The color palette gives a subtle nod to Hilfiger’s American roots, but mingles with European furnishings and accessories that reflect Dee’s sophisticated tastes.
Style Style Profile

How Tommy and Dee Hilfiger turned a Connecticut manor into a passion project

The fashion couple brought Greville Rickard’s Casa Paterno back to life to create the ultimate family retreat
Metro Society Staff | Jan 27 2019

They call it Round Hill. Located just 35 miles north of New York City, it sits perched atop 24 picturesque acres at the highest point in Greenwich. There is rich sense of community that the couple appreciates, and its easy accessibility to Manhattan made it an ideal choice. Strolling down the town’s main street, one can’t help but becharmed by the pretty shops and family owned restaurants with their colorful awnings, neighbors waving hello as an American flag on the corner flutters in the breeze. It’s a storybook sort of place that, much like their home, celebrates tradition with a twist.

Round Hill boats an impressive array of gardens throughout the property. The Hilfigers brought on the renowned landscape designer Miranda Brooks and tasked her with brining them back to what once could have been.

The property has history that is nearly as colorful as Hilfiger’s signature red, white, and blue. Originally constructed in1939, it was designed by award-winning architect Greville Rickard, who studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York before graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 1912. It was called Chateau Paterno after the real estate magnate it was built for. One of the house’s more interesting details is that Rickard immortalized himself and the builder in stained glass panels flanking an ogee archway, a fixture to this day. Hilfiger likes to think the duo kept an eye on everyone while the restoration was be in done. In 1961, the property was sold to renowned art collector Joseph Hirshhorn, who used the house to display his extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-centurypaintings and sculpture that today are on display at a museum he founded in Washington.

Tommy and Dee Hilfiger in the grand upper staircase vestibule. Antique tea-stained plaster walls hold 18th and 19th century refectory table displays a Flemish stag horn candelabra and a Qing Dynasty vase. Claremont velvel club chairs flank the grouping.

The Hilfigers bought the estate in 2010 and got straight to work. Their goal: a comfortable English country house with French Normandy details. What they weren’t expecting was the rewarding journey the project would take them on.  “As designers, Dee and I love to collaborate and we got the opportunity to work with an incredible team on this project,” note Hilfiger. Architect André Tchelistcheff and builder Jim Xhema worked in partnership. Greenwich-based interior design firm Rinfret, Ltd. and Martyn Lawrence Bullard handled the interiors. Landscape designer Miranda Brooks, horticulturist Phillip Watson, and stonemason Bobby Hilfigertook charge of the gardens and exterior. When it came to inspiration, the couple looked no further than their own experiences. “Dee and I are lucky to have traveled so much,” said Hilfiger. “It has given us such an appreciation and respect for other cultures and this house was truly a wonderful opportunity to pay homage.” Since its original construction, the building has seen numerous renovations (including an unfortunate attempt to go Danish modern) but luckily the structure never departed from its architectural blueprint, which was Norman-inspired with distinctive Gothic and Tudor influences. For Tchelistcheff, that meant using great sensitivity and doing extensive research in order to preserve the structure’s heritage while fixing and enhancing it to suit a modern family. For the interior designers, the natural starting point was a look back to the 1930s when the house was built. History buffs will recall that was a time when affluent Americans would travel to Europe and bring back an array of contrasting ideas, styles, and décor. This home, with its nods to England, France, the Netherlands, and Flanders on full display, was no exception.

Pasha paisley wool by Martyn Lawrence Bullard for Schumacher covers the walls of this beautiful space. The table and chairs are 19th-century A.W.N. Pugin; the chairs retained their original red Moroccan leather. Dutch old-master still life paintings hang on the walls and the chandelier is Dutch silver, circa 1760. The antique Persian rig was supplied by Mansour.

Contrast, it seems, is a Hilfiger trademark and it has been embraced throughout Round Hill. The estate, itself, for example, resides in what Hilfiger calls the backcountry, yet from his office, tucked into the third floor of a romantic ivy-covered turret, he can glimpse the bustling lights of the city shimmering in the distance. The kitchen and breakfast rooms are the heart of the home. The combined space is entirely new with state-of-the-art appliances and amenities, yet visitors would be hard-pressed to discover a clue that these rooms hadn’t always been there. Finding the balance, it seems, is the biggest challenge and reward.

The kitchen and breakfast rooms are the undisputed heart of the home. 

As a passionate collector of art and antiques, there are incredible pieces to be found throughout the estate. “Still Life with a Hare” by Bernard DeBridat holds pride of place beside collections of Black Forest hunting trophies. In the dining room, the 19th-century A.W.N. Pugin table is set with vintage Royal Doulton dinner plates and Tiffany & Co. silverware. The breakfast room features a rug that once belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There are also many pristine examples of porcelain from both the Ming and Qing periods.

Amongst the antiques, personal touches can be found everywhere. The media room’s décor was inspired by Dee Hilfiger’s Turkish heritage. It’s a popular gathering place for the entire family both for its entertainment value and the expansive ottoman banquette designed by Bullard that recalls a pasha’s palace in Istanbul. In eight-year-old Sebastian Hilfiger’s room, a towering giraffe from acclaimed toymaker Steiff keeps a watchful eye during bedtime.

Sebastian's room: For the youngest member of the Hilfiger clan, only a sea captain's bed by Pottery Bam Kids will do. Restful nights are spent beneath a starry sky courtesy of the Ralph Lauren Home wallpapered ceiling and an antique ship wheel chandelier. The lacquered walls are painted with Benjamin Moore's Current Red to provide a bright and cheerful wakeup call. A Steiff Studio giraffe from Harrods keeps watch.

The outdoor spaces are no less impressive, having to measure up to the grandeur of the house. Brooks set out to create different experiences. She imagined Tommy and Dee taking a walk after dinner through the water garden where the sounds are a soothing respite, family picnics, and football games are held on the great lawn; and their granddaughter Harley plays hide-and-seek in the boxwood knot garden. “Miranda did an incredible job of bringing back the garden to what it might have been when the house was built,” commented Dee Hilfiger.

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The grand hall: This striking yet comforting space is a favorite of the Hilfigers. The hand-hewn oak staircase is original to the house and framed by intricately carved panels and windows. In the center of the room is an A.W.N. Pugin library table from the early 19th century that was procured from a British nobleman’s country estate. It is surrounded by stools designed by Martyn Lawrence, dressed in a Robert Kime Ltd. print with a Samuel and Sons Inc. fring trim. An antique iron chandelier hangs from exquisite Dutch panels of painted faux-leather insect between timber beams. The rug is late 19th century, and a Steinway & Sons piano sits in the background as a welcoming spot for the many musician friends of the couple.

The Italian-inspired sofa was custom designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard Atelier. Above it rests a French that is one of d pair from Sotheby's and surrounded by Oa, Black Forest hunting trophies classically grouped together, Beside the sofa sits a 19th-century wine barrel holding a collection antique walking sticks. 

The game room The inlaid oak and limestone floor is the first cue that fun limes are par for the course at the Hilfigers. Steel windows and doors on either side of the space bring the outdoors in At the center of the room is an antique pool table, lit from above by a Ferrante light-The limestone replace offers a rich backdrop to a comfortable seating area that is grounded by a late 14th-century Ziegler Mahal Collection rug. It is flanked by one antiqueTudor buffet and a matching reproduction by Mark Gravino of Gravino Furniture Atelier that houses a hidden lift for the television to rise from. In the foreground, stag horn chairs that are covered in tartan plaid from Holland & Sherry circle an antique card table.   

Carved out of an older section of the house, the once cluttered array of rooms, was transformed into a showplace for family entertaining. For the breakfast room, they enlisted decorative painter Nels Christianson of Christianson Lee Studios to do the faux bois paneled ceiling, giving the space the authenticity Tommy and Dee were looking for. Chairs were done in a Chelsea Textiles linen-cotton check and surround an antique oak table.     

Guest bedrooms found inspiration from Ivy League universities that have always played a role in Tommy Hilfiger’s designs. The walls are lacquered “Tommy blue” and the Stark carpet is a Scottish tartan. 

The Master Suite. A William IV mahogany four-poster bed is the focal point of the inviting suite. It's hung with Holland &Sherry tartan wool that was inspired by the sleep chambers of a Scottish castle. Leontine Linens created custom-embroidered bedding. A painted Bavarian chest houses Tommy Hilfiger home blankets at the foot of the bed, Thy' walls are upholstered in chocolaty velvet, and two zebra runners that once belonged to Andy Warhol on be seen through the dressing room door. 

In the powder room, a French boudoir table is topped with 18th century mirror from Vizakhapatnam, India, Cowtan & Tout fabric adorns the walls and Grand Tout Plaster plaques finish the look.     

The handsome bathroom features Emperador Noce travertine tile, Nero Marquina and inlaid Selana Marble that surrounds the soaking tub. Plumbing fixtures are by Lefroy Brooks, and monogrammed Leontine Linens. The plaster walls are tinted antique white and the floors are Ann Sacks marble mosaic.    

Dee's Dressing Room. The decor here is unique to the house but pure Dee. The walls are covered in a handpainted Chinese scenic wallpaper by Gracie. Rinfret Ltd. designed embroidered drapery fashioned with Holland & Sherry silk hung on antique silver gilt hardware. The island has a reverse painted glass counter that complements the hand-knotted silk rug by J.D. Staron. Vintage designer gowns are displayed on mannequins and regularly changed as she adds to her collections.     

Room with a view. Tommy's office on the third floor of the turret has striking views of Manhattan. The hunting scene muraled walls are original to the house. Antique Louis Vuitton trunks hold design inspiration beneath the English desk, circa 1840. The leather chair is Edwardian and the bronze eagle sculpture is an 18th-century weathervane.     

The media room. Inspired by Dee Hilfiger's Turkish heritage, the lush media room is a popular gathering spot for the family. Custom-designed Iksel fabric lines the walls. The ottoman banquette seating are draped with fur throws and inspired by a pasha's palace in Istanbul. Custom-made floor cushions encourage putting your feet up, and sit dutifully beside Moroccan low table.     

When it came to inspiration, the couple looked no further than their own experiences. “Dee and I are lucky to have traveled so much,” said Hilfiger. “It has given us such an appreciation and respect for other cultures, and this house was truly a wonderful opportunity to pay homage.” 

After nearly six years, the project is finally complete and for the Hilfiger family, the results have exceeded all expectations. For all of its artistic and ornamental stateliness, this house is warm and welcoming, and a place that will be enjoyed for generations to come. It’s good to be home.

 

Photographs by Douglas Friedman

This story originally ran in the September 2017 issue of Metro Society.