An Updated Midcentury Modern Home in Fairfield County

July 9, 2024

A husband-and-wife design team reimagines their dated Darien home for twenty-first-century living.

Text by Fred Albert     Photography by Willie Cole

“Nothing ages so quickly as yesterday’s vision of the future,” writer Richard Corliss once proclaimed. And while Corliss was talking about movies, the same holds true for architecture, too. What once seemed prophetic often becomes passé.

Consider the case of a contemporary home built in 1956 in Darien. Although it bore some of the hallmarks of Philip Johnson’s iconic Glass House four miles away, it lacked the latter’s daring, discipline, and detail. By the time Tom and Linda Carruthers purchased the home in 2022, time and neglect had reduced it to a dingy, dated relic.

A veteran design/build team that usually develops houses for others, the Carrutherses were enchanted by the home’s private hilltop setting, mature plantings, and sensational views of Long Island and the Sound. “We just fell in love with the location,” says Tom, who saw this as an opportunity to create something tailored to their own tastes and lifestyle.

Working with architect Matthew Dougherty and McCafferty Construction, the couple gutted the house and reworked the floor plan, eliminating walls in the public areas and giving every bedroom its own bath. “The flow through the house may have been good for the 1950s, but it was not a good scenario for today’s living,” Dougherty says. The garage was converted to living space, and a new carport was added, along with a covered patio crowned by a roof-deck.

The resulting home honors the midcentury-modern style in spirit, if not execution. “We’re not purists,” concedes Linda, who was eager to trade stark minimalism for something more soothing that deferred to the landscape and view outside.

Dougherty enlarged the stingy front door and raised the roof above it to lure visitors into the entry hall. “The front door was not very welcoming before, so we did a lot to emphasize where you should come into the house,” says the architect, who rewarded visitors with a panoramic view from the window wall at the end of the hall.

The vista continues in the great room, which Dougherty wrapped with floor-to-ceiling windows and sliders that set the interior ablaze at sunrise and welcome views of coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, and—on one occasion—a deer giving birth.

A dropped ceiling defines the dining area within the open plan, which Linda furnished with understated contemporary pieces in seductive shades
of cream and white. “I didn’t want a lot of pattern, and I didn’t want a lot of busyness,” she explains.“I just wanted it to feel serene.”

Shorn of its confining walls, the kitchen now enjoys wraparound views. The cabinets were painted white and adorned with the barest of Shaker frames. “I don’t like a flat-paneled door, so I had to put something on them,” Linda remarks. A single wall of wood cabinets adds a welcome touch of warmth and echoes the white-oak floors throughout.

“We came from a big house that needed constant work,” Linda says, “so our goal was to have as little outside maintenance as possible.” Stucco siding was incised to look like stone, then invigorated with easy-care accents of corrugated steel and fluted composite wood. The marriage of materials should keep the composition looking fresh in the days ahead—and well into the future.

Project Team
Architecture: Matthew R. Dougherty Architect
Interior design: Carruthers Designs
Builder: McCafferty Construction
Landscape design: Thomas J. Costello Landscaping

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