A Historic Home on the Mystic River
April 15, 2020
Text by Maria LaPiana Photography by Michael Partenio
Many of the sea captain’s homes on the riverfront in Mystic were built, with varying degrees of authenticity, in the Greek Revival style. This circa-1842 home started out that way, but a fire ravaged the structure some time after the Civil War, and it was rebuilt with a mansard roof, giving it a distinctive look. It remains one of the prettiest houses on what was once called Captain’s Row.
The home’s past wasn’t lost on Jenn Orr when she was charged with making over its interiors in 2016, but it was the present that inspired her the most. “My client was recently widowed and was trying to figure out his life after his loss,” remembers the Weston interior designer. “Although he had lived in many beautiful homes, this was the first time all of the decisions were his to make.”
The house is in a beautiful spot on the Mystic River, a corner lot within walking distance of downtown. The client has a large family, so he wanted a practical place where they could gather for summer fun. “It needed to work for wet towels, dogs, and older kids,” says Orr, “and he wanted a quiet space where he could work.” At 3,800 square feet, with four bedrooms and four full and two half-baths, there was plenty of room.
The client bought the house furnished, so they had to decide what to keep and what to buy new. “In the end we decided on a mix of new pieces and antiques,” says the designer. “We started by shopping in the showrooms in the city, where we sat on furniture and homed in on his vision.”
In a nod to the house’s rich history, says Orr, “We imagined it as a modern sea captain’s home. The vibe is nautical: navy, whites, naturals, and warm woods, with brass accents and antique accessories that might’ve belonged to a captain, including Chinese ceramics, African sculptures, and campaign-style furniture.”
The decor is very much a reflection of the homeowner and his interests; even his handiwork is on display. “He is a talented woodworker,” says Orr. “He turned the legs on two important furniture pieces, including the dining table.”
Hinting at the elevated craftsmanship to come, an antique rosewood wheel from Tucker Robbins sits in the entryway. The living room wall holds hand-hammered brass sconces made by a Swedish metalsmith who learned the art from her grandfather. At the heart of the dining room is a teak table made by Kariba Woodworks in Sandy Hook. The office space the client required was furnished with a U-shaped desk-and-drawer piece designed by Orr.
Nautical touches abound throughout, yet there’s no hint of cliché. Orr showed obvious respect for Mystic’s sense of place, but it was her client’s vision that informed her every move. The result is polished and urbane. “It was my job to listen and bring in elements that were meaningful to him,” she says, “and create a space that, most important, felt right.”
Interior design: Jenn Orr, Jenn Orr Design/Aubry Home