Rising up from a sprawling plot of land on Connecticut’s exclusive—and incredibly idyllic—Canfield Island is an imposing structure that, at first glance, resembles more of an industrial complex out of a Charles Dickens novel rather than the “comfortable” home that interior designers Amanda Jesse and Whitney Parris-Lamb describe when talking about their client’s distinctive dwelling.
“This is his version of casual,” Jesse says with a laugh; she is one half of the duo behind the Brooklyn-based design firm Jesse Parris-Lamb. “For many people this would feel like a very formal house, but with so much natural light flooding in—and the gorgeous views of the water—you automatically feel incredibly relaxed.”
At just over 12,500 square feet, the seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom (not to mention two half-baths) property was conceived to be the ultimate entertaining space for a finance executive and his four children. “He’s a very engaged father—three of his kids are in college and one is in middle school—and he’s also a really enthusiastic chef and host with an insatiable appetite for design,” adds Parris-Lamb.
Prior to the interior design work that began in 2019, the homeowner spent about five years working with architect Andrew Bartolotta to come up with just the right concept for the residence. “Initially we were designing a modern house, then it developed into an industrial-style beach house and, stylistically, he wanted a nod to the English factories of the 19th century” explains Bartolotta, whose eponymous Connecticut studio is known for its out-of-the-box design and innovation. “It’s by far the most complicated residential structure I’ve ever worked on—even the bifurcated 50-foot-tall smokestacks have a diagonal steel strapping that harkens back to Victorian-era boots that women would have to lace up.”
In contrast to the rigid exterior, Jesse and Parris-Lamb were tasked with creating an interior environment that felt soft and inviting. “He wanted this to be a place where friends and family could kick back and feel comfortable,” Jesse says. “The envelope of the home is all very gray and black, so we used a more neutral earth-toned palette that includes a ton of natural fibers and materials—lots of jute, wood, leather, and stone—to infuse it with warmth and a beachy, family-friendly feel.”
From the monumental windows that showcase the changing seasons like artwork to the juxtaposition of materials throughout the home’s interior, this island retreat is definitely a breath of fresh air. “The windows are impressive, so the client felt the views would serve as the art,” Parris-Lamb adds. “And having a little bit of breathing room [inside] is important when there’s so many industrial elements—that’s why we created all these moments of quiet and comfort against such hard materials.”