Bringing the Beach Home

September 13, 2011

Text by Stacy Kunstel    Photography by Laura Moss

Tucked amid hydrangeas and boxwood along a quiet Southport street, the white clapboard colonial sits, elegant and unassuming, behind its white picket fence. It’s a fair jaunt to the ocean a few miles away, but at this home life’s a beach the minute you walk in the door.

A sea of soft blue covers the living-room walls, and chunks of coral and bleached starfish decorate the tables. On the wall opposite the fireplace, a large painting by the artist Charles Miesmer seems to provide an endless horizon view. Underfoot, the woven apple-matting rug evokes Harbor Island hideaways, and a mirror-top coffee table from Lillian August reflects a large sea-foam-green vase. “I think of it as a beachy farmhouse with artsy and sophisticated rooms in it,” says interior designer Lynn Morgan, who helped this young family pull together a cohesive look with contemporary art, antiques and new pieces.

“I love to fish and my husband grew up fishing, too, so there’s a bit of a nautical theme to the house even though we’re not on the water,” the wife says.

The painted floor in the entryway heralds the casual, shoes-off atmosphere. It’s a home for children—two, ages six and eight—and two dogs as energetic as the kids. “There’s nothing really fussy here,” says Morgan. “It’s all pretty casual, especially the simple family room off the kitchen where the whole family tends to crash.”

After purchasing the property a few years ago, the couple found Morgan, whose office, Lynn Morgan Design, occupies an enviable perch above the water in downtown Rowayton. A former editor at House & Garden magazine and a frequently featured designer in a number of national publications, Morgan specializes in using color to evoke a beachy sense of happiness.

“They’re a young couple. It’s not a huge house; we just needed to inject a lot of color and a lot of love into it,” says Morgan, who replaced dark hues and layers of floral wallpaper in the three-story home with a palette of oyster, turquoise and lavender on the first two floors and a jolt of orange and navy (the sons’ favorite colors) on the third floor.

At one end of the first floor, the media room—which serves as a second family room and library—started off with black walls and mahogany shelves. Morgan quickly suggested lightening it up. “We put up grasscloth as an alternative and then painted the bookshelves,” she says.

The homeowner chose the zebra-print chairs, which coordinate perfectly with the industrial metal coffee table and a sofa with oversize nailhead trim skimming the bottom. Along with the Mies van der Rohe daybed that came from the wife’s father’s New York apartment, there’s plenty of seating for watching movies on the drop-down screen that lowers in front of the French doors leading to the backyard.

From the media and living rooms to the dining room with its contemporary photography and paintings hanging on the grasscloth walls, the house is filled with art. It was a huge influence on the project that the wife grew up in a Greenwich home filled with modern art and for a time was the art director for a magazine. “My dad was a big collector and my uncle was an artist,” she says. “I love art. I could buy a piece every day. It’s not about the names, it’s about the feelings.”

“She wasn’t afraid of color or modern art,” says Morgan. “A lot of people are scared of color, but things can get boring without it. This couple really embraced it. We would always collaborate on selecting pieces. She has friends who are artists and photographers.”

On the third floor, a photo by Lacey Terrell, a Los Angeles–based photographer whom the wife grew up with, hangs above a custom sofa covered in Ralph Lauren navy canvas and piped in bright orange. The photo shows a blue-and-white circus tent being erected in a field with cotton-ball clouds stretching overhead. Morgan played out the whimsy of the print in the sitting room, bathroom and playroom, using bold colors and stripes on the walls, floors and fabrics. Wide stripes of orange and blue cover the playroom floor while the bathroom is wrapped in thick stripes of blue and white. The energetic punches are a far cry from the softer hues in the rooms below, but Morgan makes it work. “It was just about opening up the house to the light and brightening the rooms,” says the wife. “We don’t like clutter-y houses. We specifically asked Lynn to give us a clean, simple design.”

Small and quiet, the master bedroom comes together as the perfect parental retreat built around the wife’s favorite color, lilac. It’s especially apt, the homeowner says, because the room looks out over a wisteria vine growing on a backyard pergola.

Simple armless upholstered chairs ­nestled around an iron table sit in front of a painting in purples and lime greens. A host of plummy hues, from the lavender linen draperies to the fig and eggplant shades in the pillows and linens, sing a soft countermelody to the blues in the rooms below.

As serene as the bedroom is, it still doesn’t top the wife’s favorite spot in the house. Just off the kitchen, Morgan created a breakfast nook with a built-in bench and wonderful backyard view. Woven café chairs in white as crisp as a Top-Sider’s sole sit across from the bench, sharing a teak-topped table with an iron base that Morgan ­repainted a playful bright blue. “I love the bistro chairs,” the wife says. “I wanted them white to keep the look clean.”

Blue bowls, pitchers, a pair of oversized blue and green seahorses on the wall and custom pillows all inject oceanic colors into the space.

“Our house is definitely a home,” the wife says. “It’s meant to be comfortable for me, for the kids.”

Call it beachy or modern or a bit of both, this is a house that doesn’t need the ocean outside its door to feel as relaxing as a waterfront cottage

Interior Design: Lynn Morgan