February 28, 2015

A Parish-Hadley Alum's Gorgeous Country House in Connecticut

Interior Designer Nicholas Pentecost renovates a country retreat for himself and his partner, filling it with treasures collected through the years.

by Judith Nasatir interior designer Nicholas Pentecost Incorporated photographer Annie Schlechter/GMA Images


Imagination? Second sight? Interior vision? Great designers have all three, plus the serious practical smarts and directed will necessary to turn a beautiful idea into built reality. Nicholas Pentecost qualifies brilliantly on all counts. The Parish-Hadley alum's Connecticut country house makes that clear. When Pentecost and his partner originally saw the place, it didn't make the grade due to an off-kilter floor plan, warrens of little rooms on both levels, and a tunnel-like stair. At its core was a turn-of-the-20th-century saltbox, engulfed by two wings added sometime in the 1960s. "The kitchen," says Pentecost, "was a GE Kitchen of Tomorrow from the 1950s, with a service porch jumble adjacent."

Circumstances later led the couple back to the house, which is when they decided to make it what they wanted. The gut renovation yielded a beautifully balanced new floor plan with expansive, light-filled rooms that flow naturally off a formal central hall. Pentecost says he tried to imbue the reimagined residence with a 1920s sensibility, as that era sets a very high standard of graciousness for American residential architecture.

A fan of the classical and the neoclassical with a bent for the unusual, Pentecost has filled the rooms with a life's worth of collecting in the Grand Tour mode-plus some great, cushy upholstery and some 20th-century surprises. Antiquities or replicas thereof, 19th-century furniture, architectural models, Chinese porcelains, dog paintings, books, and so much more animate walls and tabletops. Everywhere the eye travels, it alights on something of beauty, arresting interest, and delight.

Nicholas Pentecost Library
Pentecost plays bridge in this corner of the library at a 19th-century Italian table surrounded by painted chairs from their former house.

With so much artwork, Pentecost felt it right to use a neutral palette, about which he quotes Albert Hadley: "There are many colors in beige." Nods to Mr. Hadley reverberate elsewhere, in the living room's tea papered walls, which have a subtle gold glimmer, and its red rug-"a statement," says Pentecost. There is also the pair's red library, the master bedroom's sauvage patterns and the bedside lamps, a house-warming present from Mr. Hadley for their Bridgehampton place thirty years ago.

The process of reinvention spanned a decade, but it certainly proved two points. The first? As Pentecost says, sometimes the second choice turns out to be the best choice. The second? That the first only turns out to be true in the hands of a great designer.