ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER AND ANTIQUES DEALER NANCY FISHELSON RENOVATES HER FIRST HOME IN CONNECTICUT WITH STYLISH SIMPLICITY
While many house hunters would shy away from a gloomy, rundown antique, designer Nancy Fishelson tends to see the bright side of things. Three years ago, when she happened upon a 1795 Federal-style Colonial in Litchfield County, Fishelson looked past the low ceilings, narrow doorways and depressing kitchen and envisioned an open, light-infused showplace for her collections of textiles, folk art and antiques. And it didn't hurt that the house was perched on a sprawling, leafy lot. "I was so taken by the land—20 acres of rolling hills, large trees and a small stream—and a house that had so much potential," she says.
Having renovated a dozen older houses in California, Fishelson knew that it often pays to pare down. "Good design is really about creating less, which takes restraint and sometimes a bit of courage," she says. For her new home, that meant tearing out the low ceilings and removing walls to open the maze of small, dark rooms. She also uncovered some of the original posts and beams, which had been covered under layers of sheetrock and plaster, to bring back the look of the original structure. To maximize light, she widened the doorways wherever possible and painted the walls and ceilings her special blend of soft white.
Before all that could happen, though, she had to take care of the basics, including the installation of new electric and insulation. Then came the kitchen renovation, which required gutting the existing space--with care. "It is very important to keep the integrity of the original structure and materials," Fishelson explains. "While I have a desire to open up the spaces and bring in more light, it is a delicate balance of new and old." The "new" included adding a wall of 12-over-eight windows above the sink, and installing additional rough-hewn ceiling beams to balance the existing originals.