Celebrating the good life with family
The Brandstrom-Giners set up their tree in the living room where the vaulted ceiling accommodates its height. They decorate it with a collection of vintage and newer ornaments.
Photos by Rana Faure
“My mother gave me this wonderful collection of mercury glass birds,” says Alexandra Brandstrom-Giner, as she points to a wintry vignette in her kitchen window. “I painted some branches from the yard, stuffed them into planters, and added in the birds to create a focal point.” Brandstrom-Giner, a self-taught decorator, staging and event stylist, and multi-tasking mom of three, is always tweaking her home décor—rearranging furniture and art whenever she is struck by inspiration. “My husband comes home at night and thinks, ‘Oh no, she’s at it again.’”
Brandstrom-Giner is married to Steve Giner, co-owner of Tano, a third-generation family leather-goods business, with his brother, Sebastian. They were happily living with their three children on her in-laws’ property in Bedford ten years ago when, despite the enchanting setting, they were bursting at the seams of their three-bedroom cottage. “We loved and appreciated old houses, so that’s what we were looking for when we came to see this one, but it was just too small.”
The couple fell for an antique stone-and-shingle two-bedroom house that had been owned as a country getaway for decades by the Delfins, a branch of the Cuban Bacardi rum family. Tucked away off Croton Lake Road, the home’s hand-carved architectural detail as well as the rustic porch overlooking the property compelled them to make an offer.
“We ended up buying it, renovating, and expanding the entire place to accommodate our family,” explains Brandstrom-Giner. “Our architect, Drew Milliken, helped us with the layout and flow, and Phil Van Geldern was our contractor. My husband and I are very particular with what we like,” she says. “So, it was a group effort.”
The original stone archway still shelters the home’s front entrance, but with the redesign of the driveway, just about everybody now enters the house from a covered side porch into the welcoming family room that once served as an attached garage. Throughout the house, they whitewashed the trim to give the interiors an updated vibe, and in this room, they added a fireplace, wood floors, a second front window, and built-ins.
Brandstrom-Giner, who runs her decorating and styling business, Bedford HG, from home, loves to repurpose furnishings from tag sales and thrift shops. She collects fabulous finds and reupholsters or refinishes them to work with her vision for each room.
“That green armoire I had in our old cottage,” she says. “It was pine from Apple Antiques. I painted it emerald green. This Chesterfield sofa, I got for $40 at a thrift shop in Westport. It had a broken leg. My husband put a new foot on it. Those chairs I had reupholstered in Brunschwig & Fils—when they had their sample sale, I got a carload of fabric. The rugs were all left by the Delfins, and a lot of our paintings are by our neighbor, Ed Giobbi.”
“When we bought the house, the listing agent, Peter Turner, said ‘the best thing about this place is you have the Giobbis next door.’ We didn’t know what that meant, but we’ve come to realize what a gift it is. Ed and Eli are over ninety years old. We have wonderful talks about art and life, and Ed’s taught me so much about cooking.”
Speaking of cooking, the family room opens to the adjacent expansive kitchen. “We didn’t want a formal dining room, so we decided to enlarge the kitchen and make a dining space,” says Brandstrom-Giner, who installed Mexican cement tiles on the floor and antique Italian tiles on the walls. “Our family is really into cooking. We cook big family dinners every night, as well as family lunches on weekends—primarily Italian, Spanish, and French recipes. And we bake all kinds of cakes and desserts here, too.”
Down the hall, there is a little nook that once served as a dining alcove. With the help of a wood-burning stove, a sumptuous sofa, and azebra-print rug, Brandstrom-Giner transformed it into a cozy place to curl up with a book or a laptop on a chilly day.
“I love to sit here. I come down in the morning and have my coffee and look out and feel like I’m on top of the world,” she says as she adjusts the holiday twinkle lights and woodland decorations. “I like to go foraging in the woods and spray paint my finds,” she says. “It’s different every year. I go looking for bark and branches and moss and make a nativity scene out of things I find.”
To the left is the front entrance, and just beyond the staircase is the original living room, complete with vaulted timber ceiling and a massive iron chandelier. It is here that, in front of a roaring fire, the family has just decorated its towering Christmas tree.
“We always have a huge tree,” she says. “I’ve been collecting ornaments since I was a teenager, and I buy them for my children every year.” Brandstrom-Giner stores all the ornaments in an old Louis Vuitton trunk that her mother gave her. “We all look forward to the ritual of opening the trunk, taking out the trays, and unwrapping the ornaments.”
With carols playing in the background, cider warming on the stove, and two black labs and two cats vying for attention, in this season of gratitude and generosity, the Brandstrom-Giners are just happy to be together.