Certain expectations come with the interiors of a 200-year-old Greek Revival house in Southport, Connecticut—most likely crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and a museum-level amount of statuary on perilously thin pedestals. For designer Billy Cotton and his longtime client, the goal was something altogether different: a family home full of spaces that embraced color and clarity of purpose, with thoughtful, deliberate choices at every turn.

Designer Billy Cotton

“I had long admired this historic landmark of a home,” the New York-based Cotton says of the property. “It was a dream because it is rare in America to be able to work in houses that have good architectural bones.” Past the pillars and pediment outside—a true Greek Revival if ever there was one—the challenge was to create spaces that work for a young family. Gallery-style rooms of “look but don’t touch” artifacts were out; deftly selected furniture and performance fabrics were in. 

And who was the inspirational force in mind for all these divine design choices? The legendary Albert Hadley, of course. “Being in Southport, I felt he was our spiritual guide,” Cotton says. Having brought verve and vitality to the notably staid world of Connecticut design, Hadley was a perfect choice as a creative influence for the project. One look at the spaces he devised for clients like Brooke Astor and Babe Paley demonstrates the connection: an energetic use of color, an exacting sense of scale, and a curation of carefully selected antiques and vintage finds, perfect for the tastes of each homeowner.

When it comes to choosing a favorite amongst those special finds, Cotton has a memorable treasure that speaks to him. “I love the space we call the music room—those little green chairs on wheels were found in those coverings at a flea market in Paris,” he says. “They’re elegant, comfortable, and fun… all the things I strive for in an object and in an interior!” And it’s this sensibility—pairing elegance with a spirit of fun—that makes this reimagined classic such a modern success.

Shop the full curation of pieces inspired by this project from the latest issue of our print publication, Magazinish. To read all of Magazinishclick here.

All photos: Stephen Kent Johnson/OTTO


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September 18, 2023

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.