This Colorful Virginia Home Is an Ode to the Power of Paint

Historic meets high-wattage.

January 13, 2022

Thomas Burak and Michael Devine never intended to leave New York. For more than two decades, the aesthetically minded couple— Burak is an interior designer and Devine is the owner of an eponymous home decor brand— divided their time between a sumptuous pied-à-terre overlooking Gramercy Park and a house in the upstate village of Kinderhook, with Devine’s shop on the first floor and the pair’s flat on the second. Eventually, though, they tired of the commute, and went in search of a place to settle year-round.

Burak (left) and Devine in their library.

After two years of house hunting turned up nothing, they widened their parameters, starting in Maine and stretching down the Eastern seaboard. “We hit Maryland and ran out of states,” says Devine. “So we thought we’d give Virginia a try.” As luck would have it, the couple soon found themselves at a dinner hosted by Charlotte Moss, and when they mentioned the area, she raved about it. They made the trip down south, and quickly found a contender. While it appeared to hail from the Colonial era, it didn’t—at least, not exactly.

The house had been built in 1950 by a French professor who, decades ahead of his time, saw the wisdom in salvaging antique materials: wood floors, marble fireplace mantels, a front door with a fan light. With the help of architect Milton Grigg, known for his restorations of Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg, those elements were incorporated into a house that looks, feels and, in certain respects, actually is as historic as the area itself.

Burak and Devine picked up where the original owner left off, layering furniture and accents in a way that transcends the boundaries of period decor. “Nothing about what we do is one strict era,” says Burak. “We mix French, Italian, and Swedish, new and old, custom upholstery with vintage fabrics. What we want is livability.”

The front door, painted a custom blue, opens onto a pale gray foyer. Burak upholstered the banister in a linen velvet. “I happen to be kind of a trimming freak,” he confesses. “Tassels and tapes and borders give an interior more personality. If we had a dog, I’d probably put tassels on it.” Paint: Grège Ciment by Ressource on walls.Melanie Acevedo

They also wanted color, and a lot of it. To pull this off, they adhered to what Burak calls “color flow”—dynamic hues in the main rooms, connected by neutral spaces. The result is an unexpected palette that’s as soothing as it is surprising: a cornflower-blue front door, a hallway bedecked with stripes in vermillion red and bubblegum pink, a sage-green library. The living room began as light gray before Burak reverted to his beloved dark slate, which he’d used in at least two previous living rooms. “At night, the walls seem to disappear, and you feel enveloped,” he explains. “It’s very romantic.”

The most dramatic turn was in the dining room, where they opted for a shocking mulberry—but only on the wainscoting, trim, and woodwork above the fireplace. “White walls with a strong trim feels very 18th-century,” says Devine, “though of course this color didn’t even exist as a paint back then.” The room doesn’t have a single electric light, so they illuminate their frequent dinner parties with candles, 22 in all.

The couple’s love of purple, in all its shades, is on full display in the mulberry-colored dining room. The crystal chandelier was converted from electric to candlelight.Melanie Acevedo

When the couple says that they’re unfazed by the length of return visits to New York—“five hours on Amtrak goes by in the blink of an eye!”—it’s easy to see why: Here, they get to travel back in time while also enjoying the unexpected delights of country living. “There’s nothing quite like looking out the window and seeing the local fauna use the garden as a salad bar!” Devine laughs. “Groundhogs, rabbits, deer, possums—all are welcome.

Devine painted the red-and-pink stripes in the back foyer himself; the curtains are in his own Venice fabric. “I wanted something joyful—it’s very vibrant in the morning when the sun comes in,” he says. Though the couple is inspired by a world of influences and time periods, the only direct quotation is the Nancy Lancaster window treatment in the back hallway. Paint: Venise and Coquelicot by Ressource.Melanie Acevedo

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