This article is part of our latest Design special report, which is about taking creative leaps in challenging times.
It is not unheard of for ambitious homeowners to imbue a mere building with narrative dazzle.
But rarely is the mythologizing as specific and literary as it is for the Long Island guesthouse of Betsy and Bryan H. Lawrence: They call it the Narnia House.
Yes, it has a surprising installation, as in the classic C.S. Lewis novel “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Stepping through a French armoire at the top of a back stair leads to a second-floor passage and toward a Narnia-themed bedroom.
That fanciful concept — Ms. Lawrence’s idea, stemming from her love of the children’s book series — is only part of the charm of the red brick, five-bedroom home, originally built in the 1990s and acquired by the couple about three years ago as an addition to their adjacent family compound.
Making the guesthouse exuberant required the practical efforts of Thomas Jayne and William Cullum, of Jayne Design Studio in New York. The firm is known for deftly mixing the classical and the contemporary and for layering custom details — while remaining open to quirk.
“To me, it’s enchanted,” said Ms. Lawrence, a psychologist and artist who serves as president of the New York School of the Arts. Mr. Lawrence is an investor.
“It was an ugly duckling, transformed into a beauty,” she said.
The Lawrences gave the designers room to run. The property was intended as a place for entertaining, for displaying Ms. Lawrence’s own artworks and the rest of her collection and for billeting friends and family. So there was plenty of space for whimsy.
Initially, the house had some less-than-ideal characteristics. But Mr. Jayne does not see problems; he sees,