Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer share tips for couples building their dream home

Story by Hollie Deese
Photography by Eric Piasecki

Getting through a new build is not typically an easy feat for couples, especially when they each have strong design aesthetic and even stronger opinions. But somehow interior designer and architect power couple Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer were able to create their dream home, together, on a six-and-a-half acre parcel of land in Millbrook, New York.

Honoring Millbrook’s history of nature conservancy and sporting pastimes, the result is a one-of-a-kind Greek Revival-inspired house, with woodland and flower gardens, nestled amid the gently rolling hills and farms of the area. The idyllic project is chronicled in the book A House in the Country (Vendome Press), where they open the door to their house and tell the story of its conception, design, decoration and landscaping.

And the two learned that the experience is a little bit different when they became the client.

“You have total freedom to do what you want, so you have to be your own editor. Katie is really good at editing me,” Pennoyer says. “And I think I edited her a little bit … not a lot. But you have to set your limits and come up with your own wish list. And it’s different when it is your own.”

It helped that the two already work so well together and have such trust in each other’s abilities. So instead of worrying about managing each other, they just had to make sure that the finished project worked perfectly for how their family lived.

And incorporated all of their favorite things — like tea paper from de Gournay and fabrics ordered from Sweden.

“We mix in a lot of antiques,” Ridder says. They buy many things at auction and pull ideas from their travels to Berlin and London.

The planning of their home took a year, and construction lasted another year and a half. But some of that delay was their own fault — they made adjustments along the way, allowing themselves a little more leeway than they might allow other clients.

“I tried to be really buttoned up and organized with all our projects, but it’s a little more challenging when you’re the client because you can excuse yourself from simple little changes here and there.”

Still, they say it is important for people embarking on designing their dream home to start with the ideal, make a wish list and be really specific. Then, edit as necessary.

“The time to do it and to really focus your ideas is at the beginning,” Pennoyer says. “It’s worth it. You’re really thinking about where you’re going to spend time in the house and what you’re going to do there and all those things.”

See Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer when they speak at the 29th annual Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville Feb. 1–3 when they will share more about their experience of becoming the client and building their dream country home together.

*When Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer come to Nashville, they plan to visit Cheekwood because a client of Pennoyer’s had sent him a picture of the stairs there to use as inspiration on the home he was building.

Join the power couple along with acclaimed author and design expert Susanna Salk, for a lively conversation as they open the doors to various inspiring projects from around the country  at the Nashville Antiques & Garden Show, Friday, February 1, 2019, at 2 p.m.