Host Parker Kelley arrives by helicopter to Jim and Carrie’s post modern home on the banks of the Westport River. The husband and wife are both lawyers by day, but they’re also artists, who reach for their paintbrushes whenever possible. Their love affair with color is evident throughout their house with bold green and blue-gray walls that are studded with original art. A light fixture salvaged from a 19th-century church hangs in the guest bedroom that is covered with a vibrant botanical wallpaper by Scandinavian artist Josef Frank.
“The key theme is unusual, we’re not afraid to introduce a piece from the 1800s into a house that’s post modern,” says Jim. “I think it’s important to be open minded and not take life so seriously, where everything has to be found in a magazine. Go to as many museums and galleries as possible and get a feel for what you like rather than just a prescription… it should be a feeling then that feeling when you collect it becomes your own style.”
When the couple renovated their home, they turned to Kathy Bartels, a partner at LLB Architects. As a friend of the family, she was able to observe visitors. “People would come into the house and go straight to the windows and say, wow—what a great view,” she says. “My thought was to layer the views and create architecture within the house, so that people would come in and say, what a great space, what a great house and what a great view.”
To gather the essentials for the night’s dinner party, Parker heads to Westport River Vineyards, which is on a sprawling 400 acres and has been in operation since 1982. Rob Russell took over the business from his parents. His great grandparents were in the wine industry in Upstate New York until they were forced to close during Prohibition. “Both of my parents had heard stories about their time in Upstate New York and they had this romantic vision of the wine industry,” he says. Since opening Westport River Vineyards has received accolades and has been served at White House dinner parties.
The chef for the evening is Aaron De Rego of the Back Eddy. The restaurant is right on the water, really—it sits on 63 pilings, so the Westport River runs underneath. The term—back eddy—describes a current that runs opposite the mainstream, which happens to be a fitting name because the seafood restaurant does things a little differently, according to owner Sal Liotta. Inside the eclectic interior is telling. Chef Aaron De Rego used Jim and Carrie’s grill for a dinner of New Bedford scallops with local clams and oysters.
Before it’s time to eat, Parker sits down with John Stobart, a British maritime artist known for his paintings of American harbor scenes, who happens to live across the river. He discusses a work in progress—a painting of a whaling ship on its way home. Every element tells a story from the ship’s belly full of oil to the wives standing on the nearby cliff, their skirts blowing in the wind as they try to catch a glimpse of their husbands who have been away for years.
For Jim and Carrie, their home is a place to collect and display art and collectibles that speak to them, but it’s also their sanctuary. Outside on the lawn is Jim’s favorite place, where he takes Parker for some plein-air painting. Jim smiles up on his perch in front of his easel. “This is my spot, this is where the phone doesn’t ring,” he says.