An antique home gets a fresh holiday twist
Photographs by Rana Faure // Catering by Maison Privé // Floral design by Hedgerow and Co.
Courtney McGinnis met Samantha O’Brien while at the Pomfret School back in the 1990s, and later, when they both settled their families in Courtney’s hometown of Bedford, they got to thinking about their shared passions.
They loved perusing flea markets and estate sales, collecting shell boxes and vintage barware, and they were routinely driven to find that one piece that would complete a room’s décor.
In 2009, their shared passion became a business when they founded Clover Design, a collection of one-of-a-kind furniture and accessories that they cultivated to share with clients and friends. Two years later, when Courtney and her husband, Michael, moved into the late-18th-century Benjamin Hays House just east of the Village Green, Clover Design found its new home in the old cider barn and greenhouse out back.
“We build a seasonal collection, throw a party, and invite people in to see what we have,” says Courtney, who, along with Michael, purchased the vintage tavern-turned-homestead from her aunt and uncle.
“My aunt ran a similar business, selling English and American antiques from the barn,” she continues. “We updated the business model, inviting designers and artisans to work with us on the events.”
After the guests have previewed the collections, they make appointments for Courtney and Samantha to bring selected pieces into their homes.
“While we will decorate an entire room for a client, we are equally enthusiastic about helping people add just the final layer. We mix new items with organic elements—fur, horns, and tortoise shells—and vintage items, like old rugs and textiles that exude history. Our strength lies in finding the right things for the right spaces.”
The décor in the McGinnis house changes as Clover Design pieces flow in from the barn and back again. Selecting and siting furnishings in their home is a collaborative effort between Courtney and Michael, a contemporary-art expert. “Michael has his finger on the pulse of the art world,” Courtney explains. “He does the walls, and he’s good with space. I rely on his eye.”
The Benjamin Hays House was in tip-top condition when the McGinnises took possession four years ago. In addition to the main house, barn, and greenhouse, the six-acre property includes a guesthouse, a fishing cottage, and a chicken shed. The couple converted the fishing cottage to a family-friendly pool house and updated the main house décor with fresh paint and wallpaper. Then Courtney set about adding the layers that Clover Design is known for.
There is a hallway that runs from front to back with vintage Dutch doors opening to the street and the courtyard. Two of Michael’s favorite pieces of art hang in this antique space that boasts high tavern ceilings: Alphabet (M) by Danh Vo and a gold-leaf-dipped painting by Jim Hodges. Below the Vo piece, Courtney set a Jean Royère console topped with a Lynn Chadwick sculpture and bookended the console with vintage bamboo chairs. Hide floor coverings are casually placed by each of the two entrances.
The home unfolds from this central space with a kitchen, butler’s pantry, and dining room to the west and a library, bar, and living room to the east. Historical records indicate that much of the first floor and basement were part of the original tavern. Uneven, antique floorboards run throughout the rooms, bearing the weight of 200-plus years of domestic and commercial foot traffic. If only they could talk.
When it comes to decorating the house for the holidays, it’s a family affair. The three McGinnis daughters—Lucy, Rowan,and Gigi—hang their knit stockings and set out their favorite nutcrackers in the light-filled living room, while Courtney creates unique tableaus for the tables by mixing vintage Christmas ornaments and backyard cuttings.
Inside the front door, she sets a jaunty Christmas tree planted in a galvanized steel pot among dozens of miniature apples on a distressed table. A second, larger tree stands tall in the living room.
An avid entertainer, Courtney decided to kick off the holiday season with a mother-daughter luncheon this year. Before the guests arrived, she invited Dana Worlock of Hedgerow and Co., a Pound Ridge floral-design shop, to help her deck the halls with wreaths, trees, and sprays.
She called on Maison Privé, a boutique catering company owned by Bedford’s Jim and Jennifer Vellano, to provide a buffet lunch of bibb lettuce salad and sous-vide filet mignon (plus some handmade chicken tenders for the picky eaters in the crowd).
Wine and Shirley Temples are not needed to wash down the pomegranate layer cake and brownie Santa hats, but they make the dessert hour all that much sweeter.
In the aftermath of the luncheon, kisses and hugs are generously shared as guests file out, and the family settles into the library that boasts an original hearth—one of six that once kept the tavern heated on chilly nights. The space is chockfull of books and objets that Courtney has collected.
“Our look—at home and at work—is comfortable,” she says. “It needs to feel lived in. I love mixing coffee-table books, and kids’ artwork, and ceramic pieces, and anything with patina. A home should be a place where you want to sit down and stay for a while.”