A young architect pleases his most demandling clients––Mom and Dad
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
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.
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."
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.
The ceiling in the living room is 11 feet high. Throughout the main level, ceilings are at least 10 feet high.
Muralist Andrew Tedesco was enlisted to paint an elegant yet restrained design on the library ceiling.
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.
Sally and David designed the kitchen with few upper cabinets and glass-front cabinet doors to give it an old-fashioned feel.
A kitchen banquette with a view to the outdoors is one of Sally and Tom's favorite sitting spots.
Grass terraces step down to a lap pool with a Jacuzzi.
A four-poster bed nestles under sloping beadboard ceilings in the master bedroom.
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.
A vintage-style soaking tub stars in the master bath.
Great views await guests waking up in the second-level tower bedroom.
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.”