A MODERN TWIST ON TRADITIONAL DÉCOR
CREATES A HOME THAT IS ELEGANT
BUT NEVER DATED
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The long, winding driveway off a scenic road in Ridgefield leads to a house set on five-and-a-half peaceful, wooded acres. Built in 1928 as a wedding gift for a prominent shipbuilder's daughter, Robert and Joan Vidala purchased it from the family in the 1990s. Wisely, they chose to live in the house for six months before making any decisions about renovating it.
After a disappointing relationship with one designer, the homeowners brought in NYC-based designer Christopher Corcoran to take a fresh look at the project. "I felt it was important to be sensitive to their suggestions and to help the Vidalas visualize the results," he explains. "It's a privilege as well as a responsibility to be invited into a client's home."
The Vidalas wanted a traditional feel, and they also wanted to open up and reconfigure smaller rooms that they felt didn't take advantage of the light afforded by the property's rear acreage. The footprint of the house was changed considerably. Several existing porches were enclosed and winterized, and completely repurposed. An outdoor veranda became the new living room, and the original living room became a breezeway connecting it to a study. The dining room was divided into two spaces, now opening into a garden room that had once been an enclosed porch. A new kitchen was fashioned from several rooms and now includes a breakfast and sitting area. The en suite master bedroom was formed from three small rooms and now has an adjoining roof terrace. A sitting room was even created in the garage—it's just steps from the kitchen and the Vidalas love spending time there.
The homeowners trusted Corcoran to create a serene, light-filled living space, and gave him free rein throughout the project. "The Vidalas wanted their home to have a warm, traditional feel," says the designer, "but it needed modern amenities to make it more functional." Interior details such as crown molding, paneling and flooring were rebuilt to match the originals, but the plumbing, heating and electrical were all updated. The existing landscaping was scaled down for easier upkeep.
Corcoran holds fast to the belief that naturally dark rooms should be kept that way, and naturally light rooms should be designed to take advantage of their exposure. This project exemplifies this: the furnishings in the sun-filled living room, just off the breezeway, are neutral and airy. The pale yellow breezeway itself is uncluttered and filters light into the living room. In contrast, though, the study has been painted dark green and its furnishings introduce in a stronger color and pattern. The same idea applies to the dining room; richly textured walls and dark woods make it intimate and stately.
The garden room is a serene, light-drenched space with unexpected formality, thanks to a vaulted ceiling with blue hand-painted trompe l'oeil panels by decorative-painting firm Robin Carter Studio. The modern chandelier and sideboard blend with the furnishings' neutral colors. "I chose period pieces as ballast for the overall design," he explains, "but I included contemporary sculpture and paintings, a range of textiles, a complex palette and contemporary accessories."
Corcoran also has an innate sense of a room's proper function. In the master bedroom, the more formal furnishings are meant to create a tranquil environment with simple, luxurious fabrics in cool tones; in the carriage house den, an antique firearm above the hefty sofa adds to a sporty, masculine feel.
It's this blend of modern accessories with more traditional pieces that makes this home so fresh. For Corcoran, it was a matter of marrying his aesthetic with his clients' needs. "The relationships of the various elements needed to be able to weather the changing fashions and offer the constancy of time-honored design principles."