Inside a Historic Seaside Mansion Turned Family Home by AD100 Architect Peter Pennoyer and Designer Max Rollitt

Somewhere north of Boston, overlooking a glittering Atlantic Ocean peppered with sailboats, proudly stands an

Somewhere north of Boston, overlooking a glittering Atlantic Ocean peppered with sailboats, proudly stands an august mansion that is so exquisitely of its time it could serve as the setting for a novel by Henry James. Mosaic leaves and vines wander around the floor of the entrance hall, ceilings are crisscrossed with decorative plaster strapwork, doors are framed by portieres, and verdure tapestries blanket Tudor-style oak paneling. As for the kitchen, rather than being conveniently located alongside the dining room, it occupies part of the basement level, where it has been since 1912. That was when architects Bigelow & Wadsworth transformed an existing Shingle-style house called Lilliothea—meaning “place with a view from a hill”—into an 11-bedroom daydream of a French château by simply wrapping the building within a larger structure clad in tapestry brick and limestone.

“Actually, the kitchen’s completely new but it has always been in that spot,” admits Peter Pennoyer, an AD100 architect tasked with renovating the house by a professional couple, with two teenage daughters, who wanted its period charms to remain intact, however inconvenient those details might be. “They didn’t want to change the house, the spirit of the house, or the fundamentals of the layout,” says the architect. He was joined on the project by Jennifer Gerakaris, a partner in his namesake East Coast firm, and the cult British interior decorator and antiques dealer Max Rollitt. That includes the lack of air-conditioning; the owners simply open the windows and let the site’s windy climate cool things down. “They loved the house for what it was and did not want to turn it into a newfangled thing, which was so refreshing. Everything that was new had to look old.” Consider, once again, the kitchen, which the team paved with a reclaimed French limestone called Bar de Montpellier and lined with narrow bespoke white tiles made to match the antique glazed brick in the larder. They also added a big marble-topped wood island that Rollitt modeled after the hefty worktables found in the kitchens of English country houses. Even the appliances had to comply: The new range is fit within a custom cast-iron surround that also includes the existing stove that stands alongside it. Mrs. Patmore of Downton Abbey would heartily approve. Still, the wife reports, visitors always ask why the kitchen wasn’t renovated.

The pool was designed to look like it emerges from the nearby stone ruins.

“The family before us didn’t muck up the house, which I was so grateful for,” she continues. “They hadn’t done a thing to it; it still had knob-and-post electricity, with wires running through the rooms, that was probably installed in the 1920s—a hair dryer and a curling iron plugged in at the same time would blow all the fuses.” Historic residences have been a through line in her life, from childhood onward. Years ago, she and her husband lived in a Manhattan loft with “old factory bones,” and when they relocated to Boston, they bought a timeworn house and restored it to what it might have been, right down to putting in a working dumbwaiter. “He’s been really kind to let me run with the old stuff,” she says of her spouse, who grew up in a modern apartment in his native Turkey.

Which explains why Pennoyer, Gerakaris, and Rollitt were tapped for the job. The first two are deeply inspired by classic architecture and handle venerable houses with uncommon sensitivity; here, they would restore every detail to its original condition—going so far as to reroof the place with thousands of slate tiles in five different shades—while also constructing a carriage house, a tennis cabana, and a pool that appears to be built within the ruins of a stone furnace. Rollitt reveres the past, too, but once he traveled from his rural Hampshire village and saw Lilliothea in person, he was plainly stunned. “I was slightly thrown by that mix of Romanesque, Renaissance, and neoclassicism,” the decorator says. “It’s an extraordinary vernacular, so making it a cohesive home was quite difficult. Luckily we were blessed with time.” From start to finish, the project took three years, which allowed, he adds, “ideas to marinate.”