INTERVIEW WITH LAURA TUTUN, L TUTUN INTERIORS & FRANK MARSELLA, MARSELLA + KNOETGEN ARCHITECTS
You’ve both worked with these clients before. What is your history with them?
Frank Marsella: This is my third project for them, and they’re wonderful to work with. They’ve always had their eyes on this house and dreamed of buying it, and they belong to the golf club it’s located on.
Laura Tutun: This is the second home I’ve done with them. I had recently finished their first house when this property went on th e market, and the husband’s dream was always to live on a golf course. They loved the outside of it, but the interior was something else!
What drew them to this particular house?
LT: It was one of those great Old World, beautifully landscaped houses you want to inherit because there was very little to do landscape-wise. They really purchased it for the outside of the house, the location and the grounds—they loved the style of the house; it’s a gorgeous piece of property on the golf course; and it has great curb appeal and charm with a very romantic gravel driveway. You feel like Cary Grant will walk out the front door at any moment!
When did you both come on board for the project?
FM: The clients took me through the house after they had an accepted offer, and we talked about renovating it.
LT: I came on after the blueprints were signed off and construction was ready to begin. The clients are casual people—which probably makes sense when you see the pool table in the living room!—and I had just decorated an entire house for them, so we were in sync with how they wanted this house to look and feel. They wanted every room to have a purpose, and it was more a conversation about how we could incorporate pieces I had purchased for the home we had just done into this new home, where a lot of the rooms were much larger than the house they were coming from.
With a renovation in mind, did the clients even move in?
FM: No. With things like plaster walls, old radiators, old plumbing fixtures, cast-iron piping and an old steam-heating system, the home definitely needed an overhaul.
LT: It would have been almost impossible for them to live in the house the way it was, due to just how bad the electrical and plumbing were.
FM: I believe the house was built in the ’20s or ’30s. The right side looked like it was renovated in the ’80s, while the rest looked fairly original. We rewired and insulated the entire house, replaced all the windows and the heating and cooling systems, put on a new cedar roof and reskinned with new cedar shingle. We maintained some features, and several rooms remained in their existing locations. We were most aggressive with the right side.
How so? FM: The kitchen, butler’s pantry, laundry, a guest bedroom, a bathroom and a staircase that led to the second floor were in this area. The bathroom was too small, the staircase way too steep, the kitchen faced the front of the house, and the butler’s pantry was larger than you would expect. We removed all of the interior walls in this area and reconfigured it to include a guest bedroom where the kitchen used to be, a bathroom for the bedroom, a laundry room and a comfortable secondary staircase. We then occupied the rear portion with a family room with large openings to the backyard and the golf course.
The kitchen looks amazing. What updates were made?
FM: The clients wanted a larger, more open kitchen that was more centrally located. The kitchen had been on the far right-hand side of the house, so it was pretty awkward having it be that far from the dining room and living room. We relocated it so it faced the back of the house, and the breakfast area shifted to the front.
LT: The kitchen layout was by Deane, and then I tweaked some things in the layout. I chose the hardware, countertops, backsplash, lighting and plumbing fixtures. The wife and I fell in love with these slabs of statuary marble that we used for the island and the perimeter counters. We both love unlacquered brass, so we selected that for the hardware, lined the back of the two little niches in the upper cabinets with it and did a great unlacquered brass toe kick. The fireplace in the breakfast area was existing, but I designed a new mantel and that really beautiful bronze surround with bronze rivets, which were a nod to the rivets in the hood.
Other changes to the first floor?
FM: Everything to the left of the front door is the living room, and it’s really large. It had very nice original base molding and casing around the doors, so we replicated what was there and created an opening between the living room and dining room to join those spaces.
LT: The living room is enormous and typical of the time when it was built, and the issue was trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s off the back patio, and I thought it would have a nice entertaining flow with the dining room, so I threw out the idea of a pool table. I didn’t know how receptive the clients would be, but they loved it. They really wanted this room to be used, and they never thought they would put a pool table in the living room and a TV above the fireplace, but that’s what happened! They use this space all the time—it’s bigger than the family room and little off the beaten path, so their kids can be in the family room with friends, and the clients can be in here, and they’re not on top of each other.
What inspired the look and feel of this room?
LT: The wife loved the colors and the feel of Bunny Williams’ living room in her Dominican Republic house. It has a lot of icy blues, creams and soft greens, and that was the launching point for this space. We needed a place for people to sit when they’re playing pool, so we had those custom banquettes on either side of the pool table made. We also added the built-ins on either side of the fireplace. They’re lined with an icy-blue seagrass, and we added brass trimming on the shelves and drawer fronts.
Tell me about the dining room.
LT: The Gracie wallpaper in there is gorgeous, and the colors work really well with what we were doing in the living room. I had suggested that paper because the dining room isn’t super-large, and it was an opportunity to create this little jewel box. The colors of the Gracie panels also tie into the high-gloss, peacock blue lacquered butler’s pantry.
Speaking of the butler’s pantry, I love the finishes in there.
LT: That room is really special. The wallpaper is a gold metal, and the ceiling is papered in a fretwork gold pattern on a cork paper, so it has some texture to it. The counters and sink are bronze, and the backsplash is antique mirror.
Heading upstairs, the master suite is directly above the living room and the same size. How did you handle that?
LT: There was a fireplace on the wall where you would put the bed, so we had to eliminate the fireplace to accommodate a better floor plan and flow. It was unfortunate to remove it, but that was another hurdle we had in an older home with this layout. Because this room was so big, we added a Phillip Jeffries silvery-green seagrass on the walls to warm up the space; it just sparkles at night. A lot of the pieces, like the bed, the cream sofa and the makeup table, were in their previous bedroom. The clients weren’t originally going to renovate the master bath, but I told them I thought it was a mistake not to. We ended up completely gutting it six months into the project.
Any layouts changes on this floor?
FM: We made cosmetic changes to an existing bedroom that faces the back, renovated an existing hallway bathroom across from it, and then the kids’ study. Above the garage, we again aggressively renovated and reconfigured this entire area, which had three bedrooms, one bathroom and the secondary staircase. Here we created two fairly large en-suite bedrooms and rebuilt the stair.
LT: For the kids’ study, we wanted to create a den where the kids could spread out, focus, read and do homework and projects. We put matching large white lacquered desks for homework and a big, comfy sectional for reading. This space covers a lot of functions; it’s one you want to be in.
Sounds like this was quite the project!
FM: It was, but the clients were very willing to work with the house, not for budget reasons, but out of respect for it. We went in carefully, and we were more aggressive in areas where renovations had previously taken place and there was nothing of value. It’s great to work with clients who buy a house because they love it and have respect for what was there.
LT: It was one of those projects where every time a wall came down, the project got bigger! But at the end of the day, I think it completely checks off all the boxes. Every room has a special feature that I haven’t incorporated in another house before—the bronze counters and sink in the butler’s pantry, the unlacquered brass toe kick and bronze fireplace surround with rivets in the kitchen, the paneling I put in the family room. I work really hard to create those special little details you won’t see anywhere else. This home is warm, all about family, not super-overdecorated or precious. The clients are relaxed and down-to-earth, and that’s how they wanted their house to feel.
Interior designer and custom millwork: L Tutun Interiors, Rye, NY; 914-772-3614; lauratutuninteriors.com
Architect: Frank Marsella, AIA, Marsella + Knoetgen Architects, Mamaroneck, NY; 914-381-5198; mk-architects.com
Wallpaper installation: JM Shea, Ridgefield; 203-431-4437; jmshea.com
Butler’s pantry counters and sink: Brooks Custom, Mt. Kisco, NY; 914-666-2029; brookscustom.com
Accessories: Nest Inspired Home, Rye, NY; 914-921-6378; nestinspiredhome.com