Spacious old houses are few and far between in dense urban areas. Consider New York City, where the standard brownstone has a notably narrow staircase and postage-stamp entrance hall. Mila and Tom Tuttle, however, got lucky. Planning to start a family and craving more space than their two-bedroom apartment in Chelsea afforded, the couple went house hunting. Just a few blocks north they found an architectural rarity -- a four-story, double-width brick mansion built in 1836. It is one of only two remaining freestanding homes erected as part of an upscale neighborhood development by Clement Clarke Moore, author of , before the venture shifted its focus to more economical rowhouses.
The man the Tuttles chose to decorate the landmark Greek Revival -- , the creative director of -- was astounded by the scale of the rooms. "The entrance hall is so London to me," he says. "A big square space like that going up through the center of a house is such a statement." Tom, a private-equity investor who grew up on a 1790s farm in the Hudson River town of Kinderhook, is an amateur scholar of period architecture, and by the time Redd was hired, he and architect had already overseen many improvements. These included replicating 19th-century millwork and plaster details that had been damaged or removed over the years, refining the mangled floor plan, and adding a discreet glass penthouse and terrace in place of the original pitched roof. As Tom explains, "We started with the belief that the house is a treasure that needed to be taken care of and restored."
How to fill the broad, high-ceilinged spaces, though, was a bit of a question mark. "Left to his own devices, my husband would live in a museum, all formal and historically correct," notes Mila, an Indonesia-born, Germany-bred former stock trader. "And so many people put modern everything in an old house -- which is a cool look but not what I was after." When the Tuttles got an eyeful of an apartment Redd did for classical architect in a magazine, they were hooked. The rooms, Mila says, were "masculine and had wonderful colors, and a lot of attention was paid to the details. That's really important to us." A couple of meetings later, Redd came on board and it was full speed ahead.
The designer admires the past as much as his clients but points out, "Life in the 21st century means taking the best of history and making it work for you." Of this more freewheeling approach, Tom says, "Miles convinced me to make this a home as well as a restoration." The couple already owned masses of photography and modern art, including an Andrew Wyeth nude and a dramatic Javanese painting of an elephant. To ensure those gripping contemporary works sit comfortably within a 19th-century context, the furnishings needed to soften the stylistic gap, transitioning between antique and oh-so-chic.
In the parchment-color living room -- where Redd installed a button-tufted corner banquette to augment the armchairs and deep-dish sofa -- the haul is spirited, from a white-painted console with an impressive eagle base to a neoclassical fauteuil to a bronze table whose pedestal is in the shape of a gnarled branch. In Mila's study, a large painting of the Chrysler Building's roof, a ceiling fixture with pleated scarlet shades, and a lipstick-red leather wing chair are arrayed against a background of moody-blue damask wallpaper, popping like fireworks in a night sky.
A bold Greek-key-pattern velvet shows up on one room's throw pillows and on another's metal stool, and everywhere one looks low Chinese lacquer tables (some gold, others black, and one with a mirrored top) nestle alongside comfortable sofas and skirted chairs. In the entrance hall, the wood floor is painted to mimic one of inlaid stone at , an iconic French country house that is at the top of every design groupie's list of inspirations. "I really wanted stone, but Miles said, 'You can't do that in a city house -- if you want the look, just paint it,'" Mila says. "And he was right."
The decor of the dining room, where French doors open to narrow balconies overlooking the garden, is a farrago of motifs and colors that nonetheless feels subdued rather than outrageous. A chinoiserie hand-painted silk lines the walls, the round table is draped with a brilliant red-and-black suzani, the faux-bamboo dining chairs have seats of leopard-print velvet, and moss-green curtains frame the windows. When asked how so many fine fabrics can survive the impact of two active young children -- Kiran is nearly five, and his brother, Rana, turns two in a few months -- their mother laughs and says, "Children need to be trained well. I'm a Teutonic person, so I know how to do that. But you have to keep in mind that everything is replaceable."
Including, apparently, a second home in Georgia, which the vastly improved townhouse has made superfluous. "It was too much of a headache to maintain long distance," Mila admits. "We have this now, and honestly, it's so great that you don't feel the need to escape. We have a terrace with a penthouse on the roof, and we treat that as our summer place. There's really no reason to leave."
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