Sailing and the sea are in the Brooks family DNA. Ever since Louise and Ned Brooks were married 30 years ago, they have summered and sailed in and around Martha’s Vineyard, and the three Brooks children grew up on sailboats and sandy beaches.
So it’s not surprising that a parcel of land in Rowayton, Connecticut, overlooking Long Island Sound and its bobbing sailboats, captured the couple’s sea-loving hearts. “The impetus for building this house was to get down by the water,” says Louise, an architectural designer who planned the home. “Now my husband can look out our bedroom window and see his boat moored in the harbor.”
The tall, narrow house sits on a bluff overlooking the harbor, with the rear facade toward the water.
Rooms flow easily one to the other, with few walls to block traffic or views. There is no formal dining room. Instead, a light-filled alcove next to the living room holds table and chairs, with French doors that lead to an outdoor dining area on the terrace.
An outdoor dining spot is sheltered on one side by a tall wall of Bermuda shutters that can be tipped open for light and ventilation. “That dining alcove is so cozy, it’s terrific,” says Louise.
While the floor plan is open, the house feels traditional, thanks to Louise’s classic architectural touches: elegant crown moldings, wide baseboards, rope trim on a mantel, and built-in shelves.
The coastal setting played into the home’s interior design but not with obvious motifs like anchors and sailing flags. “This is our primary residence, and I didn’t want it to be a beachy home,” Louise explains, “so we went with the darker floors and classic details, such as the clean, simple trims.”
A longtime friend, Rowayton interior designer Lynn Morgan, was Louise’s trusted sounding board and adviser. She was totally on board with the clean, neutral palette.
In the living room, Morgan laid down a broad-striped wool rug in foggy gray and cream and repeated the gray hues in accents such as silver bowls and accessories. “There is this serenity with white furniture, white trim, and those beautiful floors,” she says. “The floors add so much depth and warmth.”
Creamy white upholstery and a gray-and-cream striped rug from Elizabeth Eakins set a serene mood. Ship lanterns on the built-in shelves and a painting of Edgartown harbor above the mantel are nods to the coastal setting.
Louise is known for her white and ivory interiors, and this house would be no exception. “White is my favorite color, and we just added some sea-blue turquoises in the kitchen and bedroom for a coastal feel,” she says.
In the kitchen, the range is tucked into an arched niche with a white Waterworks tile backsplash accented with turquoise dots. A similar hue is repeated in the lantern light fixtures from Urban Electric.
In addition to the wood in the living room, Louise laid a gray limestone that absorbs and radiates warmth from the sun in the kitchen and sitting area. “Whenever I do a new house for a client,” she says, “I highly recommend reserving a budget for a special floor. It is one of the most important elements that can change the feel of a home.”
The sofa and armchairs in the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen are covered in a cozy soft-blue corduroy with accents of white piping. Raffia cubes and the coffee and side tables are from Oomph.
Louise often changes out the colors and patterns of pillows and accessories with the season—one of the reasons she loves a white backdrop. Many of the pillows and occasional tables, some with fretwork aprons and wavy borders, are from Oomph, a company Louise founded in 2009 with friends Amy Rice and Patty Hopple.
“The idea was that every room needs some oomph,” explains Louise, “and that by adding a new pillow, table, or chair, you have a new room.” She designs the furnishings, which are custom-made in the United States and sold in a few retail outlets and through interior designers. Several of her painted tables play supporting roles throughout the house.
A backgammon table from Oomph—the custom furnishings company Louise Brooks cofounded with two friends—and two side chairs nestle by a bow window, allowing gamers to enjoy harbor views.