WRITTEN BY MAUREEN WERTHER PHOTOS BY RANDALL PERRY PHOTOGRAPHY
Lee Stout is an interior designer, professor, and an avid student of the impact of space and design on a human behavior. Born in Pittsburgh and a NYC resident for his entire adult life, Stout first visited Saratoga Springs in 2015 with friends who live in the region.
Nearing the end of a long and successful career in design that also included teaching at Pratt Institute, New York University and the New York School of Design, Stout was looking at options for retirement. With so many friends nearby and the appeal of Saratoga Springs, he decided to begin searching here for his next home.
Lee continued to live and run his design business in NYC from his loft and studio in Hell’s Kitchen, now referred to as “Midtown West.”
“I always liked the name ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ better,” he said, referring to the neighborhood’s reputation as one of New York’s cultural and artistic hubs.
Working with a local realtor, Lee began visiting Saratoga on weekends, searching for the right home. It took 8 months, but when he saw the two story white stucco home on Lincoln Avenue, he knew he had found the right house.
“There was something about this house. It reminded me of one of my grandmother’s homes in Pennsylvania.
The house stands apart from many of the other homes that grace the broad, tree-lined streets of the city. Built in 1926,
it was part of an architectural movement that began shortly before the turn of the century – the Vienna Secession. The movement was a response to the excessive ornateness of the Victorian era, with the secessionists’ rejection of “historicism” and its embrace of geometry and abstraction in architecture. Described as the German branch of Art Nouveau, it was most popular in Europe, particularly in Austria, Germany and Belgium. The house on Lincoln Avenue is an example of the movement’s influence across the Atlantic.
During my visit to his new home, Lee - who is a natural born teacher – pointed out the features of the house that are hallmarks
of the secessionist style, particularly, the white stucco exterior and the home’s minimal decoration. As he explained it to me, the Vienna Secession allowed for what Stout calls “compartmental decoration” as a basic human need.
Lee has payed homage to that philosophy in the simplicity and stark beauty of the rooms, accented with bright mixed media art on the walls and the furnishings that exemplify the artistic styles of the 1950s through the 1980s.
He also pointed out that Victorian decoration arose to cover bad craftsmanship, another fact that, as a fledgling student of design and architecture, I was unaware.
Lee purchased the home in 2015 and immediately began to refurbish and re-design the space and surrounding property to fit his new lifestyle. Stout has spent his career designing and building interior spaces that serve as both artistic representations and functional living and working spaces.
His new home is an example of the effect that design, and style has on behavior. The 3,200 square foot space is at once tranquil and invigorating. Large windows allow in natural light and high ceilings add to the expansive feel of the rooms. The furnishings and accent pieces create a tableau that renders itself to both observation and habitation.
The mostly white walls and ceilings of the main room and adjacent TV room create a brightness that is neither stark nor antiseptic. On the contrary, the bright clean space is accentuated by the geometric lines, with footstools and accent pieces in spheres, rectangles and squares that add to the room’s interest.
The newly redecorated and expanded kitchen is a combination of shapes, textures and colors that add both warmth and a feeling of industry to the space. The shade of gray that Lee chose for the cabinetry is chameleon-like, at one moment casting
a violet hue and the next receding into a subtler blue-gray tone.
It is a color that defies classification. And that is how Lee likes it.
“I like to pick colors that are hard to name,” he says.
In addition to the gardens, Lee replaced an old ramshackle garage that he said practically demolished itself. The spacious new outdoor living space that he installed in the yard completes the home and works perfectly as a seasonal entertainment area.
When asked what he likes the most about living in his Saratoga home, Lee says it is the quiet at night that he enjoys. Having a home that is both sanctuary and artistic statement is another good reason for him to enjoy the next phase of his life in the city of horses, history and health.
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