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March/April 2009


A Fresh Start
By Mollie Magill
Photographs by Tom McWilliam



When spirits are low, sometimes a little change of scenery can make a big difference. Just ask Liz Flavin, who, while enduring a difficult divorce several years ago, found a breath of fresh air in the form of a cheery Cape less than half a mile from where she was then living with her three children and ex-husband in Fairfield.

As chance had it, Flavin's friend and neighbor Allison Burns announced her family was relocating to London and was hoping to temporarily rent their home. Flavin, seeing a chance to reinvent herself, moved in with her three children and collection of traditional furniture. Displaced from her much larger Cameron Clark-designed home, the furniture didn't quite create the fun, positive vibe Flavin had imagined. "I didn't want safe, boring and predictable. I wanted color and energy-something to match this transformation I was going through," says Flavin. "I liked the happiness of Allison's home and wanted to create that for myself and children." She contacted interior designer Janet Hiltz of Healing Barsanti, who had created the interiors she so admired, and set up a plan. "We decided on something sophisticated, cutting edge and a little on the feminine side," says Hiltz. "This was a new life she was starting."


The project began modestly as a simple facelift for several rooms. Yet as Flavin began to see results, the design renovation became a rejuvenating process. "I realized I really wanted a new look. I didn't want any reminders of where I had been." Most of Flavin's furniture was in great shape and simply needed an update with new fabrics in oversized prints, bold colors or unusual textures. Hiltz peppered in funky pieces from the firm's Westport showroom, HB Home, and certain custom-made items from vendors she knew could deliver quickly. "We went through the house in six months. We were on the fast track to getting this done," says Hiltz, who identified flexibility as a key to the success of the project. Because the homeowners would eventually move back, original furnishings in tow, some of the wall colors, as well as the bathrooms, were left as-is. In the master bedroom, where "achieving just the right caramel color was a feat in and of itself," Hiltz says, furniture in a clean color palette and billowy Bergamo window treatments create a feeling of serenity. Shades of silvers and whites were brought in for contrast, and black-and-white photographs of Flavin's children line the walls, adding another maternal touch to the already feminine space.


Downstairs, Hiltz transformed the traditional dining room into a lively, inviting space. Where a slightly staid dining room set once stood, a bold piece of abstract art and a rug in varying hues of orange add a smathering of color. The citrine-green custom headchairs inspired the matching wall color.

In the living room, where thoughtful splashes of turquoise and pink enliven chocolate brown walls, the artful touches truly shine. An Oriental-print Quadrille fabric channels the brilliant blue of the Christopher Spitzmiller lamp perched on a side table. Also on display here and throughout the home are sculptures by Flavin's mother, Nancy Flavin, an accomplished artist who passed away around the time of her daughter's divorce. "It was an extreme time for me," says Flavin. "What was going on in the inside matched what was happening on the outside. Healing Barsanti as a firm understood the transition in my life and helped manifest that. Adding color, texture and fabric became much more than just decorating my home."

No room in the home is more reflective of Flavin and her positive outlook than the light-drenched sunroom, a space she dubs "the serenity room." It is here that she holds gatherings with friends and fans of Gratitude, etc., a company she launched during this difficult phase of her life. "The whole thing was conceived from the idea that when I'm having a bad day, I remind myself that no matter what is going on in my life, I have my gratitude," says Flavin. The company seeks to empower women and help them find gratitude in their everyday lives through events and a line of jewelry.

"The home has such a positive energy that it's no surprise I launched my business here," says Flavin. "It was about creating a space that I loved and my children loved. At the end of the day, I'm really grateful for the fact that everyday I'm happy to be in this home."