Louise Brooks’ New Canaan home grows with her family
They’re like old friends. Louise and Ned Brooks and their circa-1932 brick Colonial in New Canaan have spent 18 happy years together, growing and changing and reacting to each other in what has proven to be a beautiful friendship. When they purchased their home in 1985, the young couple had a 1-year-old, and Louise was a nascent architect, fitting in work when she could. (Ned works in finance.) “I was 90 percent mom, 10 percent work,” says Louise. That didn’t stop her, however, from attending to her own home. The house, she recalls, was very charming but very tired. With just a few updating touches—like adding a mantel over the living room fireplace—she made the house “lovely and livable.” Likewise, she terraced the backyard and breathed new life into the gardens. During this busy time, Louise and Ned had two more children.
By 1990, Louise had started to expand her architecture practice with the conversion of a screened porch on the back of the house into a glassed-in office. And when their children—Bickford, now 27; Maddie, 25; and Avery, 23—went to boarding school, Louise turned her attention to several projects she had been putting off, including the kitchen. “I had designed a new kitchen three different times over the years, but I just never could find the time to actually do it,” she says. Probably just as well, because the plan she ultimately used is quite different from the one she would have built when her children were toddlers. Now that her children are older, she says, “I no longer need the other things that are essential for a young growing family, like a family room off the kitchen.”
Louise appropriated and extended the existing garage to encompass her new kitchen and butler’s pantry. The old kitchen was incorporated into the dining room. The 500-square-foot kitchen includes an intimate dining spot and a cozy seating area with fireplace. A wall of French doors opens up to a new covered porch made possible by extending the old garage. It’s a favorite spot for Louise and Ned to dine and to entertain friends. Upstairs, above the kitchen and porch, Louise designed a new master suite with a balcony overlooking the terraced backyard.
“We have created our own little nest,” says Louise. “Everything Ned and I need is at the new end of the house: the cozy fire at night, our bedroom area above the kitchen.”
By extending the house to the rear and attaching the new garage with a porte-cochère, Louise was able to maintain the original symmetry of the structure. The only other change she made to the front exterior was to give it a bit of a facelift with a new portico over the entry and a charming new door designed with nine panes of glass and a double S-curved top. The graceful columns holding up the portico are a repeat of the columns used to support the roof of the covered porch in the rear. One amusing addition to the exterior is a birdhouse that was custom built directly into the peak of the new garage following the line of the roof. It is supported by an antique corbel—one of many that Louise has collected and incorporated into the house.
As for that screened porch that became a glassed-in office, it has been converted again—to a terrific family/television room. And because it is at the opposite end of the house from the kitchen and bedrooms, it is a perfect spot for the Brookses to have privacy and entertain friends. This third life proves not only the flexibility of the space and Louise’s thinking, but it also demonstrates the house’s continuing generosity in fulfilling the needs of the Brooks family.
Photography: Jeff McNamara
Produced by Bonnie Maharam
The bright and sunny seating area off the kitchen, shown on the previous slide, boasts a Rumford fireplace designed with a herringbone brick pattern. The new mantel is detailed with fluted columns and dentil molding. The surround is Delft tile.
With the exception of the mantel, the living room is little changed since Louise and Ned bought the house 26 years ago. Louise describes the room as having “old comfort.” The fireplace’s Delft tiles were carried back from Europe after World War I by the home’s original owner.
With just a few changes to the home’s interior, Louise has made it “lovely and livable.”
The family/TV room, which was originally a screened porch, became a home office when Louise went back to work full-time. Then, when she moved her office, it became a place where her teenagers could relax and enjoy privacy while entertaining their friends.
The new kitchen is a bright, breezy mix of Delft tile, gray-veined white marble, and creamy white cabinets.
When she designed the new kitchen, Louise also added a pantry. Fashioned for utility, it still offers plenty of charm with its glass-front cabinets, honed marble counters, and a dish rack to display Louise’s delft china.
The kitchen’s dining area opens to the new covered porch.
The new covered porch is a favorite spot for dining and entertaining.
The Brookses built their new master bedroom suite over the kitchen but extended it farther into the backyard to create a covered porch below it. Now French doors lead out to a balcony overlooking the terraced garden Louise designed.
Another view of the master suite shows the ceiling detail.
Clustered columns frame the covered porch and support the deck off the master bedroom.
Louise designed a whimsical built-in birdhouse in the eave over the garage.