WITH A LIGHT TOUCH
While he was growing up in suburban Bucks County, Pennsylvania, David Morey told his high school friends that one day he wanted a house nearby, on the Delaware River. Even as a teenager, he coveted the vibe of the water-view properties in New Hope, where an aesthetic-minded community coexists with gracious Revolutionary War tradition.
After years of circling the globe to consult on strategy and campaigns for CEOs and world leaders, including Barack Obama, Boris Yeltsin, and the Dalai Lama, Morey, a consultant based in Washington, D.C., at last has the retreat of his dreams. “I like to say we sculpted it,” Morey says, referring to his collaboration with the designer Darryl Carter. “There are a lot of things going on at the same time here, but there’s also a real harmony.”
The 4,000-square-foot home, built in the 1940s with local stone on a turn-of-the-century foundation, has magnificent vistas from most rooms. Inside, it embodies both modernity and tradition, leavened with healthy doses of Americana and international style, as well as plenty of family artifacts. But foremost it is a place airily washed in white and decidedly unfussy, where Morey can think, write (he coauthored The Underdog Advantage in 2004), and bring people together.
“It’s a house where good things happen,” he says. Morey entertains often and likes to host high-level confabs and retreats for colleagues. “Meetings that are supposed to be difficult,” he says, “here turn out to be easy.”
The type to drill down to the details, Morey nevertheless allowed Carter a great deal of latitude, the designer says. The two had worked together on Morey’s apartment in a 1917 Frank Russell White building in D.C., so Carter says he “knew where David was willing to go.” Morey made it clear he wanted to honor his family’s roots but didn’t mind having individual pieces reinterpreted, a challenge Carter found intriguing. “It gives you some creative boundaries and some license,” he says.
If a single piece can be said to represent the fusion he and Carter were after, it is likely the cocktail table in the living room. During the early 1960s, Morey’s father, an engineer, visited George Nakashima at his studio in New Hope; inspired, he fashioned a table from a slab of cherry. In Morey’s recollection, the table, which held a place of honor in the family living room, was imposing, but when he brought it out of storage, it turned out to be too small for the scale of the new house. So Carter commissioned a metal craftsman to make a white structure that wraps around Morey’s father’s work.
The result is a clean-lined, organic, and functional piece, which now holds another item that is important to Morey: a stone he found at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The designer created a chopstick sculpture to hold the stone delicately aloft. “In one place, I have these things that matter to me and yet they have a new life of their own,” says Morey.
There are other such subtle nods to Morey’s life and family throughout the house. His decathlon medals are on display, as is a family tree done in pencil by Morey’s father and brother in the 1950s. An imposing antique corner cabinet that his mother purchased brings a geometric element to the room; Carter upped its style quotient by installing reed shades behind the glass, making it more than just a knickknack display case (though his mother’s cranberry glass and plate collections still reside within). In the attic, Morey’s mahogany desk is placed near two antique ballot boxes. “Most of my clients lately are businesses, but I still have politics in my blood,” he says.
Carter worked to honor the house’s good bones, sometimes having to contend with changes made by previous owners. In the breakfast area, where large skylights, Carter says, “made me a little queasy,” the designer suspended two custom-made frames that echo the large multipaned windows; the effect is a floating ceiling of diffuse light that makes the skylights themselves virtually disappear.
Morey’s master suite contains a carpenter’s trunk made by his grandfather, as well as a minimalist four-poster jacked up high enough to see the river. In a bedroom for visiting nieces and nephews, Carter created book-filled nooks for privacy. In spite of its formalism and symmetry, the house features several nods to modern whimsy, including a large plaster orb at waist height on the living room wall. Carter found the cast, the understructure for a bronze, at Giannetti’s, a bespoke plaster studio outside Washington. “Everyone wants to touch it,” says Carter. “It’s calming.”
To Morey, who has spent much of his life on the road and in hotels, such Zen touches make the house on the river feel like home: “It’s perfect for a party and perfect for contemplation. And that, to me, is all you can ask for.”