From Simple to Spectacular
Photos by Mick Hales
Grey Croft conjures images of quaint old houses in the English countryside. Croft is basically a portion of a larger estate that is surrounded by walls and buildings (usually houses) where a tenant farmer was allowed to have a private garden. When architect Scot Samuelson and his husband Dan Harrison found a piece of land with a small house on it he knew he had found the perfect place to create his own paradise.
“We bought the neighborhood,” explains Samuelson. “The area is quite wonderful; we are in Sharon, on the edge of Macedonia State Park and Weantinoge—surrounded by thousands of acres of protected land.”
They found the property the day it came on the market. While they may have been seduced by the land there was a structure that had to be addressed. The original house was 1,600 square feet and was meant to be a guest cottage for a larger house that never got built. This existing building had been used as a hunting lodge for an automobile executive from New York. It was basically a one room cabin without much charm. “I knew I could do something with the land and the building—I just didn’t know what.” Samuelson recalls his frustration. “We had such buyer’s remorse that we didn’t come back to look at the property for two months.”
But Samuelson did return and began the transformation. Originally the idea was to renovate the existing house and turn it into a small shingled cottage and design a new house for another part of the six-acre property.
“It was a matter of coming up with a concept that felt right for the site. My first attempt was Greek Revival and quite formal. But it didn’t feel right in such a pastoral setting. I wanted something that was rustic but more refined,” says Samuelson.
The blending of the new and the old is always a challenge. In its first incarnation, which took place in 2005, the original house was renovated and designed to be a guest house. But then Samuelson decided to create a larger addition to look as if it was the original house and what was already there became an appendage off to the side. It was a solution that respected what had been done before, but did not hinder the path forward.
Samuelson grew up in Essex and has always been partial to New England life and its environs. “I am the best of both my parents,” Samuelson explains. “My father was an engineer and very technical-minded. My mother is a gifted artist. Put the two together and you kind of get architecture. Even as a child I was utterly taken with houses and construction sites. We lived in a neighborho
od that was being built up and I was fascinated by the process.”
The modest square footage of the original structure was transformed into a 3,500-square-foot residence with 12 rooms, including threeen-suite bedrooms with dressing rooms. While the vastness of the house and its gardens makes for a formal impression, Samuelson worked hard to make it all appear more comfortable and accessible. “It was the lodge feeling I was going for,” he explains. “The idea was to give the house the kind of elegance and refinement that a country lodge might have.”
Samuelson did the interior design as well. While the public rooms create a sense of formality at first glance, they are actually cleverly layered with Regency and Federal pieces, velvet-upholstered sofas, all with a fine aged patina that evokes both history and comfort. It is a place where one can curl up and not worry about disturbing the fabric of the rooms.
Samuelson and his husband have collected furniture from other homes they have had as well as family heirlooms, all of which inhabit their new residence in a seamlessly blended environment—a tribute to Samuelson’s discerning and creative vision.
The cedar shake shingles were another attempt to make the imposing structure seem more accessible and as if it had existed for many years. Of course, there is a practical reason for using this material as well—low maintenance.
Samuelson’s passion for gardening also came into play in creating the exterior vision for Grey Croft. The circular driveway is followed on the right by a treasure-trove of flowers and greenery that appear to have always been there. There is a creative, controlled chaos that makes a visitor want to stop, sniff, feel, and perhaps snip a blossom or two.
“I wanted it to feel as if the garden encompasses the house and contributes to the peace and tranquility I find being here.” And it does. Samuelson has indeed succeeded in creating the perfect haven at Grey Croft.