Where Twain Shall Meet
This log cabin marries elements from today with designs of the past.
Nancy Elizabeth Hill
Five years ago interior designer Kenneth Hockin chose a log-cabin getaway that hovers just paces from Stormfield, Mark Twain’s Redding estate, and is flanked by 325 acres of the Saugatuck nature preserve. Like Twain, who sought “a country home which should be near enough to New York, and yet not too near in summer and winter,” as reported in a 1917 New York Times article, Hockin found a location close enough to his New York apartment and clients but with an otherworldly feel where he might retreat to focus on his design business and entertain friends.
Step beneath the canopy of maple trees into the cedar log cabin. The rush of tumbling whitewater saturates the air and, like a landscape painting, a surging waterfall appears framed through the cabin’s windows. The Saugatuck preserve’s cascade is such a pristine landmark that neighborhood lore suggests Mark Twain himself visited and wrote about this property. The ceiling soars in the great room above solid timber rafters. The main seating arrangement, anchored by a stone hearth, embodies Hockin’s eclectic style, which bridges three centuries and incorporates pieces from disparate time periods.
“Sometimes people want to get rid of everything and start over,” he says. “When they do that, they are wiping out the history and the soul of the home. Sometimes the odd thing gives a house its personality.” Pairing graceful, traditional silhouettes with contemporary upholstery allows Hockin to integrate choice pieces. “Upholstering old pieces is the stepping stone between traditional and contemporary pieces. While the silhouette is traditional, the fabric is contemporary.”
Both Hockin’s home and his home collection embody this principle. He pairs a classic Chippendale chair, for example, with a modern woven stripe. He places a contemporary armless sofa in blue with a retro club chair in a textured, milk-chocolate colored wool. The art objects and other furnishings in the main room reflect his decorative range. Pages from a 19th-century astronomy textbook bedecked in gold frames hang to the left of the fireplace. Just below, a bust of Napoleon peers out over a 1950s-style geometric carpet. These surprising juxtapositions give the room a diverse yet comfortable feel.
Reference and coffee-table books throughout the cabin act as decorative elements themselves. Surrounded by his books, it is easy to imagine Hockin relaxing in his reading alcove beneath the geometric cityscape by New York artist Tony Reinemann. Green hues from the painting resonate in the apple-green lamp from the designer’s home collection.
Hockin’s signature style in his cabin spills into the bedrooms as well. Featuring a waterfall view, his bedroom pulls elements from across the centuries into one cozy, elegant spot. The antique brass bed meets modernity when dressed in bedding of 1950s inspiration; on the walls above, the clock is turned back once again with images of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln framing either side of the window. Similarly, the guest bedroom houses a collection of Napoleonic prints above a swag-like, military bunting bordering the window.
When not focusing on his work and enjoying the solitude of his surroundings with his golden lab, Hockin entertains friends in the cabin—and on the stone patio where the stream of whitewater serves as background music. An antique Swedish pine table accommodates Sunday brunch. The feast Hockin prepares is echoed in a 19th-century still-life of harvest apples, while Windsor chairs serving as pedestals for a stoneware bowl or an antique fan complete the tableau.
Over the past few years in Redding, Hockin has assembled a cast of local artisans and craftsmen with whom he works. He has discovered that Connecticut’s design resources range from the antiques centers in Stamford to the major designer fabric showrooms, so it is no longer necessary to rely on New York for resources. Additionally, he loves the character of the local antiques and consignment shops—perhaps with the ghost of Mark Twain hovering nearby.