Dezeen Magazine

Double-height living room

Stewart-Schafer renovates modernist house in Connecticut woods

The founders of Brooklyn studio Stewart-Schafer have renovated a modernist home in Connecticut for themselves, using a natural colour palette to complement the surrounding woodland.

James Veal and Christine Stucker, co-principals of Stewart-Schafer, chose to overhaul the modernist-style "architectural gem" for their family

Living room view facing fireplace
Stewart-Schafer principals James Veal and Christine Stucker added a personal touch to a house in Easton

Built in 1984, the four-bedroom home sits within 18 acres of woodland in the town of Easton, a 62-mile (100-kilometre) commute from New York City.

"The bones of the house and property were incredible," Veal and Stucker told Dezeen. "You can tell the original owners who had this house built put a lot of love into it, no detail was spared."

Hallway with modernist chairs leading to deck
The studio replaced some of the floor-to-ceiling windows and doors during renovation work

They had been searching for a house in Connecticut for a year, to no avail.

But when they found this 4,700-square-foot (437-square-metre) residence on Morehouse Road it was "love at first sight" and they put in an offer almost immediately after viewing.

Kitchen renovated with wood cabinetry
The kitchen was given an update using wooden cabinetry

"Sadly the second owners did not maintain it over the years and there were several things that needed to be fixed and replaced," they added.

An extensive renovation involved updating the family room, kitchen, and powder room, and redesigning the interiors throughout.

Family room with custom sofa
A large bedroom was converted into a family room upstairs

Several of the large glass windows and doors were replaced, and the exterior was transformed with new decking and planting after clearing the site of dead trees.

The couple also renovated a cabin in the woods on the property, to serve as a guest house.

Upstairs corridor
Textures and colours were chosen to complement the original architecture

In both buildings, a blend of Japanese and Scandinavian decor was used to complement the existing wooden floors, ceilings and other joinery, in order to stay true to the original designs.

Bedrooms and bathrooms were painted with earthy hues, while other rooms feature rugs, upholstery and bedding that continue the same palette.

Rugs and upholstery continue the natural colour scheme in the bedrooms

"With all the wood and views of the property we knew that inside we needed to play on those organic colours," said the duo. "We used various textures throughout the home to balance things out."

The main house is split over three floors, with the majority of living space located on the central level.

Bedroom with dark-coloured walls
Clerestory windows bring light into the upstairs bedrooms from multiple sides

A double-height formal living room and adjacent dining area have decks on either side and connect to the separate kitchen that features white tiling and wood cabinetry.

The primary bedroom suite on the same level leads to an indoor pool, which can be exposed to the elements by fully sliding back a floor-to-ceiling glass wall.

Upstairs, a large bedroom was converted into a family room with a custom-made modular sofa.

"Originally it was just a huge open bedroom with no real sense of direction or purpose," said Veal and Stucker. "By adding a fireplace and custom millwork along an oversized double sided sofa this room serves so many purposes."

Bathroom with dark grey walls
Bathrooms were painted in darker hues

This room and two further bedrooms on the top level have clerestory windows that allow natural light to enter from multiple sides.

The lowest level accommodates a home office and a mechanical room. All of the floors are connected by both internal stair flights with open risers and a black spiral staircase outside.

Outdoor deck with chairs
The project involved replacing the outdoor decking and planting new foilage

Overall, Stewart-Schafer aimed to imbue the almost 40-year-old house with contemporary flourishes that respect and celebrate the original architecture.

"We really feel like this house has been a great example of how good design stands the test of time," the couple said. "We feel even in 30 more years it will still be very relevant."

Morehouse surrounded by woodland
Built in 1984, the house sits on 18 acres of woodland

There are many examples of modernist architecture Southwest Connecticut – an affluent area where many New Yorkers have long chosen to live within easy reach of the city, but with the benefits of rural surroundings.

Others that have been updated in the past few years include a Marcel Breuer home expanded by Toshiko Mori and a mid-century residence renovated by Joel Sanders.

The photography is by Alice Gao.

More images and plans

Morehouse plans
Exterior with trees