Tour a 15-Acre Riverside Oasis That’s Both Contemporary and Playfully Romantic

The Bastien Halard–designed property was inspired by nearby historic brick mills
woman standing outside
Homeowner Dee Salomon. 

It all started with a chandelier. Not any chandelier, but a playful carved wooden one reminiscent of an 18th-century theater prop, created by the eminent French interior designers Michelle and Yves Halard. Dee Salomon happened to be in Paris in 1999 on the last day that the Halards’ shop, Maison Yves Halard, was open, and she ordered this irreverent light fixture to be made and shipped to her home in Brooklyn.

Framed in curtains of a Rogers & Goffigon fabric, the sitting room windows look out onto the landscape. A 1960s chair is pulled up to a 1940s oak table; painting by Peter Cusack; ceramic stove (at right) by La Castellamonte

Salomon, with a business background in publishing and fashion, had for years admired the Halard style, treasuring “piles of tear sheets” illustrating the couple’s insouciant mixture of contemporary artifacts with French textiles and antiques. More recently, she became taken with the aesthetic of their grandson, designer Bastien Halard, whose more current, pared-down style is nonetheless deeply influenced by their eclecticism. Young Halard lived with his wife, Miranda Brooks, and their two daughters nearby in Brooklyn, and in 2011, Salomon wrote to him to ask if he would consider helping her with a small renovation. Halard came to visit, saw his grandparents’ iconic chandelier, and knew he was in the company of a kindred soul.

Clad in limewashed brick and black-stained wood, the house was designed by Bastien Halard and built by Amber Construction & Design.

Seven years ago, Salomon called upon Halard once again for help. She and her longtime boyfriend, Rob Norman, had purchased a 15-acre property on the Housatonic River in northwest Connecticut and wanted to talk to Halard about designing a house for them there. “I want something that no one has seen before, but looks like it’s always been here,” Salomon told him.

Halard was bowled over by the site and its “extraordinary” land. “You arrive and the whole world vanishes.” From the road, a narrow driveway descends through steep, fern-littered oak forest. A rocky stream tumbles down the hillside on one side of the drive toward its destination into the Housatonic. Here, by the wide river, the precipitous woodland suddenly gives way to a level expanse of sunlit terrain—the obvious location for the new house.

In the sitting room, a George Smith ottoman covered in Clarence House’s Dahlia stands in front of a sofa upholstered in a Rogers & Goffigon fabric. The straw stool is from Cabana; painting by Shawn Dulaney

The tension between the dramatic woodland and the powerful water made an impression on Halard. “I knew I couldn’t do a pastiche; I wanted something solid, something earnest.” He researched the historic brick mills of the Housatonic, and inspired by them, as well as “the horizontal language of the river,” he designed a long structure of limed brick elegantly graced by a series of floor-to-ceiling windows facing the river. Halard refers to it as “the mill house.” In contrast, what appears from the front of the house to be an oversized dormer of black-painted cedar expands in the back into a striking barnlike structure that pierces the center of the long “mill house,” providing space for an upstairs library and the couple’s bedroom and bath. This contrasting second story Halard aptly calls “the tree house,” as most of its windows look out over the steep wooded hillside.

Dee Salomon and Rob Norman are thrilled with the design, as it is unique in its appearance yet certainly suits the place. “It’s timeless,” Halard says about the house, “not totally modern—there’s a traditional touch to it.” He felt that the architecture should be redolent of the local vernacular in its attention to detail and use of natural materials—brick, sheet metal (the roof), cedar—but simplified, stripped down, with more of a minimalist approach.

Scout, a schnauzer, sits on a chair upholstered with a Rosa Bernal Collection print in the bath. English Gothic Revival towel stand; Danish armoire purchased on 1stDibs; tub by the Water Monopoly with a Lefroy Brooks filler.

The kitchen sitting area features a George Nelson cocktail table and Ralph Lauren Home chairs with cushions made of Turkish towels. 

A Flos Glo-Ball light hangs above a custom kitchen island designed to look like a piece of furniture. 

Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Indoors, on the ground floor, an enfilade of rooms from kitchen to hallway to living room are lit by the graceful series of nine-foot-tall windows, some opening to a terrace, the panes of each unusually divided by delicate mullions merely at the top and bottom. The interiors are a happy collaboration between Salomon and Halard, achieving a look Salomon describes as “contemporary and at the same time playfully romantic.” Says Halard, “We got on so well. Dee is knowledgeable and experienced and has a huge heart.” Salomon found tiles for the kitchen, for example, “all subtle shades of white,” sourcing them in Holland; unknown to her, Halard had already ordered a shipment for another client from the very same manufacturer. Halard’s careful selection of hinges, door handles, and moldings perfectly suited Salomon: “intricate but not fussy.”

Miranda Brooks, the AD100 landscape architect and wife of Halard, came to “settle the house in its space.” With her trademark clusters of boxwood “clouds” set seemingly at random on the lawn, she effectively framed the house in front, then made a small orchard and a pergola at right angles to the structure. A terrace of granite slabs extends out from the living room, with an arbor and table for dining in view of the river. Pairs of sugar maples line the approach to the house, and in the back, Brooks planted the hillside with flowering shrubs: witch hazel, viburnum, dogwood, and lilac, threaded through with a path.

In the primary bedroom, the curtains and headboard are made from the same Rosa Bernal Collection print for Claremont. Walls painted in Domingue Architectural Finishes lime paint. Art by Marie Ducaté.

Antique pendants purchased on 1stDibs hang in the portico.

A table draped in Les Indiennes fabric is set for an alfresco lunch on the terrace. AD100 landscape architect Miranda Brooks designed the gardens.

In 2019, Salomon and Norman moved to their Connecticut home full-time. Norman, an advertising executive, works from home, and Salomon is immersed in woodland restoration, spending her time removing invasive species and nurturing native plants and trees. The couple walk up their drive and on trails in their woods every day with their dog, Scout.

As for that old chandelier? It now hangs from a rope in the hall, lighting a table where Salomon gathers branches, nests, and acorns from her beloved woods.

This story appears in AD's November 2022 issue. To see this Bastien Halard–designed home in print, subscribe to AD.