Living Well in Litchfield County, Connecticut

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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

Conversations with Robert Highsmith

Workstead is a multidisciplinary studio celebrated by the AD100 as a global leader in design. From their Brooklyn office, more than 15 professionals create one-of-a-kind buildings and interiors that are comprehensive in vision and exacting in detail. Their Salisbury-based lighting studio is trusted by consumers and designers as a source of evocative luminaires, crafted in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Both of Workstead’s design practices are dedicated to breaking new creative ground with meticulous execution. Robert Highsmith, co-founder of Workstead, shares about his rather new life in Litchfield County.

In the Winter of 2020, we were introduced to the storied Buckley House on Main Street in Salisbury while looking to move to the area from nearby Columbia County with our family (Stefanie, my wife and business partner, and our two five-year-old identical twin girls Ellsworth and Holland). Having grown up in the American South, and Stefanie in Switzerland and the northeast, we were both craving a sense of community that felt lost after years of moving from Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to Charleston—having ultimately settled in our long-time (but tiny) weekend home in Gallatin, New York when we had the twins. It didn’t take long to fall for the lichen-covered stone walls of Salisbury—the towns’ hiking, swimming, good schools (and coffee), and essential New England architecture spoke to us.

Having lived in town for almost four years now, we’ve settled into our new routines with the girls in school for the first time this fall, and both of our design businesses are thriving. The Buildings & Interiors Studio is still based in Brooklyn and helmed by our partner Ryan Mahoney, and the Products Studio is now based in a renovated barn on our property in Salisbury, with the support of a production facility in Virginia. From Salisbury, we are gearing up for the next decade of work but in the context of our new-found sense of place. With me in the 19th-century hayloft barn, and Stefanie in the 18th-century Carriage House, we often joke that we are ‘building a village’ where work and life can coexist with what is most essential about all of our lives here—the seasons that are deeply felt—both with our young children, but also with our personal and creative paths. 

The Buckley House sits on a hill above a square, 2.5-acre parcel in the historic district of Salisbury. The house was built in the 18th century by John C. Coffing, one of the leading iron-industry businessmen of the region. While parts of the structure date to the 18th century, the majority of the house was constructed in 1815. We are the fifth family to live here, the previous family (Dana Rohn of Montage Antiques) left an entire file box full of photos and documents that were used to place the home on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The landscape includes a formal English parterre ‘knot garden’ as well as a wild meadow, a vegetable garden, a 200-foot-long 18th-century stone wall, a small greenhouse, a barn, and a cedar sauna building. To-date, a lot of the tones and materials utilized in our ongoing renovations reflect my own personal vision of ‘folk modernism’ that pervades many of the objects collected in the home to-date—objects that suggest a dialogue between elemental forms and tactile materials—much like the house itself. 

Favorite Hike 
Sages Ravine, as approached from the top of the Taconic Plateau via the Appalachian Trail on the CT/MA state line.
Favorite Swim 
South Pond on Mount Riga in Salisbury 
Coffee & Treats
Sweet William’s in Salisbury 
Ryan Andrade at The White Hart Inn in Salisbury 
For Antiquities 
Michael Trapp in West Cornwall and Sharon 
Montage in Millerton 
For Good New Things 
Plain Goods in New Preston 

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    Dumais Interior Design