A Kitchen-Centric Renovation in Ridgefield
February 3, 2017
A kitchen-centric renovation gives an already gracious Ridgefield house a warm, welcoming feeling of home.
Text by Allegra Muzzillo Photography by Michael Partenio Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Molly Hirsch’s relationship with this Ridgefield couple began when they called on her to help renovate their previous home. Midway through the process, the couple changed tacks.
“They started looking at other houses when they realized the renovation still wouldn’t give them enough space for their three young boys and for visiting friends and family,” Hirsch says.
When the pair finally landed on this 7,000-square-foot Colonial-style home just a few minutes’ walk to Ridgefield’s Main Street, they again tapped Hirsch to oversee its redesign. “What I love about working with Molly is that her first idea is always the best,” says the wife. “I trust her, and she nails it every time.”
Although the couple appreciated the house’s nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings and lovely millwork, its interiors leaned toward a formality the wife sought to tone down. “She wanted the whole home to be inviting—not formal and unusable,” says Hirsch.
And inviting it is: in the foyer, Hirsch anchored the space with a large, spherical chandelier and added touches of modern glamor with an inlaid shell-and-bone mirror and glowing mercury-glass lamp. The light on the demilune remains on all day and night, as if to welcome weary travelers no matter the hour.
Off to the left, and overlooking the ample front yard, the formal dining room is a gentle transition between traditional and contemporary elements, and represents the line Hirsch is most comfortable riding. “Their last home was traditional,” Hirsch explains. “They wanted a change of pace.”
Fun, large-scale paisley wallpaper offsets the room’s clean-lined millwork, making a fitting backdrop for an abstract acrylic painting by Rachel Volpone that is just one piece in the couple’s growing collection of work by local artists. The dining set—a holdover from the previous home—was made fresh with stain-resistant faux-snakeskin upholstery: “The boys can play in and use every room,” says Hirsch. “Nothing is crazy-fragile.”
Here (and throughout most of the first floor) windows are left undressed to admit the most natural light, and to show off the pretty New England vistas. “There are certain times when you need to let the windows sing, and this is one of those times,” the designer says.
“If we had put up window treatments,” the wife adds, “it would have been too stuffy for the look I wanted.”
The dining room and kitchen are separated by a glass-paned door, which adds intimacy to formal gatherings and keeps the noise of food prep under wraps.
While the rest of the house is, by all standards, quite large, the kitchen was small and its layout ill-suited to a family that enjoys cooking and entertaining. Hirsch faced two big challenges here: repositioning the back staircase and dealing with a super-narrow, somewhat outdated butler’s pantry.
Hirsch and Stamford-based architect Kristine D’Elisa worked together to make the wife’s concept to unite the family room and kitchen a reality. “Clients have great vision,” says D’Elisa, “and that’s usually how we start designing.”
Initially, the back staircase jutted out into the middle of the kitchen. “It bisected the family room and kitchen, creating a vacuous walk-through the client couldn’t use, or even furnish,” D’Elisa says. She and Hirsch shifted it for better flow: it now leads into the mudroom. “It created a new working wall for the kitchen,” Hirsch notes, including a handy beverage center the whole family loves.
The butler’s pantry was absorbed into the main kitchen area to allow for an ample island and clever peninsula. “My client wanted a place for her boys to sit that wasn’t in the middle of the workspace,” says Hirsch. “We created the peninsula so they’re not right in the thick of things.”
Alice Hayes, of the kitchen design company Deane, joined the team to perfect the kitchen plan. “Alice is a great collaborator,” Hirsch says. “We came to her with the basic plan, and she refined it in terms of the exact placement of appliances, the layout, and sizes of the cabinets, island, and peninsula.”
The Shaker-style cabinetry and fully integrated appliances are handsome, but the polished-nickel pendant lamps are the obvious showstoppers here, owing to their custom-painted teal-blue interiors and powerful presence.
To the right of the foyer is the formal living area—another study in seductive glamor. A prominent gas fireplace and ultra-soft wide-wale corduroy sofa invite impromptu snuggles. Hirsch treated the windows to a billowy silk-taffeta treatment that gives the room cocoon-like comfort. Smartly, the capiz-shell chandelier was chosen to complement, rather than overpower, the convex radiant mirror. Champagne-hued grasscloth wallcoverings and the geometric iron-and-mesh fireplace screen add texture.
At the back of the house, the breakfast area acts as the main conduit to the family room (to the right) and kitchen (to the left). A heavy, solid-wood table, leather seating, and the absence of an area rug let the space function as the home’s proverbial workhorse. It’s a place where kids can be kids and the whole family can enjoy informal meals together.
In the family room, Hirsch reconfigured the gas fireplace, replacing its millwork with a railroad-tie mantel, fieldstone surround, and bluestone hearth. The custom built-ins got a facelift that gave them a more modern look and increased shelf space. A cushy, chenille sectional is kid-friendly, while abstract pieces by Volpone further complement the room’s comfortable vibe. “My kids just want to spend hours in this room,” says the wife. “It’s so warm and inviting.”
The color scheme of the home evolved organically, says Hirsch, with the couple settling on a semi-monochromatic palette of blues and neutral gray tones that jibe nicely with the transitional aesthetic. The sectional’s collection of cut-velvet throw pillows in bold, modern patterns is another twist on tradition.
A short hallway leads from the family room to the wife’s home office, a gem of a room that doubles as respite and workspace. Fun, graphic wallpaper offsets a trio of acrylic-and-resin paintings. Two lacquered credenzas and built-in cabinets provide ample storage, and a beloved armchair and ottoman—passed down from the wife’s grandfather—set a welcoming scene. “I wish I had this room in my house,” confesses Hirsch with a smile.
But ask the designer about her favorite room in the house and she’ll tell you it’s that kitchen. “The home was missing its heart,” she says. “To see the family gather in there makes me so happy.” •