This Is the Guesthouse of Our Dreams

The 7,500 square foot Greenwich guest house is used to host guests of the owners as well as educational lectures and charity events.



By Camille LeFevre, Houzz

File this guesthouse under the “We can dream, can’t we?” category. When a pair of gourmet chefs, who had their very own dream of an organic farm, had the opportunity to buy the property adjacent to their Greenwich, Connecticut, home, they jumped on it and never looked back. Inspired by Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet on the grounds of Versailles, this grand house is situated among pathways, formal gardens and an organic farm to grow produce for use in the chefs’ cooking.


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Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

Houzz at a Glance

Who stays here: Guests of the owners. Also used to host educational lectures and charity events.
Location: Greenwich, Connecticut
Size: 7,500 square feet (697 square meters)
Architect: Charles Hilton Architects

The guesthouse has a steeply pitched graduated slate roof, and is pierced with engaged timber dormers and walls of half-timbering. Randomly laid terra cotta brick tiles give the house its unique character. The corner tower serves as a focal point to the composition.

Architect Charles Hilton had the custom-made brick — thin Roman brick like that used in old Normandy houses — hand laid in a custom pattern. “The brick was laid in between the timbers, to be very planned and organic,” Hilton says. The guesthouse uses post-and-beam construction and has French-style windows. 

“In Europe you would have used limestone, but here there’s lots of fieldstone and granite, and stone walls on the property,” Hilton says. “So we used granite for the basement level, tower and fireplace.” The slate gray-green roof tiles graduate in thickness and size.

“The owner was very excited by the prospect of a tower,” Hilton says. The architect toured France to study Norman farmhouse architecture and brought back images that included buildings with towers. Finished with a whimsical cat and mouse finial, the tower houses the master suite and a study.

 

Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

This is the focal point of almost all the spaces in the house and sets the stylistic tone for the whole interior. Its ceiling — composed of antique timber planks supported by a dramatic system of antique hand-finished timber trusses — soars 2½ stories. Dining, living and gathering spaces are well defined by furniture groupings. Modern, open, decorative light fixtures of steel and iron also demarcate spaces within the great room’s open plan.


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The French plaster walls provide an Old World look and, being porous, also help with acoustics. “You can have 70 people in the great room and they can still enjoy private conversations,” Hilton says.

The great room opens onto the kitchen. Two bedrooms on the second floor overlook the space from cantilevered balconies. Used for dinner parties, in which the wife orchestrates the cooking, the great room is also used for educational purposes — the couple invite people in to lecture and teach about organic farming — and for charity fundraisers.

 

Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

In the kitchen, “a true chef’s kitchen,” Hilton says, the architect compressed the space down to a single story with a beam-and-plank ceiling. The center and eating islands have concrete tops. Countertops around the stove are stainless steel or zinc, while the stove hood was finished to resemble pewter.


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Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

Just below the study is the master bedroom, with oval clerestory windows and high cove ceilings covered in Venetian plaster. The walls are upholstered. The detailing around the windows includes scrollwork and medallions. The formal master, Hilton says, “was our suggestion. In French farmhouses, the aesthetic is rustic as you enter, but becomes more formal as the rooms become more private, which makes for interesting layering.”

 

Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

The master bath includes large windows overlooking the formal gardens. The cabinets were custom designed to resemble French furniture pieces. French limestone was used for the vanity countertop. The walls are covered in a gray-stripe wallpaper. “The white aesthetic is perfect for a clean, light, bright master bath,” Hilton says.

 

Nicholas Rotondi, original photo on Houzz

 

The guesthouse’s wine cellar includes custom-constructed oak storage. “In looking at French buildings, a lot of the towers are for pigeons and open on the ground floor, so you see the timber construction all the way up. So we did that here too, but finished in between the timbers,” Hilton explains. Limestone and brick pavers were used for the floor, providing a connection between the exterior and interior.

Despite the estate’s historic look and feel, Hilton says that “we incorporated lots of modern technologies, including a geothermal cooling and heating system, energy-efficient spray insulation, LED lighting, and energy-efficient technologies for water and electricity.”

 

 

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