With its towering conical trees, babbling classical fountains, and a stucco façade topped with terracotta tiles, you’d be forgiven for assuming this home was nestled among the hills of Tuscany. In fact, it’s located in Long Island. Designer Sarah Anderson-Magness was tapped to bring new life to the home in 2010. By then, it had already had quite the life: The original structure was built for a New York opera singer in 1910 before a stint as a convent in the middle of the century. By the 1980s it was back in private hands, though by the time the current owners scooped it up, it was in need of a serious renovation. Enter Anderson-Magness. For the couple—she American, he Italian—she looked to the the home’s stylistic roots and the family’s heritage to create a dream home that mimics the best of the Italian countryside right in New York—but is as much of a getaway as a trip to Tuscany.
“The first thing you see is that I had the entire driveway done in cobble, all the way to the country road,” says the designer. “And that’s intentional because I wanted this sensation of when you come off the country road and turn onto the cobble, you immediately slow down. Your life is meant to decompress.”
Tour the rest of the dreamy escape below.
“This room was really the start of the entire project,” says Anderson-Magness of the dining room, whose centerpiece is a Pissarro painting on one wall. “That painting really drove the palette of the whole house,” she explains. “I just loved the sensibility of it—it’s a villa in France.” The custom dining table is lit by a Jonathan Browning chandelier, whose wheat motif is symbolic in Italian culture, where wheat is a gift brought to new homes.
The dining room’s blue-painted ceiling was meant to ease the transition from the tall, vaulted entryway.
“This is where the opera singer would give his concerts,” says Anderson-Magness. “We call it the ballroom.” But, as much as the clients loved this history, functionality for an opera concert is not exactly the same as for family gatherings. So, the designer reimagined the space into separate, more functional spaces.
“I had to break it up four seating sections because it was just so big,” she says. “The client wanted one big table with puzzles on it and then just different areas that are more intimate for smaller groups. Then they obviously they use the whole room for Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
“This room is on the north side of the house, but it doesn’t get any direct sunlight,” says Anderson-Magness. “So we wanted a lighter wood.” The result is the same sumptuous effect as dark, mahongany paneling, but with a warmer—and slightly more modern—touch.
“The wife’s favorite color is blue, and she wanted a lot of wood incorporated into the room,” says the designer of the main bedroom, where pale blue walls give an ethereal feel. The blue bed is vintage Michael Taylor, upholstered in a lush Holland & Sherry velvet.
“The second floor is where I had to do the most architecturally, since it was all chopped up from being a convent,” says Anderson-Magness. “So I really opened it up to make the main suite take up almost one entire side of the house.”
While the home’s interiors are dreamy, the outdoor “rooms” are just as important. “I wanted to create outdoor rooms for the house,” explains Anderson-Magness. “The property is on about 10 acres so I really divided it into areas—there are seven or eight zones, and each serves a purpose.” The living room opens up to this atrium, which offers views of the water beyond. The mosaic inlay was inspired by a Palladian villa.
Despite the scale of the property, Anderson-Magness recalls, “The client wanted outdoor spaces that were intimate. So we created a lot of smaller vignettes.”
As for the planting, she worked with landscapers to get the surroundings to feel as much like the Italian countryside as possible. “We followed a lot of the traditions of Italy but with what we could plant in the Northeast—so if we couldn’t replicate a species that was in Tuscany, we would take what we could plant in the northeast and modify it,” she explains. So, for example, what look like the towering cypress trees of Tuscany are, in fact, beech trees.
“When we did the master plan, I knew the landscaping was meant to complement the house,” explains the designer. Plantings and outdoor elements tie in with the style of the home. In fact, many are directly imported from Italy. “I can’t even count how many terra-cotta pots we brought over from Tuscany,” laughs Anderson-Magness.
“It needed symmetry,” the designer says of the elegant pool. “So I worked to create balance and added the cabana.” She commissioned handprinted Portuguese tiles in a motif chosen by the homeowners for a special personal touch.
For the cabana, she says, “They wanted a space that was very detached from the main house.” With its fully-functioning outdoor kitchen, the cabana space is completely self-sufficient—“so they can barbecue out there, host, and then be able to just jump into the pool,” says Anderson-Magness.
Dream house, indeed.
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