Excerpted from our Society of Fellows e-newsletter, December 2016. Photos by Eric Piasecki.
For most couples, building a home from scratch would be a feat on its own—add the pressure of documenting the entire process in a book and your feat might seem impossible. That’s the undertaking interior designer Katie Ridder and architect Peter Pennoyer embarked on when they purchased an overgrown six-and-a-half acre parcel abutting rolling farmland in Millbrook, New York, in 2009. Utilizing their keen eyes for design, Katie and Peter spent the next several years transforming the fallowed land into woodland and flower gardens surrounding a one-of-a-kind Greek Revival inspired house.
Katie and Peter open the door—to their home and its story—in their newly released book, A House in the Country. “While the house was a challenge, we felt that telling the story would be easy,” says Peter. “Our book took us down two very different paths. On one hand we knew that [the book] had to be personal to be interesting, so we had to think about how we work together as architect husband and designer wife—this was the introspective part. On the other hand, we needed to step back from the house and work with our photographer, Eric Piasecki, to think about what photographs would best convey the design and the sense of place to a stranger.” And the book does just that; organized into three main sections—Exterior, Interior, and Garden—readers get an intimate view into their process from conception to decoration.
If you're lucky, you've had the chance to see the images from these pages in real life. Katie and Peter recently hosted a Digging Deeper program during a Dutchess County Open Day in September for Garden Conservancy guests. An informal garden tour brought all eyes into the gardens that Katie designed. Gardening since she was a young child, Katie used a lifetime of self-taught gardening skills coupled with lessons from interior design to transform the property surrounding their home. “Structure versus spontaneity, color relationships, pattern making—all these and more played some part in my way of looking at garden design” Katie explains.
Working with their landscape architect, Edmund Hollander, Katie took notes from the natural landscape to direct their design decisions: “the landscape has strong orthogonal lines: the hedgerows, the neighbor’s crops, even the tree lines all follow north-south or east-west…we followed this geometry. Even within the flower garden, the hornbeam hedges follow the old hedgerow and the lines of house.” Traversing the garden, visitors can follow a grid of bluestone pathways leading through a wealth of flowers and shrubs. In the flower, cutting, and woodland gardens, visitors will find over 200 perennials, annuals, bulbs, and rare plants. “I am a proud proponent of more is more and less is a bore,” Katie says.
It’s this creative spirit that has made Katie and Peter such a successful duo. In the book, Peter notes that "the contrast between my rather studied interior architecture and Katie’s looser, more intuitive decorating style resulted in some of our favorite projects.” This complementary energy is what makes Katie and Peter’s work so compelling—their creative partnership is the cornerstone of A House in the Country, and even more, a cornerstone for the home they’ve created—a space that supports their family and honors the history and natural splendor of the surrounding environment.
Read more about Katie and Peter’s book, A House in the Country, online.
Read other recent profiles of members of our Society of Fellows.