Taking a long hard look at Bedford style
Traditionally, Bedford homes have always been defined by their classic, New England style—clapboard architecture with country-house décor. But those parameters are not necessarily set in stone. In the last few years, thanks to the village’s cosmopolitan, well-traveled residents, Bedford house styles have taken on a more international look with a decided bent toward modern. In addition, some of the most stunning and talked-about homes reference an Asian, Arts and Crafts, Adirondack, or even minimalist style.
Susan Marocco, a Bedford-based interior designer who has chaired the Caramoor Antiques Show, describes contemporary Bedford style as “approachable elegance.”
Marocco, who, for a designer show house on West Patent Road, applied gold and silver leaf and striated, pale-blue Venetian plaster walls to create an opulent guest room, notes that Bedford style “is not the Met, but while people live less formally and want to be comfortable, there is still a certain refinement.”
“The current trend is to the modern,” says Deborah Schmidt-Crary, who decorated the Wilkenfelds’s home on Guard Hill Road. She says her clients “are pushing the traditional house to more modern, clean spaces.” The Wilkenfelds’s house, when she first saw it, was covered with wallpaper and heavy window treatments. “We simplified the whole thing to start over with a ‘clean palate.’”
Suzanne Galli, whose spectacular Succabone Road home is not an antique but was built to look like one, recalls, “We spent years researching our project and collecting tear sheets.” Galli says her idea of Bedford style includes equestrian influences. The elegant, more traditional home that designer Susan Thorn created for her is comfortable, dotted here and there with antiques and soft lighting. Thorn’s particular style is to leave knick-knacks and bric-a-brac out to make a house look and feel like a home.
Hilary Cosgriff of Summahil, LLC, describes Bedford style as a balance of the classic approach with a transitional modern flair. “Finishes are a mix of refined and rough,” Cosgriff says. “It’s complex. There are layers. The major pieces are chosen for comfort. People will invest a great deal of money in a great sofa.”
“Bedford style is about that second-home feel,” says Dennis Anderson, proprietor of Bedford House and for 13 years a designer for Baker Furniture. “People want to live in that second-home frame of mind. It’s about ease, which translates to less refined surfaces as well as settings comfortable for children and animals.”
Margaret Wilson of the Bedford Village interior design shop that bears her name says even people who grew up in Bedford are stepping out of the doctrine of living how their families have always lived. “What people want to express now in their homes is their own personality,” Wilson says. “The personality comes through in their choice of color and spirit of place.” She says there has been a “wonderful movement to modern.” At the same time, Wilson advises her clients not to abandon antiques. “Modern furniture is hip, but you have to use it as a counterbalance. Having heirlooms in our homes keeps the history of our master craftspeople alive.”
Wilson is a proponent of changing things up. “Every eight years it’s time to make a change,” she suggests. “Your eye gets tired.” She says she feels Bedford style now is world style. “The people here are movers and shakers, and they travel the planet bringing back great ideas and new color palettes. Why shouldn’t you decorate the ceiling? Why shouldn’t you upholster a wall?” Inspired by her recent travels to Texas, Greece, and Copenhagen, she encourages others to take note of their surroundings: “Open your eyes. Spread the joy around.”