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Domestic Soil

Returning from Europe to sow a fresh, new life and garden



Photo by Jeff McNamara

Great fashion and style icon Iris Apfel once said about interior design: “While some of these homes are very beautiful, they look anonymous to me. They could be suites in very expensive hotels, but they don’t tell you who lives there.” The sprawling Greenfield Hill estate of Andrea and Kevin Hunt is a home that Apfel would most likely admire—a place filled with rooms that tell stories and showcase lives well lived, and well loved. 

Americans by birth—Andrea from outside Chicago and Kevin from New Jersey—the couple bonded 25 years ago over their love of adventure and travel, and through their work, installed themselves across the pond in London for over 15 years. While there, they married and traveled all over Europe, visiting Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia. Along the way their collections grew—be it a painting from Italy, a chandelier from a Paris flea market, or a tea set from Beijing. Each item has its own story and memory for the couple. Collecting things—often antiques or vintage—always imbued their travels with added meaning.

Living in a charming Kensington flat, they had two sons, Jack and JP, who grew up just like other English schoolboys, wearing their woolen uniforms and walking to school. But after some time, America and their family here beckoned, and the Hunts decided to relocate. Kevin’s company in London offered him a position in New York so they began to look nearby. A college friend—and local realtor—suggested Fairfield. “We loved the character of the town and all its older homes, and especially in Greenfield Hill, we were very excited at the prospect of having so much land,” explains Andrea. “We had always lived in cities, and while we crave the culture of London or New York, I longed for a garden, chickens, and space for the boys to spread out—much like my upbringing outside of Chicago.” 

The property on Merwins Lane was one of several choices presented to them, and in the end it won their hearts, as the nearly three acres of land afforded them the ideal place to install a dream organic farm—with raised beds, fruit trees, a large chicken coop, and bees. “The established plantings on the property were also a big draw,” explains Andrea. “Hydrangeas, peonies, wisteria, lavender, dogwoods, clematis—all bloom beautifully season to season, and I love taking care of them all.” 

The house was built in 1953, added to in the 1960s, and again updated with a remodel in 2002 that included expanding the sprawling dine-in kitchen and adding marble countertops and state-of-the-art appliances.

he barn, an original post-and-beam structure created offsite and assembled on the property in 2002, is topped with a classic weathervane and doubles as the garage and place for all the supplies needed to care for gardens, chickens, and bees. More than 4,500 square feet, the home is colonial in style, but it has two separate wings and staircases—one side housing the boys’ rooms, two bathrooms, a playroom, and walk-in closets, and in the other wing, the master bedroom, two additional bathrooms, a guestroom, and an entire room devoted to closets and built-in dressers.

The master bath with its classic pedestal tub is one of Andrea’s favorite places to relax after a long day gardening and managing her home and family. On the wall surrounding the tub she placed framed photographs of favorite vacation spots such as Phuket, Positano, and Dubrovnik.

Never employing interior designers to realize their vision, the couple taps into their own aesthetic sensibility to place what feels right in their spaces. “Each room tells its own story of where we have been through the things we love,” explains Kevin. “It is like coming home to old friends,” says Andrea. Kevin, a talented and self-taught painter, has pieces done in oil and acrylics dotting the walls of the home—many of which are impressionist in style.

He likes to set up his easel and canvas and paint in the family room in colder weather, and outside in warmer seasons. “We call this the ‘Out of Africa’ room,” explains Andrea, describing their den. “The animal heads were given to us by my father who is a skilled archer, and we collected the masks, the painting of the Indaba tree, a carved chess set, and the tribal rug on trips to Johannesburg, Cairo, and Cape Town.” 

The dining room—which extends off a pantry area complete with warming trays, and a wine refrigerator—is highlighted by hand-finished wallpaper from De Gournay in France, resulting in a patina that looks better with age. “We loved the blooming foliage and birds, which we felt mimicked the property and almost replicates a window to our bucolic grounds,” explains Andrea. “The chandelier is Art Nouveau, from a Paris flea market,” says Andrea, “and it’s one of the first pieces we ever bought together.”

The formal living room is dubbed the “Great Gatsby Room” due to its theme of 1920s excess illustrated in vintage pro-smoking advertisements, vintage slot machines, and a mirrored bar, original to the house. There is a surprising color scheme—a soft mauve and fern green.

“The palette in here complements the pastel dreamy colored paintings of the Cliffs of Dover, Amsterdam, and Waterloo Bridge,” says Andrea. The 1930s Italian sofa is covered in a luxurious silk velvet and is flanked by two important 40s Maison Jansen caned slipper chairs. Another objet d’art procured from their travels is the painted-tiles collage created by an apprentice to famed Cubist painter Henry Moore. 

The result is a home that is brimming with personality, but also a place where you recognize that attention to detail and hard work has paid off. It took two years to install and complete the enclosed garden (safekeeping the plantings and chickens from predators) that features all kinds of vegetables as well as ornamental fruit trees, including cherries, peaches, apples, plums, and pears.

A flock of hens with whimsical names like Bubble, Squeak, Cadbury, and Yolk-o Ono, give the family copious eggs and free-range around the yard, mingling with the family’s other pets: Frank, Beans, and Merwin the cat. Dotting the property on nearly every corner are vignettes of greenery and flowers, and little seating areas that offer pretty views—from the corner of the old slate patio overlooking the stream and footbridge, to the zinc dining table under the pergola, which is resplendent with wisteria each spring. It is a home that brings joy in all seasons—inside and out.  

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