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Matter of Trust

A young architect pleases his most demandling clients––Mom and Dad

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Tria Giovan

    Only three years out of architecture school, then-27-year-old David Neff was not his parents' first choice to design their new Connecticut home. Of course they adored their son, but Sally and Tom Neff had renovated several homes and knew plenty of architects and designers-all of them more experienced than David. "The biggest sales pitch I've ever made was to get this job," says David. He had worked on 50 houses with fellow architects, but this would be his first as lead designer. "I think they were understandably nervous."

    Sally and Tom agreed to consider some of David's drawings; maybe he could collaborate with another architect, they suggested kindly. "I think they were just humoring me," he says. But David threw himself into the project, seeking guidance from architect and then-boss Jonathan Lanman and other professionals, and won his parents' confidence.

    Architect: David Neff, Neff Architecture, 96 Second Ave., Suite 3B, New York, NY 10003; 917/647-2039; neffarchitecture.com.
    Interior design: Jennifer Garrigues, Jennifer Garrigues Inc. Interior Design, 954 Lexington Ave., Suite 225, New York, NY 10021; 212/249-2516; jennifergarrigues.com. 
    Builder/contractor: Nordic Custom Builders Inc., 125 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich, CT 06830; 203/629-0430, nordiccustom.com.
    Architectural landscaper: Mario Nievera, Mario Nievera Design Inc., 38 W. 10th St., Suite 2, New York, NY 10011; 212/533-2683; marionieveradesign.com.

    Photography: Tria Giovan
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam

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    The foyer sets the tone for the house, with a two-story ceiling, a wall of windows, and a glass back door that looks to the outdoors. "What I love in this house is walking through the front door and seeing another door that takes you outside," Sally says.

    The foyer opens to a conservatory-like dining room, which occupies the first level of a three-floor octagonal tower. The second floor of the tower is a bedroom, and the top floor is Sally's office.

    Wallpaper ("Kew Damask''/Beige #2010W-8): Carleton V, 212/355-4525.
    Bench: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/659-7085.
    Bench fabric ("Botanica''/Multi Green on White #008340T); drapery ("Contessa''/Terra-Cotta, Green, Taupe #HC1270T-05 by Home Couture): Quadrille Wallpapers & Fabrics, 212/753-2995, trade only.
    Dining room table ("Sutcliffe'' #807); chandelier ("Erba'' #6046): Dessin Fournir, 785/434-2777, trade only.
    Chairs ("Brighton Armchairs''); drapery hardware: Jonas Upholstery, 212/691-2777, trade only.
    Drapery (linen sheer in Bronze #P392-56): Arabel Fabrics Inc., 800/759-9808. Sconces ("Ines'' #1030): Ironware International, 800/850-0460, trade only.
    Rug ("Madras Sisal''/Tama): Oakley Looms through Paul Bebble & Assoc., 561/575-3397, paulbebble.com, trade only.
    Leaf sculptures in front of drapes (iron topiaries): John Rosselli Antiques, 212/750-0060.
    Wall glaze; decorative painting: Andrew Tedesco Studios Inc., 212/924-8438.
    Ceiling and trim paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    The foyer's 8-foot-high paneling offers spots for favorite paintings. Previous homes influenced many of Tom and Sally's preferences. After living in two light-deprived residences, they insisted on a floor plan that allowed for plenty of sunlight and views of the outdoors. They also wanted a traditional-looking home, with built-in window seats, paneling, and other architectural features they had enjoyed in an earlier home. David designed a stone-and-shingle house with a kitchen-family room wing that angles outward from the foyer. "The house rambles along the site, responding to the views and the sun," he says. "We wanted a plan that flows out into the landscape and is open."

    Side table ("Portuguese Writing Table'' #536-113-02): Ebanista, 954/921-4313. Sconces ("Single-Arm Shellback Sconce'' #0445): John Rosselli & Assoc., 954/920-1700.
    Rug (Oushak): Eliko Oriental Rugs, 212/725-1600.

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    It wasn't always smooth sailing. There were multiple floor plans, questions that oozed lack of trust, and a couple of old-fashioned family blowups. ("There were a few times I reverted to being a bratty teenager when I didn't get my way," David confesses.) Everyone agrees, however, that in the end it was a highly successful collaboration of parents, son, landscape designer Mario Nievera, and interior designer Jennifer Garrigues. "There was a strong collaboration because we felt so comfortable with each other," David says.

    In the living room, two comfortable sofas are placed back to back, each facing a fireplace at either end of the large space. A console table was placed between the sofas and outfitted with chocolate-colored lamps. "Rather than a typical porcelain or flowered lamp, we looked for something with a little bit of an edge to it," says designer Garrigues. To make the new house appear old, David, as architect, eschewed recessed ceiling lights and instead used sconces, chandeliers, and floor and table lamps.

    Rug ("Bessarabian'' #248114A by Doris Leslie Blau): Stark Carpet Corp., 212/752-9000, trade only.
    Sofas: owner's collection.
    Fabric ("Alma''/Champagne #F2262-02): Pierre Frey, 212/213-3099, pierrefrey.com, trade only.
    Coffee table ("Bamboo Leg Coffee Table'' #814): Robert Lighton, 954/921-0085. Console table; side armchair: owner's collection.
    Black table lamps: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/659-7085.
    Sconces ("Queen Anne Sconce'' #1079): Paul Ferrante Inc., 323/653-4142, paulferrante.com, trade only.
    Upholstered chair (in florals); upholstered chair (in paisley); Chinese figures: owner's collection.
    Floral fabric ("Hippolyta''/Cream, Cherry, Green #FD196-J49); paisley fabric ("Palomar''/Red, Green #R1394-5): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563, leejofa.com, trade only. Available through Janis V. Inc., 954/921-2203.
    Orange bowl holding flowers; pillows on sofa; red jars: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/659-7085.
    Console between sofas ("Indo Bamboo'' #1950): PierceMartin, 800/334-8701, piercemartin.com, trade only.
    Drapery sheers ("Scrim''/Natural #2606290): Schumacher, fschumacher.com, trade only.
    Drapery trim (bowtie ribbon #T30433): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563, trade only.
    Drapery hardware (custom): Jonas Upholstery, 212/691-2777, trade only.
    Ottoman: Custom Furniture by Laitamaki, 561/586-8556.
    Ottoman fabric ("Presto''/Ocean Blue #4719-02, discontinued): Donghia Furniture/Textiles Ltd., 914/662-2377, donghia.com, trade only.

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    The ceiling in the living room is 11 feet high. Throughout the main level, ceilings are at least 10 feet high.

    Console table against wall, side armchair: Homeowner's collection.
    Side-armchair fabric ("Melford Stripe''/Sand #F3213-06, by Colefax & Fowler): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com, trade only.
    Blue vases on console table, tortoiseshell on stand: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/ 659-7085.
    Candlesticks, calligraphy brush on stand: Homeowner's collection.
    Wall paint (custom glaze): Andrew Tedesco Studios Inc., 212/924-8438.
    Ceiling and trim paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    Muralist Andrew Tedesco was enlisted to paint an elegant yet restrained design on the library ceiling.

    Window treatment ("Pinstripe''/Green #6205-2): Jane Shelton Inc., 601/936-4540, janeshelton.com, trade only.
    Sofa (custom); ottoman (custom); throw on sofa: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/ 659-7085.
    Sofa fabric ("Tendo''/Beige #10036-892): Zimmer + Rohde, 866/627-6899, zimmer-rohde.com, trade only.
    Ottoman fabric ("Neruda''/Mustard #10106-03): Donghia Furniture/Textiles Ltd., 914/662-2377, trade only.
    Three-leg mosaic side table (#SB46): Wunderley, 724/850-9616.
    Wing chair; bolster pillow: owner's collection.
    Plain fabric on wing chair (beige linen #24570-30): Kravet, 888/457-2838, kravet.com, trade only. Available through Janis V. Inc.954/921-2203, trade only.
    Striped fabric on wing chair ("Lindos''/Orange, Brown, Olive, Beige #TT14670.00): Christopher Hyland Inc., 212/688-6121, christopherhyland.com, trade only.
    Decorative painting on ceiling: Andrew Tedesco Studios Inc., 212/924-8438.
    Rug ("Bessarabian'' #248105A by Doris Leslie Blau): Stark Carpet Corp., 212/752-9000, trade only.
    Lights over bookcase ("Adjustable Library Wall Lamp'' #BB2602): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, circalighting.com.
    Wall paint ("Henderson Buff'' #HC-15): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    Lined with French doors and mirrored walls that lead to and reflect gardens beyond, the dining room feels like a conservatory. Andrew Tedesco created a scroll-and-vine pattern on canvas that was applied between the beams of the octagonal ceiling.

    Table ("Sutcliffe'' #807); chandelier ("Erba'' #6046): Dessin Fournir, 785/434-2777, trade only.
    Chairs ("Brighton Armchairs''); drapery hardware: Jonas Upholstery, 212/691-2777, trade only.
    Drapery (linen sheer in Bronze #P392-56): Arabel Fabrics Inc., 800/759-9808. Sconces ("Ines'' #1030): Ironware International, 800/850-0460, trade only.
    Rug ("Madras Sisal''/Tama): Oakley Looms through Paul Bebble & Assoc., 561/575-3397, paulbebble.com, trade only.
    Leaf sculptures in front of drapes (iron topiaries): John Rosselli Antiques, 212/750-0060.
    Wall glaze; decorative painting: Andrew Tedesco Studios Inc., 212/924-8438.
    Ceiling and trim paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    Sally and David designed the kitchen with few upper cabinets and glass-front cabinet doors to give it an old-fashioned feel.

    Cabinetry: Grace, Ryan & Magnus Millwork, LLC, 914/665-0902.
    Cooktop (#VGRT362-4G): Viking, 888/845-4641, vikingrange.com.
    Sink ("Franke Apron-Front Manor House Sink'' #MHX710-33): Franke KSD, 800/626-5771, frankeksd.com.
    Faucet (#U4756L, satin nickel): Perrin & Rowe through Rohl, 800/777-9762, rohlhome.com.
    Backsplash ("Verde Luna'' mosaic tile, Sicis Imperium Collection): Walker Zanger, 818/504-0235, walkerzanger.com.
    Countertops: Calacatta marble.
    Floors (Brazilian Cherry): Geysir Hardwood Floors, 914/381-4100, geysirfloors.com. Pendant lights over island ("Petersburg'' #3412, satin nickel): Hudson Valley Lighting, 845/561-0300, hudsonvalleylighting.com.
    Wall paint ("Pale Hound'' #71); island paint ("Green Stone'' #12): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, farrow-ball.com.
    Cabinetry paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
    Bar stools ("Prescott'' #0-340, by Orlando Diaz Azcuy): McGuire, 415/241-1228, kohlerinteriors.com.
    Bar-stool fabric ("Sassari''/Pod #910058-06): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068, trade only.

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    A kitchen banquette with a view to the outdoors is one of Sally and Tom's favorite sitting spots.

    Tortoise blinds: Jonas Upholstery, 212/691-2777, trade only.
    Banquette fabric ("Quentin''/Reds with Tan #4024-2): Jane Shelton Inc., 601/936-4540, trade only.
    Pillow in green ticking stripe (#24914-130): Kravet, 888/457-2838, trade only. Available through Janis V. Inc.954/921-2203, trade only.
    Table: Amy Perlin Antiques, 212/593-5756.
    Chairs (Cafe side chair in leather): Fong Bros. through Wayne Lagana & Co., 954/962-6655. Light over table ("Colonial'' #2071): Paul Ferrante Inc., 323/653-4142, paulferrante.com, trade only.
    Cabinetry: Grace, Ryan & Magnus Millwork, LLC, 914/665-0902.
    Cabinetry paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    Grass terraces step down to a lap pool with a Jacuzzi.

    Stone and landscaping contractor: Luppino Landscaping & Masonry Inc., 914/666-7028.

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    A four-poster bed nestles under sloping beadboard ceilings in the master bedroom.

    Bed ("Willa"): Oly, 775/336-2100, olystudio.com, trade only.
    Bench ("Adam Bench'' #6334 by Thomas Pheasant): Baker, 800/592-2537, kohlerinteriors.com.
    Bench fabric ("Mezquita''/Safran #F2498-004): Pierre Frey, 212/213-3099, trade only. Fabric on pillow shams ("Chinese Pheasant''/Regular on Oatmeal); comforter and box-spring ("Calicut Paisley''/Chinese Lime): Bennison Fabrics Inc., 212/223-0373, trade only.
    Rug by bed (Oushak): Eliko Antique & Decorative Rugs, 212/725-1600, elikorugs.com. Sheers ("Rete''/Celery #82001-05): A.M. Collections Ltd., 212/625-2616.
    Striped wallpaper ("Palermo Stripe''/Sage #8093-51): Hines & Co., 800/996-9607, trade only.
    Trim and ceiling paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667. Table lamp on bedside table: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/659-7085.
    Carpet ("Key West''/Gold): Oakley Looms through Paul Bebble & Assoc., 561/575-3397, trade only.

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    The master bedroom features one of the window seats that were important to Sally. "Sally wanted a peaceful but interesting house that would showcase art and the beautiful furniture," says designer Garrigues.

    Fabric on chair and ottoman ("Chinese Pheasant''/Regular on Oatmeal); window-seat cover ("Calicut Paisley''/Chinese Lime): Bennison Fabrics Inc., 212/223-0373, trade only.
    Chair and ottoman; side table; table lamp; pillow on window seat; sconces: owner's collection.
    Striped wallpaper ("Palermo Stripe''/Sage #8093-51): Hines & Co., 800/996-9607, trade only.
    Trim and ceiling paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.

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    A vintage-style soaking tub stars in the master bath.

    Sheer Roman shades ("Rete"/Celery #82001-05): A.M. Collections Ltd., 212/625-2616.
    Bathtub ("Tuscany III," Finishing Touch): Klaff's of Norwalk, 203/295-1544.
    Marble floor (Thassos and Bursa Beige Basketweave): Greenwich Tile & Marble Co., 203/869-1709.

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    Great views await guests waking up in the second-level tower bedroom.

    Drapery, chair fabric, shades ("Marquesas''/Sea #825B80): Raoul Textiles, 805/965-1694, trade only.
    Chair and small ottoman; dressing table; bed cover; cover at end of bed: owner's collection.
    Bed (faux bamboo, chipped antique white finish #7805): Louis J. Solomon Inc., 631/232-5300, louisjsolomon.com, trade only.
    Drapery rods: Fiorenza Custom Upholstery, 914/699-9261.
    Wall paint ("Hawthorne Yellow'' #HC-4); trim and ceiling paint ("Cloud White'' #967): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
    Area rug ("Woodstock''/Lemondrop #70-346): Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700, trade only.
    White wicker chair: Jennifer Garrigues Inc., 561/659-7085.

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    Architect David Neff.

    Creating a new house with old-fashioned style was always the goal, David says. “We tried to capture the spirit of a shingle-style house and adapt it to modern living by simplifying the detailing and making the house brighter and more open than an original would have been. That goal informed every aspect of the design—from the exterior massing to the floor plan to the details.” And was he successful? Just ask his proud parents: “We love it.”

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