A Delightful Entertaining Space on The Gold Coast
August 17, 2018
A builder’s imagination and a designer’s eye for style turn a utilitarian space beneath a Fairfield house into a three-season entertaining spot.
Text by Megan Fulweiler Photography by Michael Partenio Produced by Stacy Kunstel
A front door the color of a daffodil? A bright yellow Bronco in the driveway? The French are renowned for their sense of style. And Gaelle Dudley was born and raised in France, so it’s in her DNA. Dudley, who calls herself an interior/exterior designer, is adept at creating both beautiful rooms and fabulous gardens. But then there’s also her lifelong passion for the beach. She and her husband, avid surfers and paddle boarders, moved with their two young sons to Fairfield to be near the shore.
The couple knew the charming twin-gabled house, only a short walk from pretty Long Island Sound, was the perfect fit the moment they spied it. If they had any doubts, one look at the posh storage area beneath the building cinched the deal. With its first floor elevated some sixteen feet, the new FEMA-compliant dwelling is designed to withstand the kind of flooding that Hurricane Sandy generated in 2012. Should such a devastating storm occur again, water would flow through the bottom level.
Not content to let that 700 square feet be simply utilitarian, however, the builder, Love Where You Live Homes, cleverly incorporated custom barn doors and sturdy materials like cedar, galvanized steel, and stone. “Being able to utilize an otherwise wasted area and turn it into an eclectic, multi-functional indoor/outdoor space was awesome,” says Danielle Bijanada, a principal of the building company.
Dudley realized right away that the loggia, as it’s called, could be her family’s “bonus room” with orchestrated zones for lounging and meals. To cement its appeal and transform the entire yard into a mini-paradise, she designed a twenty-by-twenty-four-foot pool and a cedar pergola to frame (“not shade,” she specifies) the adjacent sitting area. On the opposite side of the pool, beyond a small swath of lawn, she planted hardy grasses that ripple like waves in the wind, and Rosa rugosa—a classic beach-loving plant if ever there was one—which infuses the air with sweetness. Sea shells—lots of them—are tucked everywhere.
As a firm believer in the visual power of containers, the talented Dudley concocts scores of plant-filled pots for residential and commercial clients. “No one puts together a container like I do,” she says. “Each one is personal, and I change them four times a year.” For this fun setting, she turned to palm trees and urns brimming with drought-tolerant gaura to enhance the tropical feel.
There are potted palms and grasses inside the loggia, as well, along with a host of furnishings and accessories, like jute armchairs, a coffee table with a driftwood base, and a welcoming couch clad in a durable Perennials fabric, to promote the casual vibe. Heaps of pillows invite lounging, while an engaging Barbara Erdmann photo lends the laid-back tableau a pop of nautical blue. “Yellow—the color of happiness and optimism—is my favorite. But I also always include some blue to evoke water,” Dudley says. Mounted on the cedar wall, an oversize mirror—round like a porthole—channels light and fills in as a window.
The dining area, with its lean Lillian August table and mismatched chairs—some wicker, some metal—is equally charming. A parade of lanterns hangs along the corrugated metal wall, where, at night, the steel reflects their glow. And forget the ubiquitous basket of beach towels. Instead, the imaginative Dudley commandeered a vintage wine rack for the job that occupies a spot against the cedar wall. Rolled towels lie on their sides like bottles for easy picking after a dip in the pool or rinse in the outdoor shower.
At night, on rainy days, and certainly when the sun shines, the novel loggia has become a popular haven for the family and their friends. Personality-filled and practical with its stone floor and no-worry decor, it’s just about as delicious as a trip to the beach.
“We spend all our time here,” says Dudley, who has skillfully conjured the magic of sand and sea. “It’s not a four-season room, but it’s most definitely a three-and-a-half-season spot.”
Interior design and landscaping: Gaelle Dudley, GLDESIGN
Builder: Love Where You Live Homes