In Martha's Backyard
A staid facade in Katonah, New York, conceals an explosive interior by Cherie Zucker
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 11/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
The road from the train station in Katonah, New York, passes the squadron of outbuildings that guard Martha Stewart's estate. Nearby sits Ralph Lauren's old stone manor. Farther along, set well back, an imposing 10,000-square-foot house skirts a broad clearing. The white clapboard facade is pure Ralph, down to its old-fashioned shutters and porch with Doric columns. But things are not entirely as they seem.
Though that facade looks as if it's been there awhile, it actually belongs to an entry wing hastily added two decades ago to the 1920's house behind. In the process, the layout had become too convoluted for the tastes of a New York couple who bought the place as a weekend house for their family. The first call was to interior designer Cherie Zucker, whose namesake firm had redone a city apartment and a corporate reading room for the owners and whose taste, similar to theirs, runs to the contemporary. To start, she worked with Alisberg Parker Architects to simplify the house's structure: knocking down walls and stripping moldings as well as removing a kooky cupola from the roof.
The owners asked, as always, for "light, bright, and airy," Zucker says. After they showed her a picture of Jonathan Adler's mod Parker Palm Springs hotel as a reference point, she literally boarded a plane to California to research the cascading chandelier in the lobby. A similar version, made of hundreds of hooked glass loops, now descends through a circular hole cut out of the ceiling of the Katonah entry. And that's nothing compared to what Zucker and Alisberg Parker did to the former kitchen and family room. Both ceilings were demolished, along with the gym above, and the resulting double-height volume was rebuilt as a great room, its open kitchen featuring a gigantic island with specially oversized hardware.
A windowed alcove in the great room contains a breakfast table that seats 10. Next door is the proper dining room, a square space with no chandelier to distract from the Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff photographs on the wall. Their reflections appear in the mirrored tabletop, which Zucker specified distressed with tiny speckles to dial back the glitz. Look underneath, however, and there's an openwork pedestal resembling an enormous cast-bronze cuff bracelet. Chairs are polished chrome, vintage Milo Baughman with new caramel-colored leather upholstery.
Gray mohair covers the living room's modular sofa, horseshoe-shape to curve around Arik Levy's mirror-polished stainless-steel cocktail table. Near the porch windows stand two Italian 1950's ceiling fixtures that Zucker had converted into floor lamps. They bracket a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe daybed upholstered in off-white suede that's been sprayed for family-friendly stain resistance. Nevertheless, a few marks make the piece look vintage—and intentially so, she says: "There's something nice about a little wear, because these interiors are otherwise very perfect."
Zucker planned for the graphic white fault lines of the living room's black rug to converge on the sofa and cocktail table. Similarly, in the office upstairs, the rug's ink-spot pattern becomes densest under the clear acrylic desk. In a daughter's bedroom, the purple silk shag wall-to-wall is bedecked with precisely placed bas-relief daisies in yellow and white wool. "I was going to have that carpet, come hell or high water," Zucker says. She adds that she was also sure to include a single daisy where the carpet runs inside the closet, "because that's cute."
Zucker declares that she could move right into the rambling master suite. It starts with a sitting room, where Julian Opie's black-and-white video-graphic outline of a chicly dressed woman strides in place. "She's always on," Zucker says, when the house is occupied. The bedroom beyond features a polished-stainless four-poster, made cozy with a faux-fur throw, and a double-wide Baughman rocker. "You can have all the kids on it to read a story," Zucker notes. To glam up the James Mont acrylic chairs, she reupholstered them in lilac mohair.
Pale lavender iridescent glass mosaic tile surfaces the walls and floor in the master bathroom. After seeing a picture in a British magazine, Zucker ordered Jaime Hayón's freestanding tub with its integral lacquered surround and legs—the first of its kind imported to the U.S., she believes. And the Italian satin-nickel showerhead was enough of a novelty to be "exciting for the plumber," she says with a laugh.
She brags that she did not reuse any of the modern design icons specified for the owners' city apartment, completed with a former business partner. Perhaps, however, she's succeeded too well. They recently announced that the apartment in the city needs to look more like the house in Katonah.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
FROM FRONT THROUGH PASCAL BOYER GALLERY: LOUNGE CHAIRS (OFFICE). THROUGH CENTER 44: ARMCHAIRS, SOFA. THROUGH EMMERSON TROOP: DESK CHAIR. TAI PING CARPETS: CUSTOM RUGS (OFFICE, LIVING ROOM, SITTING ROOM, SUNROOM, PLAYROOM, GUEST ROOM), CUSTOM CARPET (DAUGHTER'S ROOM, MASTER BEDROOM). THROUGH DONZELLA: COCKTAIL TABLE (OFFICE), SOFA (SUNROOM). THROUGH ART & INDUSTRY: DESK (OFFICE), CHAIRS (SUNROOM). THROUGH JOHN SALIBELLO ANTIQUES: CHANDELIER (OFFICE), TABLE (SUNROOM). THROUGH MONDO CANE: SIDE TABLE (OFFICE), CHAIR (MASTER BEDROOM). ARIK LEVY: TABLE (LIVING ROOM). DEANGELIS: CUSTOM SOFAS (LIVING ROOM, GREAT ROOM, SITTING ROOM), CUSTOM OTTOMAN (GREAT ROOM). DDC DOMUS DESIGN COLLECTION: SOFA (MEDIA ROOM). YOMA TEXTILES: SOFA UPHOLSTERY. CAPPELLINI: CHAIR (ENTRY). PYRAMID LIGHTING GROUP: CUSTOM CHANDELIER (STAIR HALL). SILAS SEANDEL STUDIO: CUSTOM TABLE BASE (DINING ROOM). EDELMAN LEATHER: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY. THROUGH NOHO MODERN: CHAIRS (DINING ROOM), LOUNGE CHAIRS (GREAT ROOM). STARK FABRIC: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY (GREAT ROOM). CLARENCE HOUSE: SOFA FABRIC. RUG COMPANY: CUSTOM RUG. GLANT TEXTILES CORPORATION: SOFA UPHOLSTERY (SITTING ROOM). THROUGH GUÉRIDON: PENDANT FIXTURE (SUNROOM). LONSEAL: FLOORING (PLAYROOM). AQ HAYON COLLECTION: TUB (MASTER BATHROOM). DORNBRACHT: TUB FITTINGS. SICIS: WALL, FLOOR TILE. MOROSO: PENDANT FIXTURE (DAUGHTERS' BATHROOM). WATERWORKS: FLOOR TILE. ADELTA THROUGH M2L: HANGING SEAT (DAUGHTER'S BEDROOM). EMPIRE METAL FINISHING: CUSTOM BED (MASTER BEDROOM). HOLLY HUNT: CHAIR FABRIC. NICOLETTI ITALIA: BED (GUEST ROOM). TRANS.LUXE: CUSTOM LAMP. THROUGHOUT J. PAUL: CUSTOM WINDOW TREATMENTS.