Interior designer and Darien resident Jane Ellsworth Bewkes has always had a thing for brick Georgian homes. Growing up, she would often visit her grandmother who owned one (built in the 1920s) and she would admire its architecture and elegant decor. As a young girl, she got an early start in interior design by walking around with her grandmother’s decorator, carrying fabric swatches. It’s little surprise, then, that she pursued a career in the field herself. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, she worked for several renowned design firms before opening her own company, Jane Ellsworth Interiors, in Greenwich in 1990.
In 2006, she got her own brick Georgian at last, when she and her husband, E. Garrett Bewkes, a Darien native, bought a Darien home that they had long had their eye on, having known the former owners. Subsequently, the couple has split their time between their home here and their homes in Nantucket and Vero Beach, Fla. With the couple considering spending more time in Florida, the house is being sold through Doug Milne of Houlihan Lawrence, at 203-667-0344.
Set back from the road amid a thick cluster of trees, the majestic home, comprising 7,531 square feet, has a commanding presence matched only by the six acres of designed gardens and landscape surrounding it. A little over a mile from Waveny Park, the home is a perfect blend of formal and informal.
Having been an interior designer for 38 years, Jane was eager to transform the space — indoors and outdoors — to better fit her family’s personality and tastes. A central tenet to Jane’s design approach is to be authentic, true to the architecture and timeless. “I am a true Anglophile, which is why this house appealed to both my husband and myself — the lines are truly classical Georgian,” she explains.
As elegant as the home is inside, the gardens are breathtaking. They function as an outdoor room and their design is handled the same way as an interior room would be, where decorative elements are arranged in conjunction with each other to create a pleasing mood while retaining functionality.
Arguably the property’s most distinctive feature is the boxwood quarter parterre garden in the backyard, which is centered with an antique fountain (cast iron or zinc) with cherubs all around that have water gurgling from their mouths when the fountain is on.
In early spring, the four sections of the parterre garden are filled with tulips but give way by summer to more classic perennials such as peonies (a personal favorite of Jane), iris, and roses. In mid-summer, the hot colors of the season are given texture with echinacea, joe-pye weed, hollyhocks, and lilies. Besides the gardens, the property include sweeping lawns, specimen trees, and an orchard.
A passionate gardener like her mother before her, Jane recalls spending hours working alongside her mother, designing layouts and and weeding her perennial and cutting gardens. Jane now cultivates her own sumptuous gardens. “What I love most about gardening is creating the visual interest — multi-layering the garden to create different moods depending on the season,” she says.
When the family moved in, Jane found the abundance of standard roses in the garden a bit too formal, so she infused the gardens with her personality. “From our previous home, we brought quite a few perennials to re-do the garden — i.e. peonies, iris, shrub roses to name a few,” she recounts. “We removed a large dense taxis hedge and replaced with large boxwoods. Being a hard core Anglophile, I wanted to create lush gardens between the formality of the boxwoods, but still create a bit of a ‘tousled’ look — in true British country style.”
The garden theme continues inside the home through floral patterns on couches, draperies, pillows, and pottery, while vases of hydrangeas and other flowers fill the spaces. The hydrangeas are a nod to the family’s Nantucket home and can be found planted around the property perimeter and in cuttings arranged in vases.
“Bringing the outdoors inside seems so instinctive to me, especially in furnishings which offer a variety of texture and color — whether it’s a chintz, a printed linen, or subtle shadings that evoke nature — in my humble opinion, this allows your home to feel connected to the outdoors,” Jane explains. “Our property is so commanding, and to ignore what is right outside our windows would have been a disconnect.”
Classical furniture blends with charming antiques (the Bewkes love to go antiquing around Connecticut) and both the formal rooms and relaxed spaces are carefully appointed with elegant furnishings and details ranging from fine paneling to beautiful mouldings. The sunroom, for example, is light and airy with lots of natural light coming through floor-to-ceiling windows and furnished with couches covered in a subtle Rogers & Goffigon linen fabric and a Colefax & Fowler printed linen of lilacs and roses.
“Homes of our vintage would have very classical interiors, which speaks to our sensibilities,” Jane says. “Over the years, I have collected antique and vintage vessels, which are used throughout the house for arranging flowers from my garden.”
Bryan Haeffele photos:
Houlihan Lawrence photos: