Bright and Breezy

April 13, 2012

Text by Stacy Kunstel    Photography by John Gould Bessler

There are a few things a California-raised girl needs if she is to live happily in New England. The practical items include an attached garage and a mudroom, particularly if she’s the mother of three little ones under the age of four and has a 130-pound Bernese mountain dog. The others—likely even more important—are pieces that remind her of her family, along with punches of color to get her through the New England winter.

“They wanted bright and fresh and young and colorful,” says interior designer Jan Hiltz of the owners of this house in Westport. Hiltz first worked with the couple when they were newlyweds, buying furnishings and redoing a kitchen in their first house. As their family expanded, they needed a larger place that they would want to call home for years to come.

“I drove by and I loved the architecture of the house, and I loved the rooflines and the shingles,” the wife says. “Growing up in California you could never have wooden shingles on the roof because of the fire hazard. I thought if I was going to live in New England, I wanted to live in a house that lookedlike New England.”

Architect Robert Storm of Westport had designed the white clapboard structure with its gracefully swooping rooflines, and Able Construction was just getting ready to put up the drywall when the couple purchased the home, giving them the opportunity to make minor changes and to choose tile and finishes.

While Hiltz and the homeowners got to work from scratch on the interiors, it didn’t mean that they started with all-new furnishings. “We used every piece from her previous house,” says Hiltz. “It can’t all be new. It wouldn’t have any personality if it was.”

Fabrics and furniture in the house had to be kid-friendly, too. “Durability was really important for me,” says the homeowner. “I have three kids under the age of four and host play dates with four to twelve kids.”

Just past the mudroom, the open kitchen, breakfast area and family room are the heart of the home for the family. Different shades of gray paint on the walls unify the spaces, and multiple windows offer views to the backyard.

Like any thirty-something planning and designing a home, the homeowner, Hiltz says, “has every design magazine and is constantly reading them. She’s online, she’s savvy and she’s involved.”

“Color was really important to me. I love color,” the homeowner says. In a China Seas fabric, the family room curtains play navy and aqua off one another, lightening up the light-gray walls and charcoal-gray sectional sofa, which wears a kid-proof polyester velvet and holds a number of pillows in indoor-outdoor fabric. A bright-white ­custom-designed ottoman in faux ostrich with nailhead trim is as impervious to peanut butter and jelly as it is to Bordeaux.

“I didn’t want to do just a navy and aqua room,” says Hiltz. “The room needed a pop and a surprise.” She took a niche that was to be a built-in bookshelf and covered it in a bright-yellow Phillip Jeffries grasscloth. A pair of navy lamps and a colorful abstract by Weston artist Kerri Rosenthal give the room an added jolt.

An open breakfast area sits ­between the family room and kitchen. Hiltz chose a table with elegant lines by Bungalow 5 and designed a bench covered in indoor-outdoor fabric to go with it, making the room feel like an additional sitting area as much as a place to eat cereal. She covered the seats of the Oly dining chairs in faux croc, but chose a more delicate botanical by Osborne & Little to sheathe the backs. “We figured kids aren’t going to put their hands inside the backs of the chairs,” she says.

As much as the homeowner likes whimsy, the branchelier chandelier was a leap even for her. “Jan has strong opinions and I have strong opinions, and we meet in the middle,” the homeowner says. “Sometimes she pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone and it ends up being one of my favorite things.”

Among the homeowner’s prized possessions are the pieces of furniture she inherited from her great-grandmother. A caned sofa and chair ended up in the living room paired with a contemporary Oly coffee table and geometric-patterned drapes by Victoria Hagan.

“It looks so much better when everything isn’t brand spanking new,” says Hiltz, who loved incorporating the older pieces into the design. The drapes had hung in the homeowner’s previous living room, but the ceilings there were only seven-and-a-half feet tall. “In this house the living room ceilings are nine feet,” says Hiltz. “We added white to the tops of the draperies to lengthen them. They look even better than they did in the last home!”

After the public areas and the children’s rooms were completed, Hiltz and her clients turned their attention to the master bedroom. “The master bedroom was the last space in the house that we finished,” says Hiltz. “At first we just painted, constructed the headboard and put up the draperies.”

Now, to go with the custom white-velvet-upholstered headboard—“a little touch of luxury for the couple,” the designer says—there are equally luxurious lacquered nightstands and silver Festoni lamps.

In the master bath, awash in white, another family piece sits near the tub. The wood-framed antique chair is now covered in Aqua Trellis fabric by S. Harris, giving it the updated look that suits a young family’s home. “That’s what makes her home so beautiful,” says Hiltz. “She includes pieces from her family in her contemporary look.”

“I wanted my house to feel young,” says the homeowner. “We’re in our thirties and we didn’t want to feel like we were walking into our parents’ homes.”

And indeed, with its blending of old and new, neutrals and bright colors, classic style and whimsy, this house is a family-friendly mix of elegance and youthful exuberance. •

Interior Design: Jan Hiltz
Architecture: Robert Storm
Builder: Able Construction

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