After Alexa Horton and her husband had their first child, they decided to leave Manhattan. Alexa, a trained architect who now runs her own artisan jewelry company, I Seira, and her husband, an actor, both grew up outside of major cities and craved more space. They looked in Brooklyn and Bronxville, New York, but nothing quite felt like home. Then one summer they rented a house in Westport, Connecticut, close to the water, and they knew that was it. After looking in the area, they landed in a town in nearby Fairfield County, on a two-acre plot of land surrounded by trees and a pond. “We found this old farmhouse that had a couple of acres sort of out of town, and we just went for it,” Horton says.
Built in 1835 and partially renovated in 1920, the house was old but in good shape when they bought it. Horton figured they’d take their time with renovations. “It wasn’t our color palette or our style, but we wanted a place that eventually, over time, we could make our own,” she says. Over the course of 12 years, they transformed the house into what they’d been looking for all along—a cozy but airy farmstead retreat that mixed a minimal style with vintage finds.
After more than a decade of living in the farmhouse, it too began to feel small. Their children were young teenagers, and the family members had adjacent bedrooms. “If my daughter opens the door, we can hear it,” Horton says. “We just realized the kids were getting older, and if we wanted to stay here for another 10-plus years, we’d want a guest room and more space.” Instead of moving, Horton decided to expand the farmhouse, turning her old bedroom into a guest room and building an 800-square-foot addition attached to the side of the house.
Horton enlisted her cousin, Leigh Kirby of Weatherleigh Designs, to help with the interiors, which are spa-like in their serenity. Horton wanted a space that was free of clutter and visual noise. “Alexa is very particular—she’s a trained architect, so she has a keen eye for interiors and knows what she wants,” Kirby says. “Fortunately, she and I have the same taste, so it was pretty easy to understand what aesthetics she was going for.” The addition needed to blend with the existing home, while serving as a retreat away from the activity of the main house. The single-story addition connects to the old house by a short set of stairs and a hallway lined with built-in storage closets. Both sides of the house are swathed in warm gray Tadelakt plaster, which gives the walls a clean, rich texture.
The division between old and new is demarcated by a shift from the worn-in baseboards of the main house to the engineered white oak hardwood floors in the addition. At first, Horton wanted to add more white oak to smooth the transition. “I was like, ‘Oh, we should probably just order some more to make it perfect,’” she recalls. “Then I had a designer friend who said, ‘You know, it’s actually kind of a beautiful, happy accident. It’s not perfect and your home isn’t perfect.’ And I have to say, it doesn’t really bother me anymore.”
That happy accident leads into an addition that’s been carefully curated, from door pulls to laundry room tiles. Horton wanted a look that was clean and considered, while still feeling homey. “We wanted it to be minimal, but I don’t like the word ‘modern,’” Horton says. “You hear the word ‘modern,’ and you think stainless steel, no furniture, no comfort.” Kirby stuck to a neutral, monochromatic palette and used layers of contrasting materials to add depth and texture.
The master bedroom features a cathedral ceiling that rises into a point. “We wanted it to feel very airy and simplistic,” Kirby says, adding that the builder suggested hanging a chandelier from the center of the room. “We were like, no no no!” During the day, sunlight pours in through the windows overlooking the backyard, and at night, the room is lit softly by delicate bedside sconces. The bedroom closet door is covered with Tadelakt plaster, which makes it look like it was carved from the wall. “I felt strongly that it should look hidden, like it was a secret doorway,” Kirby says. The flat appearance of the door highlights the subtle glint of the thin brass pull from Australian studio Henry Wilson.
“Alexa hates polished brass, so everything we purchased was an unlacquered brass,” Kirby says. “It looks more raw and natural.” Kirby used Henry Wilson pulls in the bathroom, where they offer a warm accent against the poured concrete countertop and deep concrete bathtub. Downstairs, a raw brass pendant hangs over a solitary table in the study that Horton uses for designing and showcasing her jewelry. “My kids call this the interrogation room,” Horton jokes, referring to the room’s sparse decoration.
Kirby says a big part of her job was sourcing curated pieces that would bring Horton’s vision of a quiet, minimalist design to life. “It takes me a long time to figure out what I want,” Horton says. “I’m not an impulse purchaser.” A circular sconce from New York designers Allied Maker sits outside the master bedroom, its 15-inch bleached walnut frame lit by a single glowing bulb. In the bedroom, Kirby filled the space with natural and bleached maple cafe tables built by New York woodworking studio BDDW. “Alexa has a keen eye for architecture and interiors, and she knows what she wants,” Kirby says. “I spent hours researching to find this curated selection; fortunately, she and I have the same taste, so it was easy to understand what she was going for.”
Of course, not even the most curated vision can anticipate construction roadblocks. Kirby had ordered a shipment of pale gray terra-cotta tiles to be used in the master bathroom’s shower, but after they arrived, she realized contractors were too nervous to install it. “It’s extremely fragile,” Kirby says. “We went through six interviews with contractors, and no one was willing to do it because they were concerned it wouldn’t last.” Finally, they found a contractor who would work with the terra-cotta tile’s organic shapes, but instead of installing it in the bathroom as they’d originally planned, they decided to use it on the walls and countertops of the laundry room, where it was less likely to break and suffer water damage. “Now we have the prettiest laundry room on the planet,” Horton says.