Mary Ann Hawley grew up and attended college in Syracuse, New York. It wasn’t until the early ’80s, when she landed an advertising job in the Big Apple, that her tastes in design developed. “I had a couple roommates and they brought me to Rowayton [Connecticut],” she recalls. She fell in love with the sailing community and the crisp New England clothes and the architecture. “It was so very cottage-y,” she says.
Fast-forward to meeting the man who became her husband, who had a large, rambling Victorian in Stamford, Connecticut. While they were dating, he was sent to London. She stayed behind to “do” the house, prepping it to rent out. “That’s when I learned about staging,” Hawley says.
After the wedding, Hawley moved to London. In Belgravia, they had a five-story townhouse. After the children came, she studied interior architecture and design at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and London South Bank University and set about remodeling.
The Belgravia house was “done,” she said, meaning central heating was installed, as well as yards of chintz to finish it. “It was beautiful, but I felt smothered,” Hawley says. By then she’d become a devotee of the architect John Pawson, a noted minimalist. “His work frames my thinking,” she says. “I love the austerity and the feeling of sanctuary.”
After 20 years in London, the Hawleys headed east in 2002, living in Tokyo for several years when her husband’s work required another move. “I love the Asian idea of our fragile place in nature,” Hawley says.
It was that spirit of nature and love of minimalism that informed her choices when she designed and built Rochambeau Farm, her 10,000-square-foot Bedford residence on 67 acres (originally part of Daisy Hill Farm), in 2010. While Rochambeau is a classic New England farmhouse design known as “Big House, Little House,” a Japanese aesthetic prevails.
Inside, the décor is a marvelous but spare mash-up. Fine art hangs on the walls, but the chairs and sofas are from Crate & Barrel. A pair of lamps is from Target. Many of the furnishings Hawley designed herself or brought back from Europe. Her bed is Stickley. There is a Noguchi coffee table.
“I prefer a classic private-school look,” she says. “I’m geeky-preppy and proud.” Mixed in with that classic Connecticut look, her decades in London wed her to the British style popularly known as Sloane Ranger, an Hermès-scarf-enhanced, haute equestrian style favored by Princess Diana.
Her Katonah shop, Uovo Moderno, is about sharing how the Hawleys live. In addition to a well-edited selection of housewares, Ana Rose, Hawley’s daughter and business partner, makes organic soy candles sold exclusively at the store. The hand-poured and -packaged candles come in an array of beguiling scents including Pineapple Sage, Grapefruit Mango, and Island Hibiscus.
Hawley’s newest passion is sailing. One could say it is a return to Rowayton. No doubt her love of navy blue and military trim will find its way into her design schemes in the future. Stay tuned.