July 23, 2018
Blue—in all its glorious shades from cornflower to navy—gives a New Canaan house its fresh, youthful feel.
Text by Fred Albert Photography by Michael Partenio Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Philip and Arlety Bowman have a serious case of the blues And they couldn’t be happier about it.
From navy to cornflower to cerulean, the color washes over their New Canaan residence like a spring rain, giving the 1933 Colonial Revival home a clean, bold feeling that’s defiantly contemporary, yet completely in sync with the architecture’s roots.
“Clean and bold” are not words that came to mind the first time the Bowmans saw the house three years ago. Although the structure had been attractively remodeled by the previous owners back in the 1990s, the creamy interiors felt more elegant than exuberant. And with two young children at home (daughter Consuelo, now nine, and son Juan-Carlos, seven), the Bowmans wanted a place that was breezy, youthful, and lighthearted.
To achieve that, interior designer Lynn Morgan banished all traces of cream from the home, lacquering the woodwork a white as pure as new-fallen snow. “The trim made it younger and livelier,” she notes. While blue dominates the interior, Morgan limited it to a few statement pieces in each room and kept almost everything else white, so the color never overwhelms. “It’s the balance that keeps it really fresh,” she says.
Even in the entry hall, where the blue-striped walls feel as giddy as a circus tent, the effect is more disarming than dogmatic. “That just kind of brings you into the spirit of the house,” observes the designer, who collaborated on the project with associate Jim Ribaudo.
Morgan applied more white lacquer to the living room’s coffered ceiling, then painted the planes in between the palest shade of (what else?) blue, to draw the eye upward. Inspired by a Cuban painting above the living room fireplace, she punctuated the palette with a few heady splashes of orange, in tribute to Arlety’s homeland. To underscore the Cuban connection, the designer dressed the living room’s French doors in gauzy white curtains that billow in the breeze, and even placed a palm tree atop the table dividing the room’s two seating areas.
The couple came to the project with a lot of traditional furniture, which Morgan incorporated whenever possible. The camelback sofa in the living room now sports cornflower upholstery. (“The solid blue makes it more modern,” observes the designer.) To resuscitate the mahogany pedestal table and chairs in the dining room, she applied a blue zebra print to the seat backs. “I just love the energy of it,” she says. “It was the only pattern in the room, so it had to be important.”
She used a similar approach in the sun-filled family room, papering the walls behind the bookcases with a mod Lee Jofa print. “We wanted to give the room a little more spark, and the wallpaper did the trick,” Morgan says. Here, as elsewhere, she employed indoor-outdoor fabrics to make the interior more kid-friendly. The oversized ottoman is upholstered in a royal blue outdoor canvas from Glant, while the pillows peppering the back of the sectional are covered in an all-weather fabric from Lee Jofa. Any textile that wasn’t indoor-outdoor was treated with a protective finish—including the carpets, most of which are wool sisal.
The blue-and-orange motif reappears in Juan-Carlos’s room, this time in the form of horizontal stripes painted on the walls. An orange egg chair and matching accent pieces underscore the opposites-attract approach. Although his bedroom is considerably smaller than that of his sister, Juan-Carlos doesn’t mind, since it once belonged to hockey great Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens—a legendary figure around New Canaan. “A lot of his friends at school cannot believe he sleeps in Max Pacioretty’s room,” says Arlety, adding that the landscapers found pucks and hockey sticks lurking behind nearly every shrub.
The house turned out to be the culmination of a fantasy for Philip, too. When the attorney was still in his early teens, he imagined becoming an architect, and even sketched out a design for his future home—complete with matching rear verandas. Visiting the New Canaan house for the first time, he stepped into the backyard, spied the twin verandas and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of!”
Although the Bowmans were looking for an old house that had already been remodeled, they weren’t above making a few changes. Working with architectural designer Judith Larson and contractor The Gardiner Group, they tweaked the circulation, expanded the master closets, reconfigured the upstairs bathrooms, turned a pair of bedrooms into a playroom for the children and an office for Arlety, added an ample laundry room and, most significant, completely remodeled the kitchen.
Although the former kitchen was spacious, much of it was given over to seating, leaving the actual cooking area a bit cramped and short on storage and counter space. Larson gutted the room and started from scratch, establishing separate cooking and cleanup zones—each with its own island. “What’s really nice about the way it’s set up is that one or two people can be there preparing food, and people don’t have to walk past them to get to something else in the kitchen,” she says.
To maximize seating, Arlety asked for a table that was an extension of the island. Larson granted the wish, designing an oak-topped table that seats nine and rests atop a base made of brass pipes. Arlety liked the way the metal complemented the home’s vintage character, so Larson and Morgan repeated it in the plumbing and lighting fixtures and, again at Arlety’s request, replaced all the home’s modern light switches with push-button brass ones.
Larson also added an archway between the dining room and the old butler’s pantry, turning the latter into a wet bar. Of course, Morgan lacquered it blue. “What can I say?” the designer quips. “There’s nothing better than lacquer and liquor!”
While the home’s palette may be limited, the way the color is used never fails to surprise. “We do have a lot of blue,” Arlety concedes. “But it’s our favorite color, so it makes us happy.”
Architectural design: Judith Larson, Judith Larson Associates
Interior design: Lynn Morgan, Lynn Morgan Design
Builder: The Gardiner Group
Landscape design: Diane Starr, db landscape designs