Great works of fiction—like well-ordered buildings—have a twist or two, with characters and subplots that shock and awe. Designers Miles Redd and David Kaihoi of Redd Kaihoi know how to spin a good yarn. In a Shingle Style “cottage” in upstate New York City that they had just completed, the couple imagined a local story worth reading. There are elegant, double-height rooms fit for Jay Gatsby, secluded nooks perfect for midnight teasing, and royal bedrooms that will take you back to the old kingdom. “The idea of the house is a dream,” Redd said. “They’re big rooms, but these are nooks and crannies, turrets, and opportunities.”
When the duo started working in 2019, they had little in the way of a brief. “Customers want to brighten up the house,” Kaihoi said. The owners of the building, whom Redd Kaihoi first met in a Manhattan office, were hoping for an unusual aesthetic—something new and exciting, with a nod to the robber-baron style of 19th century. “The woman was an artist and had a beautiful eye and collection,” said Redd. “He allowed us to be artists.”
When you go down to a beautiful living room, the heart of the house is visible, unexpected works, the first among them is a red carpet from the collection of the famous American decorator Thomas Britt, is at home with pieces from the fields of David Adler, Kenneth Jay Lane, Lee Radziwill, and CZ Guest. The bed sits comfortably in the corner of the room with lacquered chickens perched on it: “It’s a wonderful place to sleep,” says Redd with a smile. The red-lacquered walls make the main room cozy and intimate, while the salon-style walls give the impression of a space that has grown over the years. “I like their arrangement,” said the woman. In places with few walls, a plethora of patterns delight the eye, including beautiful chintzes and animal prints that attract visitors where they are humbled.
The building has gone through two renovations since it was first built in 1895: one in the 1920s by Warren and Wetmore (the firm behind New York City’s Grand Central Terminal) and another in the 1990. When Sarah Drake, the author who collaborated with Redd Kaihoi, went home, with an eye to open and clean. “We put the house back, forward,” Drake said. The floor plan is the same, but appliances have been upgraded, grilles and finishes have been redesigned, portholes have been removed, moldings have been added, mantels have been replaced, etc. “Like choosing the right shoes for an outfit, it’s the little details that make all the difference,” she says.
It is only when these good places are secured that the decoration begins. Redd Kaihoi’s mission is to create a home that surrounds the owners and their guests with comfort and thoughtfulness. For a house with such beauty, its references to history. The elegance of the Sleeper-McCann house of New England, for example—with lots of living space, family rooms, canopies, and vaulted ceilings—represents the interior; like the stately home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, built about a decade after this home, all surfaces are preserved. Hand-painted chinoiserie paintings adorn some bedrooms, often accompanied by a large four-poster hung with matching or complementary fabrics. Private spaces have been carved out for an evening read, a cup of tea, or a quick nosebleed. In areas for entertaining, the influence of Stanway House—a 17th-century estate in Gloucestershire, England—comes through in formal seating arrangements, winged wing chairs, and Jacobean furniture.
A maximalist medley befitting Edith Wharton, whose Lenox, Massachusetts, home, the Mount, was built at the same time and decorated in the same style. As far as fiction goes, Manderley, the host country from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film Rebecca, has offered designers moments of inspiration. “I always think of a house like a movie,” said Redd, and this has compared the good parts of the imagined landscape, although with less evil. In the end, Redd Kaihoi gives this house something that its predecessors lacked: their trademark sense of drama and comedy. After all, as Redd said: “Rooms must be magical to be interesting.”
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. REGISTER