13 May 2011

Classicism and the City: Chez Fairfax and Sammons

This Spring a house very dear to my heart is celebrating its 75th year anniversary as a museum.  The Merchant's House Museum is New York City's only historic residence with its interiors preserved and landmarked.  What is even more astonishing is how many people don't know about this Greek Revival beauty nestled in the East Village - luckily, those who do are passionate about it, not least of all Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons.

Anne and Richard are ardent champions of Classical architecture, and as their 2006 monograph attests, elegant and expert practitioners as well.  It is no surprise that their own space is as delightful and unusual as any to be found in the city.  They purchased the red brick carriage house-studio in 2000 from the estate of business tycoon Armand Hammer, who had owned it ever since his university days.

One enters the house through a small entry way lacquered in a pulse-racing crimson hung with a myriad of small convex mirrors a la John Soane.

Directly onwards is the beadboard-paneled kitchen-cum-sitting room complete with a cosy Delft-tiled fireplace. 

Richard is a sailing enthusiast, and the ingenious built-in storage seems reminiscent of a ship (although apparently this passion unfolded after the kitchen was designed).

A staircase takes one up to the bedroom...

...which was made smaller by the addition of a walk-in closet. 

Richard and Anne definitely have their priorities right, as far as I'm concerned!

While the outside facade is perfectly proportioned, the double-height studio, complete with skylight, was a tricky wedge shape, a design challenge that the couple solved with elan.

Just as their coral silk velvet sofa inspired me to recover mine similarly, I will be taking another page out their upholstery book with these summer slipcovers of white duck piped in black...

One corner of the room was carved out for this deeply chic black bar.  The space cries out for parties, and the bar is regularly pressed into service.

 Anne in black velvet in her swell-egant bar

A mezzanine catwalk was built around the perimeter of the room and to give the room a more regular shape, an exedra was created on the facade wall opposed by this open arch leading out to the back terrace.

A snappy striped awning covers the outdoor space so that it is bone-dry all year round.  Another bar is often set up here when Anne and Richard throw larger bashes.  Today, a craftsman was using it to make a dinghy.

A bust of Diane presides over the Lutyens-influenced mantel and serves as muse to the many artists and architects who continue to gather here, and, undoubtedly, find inspiration. 

Many thanks to Anne and Richard for letting me share this glimpse.  Click here to see more courtesy of New York Social Diary.


Renée Finberg said...

i adore this house.
thanks for the tour!!

home before dark said...

I was impressed with this (at read more at NYSD). It's the "undecorated" look for serious grownups. Love it and their ability to navigate in the McMansion world but live cozy at home.

quintessence said...

They have long been one of my favorite architectural teams. Their book, which I bought as soon as it was released, is one I often give as a gift to friends interested in architecture and design. I love their classically inspired, elegant, detailed designs. Although their house is featured in the book, I appreciate the further glimpse into their handsome yet comfortable home.

Dovecote Decor said...

You might enjoy seeing this very wild and fun party house on the UES. I posted it early on in my blog, so it hasn't received much traffic, but its unique!I will get their book, their work is exquisite.

The Devoted Classicist said...

The whole thing is a huge improvement over the appearance when Armand Hammer owned it. When I would walk by during evenings in the 80s and 90s, the hideous interior could usually be viewed by florescent light. But the potential was obvious and now thankfully achieved.

Marisa/Stylebeat said...

Wonderful! Your photos are really nice they look great!

Janet said...

Having had the good luck to have visited the house myself, I can truly say it is a gem! So wonderful to see it again here.

Donna said...

Great post, thanks for the intimate interior view.

Sunday Taylor said...

Thanks for letting us know about The Merchant's House Museum. I will be in New York in June and will definitely visit. I love visiting historic homes and I had no idea that this one existed. It looks wonderful.