PHOTOGRAPHY: ANDREA CERASO
John Scura, an uber-successful personal injury attorney and all-around really nice guy, and his wife, Jeanne-Marie, an uber-successful globetrotting denim designer and producer for major retailers and VP at Vanilla Star Jeans, were living in a brownstone in Hoboken with their three girls, Livia, Coco-Marie, and Lucie, and their son Dash. When their next door neighbors and best friends, Jim and Jessica Caufield, announced out-of-the-blue that, despite that Jim would have to make the commute to New Jersey for work everyday, they were moving to a rental in Darien, Connecticut, on Noroton Neck, on a peninsula surrounded by the Long Island Sound …The Scuras were coming out on weekends for visits, with the Caufields cleverly always instructing a route on the Merritt instead of I-95 so the Scuras would get the country feel. Jeanne-Marie recalls, “Jim and Jessica decided to buy the house that they were renting, but the then-owner only wanted to sell it together with the adjacent property that she also owned. The adjacent property had a 70s style upside-down house that we knew we’d never live in…but the Caufields are good salespeople… And so, despite that John would have to make the same crazy commute from Darien to his law offices in New Jersey every day – about three hours round- trip without hitting significant traffic – we decided to buy the property, make our own full-time move to Darien and, about a year later, construct our new home. The one-of-a-kind piece of land was irresistible!”
The house is striking! It’s a most elegant and refined masterpiece, with a soaring two-story glass-walled center hall with black metal framing that serves to attach the new, white, two-story structure with a big front porch that appears to be an old farmhouse, with an attached worn-gray wooden barn that looks like it’s always been there. The same kind of giant windows with black metal framing make up most of the back wall of the house, with the effect that the house and barn are always open to the outdoors. While the general Modern Farmhouse style that includes this California Coastal is really a post-modernist movement meant to evoke the old country charm of the 1800s, all the architectural windows give this house an avant garde flair.
The Scuras hired architect, Arpita Muchhal, to make their dream a reality. Muchhal expertly wove together elements of New England design, California Coastal aesthetic, and European feel, to create a masterpiece for the ages. Muchhal explains, “My vision for the house was based on a story of time and how this new home may have developed if there was a colonial house and a detached barn on the property. As a primary focus, the windows we designed were inspired by antique steel windows. We had to play with the scale as 12’+ ceilings are not something we find in older homes. But with good proportions, balance and rhythm, we were able to design a house that has a timeless quality to it.”
Inside is inspiring! Jeanne-Marie turned to Joanne O’Neil to help with the interior design. Joanne owns JG O’Neil Designs, a Darien-based interior design firm that is known for modern masterpieces that are sophisticated yet livable. Her aesthetic is traditional and modern day pieces seamlessly blended with vintage and antique finds. Her love for art and her attention to detail combine to make each room more special than the last.
The glass front door leads to an expansive and dramatic 24-foot-long front-to-back two-story foyer with water views on both sides of the room that divides the house into two wings. The walls are limewashed plaster like inside of a European villa. The living room is an elegant take on Boho- chic with a warm palette of neutral browns and beiges that pull from the exposed beams in the 14-foot ceilings, and large-scale and inviting furniture that beckon every guest. The living room is separated from the dining room only by a fireplace in the center of the room that is open to each side, allowing for a peek into each exquisite space from the next, unless the Scura’s have a roaring fire – which they often do. Although the space looks completely effortless, Jeanne-Marie worked very deliberately over time with Joanne to layer the space with a mix of materials and textures and visual pops to make it feel like the California getaway that it does.
Jeanne-Marie says, “I travel a lot and stay at these beautiful hotels that have given me a lot of inspiration for what I wanted to do, especially around textures and materials… But I needed help executing that at scale, and Joanne was really able to take all of my ideas and vision and actually turn it into something that would work in the space and fill in blanks with things like window treatments that were more of an afterthought for me, but that were the final touches that made this space feel complete.” Antique marble pedestals casually placed in corners of the room are adorned with plants and statues to subconsciously tie in different elements from around the space and really bring everything together.
The kitchen is visually open to the living and dining spaces but enclosed behind a long glass wall that spans the entire depth of the house, made with the same black metal framing as used for the outside walls and windows of the house. The kitchen is massive, but still has a homey feel. It features an island that should probably really be called a continent, wood-paneled appliances, a retro-style oven with a plaster hacienda-style hood, and warm wooden seating. There are stools at the counter, a larger family-style breakfast table with seating for ten, and a smaller breakfast table for cozier moments tucked into a booth. The entire seating area connects seamlessly to the front porch, making it feel like part of the living space.
The pantry sits in a hallway behind the glass wall and is a masterpiece unto itself, with metal mesh covering each cabinet, and a light blue color scheme, paired with a fabulous Tabarka studio custom Rue des Rosiers tile.
Behind the pantry is a wet-bar back hall with tile flooring and a bathroom complete with magnificent Jardin D’Osier Ocre Hermés wallpaper. The back hall has outswing casement windows which allow easy access to an outside bar.
The primary bedroom is subtle and bold at the same time, with the focal point being another massive glass and steel window. The bathroom feels like a cozy English cottage, featuring a large clawfoot tub underneath a pair of dormer windows and wide plank wood flooring. All part of the primary suite, the bathroom leads to an intimate sitting room with multiple outrageously comfortable sofas.
Four ensuite bedrooms are located in a separate wing of the house, for each of the now-adult kids. Over the years, Jeanne-Marie has collected a significant piece of art for each of her children that she will eventually gift to them, that means something to her about them. As she turns to decorating those bedrooms, she plans to use those pieces as focal points and inspiration to guide the process.