By Michele Graham
Photographs by ChiChi Ubiña

Amarpali. The name alone evokes visions of a home beyond the ordinary. Designed and built by renowned architect Dinyar Wadia, Amarpali is palatial in size, exquisite in detail. It was at this magical estate on Lake Avenue in Greenwich that LOOK, in conjunction with the interior design store Eleish Van Breems Home, hosted the first of its Summer Design Forums.

Born and raised in Bombay (Mumbai), India, Dinyar’s love of architecture was informed by the rich architecture that encompassed him. As the founder and principal of Wadia Associates, Dinyar synthesizes classical elements to create a unique aesthetic, one that is traditional, versatile, and seamlessly incorporates the surrounding landscape. The result has been a bounty of prestigious architectural and landscape awards.

For 24 hours, the main level of Amarpali was transformed into a luxurious tour de force, courtesy of designers Rhonda Eleish and Edie Van Breems. Here the pair give an inside look of what can blossom when traditional mise-en-scene is infused with mid-century artistry.

When you first saw Amarpali, what words came to mind? 

Armapali is so perfectly built as to be seamlessly integrated with the landscaping. There is such a sense of peacefulness.  The words graceful and serenity come to mind.

How did you work with the home’s existing furniture—how did you decide what to keep, edit, or add?   

The homeowners have such wonderful furniture and we were able to incorporate most all of it. For this special LOOK evening celebrating Amarpali and Dinyar, we brought in contemporary and vintage furniture and accessories from our new Eleish Van Breems Home store that are from all over the world—Scandinavian, French, Austrian, Asian, Italian and Australian. We wanted to invoke international sophistication to reflect the dynamic young family who commissioned WADIA to build this home.

Amarpali is 18,000 sq. feet. What are some of your trade secrets for managing large spaces? 

The comments from all the LOOK guests who toured the rooms was of how intimate and relaxed the rooms appeared. In our decision to keep the color schemes soft and cohesive and have elements flow seamlessly between rooms, a sense of calm prevailed so that the architecture could be the star of the evening. 

To draw people into having an intimate, almost tactile, experience in each room we used luxurious accessories and fabrics such as masses of custom made shell pink velvet and silk pillows made from Rogers and Goffigon and Holland and Sherry fabric on the living room sofas and giant fluffy Mongolian sheepskin covered Danish armchairs with contrasting crisp white and blue Svenskt Tenn Josef Frank pillows in the library.

Rich rosewood coffee tables, antique grey original paint patina on the Gustavian furniture – it’s all about layering materials. 

We brought in a lot of large natural ice-like slabs of selenite and orbs of pale blue calcite to ground and add interest to the mantles and tabletops along with masses of iconic Italian and Swedish mid-century glass. Altogether it created a subtle opulence. The incredible floral arrangements by Winston Flowers in each room added life and vibrancy.

Take us through the highlights of each room that you staged.

The house, as Dinyar conceived it is a romantic nod to the grand colonial palaces of his youth in India.  Picking up on this, we overlaid hints of Colonial French and Asian Art Deco in the mix of our mostly Scandinavian décor for the house. 

Entrance hall: We set the mood for the house in the entrance hall with a large contemporary oil painting of Birch Trees in Winter, framed in silver gilt by Parinaz Eleish hung over the mantle of a fireplace laden with birch logs. For the heated loggia overlooking the back lawn, we brought in exterior white lounge chairs, tables and a sofa designed by Franco Albin and Viggo Boesen by the Danish firm SIKA.

Dining room:  We displayed the settings from our table at this year’s New York Botanical Garden Orchid dinner at the Plaza.  The theme of our table was “Art Deco Singapore” and the place settings were antique Lalique knife holders in the shape of animals, plates, lighters and match strikes with Art Deco plates, coffee cups and champagne coupes from Augarten Wein Porzellan, Vienna.

Living room: We mixed the homeowners’ own furnishings with 18th century Gustavian demi lunes topped with vases of dogwood branches from Winston Flowers. Floral carved 18th century Gustavian chairs from Edie’s private collection flanked the fireplace. A long upholstered bench was moved to the back of the existing sofas to create another seating area to overlook the back terrace. We had custom pillows made for the sofas and brought in an antique gilt mirror with a colonial Indian Edwardian pointed top for over the fireplace. The coffee table and side tables were displayed with large white Italian glass vases, crystals and candles.

Library: We took one look at the rich architectural detailing of double story library and knew this room had to be a show stopper. By bringing in mid-century Scandinavian iconic pieces such as a Carl Malmsten sofa and 1950’s Danish Mongolian sheepskin chairs we were able to interject strong shapes that could hold up to the architecture as well as being more casually inviting and playful and exuberant. The rosewood coffee table we brought in was masculine and grounding and we topped it with our own version of Yves Saint Laurent’s eclectic and opulent table d’objet: a bronze boar, malachite egg on crystal stand, Austrian brass box with walrus tusk, amber candles, green and azure blue Swedish glass, and a copy of our friend Miguel Flores Vianna’s book Haute Bohemians.

Is there a special story behind any of the pieces? 

Some of the mid-century pieces are quite rare and collectible – the living room sofa by Carl Malmsten was found at an auction house and we had it totally refurbished. Rhonda’s great uncle, KW Gullers was one of Sweden’s top photographers in the 1950s and ’60s. He had been commissioned by the Swedish government to photograph all of the great furniture makers. He went to Carl Malmsten’s factory and home and you can see this sofa among the furnishings.

There are stunning garden views from every room. How did the European gardens influence your design choices? 

Because the gardens are such a focal point, we decided with Winston Flowers to make the florals and colors have lots of soft whites, ivories and green. The porch furniture we chose from our store was all white and beige.  We wanted everything to feel very light and airy so the focus could be on the views and the beautiful evening. 

Was there anything that turned into an unexpected gem?

The most exciting part was discovering an almost empty antechamber off of the library that we were able to transform into a traditional “smoking room” with the bar and chess table.  We moved the family’s very English library furniture into this room for the evening. It was fun and exciting to see the furniture transformed in a new setting. 

What’s your advice to those who want to zhuzh up their homes?

Sometimes, in freshening a space you just need to move things around and bring in some new pieces or art to change the mood entirely. We always ask our clients “How do you envision the space? How do you want to feel in here? What experience /mood do you want to create?” 

Space should support you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making a color story in a room more cohesive, other times it means not being afraid of architecturally reconstructing a room to get a view or more light. 

Every room is like a special child and it’s hard to play favorites…BUT if you had to name one favorite room, which would it be?  

The library!  We never wanted to leave!!  The homeowners were beyond gracious, and we loved the opportunity to work with them and LOOK on such a special event.

Notes:

Where did you source some of the items? 

We are traveling in Sweden three to four times a year and the incredible Gustavian antiques we carry are from Stockholm and environs. Rhonda grew up in Vienna and has close ties to Augarten so our dining table porcelain is from there. All of the large pottery we put on the library shelves is from MUDD an Australian company we carry at our store. We are always traveling and meeting new makers and going to estate sales – it’s such passion that we decided to open a larger retail space in Westport to share our collection. 

Eleish Van Breems Home – 99 Franklin Street, Westport, CT – 203-635-8383

Wadia Associates  – 134 Main Street, New Canaan, CT – 203-966-0048

Amarpali is represented by Amy Marisa Balducci – Sotheby’s International Realty – 203-618-3157

Winston Flowers – 382 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT – 800-622-0722

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