Evolution from Within

October 14, 2014

Text by Dan Shaw     Photography by Michael Partenio    Produced by Stacy Kunstel

A Greenwich house blossoms into a true home as a couple and their design team let the process unfold gradually.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in Greenwich that every new house must have a grand facade with a sense of history. The exterior details—shutters, pediments, columns—create a wow factor even when the house is nestled on a quiet road in the backwoods. Houses built on spec don’t always lavish quite so much attention on the interiors, however. The owners of this house knew it had the potential to be as special inside as it was outside. That’s why they called on architect Kelly Faloon and decorator Carey Karlan.

The clients—a couple with two school-age children—didn’t feel the need for instant gratification. In fact, they spent four years working with Faloon and Karlan. They wanted to make careful choices so their home would suit their family’s lifestyle. Like many doting parents, they put their children’s needs first and asked the design team to start with their bedrooms.

The daughter’s bedroom, an enormous space above the garage, made for a bit of a challenge. “These suites over the garage can be as big as a living room, but funky because of rooflines and dormers,” Karlan says. Faloon gave the space definition by adding window seats and bookshelves. For decorating inspiration, the wife offered up one of her many paintings by Irene Zevon, a midcentury artist who lived in New York City’s legendary Chelsea Hotel. “Her work mixes Cubism and abstraction,” says the client. “I wanted my daughter to grow up with a real work of art.”

To complement the purples, blues, and greens of the art, Karlan painted the room’s walls in feminine—but not too girly—Raspberry Ice, from Benjamin Moore. A violet-and-white carpet reflects the tone of the walls, creating a unified backdrop that tames the space. The clients already had a traditional brown four-poster bed, but Karlan gave it a coat of purple lacquer “to make it zippier.” For nightstands, she had a pair of midcentury brown chests lacquered white and topped them with powder-blue Jonathan Adler lamps. The modern floral pattern from Cowtan & Tout used for roman shades dictated the choice of a spring-green settee and aqua chairs for the sitting area, a chic, sophisticated arrangement Karlan completed by designing a jaunty white patent-leather ottoman trimmed in nailheads. “We used high-quality pieces that would stand the test of time and last until the children go off to college,” she says.

The son’s bedroom has an easygoing masculinity, with pale-gray walls and energetic orange accents. Karlan found a striped carpet (a favorite leitmotif she used in other rooms, too) with orange and grays that are echoed in the upholstered bed and shades. While the nightstands from Hickory Chair are serious pieces of furniture, the wife wanted the room to have a playful aspect; instead of a traditional desk, she chose Ikea’s version of a Saarinen table, then paired it with orange chairs from Crate & Barrel.

Once the children were settled, it was time to tackle the kitchen, which opens onto a spacious breakfast room and large family room. The clients also wanted Faloon to add a porch off of the kitchen, and his plan factored in how the indoor and outdoor spaces would relate to ensure the kitchen had plenty of natural light.

Instead of attaching a porch to the house, which Faloon saw would block the sunlight that streams through the windows over the kitchen sink, he designed a detached outdoor pavilion. Classically detailed to complement the front of the house, the pavilion is elevated but sits close enough to the ground to avoid having railings. “We wanted it to float and have a real sense of openness,” the architect explains. The family practically lives in the pavilion in warm weather. With separate dining and lounging areas, Karlan notes, “It’s not a patio or deck, but a real outdoor room. We furnished it with large, sturdy pieces so they can have a proper dinner party.”

Since the kitchen can be seen from the front hall and opens onto the family room, the owners wanted it to feel as tailored and warm as the rest of the house. “I didn’t want it to look antiseptic or like a hospital,” says the wife.

Faloon faced the marble-topped island in walnut, to give it the formality of a proper piece of furniture. To complement the gray subway-tile backsplash, the design team considered many neutrals to paint the new, custom-made cabinets. “We finally chose Farrow & Ball’s Clunch, which was exactly right,” says the owner. “The whole kitchen is light and updated, while being traditional and classic.”

So is the adjacent family room, which has a big stone fireplace, French doors, and views of the pool. “The look we were going for is earthy, muscular, and mellow,” says Karlan, who started with a striped rug in taupes and browns. She upholstered a pair of Ralph Lauren sofas in a creamy chenille and the armchairs in taupe leather. The monochromatic mood is tempered by another Zevon painting, and assorted throw pillows add dashes of color.

A second family room acts as a super-sophisticated rec room. “It’s a place for my husband and son to do what they like to do best—play video games,” says the wife. Karlan, who has dubbed it the man cave, was asked to incorporate a black upright piano into the room, which prompted her to choose a graphic black-and-white striped carpet along with sofas upholstered in dark gray. Purple side chairs, stools, and throw pillows “add a pop of color that’s good for a nighttime retreat,” say Karlan. There’s also a touch of purple in another Zevon painting that hangs over the games table from Hickory Chair. “That is where my husband hosts his bridge group,” explains the wife.

At the end of the day, the couple retires to the master suite, which the wife had painted a soft Donald Kaufman blue before she’d engaged Karlan. “We kept it soothing but not boring,” says Karlan, who designed ivory wool-blend drapes and upholstered a pair of chairs in a slightly iridescent fabric, then placed a luxurious Tibetan wool ottoman between them. “The room has a glamour that is appropriate to the setting,” she says.

At project’s end, all agree, the slowly unfolding process turned out to be the perfect way to turn the house into a place that truly feels like home. •

Architecture: Kelly Faloon
Interior design: Carey Karlan, The Last Detail
Builder: Bert Keating
Landscape design: John D’Urso and Joseph Barrett, Nyconn Landscaping & Design, and Giomy Cambizaca