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May 2007


FEATURES

Mill House Modern
By Diane di Costanzo

PERIPATETIC DESIGN ENTHUSIAST CAROLE PETISI OUTFITS AN 18TH-CENTURY COTTAGE WITH A STRIKINGLY MODERN INTERIOR

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You could call Carole Petisi a repeat renovator. Over the last two decades, she and her husband Robert have purchased and renovated what may be a record-setting number of Fairfield County homes, if anyone keeps tabs on this kind of thing.

How many, exactly? Carole's eyes widen. "Well, let's count," she says, listing the names of streets where she's lived—Roseville, Owenoke Park, North Street, Burr Street, Fairfield Beach. In total, the couple has owned nine dwellings, including their current antique mill house in Southport for which Carole moved walls, opened rooms and replaced every piece of door hardware. "I do it all," says the stylish blonde, petting her tiny Maltese. "I can even do dry wall."

Real estate and renovations are easy—for her. She clearly has the talent to buy and sell, along with the fortitude to live in a construction zone. ("My husband says sawdust must be an aphrodisiac for me," she says.) But more important than those skills is her ability to detach, bringing each residence to the point of perfection only to leave it, and its furnishings, behind. And this is precisely why many people couldn't do what she does—it's hard to let go of things, especially nice things. "I bring along my chandeliers and my mirrors," she says, reflecting on her many moves. "Very little travels with me."

The upside to Carole's process: her style can evolve freely, unburdened by past palettes and passions. For instance, just prior to the mill house, the family lived in a grand antique in Easton, a residence so swell it had a mahogany paneled ballroom. For that home she favored Swedish antiques upholstered in white matelasse—like a lodge, but clean and classic.

Even while loving life in Easton, Carole kept her eye on the mill house, which she first saw when it was chosen for a house tour she organized for Near & Far Aid years ago.

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