They were a young Manhattan family making the inevitable move from the city to the suburbs. The property, in a lovely village just 15 miles north of New York City, certainly had a lot going for it: six bedrooms and 10 baths on two bucolic acres, with a terrific public school just a hop and skip down the hill. Perfect—except that the house itself was stuffy, dark, and dreary.
Built in 1927, it was one of Charles Lewis Bowman’s Stockbroker Tudors, houses popular with Wall Streeters in one of New York’s earliest bedroom communities. But while fashionable in its day, the home’s weathered stone, brick, and half-timbered exterior was no longer inviting. The couple had trouble imagining their three children (now six, four, and two) and their menagerie of pets—a Siamese named Tigger, three fish, and a baby guinea pig—living in a house straight out of an Agatha Christie whodunit. Enter Steven Gambrel, an interior designer known for his classical approach to modern comfort. “You have to help us make this house friendly,” the wife beseeched him.