Tour Kaitlin Smith’s Charming Essex Home

April 7, 2023

Captivated by the idyllic surroundings, designer Kaitlin Smith goes all in renovating her dream home in Essex.

Text by Lisa H. Speidel    Photography by Read McKendree    Produced by Frances Bailey


First, designer Kaitlin Smith fell for the town: “Essex is the total package. It has a classic small-town feel, the architecture is beautiful, and there’s not a lot of development. It almost feels like a Hollywood set—it’s that great,” she says. (Not to mention Essex is halfway between Smith’s home-and-
design shop in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and her husband’s Hartford office.)

Then she fell for the house: a 1939 colonial surrounded by mature trees and lovely historic homes. Smith knew it was her dream house, even though her husband, Matthew, initially raised an eyebrow. To be fair, “it didn’t have the curb appeal it has today,” admits Smith with a laugh. It also had a disjointed layout, no storage, and a tiny kitchen.

Undaunted, Smith set about devising a multiphase renovation that would, over time, address various shortcomings while adding square footage for a growing family. Phase one ratcheted the curb appeal with new siding and windows and incorporated a light-filled new kitchen and dining room off the back of the house. Phase two brought a new primary suite above the kitchen and addressed the overall flow of the second and third floors while integrating a new staircase between the upper stories.

When it came to her overall design aesthetic, Smith took a personal approach. “When it’s your own house, you have a lot more freedom,” she says. “You can go for it, whether for the good or the bad—you’re going to live with it.” In keeping true to the home’s era, Smith rejected an open-concept layout, instead designing rooms that each have their own identity. Common themes do present, however. “I’m not afraid of color,” she says, “I love color, texture, and the layering of patterns.”

Blue is a favorite hue, and Smith pays homage with a lacquered navy ceiling in the dining room and high-gloss trim in the den. Pretty patterned wallpapers play nicely with pieces passed down from family. The designer also sprinkled in finds, like a vintage rattan chair and a ceramic lamp with pleated shade, from her own shop, Highpoint Home, to complete the look.

Now finished, the house, picture-perfect inside and out, is as enchanting as its silver- screen-worthy surroundings.

Project Team
Interior design: Kaitlin Smith Interiors
Builders: Sapia Builders, Chōwa Home

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