Nestled amid the lush, gently rolling hills of cattle and horse farms in Millbrook, New York, is a handsome Greek Revival house that looks like it’s always been there. In fact, it is brand new—the collaborative effort of architect Peter Pennoyer and his wife, interior designer Katie Ridder. In this irresistible book, exquisitely illustrated with specially commissioned photographs by Eric Piasecki, finely rendered plans, hand‑painted illustrations by Anton Glikin, and a gatefold pullout of the garden plan, complete with a comprehensive key to flowers and plantings, Pennoyer and Ridder tell the story of the conception, design, decoration, and landscaping of their dream house.
The couple had been thinking about building a getaway country house for years before they found the six‑and‑a‑half‑acre Millbrook site, which had all the features they had been looking for. Located off an old dirt road at a high point in the landscape, with views of a lake and distant hills, it was the ideal spot for a house, a formal garden, and a cutting garden. The site did pose significant challenges, however. They had to demolish the existing asbestos‑clad ranch house, clear the land of overgrowth, rocks, and farming debris, and excavate a new pond to replace a fetid bog. But as they restored the land, they were continually rewarded, as new vistas were revealed and the site itself seemed to grow larger.
The design of the house followed Pennoyer’s conviction that historical examples are a springboard for the imagination and offer compelling solutions for new architecture. So, though many characteristics of the house are classical and more specifically Greek Revival, it is also thoroughly contemporary. Each of the four façades is symmetrical in the classical manner, but each has a different character. The interior architecture has traditional moldings and symmetry, but a central atrium topped by a laylight (ceiling window) brings natural light flooding into the middle of the house, and the layout of the ground floor is virtually open plan, making the rooms less formal yet clearly defined by their ceilings and proportions. The house is also environmentally friendly, including such energy‑saving elements as a rain‑screen siding layer, a two‑part insulation system, full radiant flooring, a high‑efficiency boiler, and high‑efficiency LED lighting throughout.
The decoration is exuberantly colorful, textured, and layered in signature Katie Ridder style. The rich colors and eclectic patterns play off the antique wood furniture, including some classical pieces. Ridder also designed the gardens, for which she drew inspiration from Wave Hill, the public garden in the Bronx, among others. The centerpiece of the formal flower garden—with its lush, dense mix of more than two hundred perennials, annuals, rare plants, shrubs, and bulbs—is a rose‑ and white wisteria–draped pergola that serves as an outdoor living and dining room. A cutting garden features both ornamentals and edibles, and she has planted a woodland garden in the shade of existing oak and maple trees.
A House in the Country offers readers not only a virtual getaway but also a cornucopia of fresh design ideas.
Peter Pennoyer’s eponymous firm is widely published and recognized for imaginative and elegant designs that draw from history and tradition. The firm is on the AD100 and Peter is the winner of the Veranda Art of Design Award and the Frederic E. Church Award. Peter is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and has written and lectured about architecture and style. Peter Pennoyer Architects has projects from Hong Kong to Newport, Rhode Island, and commissions for leading artists and tastemakers across the country.
Katie Ridder’s extraordinary dexterity with palettes of primary and secondary colors, her playful approach to mixing antiques and modern pieces, and her eye for unusual decorative accents have all established her as a leading, and singular, figure in the world of interior design. Her work was the subject of Vendome’s Katie Ridder Rooms (2011) and has been published in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the New York Times, and Domino; it has been featured on the covers of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful. She has been included in the “Top 100” lists of designers for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and New York magazine. Her firm produces fabrics, wallpaper, and rugs of her design.
Architectural historian and author Anne Walker holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. In 2000 she joined Peter Pennoyer Architects and has collaborated with him on four monographs on the history of twentieth‑century American architecture. She is the author of Peter Pennoyer Architects: Apartments, Townhouses, Country Houses, and coauthor of The Ford Plantation Architectural Pattern Book with Donald M. Rattner, and The Finest Rooms in America with Thomas Jayne. Walker is an adjunct professor at New York University and has appeared as a commentator on National Geographic’s television series America’s Mansions. She lives in New Canaan, CT.
Interiors photographer Eric Piasecki is a Cape Cod native who is based in New York City. He contributes regularly to Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, and House Beautiful, among other magazines nationally and internationally. He has photographed monographs for designer/architects Steven Gambrel, Juan Montoya, Thom Filicia, Cullman & Kravis, and Timothy Corrigan.
Illustrator Anton Glikin is a graduate of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture in London. He received the Arthur Ross Award for Excellence in the Classical Tradition in 2003. He lives in New York City.
[Peter Pennoyer and Katie Ridder] have made a mess of my afternoon, since [their] exquisite new book arrived today, and I made the mistake of opening it for a moment before I turned back to my work. An hour later, I was still reading: it was so compelling that my intention of flipping through the pages for a minute turned into a long and thorough reading.
I found [their] memoir at the beginning to be absolutely enthralling—it was warm, gracious and full of insight. And the house was not only beautifully photographed, it clearly is beautiful. It is so rare that a serious house gets the documentation it deserves, and its story gets told so fully and so well.
Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize–winning architectural critic
It’s hard to know whether to effuse about [Peter Pennoyer and Katie Ridder’s] impeccably elegant and entirely inviting house, or about this impeccably elegant and entirely inviting book about it.
Andrew Solomon, National Book Award winner
Run, don’t walk, to get this book!