Renovated in 2000, the 4,600-square-foot home was lovingly modernized in a true European style by an owner who has traveled the world and appreciates the appeal of indoor-outdoor living. That is perhaps best on display adjacent to the home’s formal living room with fireplace, where a second screened-in living room boasts brick herringbone floors and views of the gardens and water.
Elsewhere, that same feeling is re-created off the formal dining room with its Murano glass light fixtures and walnut doors, which is mirrored by a screened in dining room that can comfortably seat more than a dozen guests. As for the sunny chef’s kitchen, that opens up to a flower and herb garden, naturally.
Taken together, it makes for a grand impression, but it’s the tiny details that set this home apart—the antique wood in the library, a marble-clad master bath fashioned after a room in a Tuscan villa. Off the oversize master suite sits a private terrace, the perfect vantage for taking in this stunning property. And for all the charm of these interiors, the grounds can’t help but steal the show, whether in the form of colorful gardens that bloom throughout the year or the rolling lawn that leads down to the back bay.
True nature lovers, the current owners created a special refuge on their sprawling property, highlighted by two round Chinese moon doors covered with climbing hydrangea and terraced gardens they call their “stairway to heaven.” Throughout the acreage, mature specimen trees serve as stately reminders of the property’s proud history. “That takes time to establish; you can’t just buy that look with a new piece of uncultivated property,” says Petrillo of the landscape, which also includes a heated gunite pool with pool house, a separate one-bedroom guest cottage with kitchen and living room, a two-car garage, and a garden workroom. “However, with the help of a good landscape designer, someone can certainly try.”
Roxine Brown, the founder and creative force behind Harmonia Inc., has made a career of connecting homes with their natural surroundings, and she can appreciate the meticulous design that went into this unique homestead. “You should think of landscape like setting up the different rooms of a house so that you always have a different focal point,” she explains. “There’s always a new surprise, and you create that by utilizing the natural terrain.”
Here, the most unique “room” is created by the Chinese moon doors, a look Brown says can be duplicated by using hardscape materials (a gate connected by an archway) covered with trained plantings. As for mature trees, those can be acquired—for a cost. To do so, Brown turns to local farms as well as growers up and down the East Coast, taking into consideration everything from soil to wind conditions. “You almost have to think of [a tree] as a human,” Brown explains. “It’s hard for an elderly person to acclimate to a totally different environment, and the same goes for trees. The older they are, the more challenging they are to transplant.”
When it comes to creating gardens that provide color throughout the year, Brown uses plants with long bloom times as a base (think hydrangea), then works in perennials. Russian sage will blossom at the height of summer, while other favorites (flox, roses) turn up in early spring only to die down and then return in September. The result is a vibrant, living garden in all non-winter months. “It’s very three-dimensional,” Brown adds. “When you plant a garden, you look at sunlight conditions, color palette, and bloom time. Then you put it all together in a sort of puzzle.”
At this Water Mill home, that puzzle has already been solved. The only mystery that remains is who will stake their claim on this one of-a-kind $15 million estate. “It’s nice to see something a little bit different,” says Petrillo. “We have current trends that are universally liked, such as the shingle style. They’re great, but it’s nice to see something like this on the market. It’s really unique.”
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