In the decades after World War I, Norman-style homes, modeled after the rural vernacular architecture of the French countryside, which many returning soldiers became familiar with, became popular among the American aristocracy.
Designed to emulate ancient houses that had had numerous additions over centuries, entry doors were imposing, usually with impressive wrought-iron hinges, and asymmetry was the order of the day. In Normandy, barns were attached to the living quarters and grain was stored in a central tower, but in America, stone-faced Norman mansions were typically more elegant affairs with lavishly appointed extensions that merely imitated a barn and round towers topped with conical roofs that frequently served as the foyer or a stair tower.
In high-toned Greenwich, Conn., a Norman-style residence was designed and built in 1928 for William F. Dominick, an architect from a well-known society family who practiced in New York City as well as in Greenwich. Dominick was a descendant of an important family that had emigrated from France around 1742, and his father and uncle founded a successful brokerage firm called Dominick and Dominick. Indeed, the family was so wealthy that Dominick, who died in 1945, spent much of his career building houses for his relations, especially in New York and Greenwich. The Dominick Mansion that he built for his uncle on Manhattan’s East 54th Street is still extant, while the Christ Episcopalian Church in Greenwich still fills the pews on Sundays.
Given his French ancestry, perhaps it is not such a surprise that Dominick chose the then-fashionable Norman style for his own home in Greenwich, which he called Clos des Abeilles (“Hatch of the Bees”). Today, the estate comprises three acres of mature gardens presided over by a 6,300-square-foot home with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms plus two powder rooms. Fine period features, such as the fireplaces, lovely sweeping staircase, and minstrels’ galley in the timbered family room, have been retained, while the bathrooms and kitchen have been tastefully revived.
Bright green shutters frame the windows and animate the dour stone exterior. Inside, the house could be gloomy, but the owners have wisely injected pops of color to keep things lively and bright. Kelly-green chairs play off a lavender velvet sofa in the living room; a pair of celadon armchairs in the breakfast nook are embellished with a Greek key pattern; and rich reds, hot pinks, and buttery yellows pop up both inside and outside.
An ample stone terrace is the perfect spot from which to survey the lovely gardens with their flowering foliage and sparkling pool. The seller, formerly in the oil business, collects cars, which explains the vintage Ferrari in the driveway as well as the garage space for nine cars in three separate buildings, one of which is topped by a guest or staff suite.
Well situated near upscale shopping, the country club, and a train station for commuting into Manhattan, Clos des Abeilles is available asking $5.5 million via Monica Webster at Douglas Elliman.