This Sustainably Updated Seaside Cottage Is Full of Swedish and French Antiques—Take a Look Inside

The 1,700-square-foot Connecticut home provided a blank slate—and a fresh start—for television journalist and producer Terre Blair and her mini labradoodle.

rustic living room with fireplace and white furniture

Dana Gallagher

A fresh start: This is what Terre Blair knew she needed when she began looking for a new home about five years ago. "I had been through a lot of loss," says the veteran television journalist and producer. Blair's husband of 23 years, the composer Marvin Hamlisch, had passed away in 2012, and her dog, Abbey, had gone to the great big dog park in the sky in 2014. "I didn't want sad memories haunting me everywhere."

And so Blair, a longtime student of Buddhism, did a rather Buddhist thing: she Let Go. She sold, fully furnished, the rambling five-bedroom home on five acres in Bedford, N.Y., that she had shared with Hamlisch. She offloaded most of her wardrobe to The Real Real. She gifted other possessions to family, friends, and charity. "I was literally down to a wheelie," she says. The release left her feeling "a lightness and freedom."

terre blair and dog emma

Dana Gallagher

"I wanted to find something small but informal, full of warmth and character—a 'Terre home,'" she says. Her interest in low-impact living had been informed in part by work she had done on climate change for Big Problems, Big Thinkers, a series she created for Bloomberg Media. "Depleting natural resources to heat and cool a giant house for a single person felt completely wrong," she says. "Most of us only live in a few rooms of our houses anyway." 

entryway with lamp and table

Dana Gallagher

Blair found precisely what she was dreaming of in Rowayton, Conn., a seaside village that reminded her of happy summers she had spent in Sag Harbor. Sitting on a thumbprint-size piece of property, the cottage spans less than 1,700 square feet, yet overflows with charm and historical detail. It was constructed in 2006 by a beloved local designer named Barbara Garfield. A student of French barn architecture, Garfield built a handful of beautiful, modestly sized homes in the area inspired by the rustic buildings, often using reclaimed beams, salvaged doors, and antique hardware. Blair's two-bedroom structure was the last house the designer had built for herself. "It was her jewel," says Blair.

The house is centered on an open plan living-dining area that feels twice its size thanks to its expansive windows and soaring 20-foot ceiling, framed by weathered posts and beams salvaged from a 19th-century New Hampshire barn. Her bedroom is tucked away at one end, with its own access to the outdoors. A loft above the living area serves as Blair's cozy study

study in loft

Dana Gallagher

"I didn't have to do much to make myself feel at home," says Blair. She shopped local antique shops for French and Swedish furniture that felt in keeping with the house's old European flavor. ("My favorite is Le Barn Antiques in Stamford," she says.) She gently updated the kitchen—installing Cristallo quartzite counters and an appropriately French Lacanche stove—and converted the wood burning fireplace to a gas-fired one, which is kinder to the environment. The biggest changes she made were outside, where she installed a stone patio in place of the existing gravel one and planted a vegetable garden.

Picking up and restarting her life in Rowayton sparked other changes in Blair's life, too. Not long after her move, she enrolled in graduate school at Columbia University; she received a Master's degree in clinical psychology last spring. She also has a new four-legged love—her mini labradoodle, Emma—who's taken to the house very happily. "It's the perfect size for the two of us," she says.

 Dream a Little Dream

exterior of wooden cottage

Dana Gallagher

Inspired by French barn design, Blair's cottage in Rowayton, Conn., is a reminder that small can be beautiful. The 16-year-old structure is sheathed in wood salvaged from a 19th-century barn in New Hampshire and features large windows with shutters salvaged from an old Paris apartment.

 European Accents

rustic dining room with antique furniture

Dana Gallagher

The sun-drenched dining area features an antique Swedish baker's table paired with Swedish chairs and offers a glimpse of the main bedroom beyond.

Fired Up

fireplace with stag head above mantel

Dana Gallagher

Blair reupholstered the fauteuil beside the fireplace with an antique Belgian linen and converted the wood burning fireplace to more environmentally-friendly gas. The stag's head on the wall was a gift from a friend, a hunter who donated the venison to a local food pantry.

 Beam Me Up

rustic kitchen

Dana Gallagher

Plaster walls, 200-year-old reclaimed beams, and wide plank oak floors frame the rustic kitchen, where Blair installed Cristallo quartzite counters. An antique German bread peel hangs over the stove between niches displaying hand-hammered copperware. The shutters beneath the counter cleverly disguise a television mounted on an extendable arm.

 Onwards and Upwards

entryway detail with chair and art

Dana Gallagher

The stairway to the loft is set off by an antique Swedish chair and photograph of the Dalai Lama by Nicholas Vreeland.

Let's Grow

vegetable garden

Dana Gallagher

Blair planted a vegetable garden in her patio on raised beds using seeds from Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

Antique Treasures

rustic bedroom with antique mirrror

Dana Gallagher

In the bedroom, the antique mirror and bench are both Swedish.

 Set in Stone

outdoor entertaining patio with table

Dana Gallagher

"When friends come to visit, they say they feel like they're in Provence!" says Blair, who often entertains al fresco on her patio. The teak outdoor dining set is from Bloom in Sag Harbor, N.Y.; the table at the rear is a vintage French flower market table from Le Barn Antiques in Stamford, Conn.


Art Direction: Ryan Messina
Styling: Lili Abir Regan

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles