Architect and designer Sebastian Carpenter turned a once-forgotten Wenham house into the daring and contemporary home of his dreams. By Regina Cole, Photographed by Eric Roth
It could be said that the lot on which designer Sebastian Carpenter’s home sits was cursed. Its first occupant, a grand Georgian Revival built in 1916, burned down 34 years later. The house erected in its place-a comparatively lackluster 1950s structure with brick and cedar siding and a flat roof-eventually fell into disrepair after years of neglect,Â with prospective buyers turned off by its awkward, boxlike proportions. But the lot overlooking Wenham Lake was enough to convince Carpenter and his wife, Elisabeth, to take it. The pair purchased the house-the kind of fixer-upper they’d been hoping to find-and promptly went to work on a total transformation that took three years to complete.
Today, the front door of the 5,500-square-foot houseÂ leads into a gleaming white marble entry. White is a background color used throughout the contemporary house. “Not off-white,” says Carpenter, who studied architecture and design at the University of Virginia, Yale, and London’s Chelsea College of Art. “I’m a modernist: I like spaces that are clean and light, and I keep colors to a minimum.Â But on the other side,” he adds, “I want things soft, comfortable, and inviting.” With two young kids, those qualities were as much a prerequisite as they were a preference .
Carpenter’s style developed in London after the coupleÂ “spent a lot of weekends visiting big historic houses in the country.” In London, he began working as an interior designer. “My orientation became more contemporary as I was exposed to the work of the great modernists like Mies. I especially came to love the work of Paul Kjaerholm; I have pieces of his furniture. “[Modernists’] influence taught me to see differently: I started treating spaces like works of art, instead of just as space to fill.” Of course, any home must be somewhat filled with furniture, much of which in Carpenter’s home he designed himself, only adding to the newfound appeal of this once-forgotten home.