Book Review: A House in the Country
Brush off your bookshelves and cocktail tables. I have a new design stunner you must add to your collection.
A House in the Country shares the genius and bold designs created by a well matched pair of creatives. Designer Katie Ridder and her architect husband, Peter Pennoyer create unexpected magic i their country home.
I was sold on all the color and can we talk about the purple tile please.
Nestled amid the lush, gently rolling hills of cattle and horse farms in Millbrook, New York, is a handsome Greek Revival house that looks like it’s always been there. In fact, it is brand new—the collaborative effort of architect Peter Pennoyer and his wife, interior designer Katie Ridder. In this irresistible book, exquisitely illustrated with specially commissioned photographs by Eric Piasecki, finely rendered plans, hand‑painted illustrations by Anton Glikin, and a gatefold pullout of the garden plan, complete with a comprehensive key to flowers and plantings, Pennoyer and Ridder tell the story of the conception, design, decoration, and landscaping of their dream house.
The couple had been thinking about building a getaway country house for years before they found the six‑and‑a‑half‑acre Millbrook site, which had all the features they had been looking for. Located off an old dirt road at a high point in the landscape, with views of a lake and distant hills, it was the ideal spot for a house, a formal garden, and a cutting garden. The site did pose significant challenges, however. They had to demolish the existing asbestos‑clad ranch house, clear the land of overgrowth, rocks, and farming debris, and excavate a new pond to replace a fetid bog. But as they restored the land, they were continually rewarded, as new vistas were revealed and the site itself seemed to grow larger.
The design of the house followed Pennoyer’s conviction that historical examples are a springboard for the imagination and offer compelling solutions for new architecture. So, though many characteristics of the house are classical and more specifically Greek Revival, it is also thoroughly contemporary. Each of the four façades is symmetrical in the classical manner, but each has a different character. The interior architecture has traditional moldings and symmetry, but a central atrium topped by a laylight (ceiling window) brings natural light flooding into the middle of the house, and the layout of the ground floor is virtually open plan, making the rooms less formal yet clearly defined by their ceilings and proportions. The house is also environmentally friendly, including such energy‑saving elements as a rain‑screen siding layer, a two‑part insulation system, full radiant flooring, a high‑efficiency boiler, and high‑efficiency LED lighting throughout.
The decoration is exuberantly colorful, textured, and layered in signature Katie Ridder style. The rich colors and eclectic patterns play off the antique wood furniture, including some classical pieces. Ridder also designed the gardens, for which she drew inspiration from Wave Hill, the public garden in the Bronx, among others. The centerpiece of the formal flower garden—with its lush, dense mix of more than two hundred perennials, annuals, rare plants, shrubs, and bulbs—is a rose‑ and white wisteria–draped pergola that serves as an outdoor living and dining room. A cutting garden features both ornamentals and edibles, and she has planted a woodland garden in the shade of existing oak and maple trees.
A House in the Country offers readers not only a virtual getaway but also a cornucopia of fresh design ideas.
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