Even though it’s getting dark outside—in the farm-dotted, wooden-bridged pocket of Buckingham Township, just outside New Hope, there are no streetlights—I can see the house from afar. Well, not exactly the house, but a heather and wildflower meadow that is Nancy Levie’s front yard. Two enormous columns made of piles of small rocks, arranged just so and encased in a sculptural metal grating, mark the entrance to the winding driveway. Then I see the greenhouse, which, when illuminated at dusk, seems to glow, and just beyond that, a small orchard. I’m here for the Levies’ annual themed party; this year, the theme is fitting: “County Fair Couture,” a perfect summation of the couple’s effortless blend of high design and country charm.
The whole scene is quite a departure from the Manhattan pied-à-terre Levie owns with her husband, a portfolio manager who appears to be the antithesis to art-inclined Nancy, who once helmed a fashion showroom in New York. But this is now their primary home—an 11-acre property deep in the heart of Bucks County, anchored by a shockingly modern house built in 1986 by then-relatively-unknown (and now renowned) architects Richard Olcott and Todd Schliemann. But the party I’ve just walked into isn’t in the house—it’s in the spectacular greenhouse just outside, an all-season 1,200-square-foot space designed by Groundswell’s David Fierabend.
In the beginning, Nancy and her husband just wanted a small patio; they’d gone through a handful of traditionally minded landscape architects before meeting Fierabend. He instinctually suggested the couple visit Terrain, the home-and-garden arm of the Urban Outfitters empire in Glen Mills. The very next morning, they did. Over brunch in Terrain’s greenhouse cafe, Nancy made the phone call: “David, forget the patio. I want you to build me this.”
And now I’m in a home that sort of feels as if you’re actually living in Terrain, or Anthropologie. Only better, because while the entire space brims with inspiring style ideas—an antique horse trough as a gurgling fountain in the greenhouse; an old toolbox as a counter-top organizer in the kitchen—it’s not all calculated so that you’re spurred to fork over $800 for a not-quite-vintage pendant light. It is, like Nancy, much more free-spirited than that: “My philosophy in life is, if I have a visceral reaction to something, I don’t stop to think where it will go or what I will wear it with. I just do it.” But she does plan ahead in some respects. The theme is already set for next year’s party: Nancy and Fierabend—now a dear friend and co-party planner—are conjuring up a fantastical grown-up version of … prom. In this place, which at night, under the lights, feels almost magical, anything is possible.
A sunken patio—punctuated with a fire pit custom-made by Fierabend—bridges the space between the home and greenhouse. (Opposite) The outdoor space has ample room for living, dining and bar areas, and for Nancy’s assorted collectibles, many of them from Zinc Home + Garden in Lambertville.
In the family room, a quartet of seats showcases Nancy’s varied style inspirations—two Eames lounges; a tufted leather sofa from Restoration Hardware; and a “very uncomfortable” Achille Castiglioni tractor-seat stool. Nancy made most of the throw pillows herself, including the patchwork denim ones, which are now carried exclusively at Zinc Home + Garden. An old trolley serves as a coffee table; atop it are two of her countless collections: antique staplers and paintbrushes, the latter assembled in vases made by Nancy’s ceramicist father. The wood floor—salvaged from a 120-year-old barn—is a warm counterpart to the steel fireplace frame, a focal point dreamed up on the fly by Nancy, who scrawled the idea for its design on a napkin during a meeting with her contractor.
View From the Top
The home’s original layout featured a maze of choppy rooms that stemmed from a large silo-inspired rotunda at the front of the house. The Levies opened up the space, tearing down the circular wall and replacing it with exposed I-beams, metal columns, and a metal-and-cable railing. A two-story hanging fireplace visually connects the first-floor living room and second-floor sitting room.
The upstairs sitting room, located just off the master bedroom, is an airy reading nook with a curved wood bench and Nancy’s whimsical “sculpture”: a huge basket of thick yarn, and a pair of oversized knitting needles.
Here Comes the Sun
The Levies were drawn to the southern wall’s Mondrian-esque expanse of glass. The dining area features their trademark mix of mid-century modern (Eames chairs); industrial (an antique riveted-metal table from Lambertville’s America) and eclecticism (the tableau of curiosities).
A Collector’s Life
Loosely styled vignettes are peppered throughout the house: displays of flea-market finds, antique typewriters and scales, hefty coffee-table books, spools of thread.
A charming alcove just off the living room recalls an old schoolhouse, complete with a smattering of antique pencil sharpeners, tiny chairs and a vintage chalkboard.
In the expansive kitchen, cabinetry is made of diamond-plated steel, a material carried through to the back wall of the room—a smart contrast to the sleek stainless hood and glass-front refrigerator. The art on the wall is by one of Nancy’s sons.