A Lesson in Style

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Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty visits a house with some real style in Bedford, New York.

The French, Dutch, Germans, Spanish and the British, among others, have all left their distinctive marks in the vernacular of the places they colonised.

In the US variations of neoclassicism, in vogue in Georgian Britain, are to be found from the weatherboard houses of New England to the plantation houses of the Deep South. Of course the British swiped their architectural ideas from the Italians who swiped their ideas from the Romans who swiped their ideas from the Greeks. These influences can be seen everywhere that a grand statement in architecture wants to be made.

So it is today. A great example is 888 Old Post Road, Bedford, New York. In Georgian times houses like this were built by the wealthy and powerful to celebrate their wealth and power. Today nothing seems to have changed.  This house ticks these boxes perfectly. The architecture works as well as ever.

The architecture ticks lots of other boxes as well. Architect, Ralph Mackin, has taken up the neoclassical baton perfectly – just as Thomas Jefferson and other early American architects did before him. Signature elements are all there, the grand front portico, the shape of which is echoed at the rear elevation; the symmetry of the side bays and the architectural detailing. But Makin also had a contemporary brief to consider. So a specification for today was required.

I loved visiting this house. I wasn’t sure I would. Getting this sort of thing right is never easy. But this is good, really good. The use of space is exceptional, especially on the ground floor where it flows from spacious room to spacious room. It is fluid in its layout making it perfect for entertaining or even for just one or two people living in grand style. It never overwhelms. But it does thrill.  The upper floor has delightful, light-filled bedrooms. The lower ground floor is like a health club with a beautiful indoor pool, gym, and sauna.

In the grounds is an indoor tennis court and an outdoor tennis court, a gorgeous guest cottage with large outdoor pool – all hidden in 75 acres of secluded gardens and woodland.

This is a very surprising house. What the printed details or web page could never convey is the feeling of drama it instils. Nor, standing outside the front door under the pedimented portico, the remarkable sense of aristocracy it brings – just as the Greeks, Romans, Italians, British, early Americans and Ralph Mackin intended. Even better, as it ages the house will gain a patina and grow even more into its setting, thus becoming even more beautiful as it does so. The next owner may help this along with some warm earthy tones – as the father of neoclassic architecture, Palladio, may well have done in the 1500s.  But do go and see it and if you don’t wish to colonise this place I would be very surprised indeed.

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One Response to A Lesson in Style

  1. anthony says:

    What a great perspective on American architecture of the 21st century.

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