Where does style live?
Is it found in a teacup, a pair of boots, the lift of a chin in a photo? Is art embodied in a perfect square made of daffodils, or a painting hung on the ceiling? Can a way of life, or a network of people, be designed, just like a skirt or a chair?
Here’s one answer, larger than life. It dwells at the end of a driveway in Keene, where the name of the estate is hand-lettered on a simple wooden sign. “Estouteville.” Follow the long drive up the hill, and it’s just like approaching many of Albemarle’s big historic farms—curving road through verdant landscape—until oddities begin to present themselves. A patch of spring flowers in the grass, shaped like an arrow. A red, spiderlike form suspended over the drive. A standing dead tree painted pink.
And then the house, presiding in the classic manner over a gentle lawn and a princely view. It couldn’t be more Jeffersonian, but there are deliberate rents in the traditional fabric—like the sculptures made of branches that hang between the fat porch columns.
And when the side door is opened by the cook, and the black-and-white kitchen is revealed with its clutter of books and art-hung walls, there is Beatrix Ost at the table with brunch guests, dressed to kill on a Sunday morning, in a purple turban and a black skirt with Chinese embroidery. Her husband Ludwig Kuttner is energetically discussing global finance with the couple’s son, Oliver Kuttner, and a well-known novelist in a rumpled shirt. A dog politely noses everyone’s hands.
This is ground zero for a certain manifestation of style—the phenomenon of Wiggie and Trixie, as they’re affectionately known, enthroned at Estouteville. How to describe them? “They’re unmistakable; they’re unduplicatable; they’re just their own thing.” This from John Gibson, a friend of the couple and Live Arts’ former, longtime artistic director. “They are paragons of what it means to live a life of refinement.”
Got your phone? Do an image search for either of the pair and you will quickly get the picture. There’s Wiggie, posing with Donna Karan. There’s Trixie attending a society ball with a basket on her head. There is photo after photo of the couple, mugging in the most outrageously chic outfits. “One of the most stylish men ever,” proclaims fashion blog StyleLikeU in its feature on Kuttner, a businessman.
Ost, who’s an artist and writer, may be one of the only people who could upstage him. “I’ve had the rare pleasure of wandering through her closets,” says Gibson, “and they are just extraordinary—and archived. She doesn’t just wear fashion, she collects it.”
A onetime model, Ost—now in her mid-70s—still attracts glowing attention from fashion blogs, most of them based in New York. But, although she and Kuttner do have a home in Manhattan where they spend much of their time, they hardly reach for jeans and Crocs when they return to their country place.
Local photographer Will Kerner remembers the first time he spotted Ost: at a downtown coffeeshop he owned, in 1983. “One afternoon I noticed these two incredible-looking women in there,” he says. “It was Trixie and Dagmar [Kuttner, Ost’s then daughter-in-law]. They would stand out right now if they walked down the middle of the mall, but 30 years ago it was really exceptional.”