In the nearly 30 years she lived at Denbigh Farm, Susie Hilfiger resisted ever publishing photos or giving an interview on the home and its grounds. In the mid-1990s, when she and her former husband Tommy Hilfiger purchased the house, the fashion designer was at the height of his ubiquity. “I wanted privacy for my family,” she explains. When they found the home, she was pregnant with her fourth child, and the sprawling historic estate seemed like the ideal place to raise their family out of the public eye. “We instantly fell in love with it,” she recalls of the shingled manor house, which at the time was home to Joseph Verner Reed Jr., a close advisor to President George H. W. Bush and onetime ambassador to Morocco.
But three decades later, her four children have grown up, started families of their own, and moved away. Hilfiger has decided to follow suit, selling the property and relocating west to California to be closer to her flock. “I loved raising my children at Denbigh Farm,” she says, opening up for the first time about the historic property, which is currently listed for $17,995,000. “But now I’ve started a new chapter.”
Originally built in the late 1700s by a Quaker family, the house was renovated in the early 20th century by famed New York architects Albro & Lindeberg in the style of an English country estate, and it was updated in the early 2000s by Virginia-based architect Allan Greenberg. The property, which spans more than 17 acres overlooking the Long Island Sound, encompasses manicured gardens, an apple orchard, horse stables, tennis courts, a carriage house, and a playhouse designed in the style of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, which Hilfiger commissioned after a visit to the home.
“The house deserved sensitivity and attention to detail,” Hilfiger says. “It had amazing bones and an even better spirit.” However, before giving it a facelift, the Hilfigers were forced to confront the problems that arose with a centuries-old house. “We redid everything: the roof, the plumbing, all the infrastructure,” she recounts.
For the decoration, Hilfiger enlisted Colefax & Fowler to help her realize her vision, which was loosely inspired by Sister Parish. Together they devised a palette rich in vintage-inspired textiles, elaborate patterns, and vibrant colors. For instance in the dining room, where they lined the walls with a hand-painted botanical de Gournay wallpaper, the light and airy design contrasted with a heavy polished triple pedestal English dining table, twelve ornately carved George III chairs, and a cut crystal George III chandelier with matching sconces. The primary bedroom centers around a Bunny Mellon–designed four-poster draped with Bob Collins & Sons floral fabric and set atop matching floral-print carpet. One of the more elaborately rendered spaces is an attic room, lined entirely with an antique-inspired red-and-yellow Batik that covers the bamboo canopy bed, plush chaise lounge, and sloped dormer ceiling. Hilfger lovingly describes the room as “totally filled with joy.”
But even once the renovation was complete, the project was far from over. “No room was ever finished,” she says. “They were always evolving. It was like having a new hairdo or wearing new colors each season.” And, though she was leading the charge on the design, she also gives credit to her former husband, who she says encouraged her creativity and shared her aesthetic. “I was fortunate enough to be married to a kind-hearted and generous man,” she says.
Indeed, their shared passion resulted in their acquisition of some unquestionably iconic pieces of furniture. When the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s furniture was auctioned off at Sotheby’s New York in 1997, the couple took home a few items from the lot. “We bought carpets, a pair of eagle-shaped consoles, and the famous blue sofa she kept at the end of her bed where she would keep her pug dolls,” Hilfiger remembers. “We even bought her green Venetian secretary where she conducted all her household business.” Those pieces still remain scattered throughout the home, adding a touch of stoic regality to the fabulously appointed rooms: a pair of leopard print tasseled floor pillows sit next to the living room coffee table; a Directoire-style silk-upholstered chair is tucked into the vanity in the primary bedroom; and the pair of Regency eagle-shaped giltwood consoles flank the doors of the salon.
Despite the extravagant origins of much of the home’s contents, it was always Hilfiger’s main mission to create a nest for her family. “It wasn’t important how much anything cost or what quality it was,” she says. “What matters is that that house had so much love inside.”