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A Worldly Design: Katonah


A desire to bring an Italian aesthetic to their home is what brought the owners of this secluded Northern Westchester residence, built in the 1990s, to architect and interior designer Carol Kurth, FAIA, ASID. First on their list: turning a rarely used family room, breakfast nook, and screened-in porch (which created a spatial barrier between the indoor and outdoor rooms) into a more livable space.

 “The clients had traveled extensively throughout Tuscany and the Loir Valley and desired a great room that would incorporate the many antique art pieces found on their travels,” explains Kurth. “[My team and I] were inspired by the rustic simplicity of European barns.”

With that directive in mind, Kurth envisioned a great room that integrated indoor/outdoor living, which included raising the roofline of the home to incorporate soaring cathedral ceilings with structural hand-hewn wood timber trusses. Mahogany French doors were designed to bring in the outdoors and to create a light-filled space. But the hallmark feature of the room is the soaring fireplace with a hearth made from a mammoth fieldstone salvaged from a local quarry. 

The neutral color palette is inspired by the warm sunlit hues of the Tuscan countryside and is considered “refined rustic.” 

Because this is the main living space and because the homeowners entertain frequently, Kurth designed various seating areas so the clients could use the room for activities and entertaining throughout the day. “I created an open and varied space by defining areas of flooring with the impactful use of area rugs,” says Kurth. “The team also used a thoughtful lighting plan to create a variety of intimate spaces and ambiences.”

The overhead lighting is a huge feature in the room and was designed by Kurth in collaborating with Clayton J. Bryant, a lighting fabricator in Maine. 

The rest of the design was achieved by layering. “I love envisioning the ‘bones’ of the space and then progressively layering materiality and textures,” says Kurth. “From local pieces, like the fireplace and ceiling trusses, to the furniture, faux finishes, and accessories.” All of the elements combine to create this cozy and stylish Great Room. 


Kurth’s Tips for Making a Great Room Better

Common Mistake: Making the TV the focus of the space.

What to Focus On: “Each client and setting has its own personality. We look for inspiration in the site, context, and, if it’s an existing home, the relationship between spaces, both interior and exterior.”

Tricks of the Trade: Get remote wiring with an AV consultant or automated home control system to hide unsightly wires. Other options include built-ins, toy trunks, and clever storage in ottomans to hide electronics, toys, and other items you need, but want out of sight. 

Trending Now: A mix of reclaimed materials, including timbers, trusses, and industrial light fixtures, according to Kurth. “We are also seeing the use of metal and steel as well as other materials traditionally thought of for industrial or exterior use.”

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