In Grand Fashion

July 22, 2015

Text by Megan Fulweiler    Photography by Nat Rea     Produced by Stacy Kunstel

A homeowner and his designer conspire to bring a 1920s Tudor-style home up to date while safeguarding its fine craftsmanship and gracious spirit.

To label this simply a sensitive renovation would belie the scope of the project. No ordinary update, the elaborate makeover covered a number of years and entailed everything you can think of, from the replacement of mechanical systems to a restoration of the home’s gorgeous woodwork. Custom window replacements throughout, modernized baths, a gym where once the billiard room stood—the list seems endless. It’s as if the fairy godmother of old houses waved magic dust over the entire place and made it sparkle. The most amazing part of the story, however, is that despite being catapulted into this century, the gracious Riverside property in Old Greenwich has kept its integrity and character intact.

Of course, stop to consider who was involved, and it’s no wonder the outcome was spectacular. Businessman Ken Salamone has a history of rescuing timeworn houses, not for profit but for the sheer joy of infusing the aged beauties with life. And interior designer Skye Kirby Westcott’s twenty-five-year career has been nothing if not impressive. Holding posts at some of the toniest retailers in the country, including Lillian August and, currently, Arhaus, Westcott also maintains her own eponymous design firm based in Cohasset, Massachusetts. When she and Salamone met years—and several houses—ago, they had instant rapport.

That first fateful encounter occurred just before the Thanksgiving holiday and involved the purchase of a table. The designer, as luck would have it, happened to be strolling through the showroom on her way to somewhere else and was snagged by Salamone for help. Upon hearing a description of his dining room, she promptly let him know the model he’d chosen wouldn’t work. What he obviously needed was a round piece. “She was absolutely right,” Salamone recalls. “Everybody loves that table. Now, my mother has it.”

Confident for ever after of Westcott’s experienced eye, Salamone wouldn’t have bought this house without having her look it over first. But, as you might suspect since the friends share a mutual respect for the past, Westcott fell as hard for the unique, well-built house as he had. “I see things the way they could be. I see potential, and so does Skye,” says Salamone.

The classic timber-and-stone English Tudor–style residence was constructed in 1921 by Florence White, managing editor of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper. Commanding the top of a hill (once the site of a Revolutionary War lookout), it fairly glows in the morning’s east light and then enjoys perfect west light as the day winds down. Natural light, Westcott confirms, streams in, safeguarding the rooms from gloominess and showcasing the home’s incredible craftsmanship, too.

With the original blueprints as a guide, Salamone and Westcott—with assistance from Saratoga Springs, New York, architect Michael Phinney—were able to revive each room’s glory. Although there had been only a handful of previous owners and they’d all been excellent custodians, some unwelcome changes had occurred. Part of the dining room’s chair rail, for instance, had been removed. As a stylish remedy, a new, slightly less ornate chair rail was created that looks like it’s been there forever. Dinner guests, content on upholstered chairs that flank a Westcott-designed table, never guess otherwise, in fact.

The distinguished kitchen exudes an always-been-here air as well. But, in truth, it’s a brand-new version carefully orchestrated to fit the house, says Salamone. “My fiancée, Jessica Delguercio, played a big part in its design,” he says. Indeed, with its coffered ceiling, marble counters, and subtly cross-hatched faux-painted walls, this space is as gracious as all the other rooms. According to Salamone, use is giving the bronze-topped island an irresistible patina that illustrates how daily life unfolds.

What was once the butler’s pantry has become the breakfast room, which—thanks to the removal of an existing wall—opens to the comfortable family room. A favorite niche for everybody, the family room sports a maple ceiling. With the lustrous wood overhead and an antique carpet below, it’s the kind of warm haven that takes nesting to a whole new level.

Given the architecture’s drama, conjuring a suitable decor might have proved tricky for a lesser designer. But with Katie Leede’s artful fabrics for Holland & Sherry as her inspiration, Westcott has conjured just the right tone, from the entry to the tower where Salamone’s office is located. “I value every house I work on. I want each to be not just decorated, but a real home,” she says.

To that end, even accessories play a major role. Case in point? The living room and its cache of books and boat prints, each carefully chosen according to Salmone’s tastes and interests. Perhaps none warrant attention, though, quite like the tiny sea horses and sea urchins floating under individual glass domes. The wee specimens were a Westcott discovery, but they speak to the owner’s appreciation for nature and design. Another popular destination with plenty of seating for family and friends, the spacious room features twin Barclay Butera sofas in addition to its generous window seat. The leather-upholstered fireplace fender—an accoutrement no polished dwelling of this era would have been without—is original.

On the second level, two walls were removed to fashion a highly comfortable and chic master suite with an adjacent dressing room. Marble-fronted fireplaces lend each an extra dose of elegance.

Certainly, the owner’s bath also more than exceeds today’s standards for luxury, with its dual chrome-legged sinks and marble floor. Rather than highlight the room’s paneling, Westcott cleverly had all the woodwork finished in the same hue. It’s a technique often seen in older homes (as in British author Jane Austen’s house, the designer points out) that affords unity and enhances a sense of space. In the end, says Salamone happily, “Skye took my vision and made it reality. It’s a wonderful house. There’s good karma.”  •

Architecture: Michael Phinney, Phinney Design Group
Interior design: Skye Kirby Westcott
Builder: Artur Domka

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