This was going to be a ‘Houses I Dream About’ post, but I have driven myself half mad trying to find the exterior photos that I know I have of this exquisite house to no avail, so we will consider the interiors instead.
Arvid Knudsen, a Norwegian born antiquarian of exceptional taste, built Duck Creek at the edge of a salt marsh in Old Lyme Connecticut in 1940. The house passed from Knudsen to his friend, connoisseur and dealer, J.A. Lloyd Hyde, who was one of Henry Francis DuPont’s chief advisors at Winterthur, supplying him with much of the Chinese Export materials there. The house is a testament to the power of architectural salvage. Knudsen bought the New London post office, then being demolished, and had the materials trucked to Old Lyme, where he incorporated them into an elegant small Adamesque pavilion. The house had few rooms, followed a rigid classical aesthetic, and depended on the quality of its furnishings and proportions for effect.
The lovely drawing room was of a pure Swedish neoclassical bent, with plenty of air and light, contrasting grandeur and simplicity, with pale blue walls, white painted Louis XVI furniture, and sheer ruffled curtains at the windows, the better to reflect light on the antique parquet floors. The doors were flush, and there were virtually no moldings to interrupt the smooth background, highlighting the elegant shapes within.
This is really about two favorite rooms, for I cannot pick between the airy drawing room, and the dining room…but, I think we’ll go with the dining room. Painted a pale French gray, with tall french windows, the room was decorated with some of the gentlemen’s salvage, and what salvage it was—fluted corinthian pilasters saved from the white drawing room at Winterthur when it was redecorated by Henry Dupont as a period Empire parlor, and green satin taffeta curtains from the Misses Hewitt of Cooper-Hewitt fame, that remind one of nothing so much as a Charles James ballgown. A tasty set of green painted chairs upholstered in an unexpected taupe leather compliment the curtains, and an enviable silver pagoda centers the table. The floor is salvaged white marble, not highly polished or veined. Between the windows is a collection of the Dilettante’s favorite china, Creil faience, with restrained classical and architectural scenes on a cream ground. The brass trumpet chandelier is almost modernist in its restraint. I want to go to a dinner party in this room…
The White Drawing Room at Winterthur in the 1930’s, showing the pilasters that were later salvaged for the Duck Creek dining room
Photographs of Duck Creek by Taylor & Dull, Magazine Antiques, December 1957
Photograph of Yellow Drawing Room at Winterthur from Christies, DuPont sale.