Hidden in Plain View .
Main Street in Lakeville offers a variety of shops and restaurants and invites strollers to sample what a small New England town has to offer. As you venture past the stores, you come upon a series of stately historic houses, set back from the busy street. Brian Goodall and Nina DiSesa’s house is one of them—a classic American Georgian house with old world charm. “We love being in the center of town,” says Goodall. Once you step inside the house—set back from the road and surrounded by five acres—you are not aware of anything but the tranquility that Goodall and DiSesa have created. “We’ve had other country houses, the most recent was a forty-five-acre farm in Pawling, with sixteen horses,” says DiSesa. “We wanted to downsize, but instead we moved to a larger house, but with a lot less land to take care of.” And while the house boasts 12 rooms, it has an easy flow and every room is welcoming.
The property consists of the main house, built in 1763 with an addition, an original barn, that was converted into living quarters in 1900. Additionally there are three barns, and a gazebo on the property. Built by a former general in the Connecticut militia, the house was designed with nine-foot ceilings and a fireplace in every room. “At that time, in the 1700s, they didn’t build houses like this,” Goodall explains. “One of the problems for us was that there are three guestrooms and only one bathroom for all of them. And that one bathroom was down the hall and certainly not convenient if all the rooms were occupied. Nina says there was no way we could buy a house without a bathroom for each room.
The rooms were decent size but we couldn’t see where we’d get the space to create new bathrooms. But I wasn’t giving up,” says DiSesa. “So, I called our designer Neil and said he had to come up with a solution. And, genius that he is, he did.”
Neil Bradford has designed previous houses for the couple. He worked for interior designer Jamie Drake before striking out on his own. Then after several years in New York, he moved back to his homeland Australia. He heard the frustration in DiSesa’s voice and came to her rescue. “The guest rooms were all perfect squares. By carving out a triangle on each side of the fireplace, Neil was able to install a bathroom complete with shower on one side and a closet in the other corner. The angles give the rooms more character and don’t upset the balance at all.” In truth, these bathrooms are more luxurious than most guest bathrooms and you don’t have to go down the hall or share them.
Neil understands me and knows what I want—even when I’m not sure myself,” DiSesa says. Although it is a period house and much of the original is still intact, the house’s décor reflects the owners’ sensibilities. Everything is functional and nothing is precious. “The house needed to be kid-friendly as well as work for grownups. We have used the same colors in our other houses because they always work.”
That palette includes walls in shades of white, taupe, and gray complemented by unexpected upholstery fabric, such as the dusty pale blue cotton flannel used on the living-room sofas. The only room to venture from the color scheme is the dining room, where the walls are covered in charcoal gray fabric and a giant whimsical painting of an elephant holds forth on one wall, facing a long oval table that seats ten. Chairs are upholstered in a bright red geometric fabric and sit on a bright red and gray rug, delineating the table legs from the dark floors of the same color. “Although the house had been redone by the previous owners, there were certain things we had to do to make it work for us,” says Goodall. “We totally renovated the kitchen because there was no storage space.
And the master bathroom,” interjects DiSesa. “It had a fabulous sink, but there was no counter space. It definitely had not been designed with a woman’s needs in mind.” The couple also installed geothermal heating and cooling.
In addition to restoring the barns, the couple put in a pool and a pool house, set back away from the house surrounded by sumptuous plants and trees. There is also a stream that runs along the border of the property. “The bones of the gardens were there, they just needed to be edited; we took things out and tidied up everything. We removed a fair number of trees simply because there were too many and the grounds needed to be shaped,” says Goodall. They also created two backyard terraces for entertaining. They are side by side, each replete with glass top table and six chairs.
Depending on the weather and how many we’re having for dinner, we sit at one or the other. But we can also put the tables together and entertain one large group.” We were fortunate enough to have a glorious sunny day for this photo session and so we had a beautiful lunch of delicious pasta and salad served al fresco.
Although DiSesa and Goodall keep an apartment in New York, they spend more and more time in Lakeville. “Now that we’ve left our full time jobs, this has become our home. We are within walking distance of town, the dogs can run free in the yard, and there is so much to do here,” says DiSesa.
The two celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary this year. Both had high-powered careers in advertising and met when Goodall was working in Chicago and DiSesa was transferred there. They moved back to New York and DiSesa went on to be the first woman and the first creative director to be made chairman of a major New York advertising agency, McCann Erickson. She was named one of the most powerful women in American Business in 2000 by Fortune and wrote a very successful book about her experiences called Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics from a Woman at the Top. While they both do consulting, their major occupation is enjoying their house and their surroundings.
Looking back, this renovation wasn’t easy. Since I was no longer working, I was here all the time, watching everything and getting frustrated at how long everything seemed to be taking,” says DiSesa. “But in the end it was worth the wait. It’s the perfect spot. We’ve been to Europe countless times and have seen many beautiful places. But this is really the most beautiful place for us now.