425 Million Dollars and Dorothy’s Dream House!

Well it’s happened again.  The Powerball Lottery is over 200 million dollars and I went to the convenance store, with fanciful ideas of winning dancing around in my head, and bought a ticket.  Each time this happens I dream about using my massive winnings to build my dream home.  If you’re familiar with Dorothy Rodgers it will come as no surprise that  my thoughts drift to her saga of the pleasures and pain of building her dream house.  The book, The House in My Head, written in 1967, tells her story.  But the home even today proves to be well ahead of its time, and has become required reading for anyone who is considering building or even remodeling their own home.

Rodgers thoughtfully designed, the glorious Fairfield, Connecticut home for her and husband, famous American Composer Richard Rodgers, has new owners and a new designer, Susan Zises Green, in tow.  Lets have a look at the house then and now…

Dorothy And Dick Rodgers Home Fairfield Connecticut.

It seems a bit ironic that I begin the tour with exterior of the home since Rodgers and her Architect did just the opposite; they designed the house from the inside out.  In fact it was well after the rooms were configured and finished chosen that thy even gave a thought to how the outside would appear.

View of entry hall, Dorothy and Dick Rodgers house. From The House in My Head

The hall connecting the bedrooms with the entertaining area and the service areas of the house.  If it had been my design I would have had a much larger & longer hallway.  One of the best parties I attended took place, for the most part, in the hallway.  But Dorothy wanted this house to function like a machine with as little maintenance and housekeeping as possible.

A view of the Living and dining area from the built in buffet, Rodgers solution to Servers at dinner parties.  From The House in My Head.

One of the “unique” designs for the time was the buffet that connected the pantry to the living & dining area. Dorothy wanted this house to function with as little household help as possible. By having a buffet installed, it enabled dinner guest to help themselves, eliminating the need for Servers at dinner parties.  Rodgers also did away with a formal dining room; now doesn’t that sound like a 21st century concept.

A view from the swimming pool of the central living area flanked by an outdoor sitting porch on the left and dining porch on the right.  From The House in My Head.

The swimming pool was central to the design of the home, and large windows from the Great room offer an indoor/outdoor feeling.  The pool was where the Rodgers entertained during the summer months, it also offered  sweeping views of the valley below. The Private quarters are to the left and the service room on on the right side of the house.

Side hallway connecting the bedrooms.  From The House in My Head

Dorothy was particularly fond of the strategically placed skylights throughout the house.  “There’s a fascinating, almost continual change of intensity that moves, in a row of skylights, from the first to the next, then the next as the earth turns away from the sun”, said Rodgers.

A view of Dorothy’s Bedroom.  From The House in My Head.

Dorothy’s Bedroom.  Not only did she and her husband have separate bedrooms, but separate baths and dressing rooms also.  A very outdated arrangement, but for every passé idea, but I’m sure many wives today would opt out of sharing a bathroom with their husband.

Dorothy thoughtfully designed and decorated here home herself: the new owners recruited New York Interior Designer, Susan Zises Green to give the home a 21st century appeal.  Here’s what she came up with…

A View of the new living room decor. Photo used by permission Photo by John Kernick.

The result; a much more cozy room.  It’s easy to spot the minor architectural changes, a couple of bookcases removed, the enclosure of the sitting porch, and the addition of a chandelier, but I must say we’ve come a long way in the area of comfort in our interiors.  It seems as if there’s not an uncomfortable seat in the room.

New entry hall, photo used by permission, Photo by John Kernick.

Dorothy wrestled with the idea of wallpaper, thinking white to be “more effective”.  Today the subtle green & white wallpaper seem to obtain the same effect.  The ferns, flowers and rack full of straw hats give the house a country home feeling.

seating area in living room, photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

A seating area is in what use to be the dining area. The tile floors have been replaced with hardwoods.  One disappointment is that ingenious buffet I raved about earlier has been removed, but was no longer useful when the dining area had been moved to create a more formal dining room.

sitting room, photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

Today the cozy sitting room has been enclosed in what was the sitting porch.  The 19th century prints of hunting dogs and floral fabrics give the room a country air.

A view of dining room in what was the dining porch. Photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

Here is the earlier mention dining room in what was the dining porch.

Mater Bedroom. Photo used by permission. Photo by John Kernick.

 In House Beautiful magazine, Green says, “When you’re the parents of six children, you absolutely need a retreat”.  And what a lovely retreat this turned out to be. I’m certain The parents share bedrooms.

There you have it then and now.  I can only imagine how thrilled Dorothy and Dick must be to look down from above and see this beautiful reinterpretation of what was their beloved country home.

FYI some additional changes to the home; the centrally located pool has been moved, the greenhouse has been removed, and the Spanish Doors at the entry, Mrs. Rodgers took with her when she sold the home, after Dicks death in 1979.

If you’d like a copy of the House in My Head Click on the book cover below to order.

As always, I’m dying to know what you think if you won 425 million dollars, who would you have design your dream home?  Comments are ALWAYS welcome.

Benji

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What’s in A Staircase?

My favorite scene from the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard is when the delusional Norma Desmond descends the grand winding staircase of here home, thinking she was filming a scene for her comeback movie.  Actually she was about to be arrested for murder.

Gloria Swanson as the deranged Norma Desmond Sunset Boulevard Paramount Studio

The film got me thinking.  Wasn’t there another famous film scene on a staircase?  Yes,  1976, Carol Burnette as Scarlet O’Hara in the Gone with Wind spoof!  Scarlet (Carol) descended the staircase or a tattered Tara,  wearing a velvet drapery and curtain rod as a makeshift dress.  When “Rat Butler” (Harvery Korman) complimented Scarlet on her ravishing gown she delivers the line, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it”.

Carol Burnette, Went With the Wind The Carol Burnette Show 1976

Actors couldn’t resist a juicy scene of with them cascading their way down a magnificent staircase.  There’s just something about the process of arriving when a staircase is involved.

Today designers recognize the power of the stairs and no longer view staircases as a mere utilitarian function but as a unique opportunity to make a memorable statement in interiors.

Today I pay tribute to some extraordinary yet ever so functional staircases.

Staircase Saint James Hotel, Paris, Photo courtesy of Jimmy Cohssen

This flight of fancy at The  Saint James Hotel in Paris is the creation of designer Bambi Sloan.  The design of the staircase, as well as the hotel combines a bit of cheekiness with stodgy Napoleon III class.

Staircase Saint James Hotel, Paris

The custom  wallpaper, designed by Maitenna Barret, is a whimsical homage to the hotel site’s origins as an airfield where hot air balloons rose from.  In 1892 the wife of the French President, Adolphe Thiers had a foundation built in honor of his memory.  Now it’s The Saint James.

staircase home of private client France, Photo courtesy of Philip Watts Design

The dripping metal organic looking spine of this commissioned staircase for a private residence in France is both chilling and breath-taking.  This is the progeny of creative UK Interior and Product Designers Philip Watt Design.

detail staircase home of private client France, Photo courtesy of Philip Watts Design

The curvature of the staircase along with the molten metal leaving spatters of itself on the floor give an effect of a living organism.  Bespoke design at its most original.

Coco Chanel Staircase, Photo from styledecorum.com

Coco Chanel designed her mirrored staircase connecting her shop, apartment and workroom.  The staircase functioned as a spying mechanism for Chanel.  She could stand on one floor and was able to see what was happening on every level, and especially to view the reactions of editor’s at her fashion shows as models descended the staircase.

Coco Chanel Staircase Photo from styledecorum.com

Chanel never actually lived in the apartment above her shop at 31 Rue Cambon, but only used it to entertain clients and guest.

Poplar Library, Beijing, China, Photo Sako Architects

The winding colorful ribbon that defines this staircase is the creation of Sako Architects for the Kid’s Republic Poplar Library in Beijing, China, a bookstore for kids.

Poplar Library, Beijing, China, Photo Sako Architects

The ribbon used on the floors and wall, wind throughout the space.  The design was used to cultivate children’s curiosity and as a way-finding device.  As the ribbon winds throughout the bookstore it transforms into an bookshelf’s, a portals and a handrail.

Do any of these staircases inspire you to perhaps do something extraordinary with your own staircase?  I want to hear about it.  Send me a comment, perhaps you can even share a photograph.

Benji