Shore to Shore
A house mixes West Coast and East Coast to suit a growing, active family
photographs by Hulya Kolabas
Just about ten years ago, a young couple made the move from the city into Fairfield County, settling down in a house in Westport’s Old Hill neighborhood. They loved it, but as time went by, they had one, then two children, and a third on the way. They realized they were running out of bedrooms, and the floor plan that had worked for two adults was not working when you added youngsters. So the couple started searching, on and off, for a new home; one with a better layout, more space, and near the beach.
For a while, they couldn’t find anything they liked enough to make them part with their first house. But then they spotted a home being built in Greens Farms by Coastal Construction Group and loved the look of it. When it was featured as a show house a few months later, the homeowner went to take a closer look. She loved it so much, she met the builders and told them she and her husband had been looking at a property and asked if they might build them a house like this one on it?
It was a deal. So, in 2007, the couple bought the property, which offers not only great views, but also access to the beach, and construction began. The new home now fits their lifestyle and the needs of a growing, active family.
Among the changes from the old house is a larger kitchen with access to the backyard and two playrooms—one off of the kitchen, another at the end of the hall on the second floor—that give the kids their own space and storage for toys. Also, now all of the bedrooms are on the same floor. Though each child now has his or her own bedroom, the girls do share a bathroom. Their mother asked the builder to make it a little larger, because she herself shared one with her sister growing up and knows her daughters will appreciate the extra room in the future.
When it came to decorating the interior, the home-owners needed the process to be as easy as possible. The wife knew the designers at Lillian August were able to deliver a wide range of styles to their customers and could bring all the design elements together in one more convenient place. Plus, she was prepared. She had been collecting a notebook of photos and tear sheets for years, and her vision was clear.
“She very much wanted to build a family home that kids could walk into from the beach,” says Skye Kirby Westcott of the Lillian August design team. “She didn’t want anything precious. She didn’t want a formal living room or dining room. She wanted every room to be used and to be comfortable.”
Every fabric and furnishing they chose had to be durable as well as have long-lasting style. “I wanted to be able to grow with the house. I didn’t want things that were ‘baby’ that I’d want to get rid of in a few years,” explains the homeowner.
The couple also wanted to mix in influences of their own upbringings. “I grew up in southern California, and I wanted an even more of a breezy California-type house, but we live on the East Coast,” says the wife, whose husband grew up in Bedford. “He’s very East Coast in his blood and I’ve got the West Coast in mine.” The Lillian August team helped create a look that fits her casual, beachy style but also fits in with this area. “It’s a nice fusion,” says the homeowner.
The designers also helped her incorporate her art into the home—much of which comes from her father’s collection, from her childhood home. “Many of them are very strong pieces, which could possibly contradict that casual, beachy vibe,” says Westcott of the collection, “so it was about creating a balance of a very quiet space where those pieces could have prominence but not take over.” Soft hues, linens and grays make for a universally flattering backdrop.
The only place the design bucks the home’s trend is in the kids’ rooms, which the wife worked on with designer Amy Coe. “I think it adds a little surprise to the home,” says Coe. Of course, longevity was key, so they avoided anything too kiddie—animal and princess themes included.
The homeowner hopes they’ll last until the kids hit twelve or thirteen, by making little tweaks here and there along the way. For example, the pink room originally had a four-poster bed with tulle on it; that was removed in the past year to make the room more suitable to an older child.
The couple has their own space, too. Her office at the top of the stairs overlooks the backyard, and features a grass cloth on the walls in a shade of sea glass. And he, a devoted deep-sea fishing enthusiast, has his own room devoted to the sport, where he can make his flies or study the charts covering the walls. “It’s his version of a man cave,” says his wife, laughing.
As much as the family loves the inside of the house, they also spend a lot of time in the backyard. Although it was half overgrown when the couple bought the property, upon clearing it out they discovered they had a nice-sized space. “I felt like we uncovered some of the jewel,” says the wife, who saw its potential when she walked through the yard with her broker. Now the backyard features a patio, pool and pool house. “I’m an outdoorsy person,” she says. “It’s so nice to have a sitting area, and when we have family or friends over, the pool makes it feel very family-oriented.”
With the house built and the landscaping and outdoor features complete, the family is free to enjoy them and see how they evolve with the family. “Not that it’s finished,” says the wife. She’s already planning to transform the upstairs playroom into a TV/hangout room in the next year.“I always have some project I want to work on,” she says. Though for now, she and her family are enjoying their home, custom-made for them.