On the Waterfront
Fashion Designer Eileen Fisher’s Irvington home: a modern plan in a classical package with endless views of “living art”
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Fisher's elaborate closet
Although there are plenty of architectural details on the exterior, with porches and balconies, varying rooflines, and a mix of shingles and clapboard siding, on the inside, “the emphasis was on simplicity,” says Ferguson. “It’s a modern plan in a classical package. It’s almost naïve, deliberately not opulent.”
Not opulent, perhaps, but there is a feeling of restrained luxury that comes from many well-thought-out touches like mini-kitchenettes hidden behind doors near guest rooms, or a hallway library, or swaths of beautiful storage—or simply from the sunny, uncluttered spaces. Certainly the Japanese-style spa off the entrance hall is a serene indulgence. Fisher says she swims in the wave pool “a lot. Sometimes I’m obsessive—I’ve even had meetings in the spa,” she adds with a laugh. Spaces flow into one another, with Japanese panels hung in doorways to create what Fisher calls “elegant speed bumps,” yet there are clear divisions between the public and private spaces.
Interior designer Susan Anthony of Irvington along with Ferguson and Fisher settled on a subtle, neutral palette of bone, stone, and ivory for the walls. Reclaimed Southern pine floors stained a rich cherry show their age a little. “My son said, ‘Why build a new house that looks old, with the floors all banged up?’ But I like the feeling,” says Fisher.
When Fisher "wants to escape from the kids," she retreats to this inviting attic refuge.
The roomy, wedge-shaped kitchen occupies the middle wing, flanked by the family-room-cum-dining room on one side and the living room on the other. In the kitchen, a dining table occupies the half-round alcove, couches face cabinets hiding a TV, and stools at the counter overlook the cooking area, making it a comfortable, multi-purpose space. Simple flat-panel cabinets match those in the family room, where they form a graphic element on one wall.
The family room’s big picture window was Fisher’s idea. “I remember dancing in front of a picture window when I was tiny, so it reminds me of home,” she says of the house in Illinois where she grew up. “Seven kids, two adults, one bathroom,” she adds, smiling and shaking her head. “Somehow we managed.” Ferguson points out that the floor in the family room has reinforced joists so that she can dance in front of the window again, or “people can jump around in unison.” L-shaped sofas hug the corners; a replica of an old quilting table seats a dozen or more for dinner or business meetings. There are so many doorways, windows, and built-ins that it takes a while to realize there’s no art. (Fisher considers the view “living art.”)
Fisher's furniture is unfussy with simple, comfortable sofas as well as antiques and other pieces chosen for their classic lines.
In the living room is Fisher’s idea of “a mess”—a few piles of books on the floor, as she’s paring down her shelves. “I’m always organizing something,” she says. A piano, bongos, and portraits by her daughter add homey touches, and a bright vermillion mandala above the mantelpiece supplies a burst of color.
The free-floating sculptural spiral staircase leads to the studio and an assistant’s office on second floor—a reminder that Fisher works here as well as at her nearby office. A big, walk-in “working” closet separates the studio from her dressing room, where there’s sleek, cherry Shaker-style storage, another kitchenette tucked behind a door, and a skylight above a mirror hidden behind another door.
The bedroom’s beamed, barn-like ceiling and a Japanese bed that resembles a king-sized slab of rough-hewn wood are almost rustic, but the effect is softened by piles of pretty pillows and quilted bedding from Fisher’s line for Garnet Hill. In the master bath, there’s a shower and a steam room (but no tub), and the same soothing East-meets-West atmosphere as the spa, with Venetian plaster, a limestone floor, and more weathered oak trim. Another handsome staircase leads to the attic refuge, where cushioned benches, pillows on the floor, and draped, gauzy curtains framing the balcony and view beyond suggest a place to meditate.
“It’s a big house, but it doesn’t feel like it,” says Fisher. “I can be totally alone and not feel overwhelmed. What’s wonderful is all the different angles and the sunsets right in the middle of the view. It’s just what I wanted.”
Lynn Hazlewood is a freelance writer and editor who often writes about home décor and design.