COM­ING HOME

Tommy and Dee Hil­figer have brought a sto­ried land­mark manor on Con­necti­cut’s Gold Coast back to life to cre­ate the ul­ti­mate fam­ily re­treat

Philippine Tatler - - | LIFE HOMES - Pho­tog­ra­phy Dou­glas FrieD­man

C on­sid­er­ing its close prox­im­ity to the Big Ap­ple—just about 56 kilo­me­tres north of New York City—Tommy and Dee Hil­figer’s home in Greenwich, Con­necti­cut gives the im­pres­sion of be­ing a proper fam­ily re­treat, a home far re­moved from the stresses of the ur­ban jun­gle. Round Hill, as the Hil­figer fam­ily home is called, sits on a lush 10-hectare ex­panse cov­er­ing the high­est point in Greenwich. It’s a place that seems to have popped out of a sto­ry­book: a red-roofed struc­ture with a Tu­dor aes­thetic in the mid­dle of a ver­dant wooded area. The com­mu­nity it is lo­cated in is equally charm­ing: pic­turesque store­fronts and homey restau­rants; neigh­bours step­ping out to say hello; and an Amer­i­can flag flut­ter­ing in the breeze like some­thing out of a novel.

The story of the prop­erty be­gins in 1939 with the award-win­ning ar­chi­tect Gre­ville Rickard. The grad­u­ate of the Yale School of Ar­chi­tec­ture and the alum­nus of Beaux-Arts In­sti­tute of De­sign in New York had built it for the real-es­tate mag­nate Charles Vin­cent Paterno, which ex­plains the manor’s name be­fore it was known as Round Hill: Chateau Paterno. One of the house’s more in­ter­est­ing de­tails is that Rickard im­mor­talised him­self and the builder in stained-glass pan­els flank­ing an ogee arch­way that re­mains a fix­ture to this day. Hil­figer likes to think the duo kept an eye on ev­ery­one while the restora­tion was be­ing done. In 1961, the prop­erty was sold to renowned art col­lec­tor Joseph Hir­sh­horn, who used the house to dis­play his ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of 19thand 20th-cen­tury paint­ings and sculp­tures that to­day are on dis­play at the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum, which he founded in Wash­ing­ton.

When the Hil­figers bought the es­tate in 2010, their goal was to cre­ate a com­fort­able English coun­try

When it came to in­spi­ra­tion, the cou­ple looked no fur­ther than their own ex­pe­ri­ences. “Dee and I are lucky to have trav­eled so much”

house with French Nor­mandy de­tails. What they weren’t ex­pect­ing was the re­ward­ing jour­ney the pro­ject would take them on. “As de­sign­ers, Dee and I love to col­lab­o­rate and we got the op­por­tu­nity to work with an in­cred­i­ble team on this pro­ject,” noted Hil­figer. Ar­chi­tect An­dré Tche­listch­eff and builder Jim Xhema worked in part­ner­ship. Green­wich­based in­te­rior de­sign firm Rin­fret Ltd. and Mar­tyn Lawrence Bullard han­dled the in­te­ri­ors. Land­scape de­signer Mi­randa Brooks, hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Phillip Wat­son, and stone­ma­son Bobby Hil­figer took charge of the gar­dens and ex­te­rior.

When it came to in­spi­ra­tion, the cou­ple looked no fur­ther than their own ex­pe­ri­ences. “Dee and I are lucky to have trav­eled so much,” said Hil­figer. “It has given us such an ap­pre­ci­a­tion and re­spect for other cul­tures and this house was truly a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to pay ho­mage.”

Since its orig­i­nal con­struc­tion, the struc­ture never de­parted from its ar­chi­tec­tural blueprint, which was Nor­man-inspired with dis­tinc­tive Gothic and Tu­dor in­flu­ences. While the build­ing had seen numerous ren­o­va­tions (in­clud­ing an un­for­tu­nate at­tempt to go Dan­ish mod­ern) Round Hill has re­tained much of its birthright from 1930s Amer­ica. His­tory buffs will re­call that was a time when af­flu­ent Amer­i­cans would travel to Europe and bring back an ar­ray of con­trast­ing ideas, styles, and dé­cor. This home, with its nods to Eng­land, France, the Nether­lands, and Flan­ders on full dis­play, was no ex­cep­tion. For Tche­listch­eff, that meant us­ing great sen­si­tiv­ity and do­ing ex­ten­sive re­search in or­der to pre­serve the struc­ture’s her­itage while fix­ing and en­hanc­ing it to suit a mod­ern fam­ily.

Such dis­ci­pline, in­deed, comes into play at the es­tate. While Hil­figer calls the en­vi­rons of his home the back­coun­try, he can glimpse the bustling lights of New York City shim­mer­ing in the dis­tance from his of­fice, a room tucked into the third floor of a ro­man­tic ivy-cov­ered tur­ret. State-of-the-art ap­pli­ances and ameni­ties dress the com­bined kitchen and break­fast space that makes up the heart of the home—an en­tirely new ad­di­tion to the old manor,

yet vis­i­tors would be hard-pressed to dis­cover a clue that th­ese rooms hadn’t al­ways been there.

Hil­figer is a pas­sion­ate col­lec­tor of art and an­tiques, and there are in­cred­i­ble pieces to be found through­out Round Hill. Still Life with a Hare by Bernard DeBri­dat holds pride of place be­side col­lec­tions of Black For­est hunt­ing tro­phies. In the din­ing room, the 19th-cen­tury AWN Pu­gin ta­ble is set with vin­tage Royal Doul­ton® din­ner plates and Tiffany & Co sil­ver­ware. The break­fast room fea­tures a rug that once be­longed to the Duke and Duchess of Wind­sor. There are also many pris­tine ex­am­ples of porce­lain from both the Ming and Qing pe­ri­ods.

Amongst the an­tiques, per­sonal touches can be found ev­ery­where. The me­dia room’s dé­cor was inspired by Dee’s Turk­ish her­itage. It’s a pop­u­lar gather­ing place for the en­tire fam­ily both for its en­ter­tain­ment value and the ex­pan­sive ot­toman ban­quette de­signed by Bullard that re­calls a pasha’s palace in Is­tan­bul. In 8-year-old Se­bas­tian Hil­figer’s room, a tow­er­ing gi­raffe from ac­claimed toy­maker Steiff keeps a watch­ful eye dur­ing bed­time.

The out­door spa­ces are no less im­pres­sive, hav­ing to mea­sure up to the grandeur of the house. Brooks set out to cre­ate dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. She imag­ined Tommy and Dee tak­ing a walk after din­ner through the wa­ter gar­den where the sounds are a sooth­ing respite, fam­ily pic­nics, and foot­ball games on the great lawn; and their grand­daugh­ter Har­ley play­ing hide-and-seek in the box­wood knot gar­den. “Mi­randa did an in­cred­i­ble job of bring­ing back the gar­den to what it might have been when the house was built,” com­mented Dee.

The prop­erty un­doubt­edly has a his­tory as colour­ful as Hil­figer’s red, blue, and white. It took nearly six years to com­plete the house, but it’s now a warm and wel­com­ing place that will be en­joyed for gen­er­a­tions to come. Re­mem­ber­ing its sto­ried past in the ar­chi­tec­ture and writ­ing new chap­ters in their restora­tion, the Hil­figers can call Round Hill home.

lodge liv­ing The grand hall fea­tures the house’s orig­i­nal hand-hewn oak stair­case framed by del­i­cately carved pan­els and win­dows; (op­po­site) Above the blue sofa rests a French paint­ing that is one of a pair from Sotheby’s

colour­ful com­forts The colour pal­ette in the liv­ing room gives a sub­tle nod to Tommy’s Amer­i­can roots, but min­gles with Euro­pean fur­nish­ings and ac­ces­sories that re­flect Dee’s so­phis­ti­cated tastes

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