Worlds Best Homes

Design house: Take a tour of this elegant riverside farmhouse in Connecticut

The epitome of rural elegance, this home was too beautiful for one high-flying couple to resist leaving the city for

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

'I always used to pride myself on living all over the world. You cannot tie me down, I’d say,’ Katherine McConnaughey explains from her Connecticut home. A few years since retiring from a 33-year career as a flight attendant, both she and her husband David, the CEO of a media firm, have finally put down more permanent roots. 

‘I’ve planted my great-grandma’s irises and a lilac that was given to me when my dad passed away. These are plants that have always moved with me and now we’re here, we’re never leaving.’

Connecticut-riverside-home-Tim-Lenz

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)
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The property

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

The couple, who have ‘lived in Manhattan since forever’ and raised their daughter Caroline there, discovered the appeal of the region on visits to friends. 

‘We wanted to simplify. It’s incredible how people live out here. They’re so into the outdoors and growing organically,’ Katherine enthuses. ‘This is an area really devoted to conservation and preservation.’

Their original property was a mid-century era home that, no matter how they tried, they just couldn’t get to suit their lifestyle. ‘After three years we put it on the market and it sold in three days,’ Katherine says.

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

While David was eager to build from scratch, Katherine was less convinced and had she not been in a certain place at a certain time things may have turned out very differently.

‘I was driving down this road and I literally saw the agent put the ‘for sale’ sign out for a 1920s-era riverside farmhouse. A few days later we viewed it.’ 

Connecticut-riverside-home-Tim-Lenz

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

While Katherine was enchanted, David was more impressed with the home’s natural surroundings, the wildlife and the opportunity to fish.

‘When he found out a pair of American bald eagles raised their eaglets here yearly, the home became impossible to resist,’ Katherine laughs.

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Soon after, the couple moved in and began configuring the house for their lifestyle. Hiring Heide Hendricks of interior design firm Hendricks Churchill was a decision that sparked an extraordinary synchronicity.

‘It was astonishing how many of Katherine’s images were on my own personal inspiration boards,' Heide explains. 'We were aligned in our vision of what we were attracted to.'

‘I’d never hired a decorator before,' Katherine adds, 'but this was our forever home, so we wanted to get it right. I knew that Heide would give the interior a unique story.’ 

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

One of Heide’s triumphs was the overhaul of the basement. ‘The lower level was non-existent. David’s office down there had a dirt floor. We thought we would never use it but now, with a bar and snug where we watch TV, it’s a new portion of the house that’s perfect for entertaining.’

Connecticut-riverside-home-Tim-Lenz

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Heide was given strict instructions not to obstruct the windows. ‘I was very aware that the interior must not upstage the view,’ she explains. 

‘Katherine and David are big nature lovers, so bringing in jute, cowhide and raw linen was right up their alley. But I also loved placing all their belongings, collected over the years,’ she adds.

The office space was once a basement with a dirt floor, now it has areas for work and contemplation. 

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Armchair, Hammertown. Find similar solid wood side table on Etsy. Source a similar rug at Rugs of London. Walls in Ammonite, Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Heide’s instinct for pale and nuanced paint colours contributed to the period tone, with the high-gloss ceiling of the basement reflecting the light and bringing movement from the water.

The breakfast area

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Lupin Slim bar table in marble, Sklum. 1940s leather bridge chairs, source from 1stdibs. Indian split-bamboo Chik blinds, Joss Graham

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

A French-style bistro table and button-back sofa make a relaxed nook to enjoy morning coffee. 

The dining room

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Table, custom-made by Get Back Inc. CH23 dining chairs by Hans J Wegner, source from Pamono

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

This pared-back scheme places emphasis on the organic shape of the chandelier and the natural beauty of wood and woven materials. 

The mudroom

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Ceiling light, Circa Lighting. Walls in Purbeck Stone, Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

The house had been renovated a few years prior, but the couple decided to create a new entryway and, with the river curving around the house, make more of a feature of the old screened-off porch as well as creating plenty of book storage.

The shiplap cladding in the mudroom strikes a traditional and rustic mood, while built-in cabinetry conceals coats and outdoor equipment.

The master bedroom

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Soft blue gray walls give the master bedroom a soothing quality which never feels dull, thanks to the light flooding in from all of the windows. 

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(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

The bedroom

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Bedding, Rough Linen. Source a chunky knit rug at The Rug Seller. 1950s side table, Baker Furniture.

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Inherited duck-print curtains were requisitioned and made into this striking headboard. The gray and orange cushions echo the colours in the print. 

The twin room

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Beds, Restoration Hardware. Source a similar blind at Wayfair. Find similar cushions at Cox & Cox. Source an antique Kazak rug from Rugs of London. Walls in Oval Room Blue, Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

In this low-ceilinged space, Heide opted for a dark, atmospheric paint colour that would turn the room into a ‘cozy cave’.

Connecticut-riverside-home-Tim-Lenz

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

‘Heide has joined both of our identities so beautifully,’ Katherine concludes. ‘There’s so much of our shared family history here. I’ve never felt happier or more at home.’

Connecticut-riverside-home-Tim-Lenz

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)
Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. 


Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.