in for the summer to get acquainted with their new address and better understand its issues.
At season’s end, with their thoughts together, the couple called for professional help. A number of skillful architects responded, but the chemistry with Greenwich-based architect Laura Kaehler was spot on. Over time, the owners, who have a passion for art and a keen interest in design, had accumulated dozens of ideas. Kaehler grasped their vision, says Tony. “She understood we wanted to blow the place up and make it wide open.”
Beyond adding space, the young couple wanted a home that felt fun—a spirited everyday nest as well as a cool venue for entertaining.
Having enlisted their design team, which included Kaehler; project architect Victor Sheptovitsky, who has since moved on to another firm; interior decorator Michael Popowitz also from Laura Kaehler Architects; and New Canaan–based Hoffman Contracting, the owners felt safe retreating to the city while construction was under way. The transformation, which entailed gutting 95 percent of the existing house, consumed the better part of two years. Once the dust finally cleared, however, it was evident every minute had been well spent.
The original dwelling consisted of a pair of two-story structures linked by a single-story entry. Kaehler’s ingenious reconfiguration maintains the basic shape but adds major drama and excitement. A soaring new entry and a spacious master suite addition above the kitchen/dining area catapult the airy design, which grew from 4,500 to 6,400 family-friendly square feet, solidly into the twenty-first century.
The parents have a sanctuary with all the desired elements: private sitting room, bedroom, luxe pebble-floored bath, dressing room for Tony and a glamorously girly make-up room for Anne (complete with chandelier and satin-etched mirror).
The children, in addition to their bedrooms, have a cheery playroom with a durable Marmoleum tiled floor. And there are extras: a balcony cantilevered over one end of the living room affords a spot for reading or crazy-busy parents-need-time-out conversation.
Although yesterday’s house also had a contemporary design, the space seemed stubbornly closed off from nature. Adding multiple windows and glass doors to maximize garden views and lengthening the deck for greater outdoor access has changed all that. Even the motor court and driveway have been reconfigured. Today’s traffic is directed right to the front door, rather than alongside the garage as in the past. A dry stream bed (in reality, a subtle drainage solution) just beyond the entry, developed in collaboration with Fairfield landscape architect Diane Devore, plays on the home’s slightly Asian feel. Visitors cross the stream via a mahogany footbridge, which turns every arrival into a distinct journey, explains Kaehler. “The bridge makes you feel like you’re going somewhere very special.”
When the front door opens, that becomes “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” apparent. The architecture is clean, the materials heady and the finishes beautiful. The Greenbergs’ modern sensibilities shine from one polished corner to the next.
The chic foyer sets the tone. One of the many requests the very involved owners posed was the slick marriage of mahogany slats and LEDs that line the wall here. Kaehler’s eye-catching custom design steps the slats in and out, boosting interest. On the opposite wall, she designed an artful Mondrian-like pattern of clear and frosted glass along with mesh panels to highlight the staircase and provide privacy for the second level.
Forge ahead into the dining room and the ultramodern vocabulary continues to unfold. From the ceiling’s recessed core, which is clad in a glass-beaded wallcovering and illuminated with color-changing lighting, swings a Bocci chandelier. Philippe Starck’s Mademoiselle chairs with Lucite legs appear to barely settle upon the gleaming ebony-stained oak floor. A custom-colored Mirtillo buffet by Mytto backs into a niche dressed in a Phillip Jeffries lacquered dark-as-night wallcovering. Reminiscent of a shadow box, the niche spotlights the edgy green piece and colorful Gabriel Ben-Chaim painting, inherited from Tony’s grandmother, above.
The Greenbergs’ art collection was launched during their city days. Finally, with wall space to spare, they could expand. Not influenced by what or who is currently in vogue, the couple buys dynamic pieces they love, primarily by international pop surrealist artists they admire such as KAWS, SupaKitch and Tim Biskup. Increasingly in-demand Pop Surrealism, which began in the 1970s, utilizes cartoon imagery and culls ideas from popular culture. The atmospheric painting hanging over the double-sided fireplace that separates the living room from Tony’s study is by Manga comics–inspired Thai artist Sung.
Really, the entire light-filled house couldn’t be a better art showcase. The living room’s pristine resin floor, in particular, conveys a gallery-like ambience, even while being the quintessential spills-don’t-matter surface for a family. High-end furnishings in this lofty space include a Tord Boontje rug and a long, curvaceous de Sede leather couch. “When the owners watch the fire, they turn one way; to see the piano, they swivel in the opposite direction. The sofa’s back rests on a track,” decorator Popowitz says with obvious glee.
No doubt he’s delighting in the countless details that make the home as livable as it is memorable. Imagine if every project ended with all parties so equally thrilled. “This was a real team effort,” Tony happily recalls. “We all said yes a lot.” •
Architecture and interior design: Laura Kaehler Architects
Builder: Hoffman Contracting
Landscape design: Diane Devore, Devore Associates