Design & Décor, Living with Style, The Newport Diary

Inspiring Architectural Design: Edgehill

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As a true Texan would say, “I love that the welcome mat is always out and friends feel free to drop over anytime. I can come home and not know who might be there.” In the spirit of our old seaport town, Edgehill is what I like to refer to as a “family and friends” house. Generous rooms are large enough for entertaining a gathering and yet still retain a sense of intimacy and coziness, while providing a gracious flow that is a Newport hallmark.

Right in keeping with the intent of the notable star-chitects of this era (1887) who created the property–McKim, Mead and White for the house and Frederick Law Olmsted for the landscape plans. This rambling stone and shingle house is considered one of the best of the McKim firm’s shingled houses of that era. There is also a specific architectural feature at Edgehill that I find particularly inviting because it adds a subtle sense of being embraced…curved rooms on the interiors that echo the prominent conical towers and roofs on either ends of the structure.

Starting with the entry hall (decorated with birthday balloons).

The living room with views out across the pastoral property with its meadows and rolling hills picturesquely designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Photo Credit: Christopher Alexander

The stone-walled breakfast room and sweeping curve of a banquette that can seat many…

and the dining room, with its tomato soup walls…and we’re still on the first floor.

Perfectly placed windows, and lots of them, look out upon majestic trees, Newport’s harbor, elegant neighboring homes, and beguiling vistas.

A favorite spot, the Rock Porch, directly across the entry hall from the front door, is a perfect example of the casual ease mixed with understated chic of Edgehill. Even the stone walls add to this impression. And do note that this room, plus the four shown above, each have their own fireplace!

At the heart of the house is an exceptionally wide stairwell, centered by a dramatic set of windows that let an appreciable amount of light flow in. Completing the picture, draperies and marine artwork give this space the sense of a room rather than a way to ascend to the second and third floors (note the small seat nestled into the woodwork).

It is not too unusual in our town for a scion to take over a family house; in this case, the serious years-long renovation had been started first by her father and the “refreshing” and curating of family heirlooms became her contribution. She takes great pride in the meticulous work that was carried out, from the original laundry room in the basement (restored, and kept with all its vintage charm and checkerboard floor).

Photo Credit: Christopher Alexander

to the tiptop of the attic corners. Which now, with their original wood, have become a sitting/ play room for guests, complete with a fridge. The results that family and friends enjoy today succeeded so handsomely because of the collaborative spirit of the family and their interior designers J. Randall Powers and Christopher Alexander of Houston.

A sense of heritage continues in the current resident’s love of antiques and inherited treasures, giving that welcome impression of the rooms having evolved through the years. As she loves to note “I keep adding pieces from Houston every time I come up.”

This includes lamps throughout the house from her grandparent’s homes, decorated by Los Angeles decorator, Wm. Haines (a beloved source for the Old Hollywood crowd). No shades of gray, mid-century modern style here–this owner is very comfortable in her taste, not beholden to trends. And a big fan of color viewed through a refined lens that is both timeless and refreshing. Red takes the lead, a wonderful complement to the original paneled walls.

with blues and yellows not far behind; patterns happily mix with stripes and florals.

Edgehill comes by its name naturally…sited at the crest of a hill from which it seems to organically emerge. It is now enjoying its star turn with the loving efforts of the daughter and her husband whose own young daughter will have many years to enjoy this rambling stone and shingle masterpiece, reflecting the tradition of continuity in this age- old town.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

10 thoughts on “Inspiring Architectural Design: Edgehill

  1. Lovely home. Wish there had been a photo of the front of the home. I am enamored of shingle style homes, have been since a child. This home exudes warmth, and refinement, honoring the past without being confined by it. Thank you

    1. Yes, and Newport is well known for some beautiful shingle homes through the generations. If you wish to see more images of Edgehill (and the front facade) Google it. xB

    1. Me too! I have never seen red used so discretely and yet making such a big difference. Its’ truly dreamy inside. xB

  2. Bettie, I just love your posts. I think you are a remarkable woman and I get so much pleasure out of reading your posts and going on these journeys around the spectacular town of Newport. It is one of life’s precious little joys reading your beautiful posts. I thoroughly enjoy them! Keith

    1. Hello Keith, and thank you so very much for your kind words! I’m also happy to “meet” another member of my Private Newport family.
      Let’s stay in touch! xB

  3. Bettie:

    I am a new subscriber to Private Newport and I love all the articles that I have read of yours so far and I am totally enamored with everything Newport! My question has nothing to do with this article but I have looked all over this website and not been able to find a way to contact you. I am very interested in the tragic life of Sunny Von Bulow and I am curious to know if you have been to any functions at Clarendon Court? Did you know Sunny or her mother Annie Laurie Aiken? Have you written and article about Clarendon Court? I apologize if this is not the appropriate format in which to contact you but I would love to hear your thoughts on the history of this historic Newport home.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    1. Hello Craig, so happy to know that you’ve joined my Private Newport family! And thank you for your kind words about my posts; I am a very big fan of this magical town in which I’ve been living for 30 +years. I’m sorry to say that my answer to your Sunny Von Bulow questions are all “no.” A gentleman from Boston has owned Clarendon Court for many years, but is never in residence. I did not know Sunny or her mother…but presume that you have seen the brilliant movie “Reversal of Fortune?!”
      You might contact the gift shop at The Breakers who might have a book or two on the family; they have quite a cache of written material on Newport residents, etc. xB

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