An Antique House Gets a Fresh Start

April 12, 2022

Because she loves the charm and character of older homes, designer Elizabeth Saypol jumped at the opportunity to reimagine an antique house on a hill in Stamford. The circa-1807 colonial was in foreclosure and looked a little tired, but its infrastructure was sound. “It just needed some love and attention to bring it back to life,” says the designer.

Saypol started work on a renovation plan shortly after the owners purchased the home in 2011. As very bad luck would have it, a house fire unexpectedly derailed the project for more than a year. The fire caused a great deal of soot and smoke damage, but it had a silver lining, too. “I think the fire really clarified the vision we had for the home,” says Saypol. In that moment, she reached out to architect Jimmy Crisp, known for designing graceful, seamless additions to historic homes.

Space wasn’t wasted on hallways in the early 1800s, so rooms already flowed nicely from one to the next; some even featured multiple doorways. Because of that, the floor plan didn’t feel formal or cramped, it just needed to be reworked for a young family. “We added a garage, mudroom, powder room, and a butler’s pantry,” says Saypol. “Jimmy had the great idea to bump out the family room, which eventually was enlarged to become a playroom and family room space.”

The scope of the project grew to include upgrades, replacements, and repairs, says Crisp. “Our goal was to blend old and new with a floor plan and materials that respected the house’s history but worked for a young family in the twenty-first century,” he says. Not surprisingly, headaches arose—like beams in unexpected places—that had to be remedied, says builder Joe Pisoni. “The most harrowing construction challenge was having to blast and displace so much rock to make room for the garage,” he recalls. They repurposed much of it to build “new” stone walls on the property.

Because the homeowners love to cook and entertain, Saypol and Crisp transformed the kitchen into a light, bright, functional space. “It’s kind of an updated version of a 1920s scullery,” says Saypol. In addition to structural changes, the designer recommended they refinish the (formerly black) floors, renovate the downstairs powder room, change out the paneling and millwork in the library, and redo the primary bath.

The home is furnished with “a healthy mix of English, American, Swedish, French, and Italian antiques, along with painted pieces, wicker, marble, and metal,” says Saypol. Patterns are subtle and layered, except for the statement-making wallpaper in the powder rooms and formal entry. “They’re spaces you’re only in for a few minutes, so the impact is quick,” says the designer.

The blue/green/coral palette is “cohesive but not repetitive,” with a collection of contemporary and modern art that ties everything together. The overall look is timeless and classic but updated and fresh. “The home works for a busy young family—all the while exuding a sense of haven, history, and style,” says Crisp.

Project Team
Interior design: Elizabeth Saypol, Morrissey Saypol Interiors
Architecture: Jimmy Crisp, Crisp Architects
Builder: Joe Pisoni, Stonecrest Builders
Landscape design: Alice Cooke, Alice Cooke Design Associates