Thursday, July 07, 2016

Nan Kempner in the Country

When I first saw these 1983 Architectural Digest photos of Nan Kempner's house in Purchase, New York, I was a bit surprised at how low-key its interiors were. I had assumed that this doyenne of high-fashion would have had a high-style country dwelling. It seems that some of Kempner's friends assumed the same. "I suppose they have a certain perception of me, and when they see this casual, even cozy setting, they're rather surprised, even shocked," admitted Kempner.  But rather than be disappointed by the home's somewhat plain interiors, I actually find them refreshing, even if they're not quite to my taste.  It's nice to see a country house that doesn't try to be something it's not.

One reason for the home's casual tone is that it was a converted 1930s-era barn, which was located on an estate owned by Kempner's in-laws.  Inside the house, rustic elements, such as barn siding, wooden beams, and sisal rugs, mingled with antique furniture that, while refined, seemed at home in the country.  Kempner, by the way, credited the home's decoration to John Fitzgibbons, although she admitted to adding pieces picked up on her many travels.

"It's not a done house, it's undone," said Kempner.  "Luxury comes in the special country details- fresh flowers, homemade preserves, and vegetables from the garden, for my guests."  These might be simple luxuries, but they sound pretty grand to me.

The living room had barn siding on its walls.  The deer head is made of carved wood.

The living room also had a comfortable mix of upholstered and antique seating.

In the dining room, the Dutch marquetry dining chairs were purchased in London.

The screened terrace served as a summertime dining room, where guests were seated at a demilune dining table.

Next to the stairway, a Fleur Cowles painting was displayed.

Another country luxury?  Porthault linens, which dressed the master bedroom.

Casual French flair on an outdoor dining table.

All photos from Architectural Digest, April 1983, Peter Vitale, photographer.


  1. Perfectly charming! I would move right in! xx.dt

  2. This is real living. Elegant and comfortable. Thank you for sharing. I say yes to 1983.

  3. Luxury definitely does come in small country details and has definitely started a come back. I love all the touches that bring antique and rustic vintage together; all have been done with a perfect balance.