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Let There Be Light

A dark cape gets an innovative remodel



Photos by Jane Beiles

There’s nothing that a sewing machine and a hammer can’t fix,” says Kerry Brock with conviction. An award-winning journalist and former PBS news anchor, Brock is now an accomplished painter and printmaker with a predilection for design. In fact, she could easily add “virtuoso interior designer” to her impressive list of accomplishments. The refurbished Cape she shares with her husband, Emmy Award–winning news anchor John Seigenthaler, has been spectacularly redone top-to-bottom with Kerry very much at the helm of the renovation.

“This house perfectly reflects Kerry’s creativity and her style,” says John. “She built the couches, she designed the windows, the unit around the fireplace, the kitchen counters—it was all Kerry sitting down with paper and pencil every night.”

The couple purchased the circa 1940s house located in Weston in 2001. For three decades prior, the house had been a combined professional office and living space for two successive dentists and their families. Kerry and John theorize that the structure was originally conceived as a tavern, store, or post office because in the ’40s, the Lyons Plain Road corridor was known primarily as a commercial throughway. When the couple toured the house, it was a confusing rabbit warren of dark rooms, but there was something ineffable about the place that appealed to them. “It would have been cheaper to knock down the whole thing and start over,” says John. “But both of us saw something we liked in this house. There was something about it we found unique, and we wanted to try to preserve that.”

“It took us a year and a half to figure out what we wanted to do with the space,” explains Kerry. “So we didn’t move in until 2002. We originally bought it as a weekend house but soon it became our full-time home and a full-time remodeling project.”

When it came to making design decisions, the couple were simpatico. “I had certain ideas, John had certain ideas,” says Kerry, “but we agreed on everything. Though we had a contractor and an architect, we were both intimately involved in the renovation every step of the way.”

After a lengthy period of research, the design concept for the remodel slowly evolved. The couple likes to entertain frequently, so their goal was to create an open space with a seating arrangement that would be comfortable enough for 12 people to sit around and talk. To that end, they decided to add a loft-like great room combining kitchen, eating, and family room spaces, with a small office nook for Kerry hidden behind a sliding barn door.

The result is a completely flexible space, with an open kitchen at one end, anchored by a 13-foot marble countertop with a row of vintage soda fountain stools, and at the other end a towering wall of glass with expansive views of the lawn, a meadow, and a tennis court. The great room, which reaches a height of 24 feet at the apex, is airy and filled with soft, natural light. The décor is sophisticated yet welcoming.

Instead of beams, the structure is held together by industrial collar ties, an idea Kerry gleaned from a magazine. John saw a corrugated aluminum ceiling featured in a design book and the idea called to both of them. What might appear rustic on the outside of a building, turns out to be the epitome of cool inside. Kerry took the unusual juxtaposition one step further by adding an oversized Murano glass chandelier attached by an industrial-style chain, and suspended it over the sleek seating area, adding the ultimate high-low design combination. “I love the great room because it’s open,” says Kerry. “You feel like you’re outside, and you can cook, have dinner, drinks, relax, and watch TV all at once.”

To call Kerry’s taste eclectic would be doing her a disservice. Her style is innovative, unexpected, and whimsical. “If something is interesting, I buy it,” she says. Furnishings and accessories have been gathered and expertly curated from auctions, tag sales, consignment shops, antiques stores, restaurant supply outlets, and Ebay. Her design philosophy is simple: “If you buy things you love, you’ll find a place for them. The key is, just don’t love too much.”

The roots of Kerry’s unique aesthetic stem from her childhood. “I grew up on a farm and there wasn’t a lot of money, but there was a huge interest in having a cozy, warm home. I sewed all my own clothes and was a member of 4H so I’m very handy. The creative spirit and the joy of dumpster diving is in my DNA.”

Kerry’s artwork is hung throughout their home. The paintings have bold floral motifs and are an explosion of color. The prints are moodier and more monochromatic. “In the house I grew up in, the wallpaper was different in every room and those patterns are now recreated in my artwork. As for the prints, I always had abstract in my soul, but it was a process of learning realism and learning to twist that.”

The exterior spaces are just as thoughtfully designed as the interiors. A grassy slope was transformed into an lush courtyard that flows seamlessly from the kitchen and breakfast area. A retaining wall was added to make the space level.

Kerry sharpened her ever-present pencil and designed a classic stone wall with an archway and gate and then planted climbing hydrangea. Vegetation is all low-maintenance perennials including rows of short boxwoods and skip laurel, with generous groupings of electric green hakonechola grasses mixed with black dwarf mondo grass. The blue stone patio pavers are anchored by an appealing central seating area, that features an ultra-modern propane fire pit surrounded by four chairs—a fresh take on the classic Adirondack design.

On the other side of the great room, there is access to more outdoor living space. A spacious covered porch has been reimagined as an outdoor living and dining room. The inviting vibe is a mixture of funky 1950s mid-century modern combined with hip 1960s pieces and thrift store finds. 

“This house has a soul,” says Kerry. “I don’t know if it’s because we put so much of ourselves into it, but I believe that houses have a karma about them. It was dilapidated when we got here, but we loved the potential. Now, our house unfolds for the visitor. It’s not ‘ta-da’ when you pull into the driveway. It welcomes you as you walk through and discover it. We built it for our needs and it serves them perfectly.”

 

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