Keith McNally's restaurants are known for their better-than-the-real-thing recreations of international scenes -- the Paris brasserie, the local bistro, the Moscow bar. But as it happens, they've never lived up to their creator's expectations: "I begin with the lofty idea of building the equivalent of a Shakespeare sonnet and halfway through realize it's just a Guns N' Roses lyric." His own newly completed renovation of a four-story 1841 Village townhouse -- conceived with and supervised by designer Ian McPheely -- was no different. "Nothing ever matches what I have in mind," he says. "That's why I'm so obsessed in the search for individual items. I believe if only that one small element were found, the Second Coming would occur." The elements in his house, however, are by no means small: beams from a New England barn, chandeliers he found in flea markets from Paris to Montpelier, bistro chairs from Soho, doors from Rhode Island. The theme here is country, both Continental and Connecticut, but grafted onto a surprisingly urban open layout. "The look and prominence of the kitchen gives an informality to the house," he says. "The last thing we wanted was the stiffness of a separate formal living room. I've an aversion to that kind of thing. It's like the precious cutlery that one reserves for special occasions."
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