Great works of fiction—like a well-appointed house—tend to have an exciting twist or two, with characters and subplots that are shocking and awe-inspiring. Redd Kaihoi designers Miles Redd and David Kaihoi know how to spin high-quality yarn. In their recently completed tiled “cabin” in upstate New York City, the couple imagined a must-read interior story. There are charming double-height rooms fit for Jay Gatsby, secluded nooks perfect for a midnight tryst, and sumptuous bedrooms that transport you back to the old regime. “The house feels dreamy and rambling,” says Redd. “There are grand rooms, but also all these nooks and crannies, turrets and moments.”
When the pair began work on the project in 2019, they received few briefs. “The client just wanted to light up the house,” Kaihoi said. Homeowners who had previously worked with Redd Kaihoi on their Manhattan apartment wanted an aesthetic that didn’t quite exist—something fresh and exciting, a nod to 19th-century robber-baron style. “The wife is an artist with an amazing eye and a collection,” Redd said. “She also made us artists.”
As you walk into a living room with elegant proportions, the heart of the house, unexpected interventions appear one after another, starting with a red leather bed from the collection of legendary American decorator Thomas Britt, right at home, inside which With legacy from David Adler, Kenneth Jay Lane, Lee Radziwill and CZ Guest. The bed sits comfortably in the corner of the room, with a pair of painted roosters perched cheerfully on it: “It’s a great place to take a nap,” Redd laughs. Brown lacquered walls make the spacious room feel warm and homely, while the salon-style walls give the impression that the space has evolved over the decades. “I’m in awe of their art of arranging,” the wife said. In areas with fewer walls, a plethora of patterns keep the eye happy, and flamboyant chintz and animal prints distract guests from more subdued decor.
The house has undergone two updates since it was built in 1895: once in the 1920s by Warren and Wetmore (the company behind New York City’s Grand Central Terminal), and the other in the 1990s. When architect Sarah Drake, who worked with Redd Kaihoi, visited the house, it had its sights set on demolition and improvement. “We pulled the house further, not further,” Drake said. The floor plan remained the same, but the materials were upgraded, the grille and finishes were redone, small windows were removed, moldings were added, the mantelpiece was replaced, and more. “Like choosing the right shoes for an outfit, it’s the little details that change everything,” she says.
Only when these fine points are settled can the renovation really begin. Redd Kaihoi’s mission is to create a home that makes owners and their guests feel at ease and fantasy. For a house with such an aesthetic range, its references are historically specific. For example, the charm of the Sleeper-McCann home in New England—with its abundance of lounge areas, family rooms, canopies, and decorated nooks—provided interior design inspiration; like the iconic mansion in Gloucester, Massachusetts Again, this mansion was built about ten years after the house, and every surface has been treated. Hand-laid chinoiserie wallpaper covers several bedrooms, often paired with grand four posters hung with matching or complementary textiles. Private areas are carved out for afternoon reading, a cup of tea or a quick nose powder. In the entertainment space, the influence of Stanway House (a 17th-century manor in Gloucestershire, England) is reflected in formal seating arrangements, scattered wing-back chairs and Jacobian furniture.
It’s a minimalist medley that rivals Edith Wharton, whose hometown of Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, was built around the same era and in a similar style decorate. As for the novel, Manderley, the haunted house in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film “Rebecca,” provided the designer with several inspiring moments of inspiration. “I’ve always imagined the house as a movie set,” says Redd, which mimics the graceful proportions of an imagined estate, albeit with less sinister undertones. In the end, Redd Kaihoi gave the house something its predecessors lacked: the drama and humor of their iconic brand. After all, as Redd puts it: “A room has to be dramatic to be interesting.”
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR.subscription