Keeping it in the Family

January 9, 2013

Text by Megan Fulweiler    Photography by John Gould Bessler    Produced by Stacy Kunstel

Parental suggestions all too often fall by the wayside, but every once in a while a child recognizes sound advice when he hears it. Consider interior designer Parker Rogers’s story. He and his partner, Christopher William Philip, had been house hunting for years to no avail. Then, Philip’s mother stepped in to offer the perfect solution. The duo could buy her Southport, Connecticut, home. In a win-win situation, the sale would ensure that the lovely 1916 center-hall colonial would stay in the family and free her to purchase a more age-friendly nest for herself.

Had Rogers and Philip, a senior vice president with the global ad agency Doremus, not heeded her advice they might still be looking for their dream residence. Instead, they wisely found Philip’s mother an equally stellar but more suitable abode, oversaw its remodeling and made sure she was happily ensconced.

As for giving the old homestead their personal stamp, that’s a process the two have been savoring, step by step, ever since. “It’s a labor of love,” Rogers says.

Because they both adored the house as it was, their modern advancements haven’t altered its original state. Sure, the roof was replaced, the heating system upgraded, the kitchen and master bath remodeled and the palette tweaked (“at least three times since we moved in,” Rogers admits), but the gracious layout and genteel old-school ambience remain in place. The house continues to be the family’s holiday gathering spot for siblings scattered far and wide. When, for a brief moment, the men toyed with the idea of relocation, the clan—nieces and nephews included—unanimously voted it down.

It’s a tribute the two don’t take lightly. “The more the merrier,” insists Rogers. “We want family and friends around even when there are little kids in tow. Houses are made for living. If something breaks, it doesn’t matter. Memories are what count.”

And, certainly, these rooms are filled with those. What keeps things fresh and welcoming is Rogers’s skillful mixing. Inherited antiques cozy up to newer pieces of furniture, whimsical contemporary candlesticks marry with old silver, and art abounds. Like his mentor, the late great American designer Albert Hadley, Rogers creates immensely comfortable rooms layered with meaningful details that draw people in. It’s no mystery why these timeless, chic spaces appeal to all ages.

The energetic Rogers credits Hadley’s encouragement with leading him to start his Southport-based firm, where, along with interior designer Katie Holmberg, he tends an ever-growing client roster. “Hadley was a classic southern gentleman. He played a great role in my life,” Rogers says.

Indeed, looking around Rogers and Philip’s living room, it doesn’t take much to imagine Hadley would feel right at home here. Book-lined shelves, antique bird prints, oriental rugs, sconces above the fireplace—it’s all so congenial. Endless options for where to sit or to set down a cocktail make the space as inviting as it is stylish. Beneath a whimsical pig painting (a birthday present from Philip to Rogers some twenty years ago) sits a bar with a heady assortment of fine scotch.

A vibrant painting by Byrd Swift lights the space like a sunrise. Take a seat on the leather sofa below the painting and your eye is drawn across the entry hall, where a bright red lantern hangs above a French antique table, and through to the dining room. There, antique English chairs upholstered in Ralph Lauren stripes, a handsome sideboard and Philip’s collection of antique Blue Willow china convey a traditional feeling of home without a hint of stuffiness.

Rogers, who claims never to have learned to cook, stands in awe of Philip’s abilities. No surprise then, that he was all for the kitchen renovation that enlarged the space by several feet, making room for crowd-pleasing conveniences like dual dishwashers, a trio of sinks and a hardworking Wolf range. The custom cabinets are topped with marble and a storage-boosting antique Irish cupboard tucks beneath the windows. But the floor is the real icing on the cake: a collaborative design by Hadley and Rogers along with decorative painter Topher Carnes of Finishing Impressions in Bridgeport, the stunning floor is a graphic visual treat.

The library, adjacent to the kitchen is, says Rogers, “our go-to-room.”And indeed it’s a retreat every house should have—a spot well suited for reading with a dog in your lap (the men own two) and the world at bay. Rogers added plenty of bookshelves and cleverly bumped out a window-lined alcove for a sofa sheathed in cheery Osborne & Little stripes.

On the second floor, Rogers has concocted the same senses-pleasing brew of comfort heavily laced with personal touches. In the master bedroom, a framed banner unearthed at a tag sale reminds the designer, an avid sailor, of days spent on the Cape. Shelves burst with books and antique night tables keep essentials at hand.

Last year, with the help of architect Silvia Erskine, the owners tackled the master bath. Out went the tub and in its stead arrived a generously sized walk-in shower. The elegant and airy room is fitted with a heated marble floor—a special gift for winter nights.

And, oh yes, on top of everything else, Philip is an avid gardener. When summer arrives, there’s no end to the flowers and vegetables. Warm-weather dinner parties are staged in a dear outdoor lattice building—more evidence, clearly, that what Rogers and Philips have forged is not merely a highly attractive home but a way of life that celebrates even the smallest moments.

“We feel very blessed,” says Rogers. “Our joy is in sharing what we have.”

Architecture: Silvia Erskine, Erskine-Middeleer Associates
Interior Design: Parker Rogers, Parker & Company
Builder: Mike Constantine, MLC Design Build
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