A HOME WITH A DISTINCTIVE STYLE BRINGS A BIT OF THE BRITISH COUNTRYSIDE TO THE LONG ISLAND SOUND
Clients of this builder of traditional homes might be surprised to learn that at the end of the day, he returns not to a brand-new house of his own design, but to a three-bedroom, English Cotswold-style 1920 house on the Long Island Sound. So as someone who loves history, this resident is right at home among waxed-plaster walls, distressed, hand-painted flooring and travel- and design-influenced objets—an aesthetic honed by Greenwich interior designer Jane Capellini of Capellini Design Associates. One of Capellini's main goals in designing a residence is that it at once reflects personal interests and tells a narrative. "I like a space to feel lived in and characteristic of the owner. I create homes. I don't just decorate."
The resident bought the house, a stucco-and-stone structure with Tudor timbers, from the original owners. The home was commissioned by a well-to-do political figure for his daughter. Along with its interesting past and great bones, the resident inherited some wonderful original elements, such as chestnut doors with nickel knobs and pulls. And as anyone who's bought an old house can imagine, being a builder had obvious perks: He knew just how to make thoughtful renovations to restore the property's charm, matching new materials to existing ones and raising ceilings or repairing walls where needed.
Capellini worked on finishing touches to maintain the continuity between old and new. "I try to make new additions or renovations look like they've always been there," she says. "What would it have looked like in 1920?" As a result, new walls are made of plaster, not sheetrock, and are hand-waxed for a textured, old-fashioned quality. A metal stair in the entry was treated to look like wrought iron; and in the library, the painted checkerboard floor was scuffed up to appear as if it had been naturally distressed over the years.
The once-dilapidated kitchen, however, required extensive renovations. Hemingway Kitchens in Bridgeport designed the cabinetry and installed stainless steel and limestone counters. An island, which features built-in cabinets and nickel pulls, is topped with Carrara marble. Capellini chose a subtle blue wall hue to reflect the light that bounces off the water. The layout curves slightly, like a bow, away from the Sound. One length faces the water; to celebrate the views and abundant natural light, wallcoverings grace only the living room. Naturally, Capellini drew from the outdoors to devise a palette of quiet neutrals and beiges, with a touch of red thrown in—"a Nantucket red, washed out and beachy looking," she says—to create interest. "The owner had some antique Persians that had red in them, too, so it gives a sort of Old-World quality."
Moving through the space, tactile fabrics and quirky antiques maintain a rich but lived-in feel. In the library, where walls are covered in green grasscloth, a French Art Deco drafting table and chair add something offbeat while referencing the builder's profession. And, says Capellini, "It's functional, but it looks like a sculpture." Similarly, old measuring tapes—another nod to the construction industry—are piled up on a side table. Displaying collections of interesting objects is something Capellini believes should express a client's personal interests and tastes. In the den, for example, tall sculptural clock hands from European watchtowers are grouped on a wall, accentuating the room's cathedral-ceiling height. "Collections are a thing of the past," she says. "People don't really do that sort of thing anymore."
In the living/dining room, the walls are specially painted—one layer applied vertically and another applied horizontally—to mimic beige linen. On a natural-dyed handmade carpet with a leaf design, a seating arrangement includes a pair of facing upholstered sofas and two antique side chairs, their wood frames painted to look old and weathered. Linen hand towels from Italy, which Capellini herself collects, are draped over their backs. Nearby, an old English gun case rests on a coffee table. In the corner near the windows, high-back Queen Anne chairs encircle an antique round table.
The upper level houses the master bedroom and two others (the owner has three children who visit). Here, again, Capellini drew influences from the sea. In the master, the hand-painted curved ceiling of a large bay area looks like the inside of a shell. The effect, she admits, was an accident. She had it silver leafed, and when a coating was applied, the metal oxidized in a way she hadn't expected, leaving it coppery and opalescent. "Sometimes things happen and it works out for the better," she says. "That's the great thing about design." Either way, it's a perfect detail that builds on a theme. "It's about finding the story, and telling it through the interiors," she says.