September 15, 2016
A team of design professionals executes the perfect game plan for building the Rhode Island home of a former gridiron star and his family.
Text by Meghan Fulweiler Photography by Nat Rea Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Nature loves fiddling with blue every which way: think of silvery Arctic ice, a robin’s egg, or mussel shells. Designers, too, enjoy playing with the hue. Navy is perennially popular, of course. But indigo, ultramarine, and teal also score. Turquoise falls into the blue lineup, too, although maybe it deserves its own category. The gem that bears the same name, after all, symbolizes power, nobility, and good fortune. Bold and playful, turquoise energizes a room. It’s just the sort of happy backdrop a young family would want for its active lifestyle.
With three small children, Dan and Amber Koppen are busy, all right. But then, their energy level has always been high. Dan, a sports broadcaster and real estate agent, played in the NFL for eleven years, nine of them with the New England Patriots. His impressive record includes five Super Bowls, two of which were wins. Amber was a cheerleader for the Patriots. When the couple decided to build a new home in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, they chose a bright, open plan with—at Newport-based interior designer Eileen Marcuvitz’s suggestion—a turquoise theme to satisfy their desire for a relaxed, beachy ambience. “Turquoise is ocean-like but not cliché,” Marcuvitz explains.
The Koppens spent a lot of time working on the game plan for their new nest. At the top of their wish list was a generous, airy kitchen that would flow unhindered into a user-friendly family room. They also requested a bounty of windows to provide maximum light as well as views of the kids playing outdoors. And last but not least, they wanted to maintain privacy.
Their property sits in a pretty subdivision with vacant lots on either side. Concerned how future buildings might affect his clients’ abode, project architect Christopher Arner, who at the time was with Burgin Lambert Architects and now heads his own eponymous Newport firm, recalls studying those neighboring lots for hours. His final plan—a stroke of genius—entailed flipping the proposed notion of placing the driveway on the north side of the property. He moved it to the south side, then created a privacy barrier for the backyard with an attached garage. “That decision was a key to the layout,” Arner explains. “The family room and kitchen open to the south, and those two rooms, the heart and soul of the house, were my starting point. Everything else was worked around them.”
A pronounced front entry—another of the owners’ must-haves—leaves no doubt as to where guests are expected to arrive. There’s an airy foyer clad in a stunning grass wallcovering by Nobilis waiting just inside the door. But for everyday entering and exiting, there’s also a side entry alongside the garage, tucked discreetly behind a protruding bay window. Nearby, a highly organized mudroom offers storage for boots and lunch boxes. The kids can stuff their backpacks into cubbies, scuff off their snowy boots onto the tiled floor, and head right into the sunny kitchen for snacks.
The kitchen and adjoining family room are activity central, a large, open space that’s as comfortable for the family as it is for entertaining a crowd. Never the reluctant host, Amber claims she’d “have company every day” if she could. And, fortunately, the fresh decor—from finishes to fabrics—welcomes traffic. It’s also the perfect match for Arner’s clean-lined architecture. Classic coffered ceilings lend character, but the detailing remains simple throughout.
In this same vein, Marcuvitz—who was recruited early on to help with every decision from the powder room’s crystal fixtures to pantry shelving—cleverly uses texture rather than precious furniture or fussy patterns to rev up the interest level. Thus, there’s leather binding on the family room’s wool carpet, for example, and a leather-topped coffee table. “The interior had to be high-end, but also super-easy and practical,” the designer says.
Christopher Peacock Cabinetry was called in to help guarantee that the kitchen would be as efficient as it is stylish. To that end, there’s bountiful storage, tip-top appliances, and two sinks where, according to Amber, “someone is always coming or going.” A lofty tiled backsplash and custom steel hood accompany the cooktop. Dual counters—one crowned with white rhino quartzite, the other with walnut—provide surplus workspace. Seating is plentiful: family and friends stake out spots on the breakfast area’s generous window seat or snag stools outfitted in a congenial mix of turquoise faux leather and fabric.
The family room also includes an irresistible window seat along with a tufted sectional big enough for a bunch of people to gather by the limestone hearth. And should a formal meal be planned, the dining room’s walnut table extends to accommodate ten, and its upholstered chairs have comfort written all over them. In a departure from turquoise, the walls here are pale green in a nod to the landscape.
The autumnal-colored study, where grown-ups convene to watch a football game, is another visual treat. “I’m all for carrying a theme, “says Marcuvitz, “but rooms that are for different activities should have different feelings.” The warm palette was inspired by a favorite painting the couple owns. A graphic Stark carpet adds a dash of liveliness, linen curtains soften the windows, and a Bright Group sectional invites lounging.
The rooms may vary in personality, but not tone. The casual elegance that pervades the downstairs sweeps right on upstairs. To forge a dreamy master bedroom, Marcuvitz revisited turquoise, using a medley of serene shades. Victoria Hagan nightstands flank the upholstered headboard, while a wool and silk Stark carpet soothes the senses. Arner thoughtfully incorporated spacious dressing rooms for each spouse. And dual sinks elevate the adjacent bath, where Marcuvitz conjures a hint of glamour with a statuary marble floor and a sleek custom vanity backed with Ann Sacks turquoise tile.
Additional design tweaks, including finishing the basement and outfitting it with a bar and a playroom, have given the Koppens the contemporary Shingle-style home they envisioned. The couple couldn’t be happier, knowing that every player on their design team turned in a winning performance. •