The Alexander Julian home is a beautiful and magical place. And it's going on the market
"We have always called this place Chapel Hill North,” says designer Alexander Julian, about his thirty-acre estate on Florida Hill Road. Now he and his wife Meaghan are being pulled back to the other Chapel Hill by the family retail and furniture businesses, and their many children and grandchildren in North Carolina. The Julians have asked David Everson of William Raveis to put the house on the market. They will return to North Carolina, when the property finds a new owner. “It’s bittersweet for all of us,” says Alex. “This has been a great place to live and work for twenty-five years.”
He cites their twenty-year old annual Memorial Day baseball game at Aldrich Park, as an example of the good times the Julian family has celebrated in Ridgefield. “It’s always been kids versus parents, then, scholars versus sages; next year, it’s going to be twenty-somethings versus AARPs,” he says, laughing at the inexorable process of time.
When the Julians moved to the estate 25 years ago, they lived in the 1900s farmhouse that had “seven aesthetic band aids,” and is now Alex’s design studio. Quickly, they began work on a new house, working with the late California architect John Marsh Davis. With Davis, they created a shingle-style, craftsman house, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, but driven by Alex and Meaghan’s superlative eye. “Downstairs, I just wanted a kitchen, living room, and dining room,” says Meaghan, alluding to the simplicity of the layout. The over-size scale of these three rooms, however, creates a grand feeling, compounded by the glorious southern view of the property from floor to ceiling windows, and 11-foot ceilings.
A petite friend describes feeling like Alice in Wonderland, when she is in the dining room. A 42-foot custom table graces the space, and there are two substantial side tables that can be added so that there is never a kids table. Gas lanterns provide the room’s only light, which creates a romantic feeling and casts a flattering glow, at the Julian’s many dinner parties and family get togethers. During Memorial Day weekend alone, they host thirty over-indulging houseguests, earning the estate its other name, Camp Gout.
The living room continues to straddle the house’s formality and warmth, with a grand piano and two-story ceilings, featuring mahogany built-ins, and an ample Rumford fireplace.
The twenty-year-old kitchen looks like it could have been finished yesterday. Custom cherry cabinets built by Meaghan’s friend, architect Sam Cousins, are solid, higher, and deeper than standard cabinets, providing more workspace. A large farm table is perfect for rolling out Meaghan’s famous pizzas.
In fact, the whole house feels both fresh and classic—testament to doing things right the first time. When discussing the bold color choices throughout the house, Meaghan describes working with Don Kaufman. There are 52 different colors of paint and stain on the house, including four in the master bedroom alone. “Kaufman uses pure pigment, with no black,” says Meaghan. Even with Alex’s flair for color, they haven’t changed one in twenty years—preferring to notice how each color changes depending on the light at any given hour.
There are five bedrooms upstairs, all but one enjoying the same southern exposure, and no curtains or window treatments of any kind. “That’s residual from growing up in Sausalito,” says Meaghan. “Let the light in.” Black-and-white photographs of summers in California, document the comely family’s yearly summers on her coast. As a nod to Alex’s retail heritage and his extensive wardrobe, she designed his ample closet to look like a store, with abundant shelves and high cedar closets for storage.
Meaghan’s personal touches extend to the meticulously maintained grounds, which feature many out buildings, as well as Alex’s studio. The boxwood and ivy are trimmed to reflect Alex’s signature argyle designs. “We have the world’s only plaid tennis court,” they laugh. There is also an in-law cottage, “and an out-law one,” as well as a pool house, and gardener’s cottage.
“Alex is a kind of hometown hero in Chapel Hill,” notes Meaghan. “A big fish in a small pond.” Alex dresses the who’s who of Chapel Hill, designed the University of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball jerseys as well as the University’s new powder blue graduation robes.
While the Julian’s move to North Carolina will be a change, the couple shows no sign of slowing down. “The first night we move in,” says Meaghan, “Alex will bring home 14 guests, and we’ll have a big dinner. That’s not going to change.”