Seas The Day
A classic beach house brings a fresh start
The Keegans gave up many green acres for breathtaking views, ocean breezes, and beachfront.
Photographs by Emily Sidoti Photography
In 2011, Patti and Tom Keegan were busy. They had a large home on 32 acres in Greenfield Hill and their plates were full raising four active children. Life surprised them on Labor Day that year when Patti Keegan was diagnosed with breast cancer, so priorities had to be reassessed and life downshifted a bit.
It was during this stressful time that Keegan began treatment, and the couple started taking cathartic walks on the beach. One day, they passed an old 1970s contemporary house and fell in love with the view. The couple had been looking at homes on the beach with the dream of one day owning a modest cottage, but this was an “aha” moment for them. Shortly after, Tom bought the house as a surprise for his wife.
“He thought it would be a fun project that could help distract me during such a transitional time,” she says. Over the next several months as they began to downsize and construct their new home, they knew the thing they would miss most about having a bigger house was hosting the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Cancer fundraiser. “We hosted the event for 12 years and loved being able to provide a space for the Center and 600 guests,” explains Keegan.
The Keegan’s seaside “project” turned into a two-years-in-the-making 5,600-square-foot oasis that ultimately gave Keegan the serenity she needed to rebound. The couple tore down the beachside property they purchased in June 2012, then Hurricane Sandy hit that September and set them back several months. In the beginning of 2013, one of the Keegan’s sons got engaged, and that was when Patti Keegan told builders Ro Glantz and Bryan Robik of RG Building and Development, “This has got to be done in nine months.”
The couple called on talented Southport- and South Carolina–based designer Ellen Baldwin for help with the interiors. With no time to spare, Baldwin and Keegan began to decorate from the blueprints with help from Patrick Briel, a former designer with Lillian August, who helped implement the project and source the bulk of the furnishings through L.A.
Because the Keegans had moved from a larger, more traditionally decorated home in Greenfield Hill, they needed to scale down furnishings, and also wanted to start over. “With this beachfront home they were going for a cleaner, more transitional look,” explains Baldwin. At that time, the couple’s four kids had all moved out, so the husband and wife began anew and focused on the beach and ocean view.
Their goal was a classic Nantucket-style shingle home with updated, clean interiors. The couple entertains often and hosts family gatherings and holiday get-togethers, soit made sense to have an open plan between the kitchen and dining room, making the downstairs bright and airy and taking advantage of the gorgeous views of the beach. Baldwin’s expert eye made the home warm without feeling too modern. “I didn’t want stark and cold, I just wanted it to be pretty,” says Keegan.
Throughout the home, Baldwin talked the couple into using high gloss paint on the walls, ceiling and trim, which reflects the light from the ocean. The wood floors were stained black to add a stark contrast to the white walls.
Often the inspiration for a room’s decor comes from a paint color, a rug, or even a favorite piece of furniture. For the Keegans, they inherited an acrylic painting done in the 60s by Tom’s second cousin, aka Uncle Bill. The painting shows three houses on stilts set on Fairfield beach. “I showed the painting to Ellen and said, “This is the inspiration for the house,” explains Keegan.
Baldwin then took her design cues from the colors within the artwork. “For fabrics and accessories, we did the whole house in gorgeous aqua colors because it’s a happy hue and reflects the sky in the painting,” says Keegan. These cool watercolor blues would punctuate the all-white rooms in the home, except the master bedroom, which is painted a soothing pale blue. “When I wake up, I tell my husband that every day is calm here,” she says.
The family room, though not white, is decorated in warm beiges and neutrals. This cozy living space is where the Keegans and their kids, when home, like to watch movies. Moving into the kitchen, a Lucite and chrome light fixture floats over a circular dining table that can seat up to ten. Whimsical aqua and white floral cushions cover the chairs.
Creative accents such as running shiplap in the entry hall and the stair balusters horizontally instead of vertically have a striking and fresh, modern-day effect. Tom Keegan’s office and master bedroom both have sweeping view of the Long Island Sound.
He is also a wine collector, so downstairs Baldwin and Patti Keegan designed a wineroom within the kitchen, which holds at least 1,000 bottles. “When you’re standing in the kitchen the reflection of the water in the glass is so pretty,” says Keegan.
The Keegans (Patti & daughter Courtney photo left) were also excited about having an outdoor space.“We went from 32 acres and not seeing a soul, to this spot where we love to people-watch,” notes Keegan.
In the end, nine months of hard work produced a stunning beach front sanctuary. The family named the house “Seas the Day” to honor their mantra of live, love, and laugh. “This house was a wonderful new beginning for all,” reflects Keegan.