By Mike Lauterborn
(for July/Aug issue Fairfield magazine)
Fairfield, CT - A well-appointed 3,500-square-foot three-bedroom modern Colonial on a landscaped one-acre lot. Par for the course you’d say for a residence in lower Greenfield Hill. But throughout this high-profile home is a broad collection of treasured art, stylish accents and curious furnishings, reflecting the character and unique background of its owners.
Built in 1998 by Bill Kovac of Trumbull, CT-based Sherwood Homes, the structure, perched along Sherwood Farm Road, has immediate curb appeal. Homeowner and professional illustrator Leslie Cober-Gentry explained that the home design was offered as a template, which she and her husband Eric, a doctor of pulmonary and critical care medicine, modified to create more flow and spaciousness.
Curling around from a three-car garage, a bluestone path leads to a columned portico at the center of the meringue yellow, two-story haven. Inside, an inviting foyer is grounded by white crystal marble tiles and accented with curved Murano glass sconces. A manly office with a formal Baker desk, leather recliner, mini bar and built-in shelving occupies one branch off the hallway. A small half bath with a glass basin sink serves as another branch and last checkpoint before entering a sunny kitchen.
Here, the white marble flooring extends, and plays off contemporary maple cabinetry, granite-topped counters, a center island outfitted with stainless steel bar stools with Lucite seats and a full complement of stainless steel Thermador and Sub-Zero major appliances. The real standout features here, though, are a hand-blown Venetian glass chandelier hovering above a Saarinen breakfast table with lime green Jacobsen chairs, and hand-cut white glass backsplashes.
“Designer Jo Ann Ceasrine assisted me with choosing the tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms,” said Cober-Gentry. “She has a great sense of textures.”
Sweeping right into the family room with its 18-foot high vaulted ceiling, one is treated to a host of visuals – and history – to delight the senses. On the contemporary end, large picture windows, a granite-framed fireplace, chocolate and canteloupe colored furniture and a unique Ligne Roset rug with a texture like a Rastafarian’s dreadlocks present a clean face. On the historical front, a mix of antiques, including a hand-carved carousel rooster and a candy-striped barber pole circa 1900, provide intrigue.
But it’s framed sketches of sports figures Pete Rose, Don King and Sugar Ray Leonard and a funny looking ceramic character looking down from built-in shelving that drives Cober-Gentry to mention some remarkable family factoids.
“My dad, Alan E. Cober, was a well-known illustrator who was just inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame along with Norman Rockwell and Howard Pine,” she said. “His work really changed illustration from a classic American style to a conceptual journalistic view. His sketches are featured throughout our home. While he achieved amazing success as an illustrator, in the 1980s he wanted to move into a different medium and began creating ceramic figures. These were essentially his illustrations materializing with a third dimension. He was really becoming established in this category before his untimely death at 62 in 1998.”
Besides the notable sports stars he sketched, Cober traveled with Time magazine on presidential campaigns, was an artist for NASA and accompanied Pope John Paul II on a tour of the U.S. He and his wife Ellen were also among the leading folk and American art collectors in the country.
Paintings from their collection, created by American masters of the 1800s, grace the Gentry’s dining room on the opposite side of the house. Decorated with Italian contemporary furniture, the space flows into the living room, floored with hardwood oak and dotted with Baker side tables.
A floor below, a furnished basement boasts a media room with a pool table, air hockey, sitting area with flatscreen TV and full bath. At the rear of the home, a sunroom/gym with terracotta tiled floors and French doors spills out onto a raised deck with hot tub that overlooks a gunite pool and backdrop of white pines, spruce, lilacs and other assorted trees. The top floor offers a vaulted master bedroom with a walk-in closet, Italian cherry furniture and a Togo chaise, as well as respective bedrooms, connected by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, occupied by the couple’s two children.
While these rooms and features are well enjoyed, the space that fuels Cober-Gentry most is her studio. There, she has worked on hundreds of assignments for magazines and corporations. “This is where I do all my creating and illustration work, which was inspired by my dad,” she said. “My studio also houses my various collections – iconic advertising dolls, vintage cake toppers and toy figurines.”
Cober-Gentry concludes that her “anything goes” humorous style is echoed in the architectural highlights and artwork in her home. “Heirlooms find a comfortable balance with more contemporary works and sleek modern furniture.”