All in Good Fun
If any emotion can rival the pride parents feel watching their children spread their wings and fly the nest, it must be the joy of welcoming them home, taking pleasure in their young-adult company and enjoying their sibling camaraderie.
That’s what life is like these days for one Greenwich couple, the parents of four almost-grown sons. With the boys off to college and boarding school, the husband says, “we’re quasi empty nesters.” No need, then, for the 8,000-plus-square-foot house that once suited an active family of six; it was time for a new nest, one cozy enough for two but big enough to accommodate sons home for weekends and vacations.
Their new 4,500-square-foot home—a 2003-built stone-clad house with the look of an old carriage house on a country estate—was move-in ready, requiring nothing more than redecorating. “It was tastefully done,” the husband says, “just not to our taste.”
Greenwich-based designer Charlotte Barnes knew all about their taste, having worked with the couple on two previous homes. “They have a love of color and a sense of comfort and fun,” Barnes says. “They wanted a grown-up house, but also one where their sons could come home with a bunch of guys and watch football and play pool.”
Barnes set the tone early, bringing a mix of ingredients to the foyer. A nineteenth-century ebonized table takes center stage on a colorful antique oriental rug. Modern touches make an entrance in the chandelier above the table and the zebra-print runner on the stairs to the second floor. On the table, a late eighteenth-century silver tray keeps company with a vase from the 1920s and a contemporary photograph on an acrylic stand. In the background, a Buddha statue rests on a leather-topped table from the 1940s. “This was a fun project for me,” Barnes says. “I got to really splash out here with textures, periods of history and colors.”
The fun continues in the living room, where Barnes says her biggest challenge was creating a room that works as well when the boys want to have a group of friends over as it does when their parents want to throw a more intimate cocktail party. “They wanted a billiard table and a big TV, but they also wanted to have a great place to sit and have conversation,” Barnes says.
Her solution divides the room in two visually by creating a sitting area with the fireplace as the focal point. Two antique wooden armchairs face the hearth, but can be turned to become part of the billiards area. A large TV hides behind the paneling that surrounds the fireplace. “You can open the doors and have a Super Bowl party or keep them closed for a lovely dinner party,” Barnes says.
For the color palette she took inspiration from a colorful contemporary painting her clients brought from their old house and that now hangs over the fireplace. Against the warm beiges of the sofas and the rug’s Greek key motif, the painting’s medium blues are echoed in the patterned fabrics the designer used in window treatments, toss pillows and on a lounge chair by the fireplace. Its deeper blue is reflected in the velvet cushions of the wooden armchairs, while its blacks, reds and sunny tones find their way into decorative accents and accessories. “Again,” says Barnes, “it’s all very eclectic, with a mix of textiles and colors and styles.”
Her clients liked the sage green the previous owners had used on the family room walls, so Barnes kept it, adding burnt orange and touches of teal to zip up the palette. A brawny brass coffee table fronts a sofa covered in soft cut velvet—“the perfect hangout couch,” Barnes says. The previous owners’ good taste extended to the kitchen, which the new owners and their designer deemed just perfect as it was.
Color takes over in the breakfast room, where walls of raspberry red pop against white wainscoting. “I found an Alan Campbell Quadrille fabric for the curtains, and painted the room around that,” the designer explains. Picking up on the sky in a painting of a barn that hangs on the wall, Barnes opted for a blue-and-white fabric with an exaggerated herringbone pattern for the chairs that surround the circular pedestal table.
The study, with its black-lacquered walls and leopard-print rug, is a favorite spot for the husband. “It’s very manly,” Barnes says of the room, which she outfitted with a sofa covered in gray flannel with leather trim and an ottoman decked out in Donegal tweed.
Her clients’ confidence in her was a blessing when it came to the master bedroom, Barnes says. The wife wasn’t convinced about the silvery leaf-patterned wallpaper the designer selected. “She loved it till it went up; then she wasn’t so sure. I said, ‘You do like it. Just trust me.’”
Once Barnes added a plush carpet, colorful pillows and a bench covered in sumptuous purple velvet, her client agreed the paper was the perfect choice after all.
Outside, Martha Baker Landscape Design reworked the home’s surroundings, bringing in sixteen old apple trees from an orchard in upstate New York. “We wanted to create the kind of feel that the house was an old carriage house built in an orchard,” the husband says.
Their new, smaller home suits these soon-to-be empty nesters perfectly, the husband adds. “It really reflects our taste. It wasn’t meant to try to conform to any particular look.”
The house wraps the parents in comfort. And when their brood of boys returns to the nest, the space seems to expand, making room for all the pride, joy, laughter and love that’s part of life in this family. •
Interior design: Charlotte Barnes
Landscape design: Martha Baker Landscape Design
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