A Local Designer Highlights Holiday Cheer
Photos by Hulya Kolabas
Being home for the holidays is a blessing—especially if you live in New England where the landscape and architecture peak during the season. Tucked behind mature trees in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield, the home of interior designer Dana Ferraro is the epitome of Connecticut charm. This 1930s farmhouse—once known as Stone Corner Farm—recently counted two miniature donkeys as its neighbors.
It’s hard to imagine that the Ferraro family home was once uninhabitable. Its façade— painted in a cringeworthy shade of teal—would have caused most house hunters to stay in the car. But this talented young designer saw its potential. “The inside was even worse,” Ferraro recalls. “The kitchen cabinets were falling apart and the counter was held together with duct tape.”
With a healthy dose of imagination, support from her family, and best friend and design partner Molly Patton, Dana and husband Paul purchased the home in 2014 and began a true labor of love. Luckily for Ferraro, she had some secret weapons under her belt. “My dad is a contractor, my brother-in-law is an electrician, and my uncle is a plumber.”
Raised in Monroe, Ferraro attended University of Connecticut. After graduation, she moved to Manhattan for eight years where she worked in publishing. It wasn’t until she was hired to work at Health that she met her other soul mate, Molly Patton.
Through countless hours of event planning for clients, and pouring over the details together, the two friends realized they shared a passion. Design blogs, like “Elements of Style” and “Apartment Therapy” became required reading, and combing through the latest issue of Domino together became a ritual for the inseparable pair. “She was so much more than just my boss,” explains Ferraro. “We did everything together as friends.”
As close as they were, Patton was always a few life steps ahead of Ferraro. It wasn’t until Patton gave birth to her first child and moved to Fairfield that the two friends started talking about working together as an interior design team. “My home was one of our first projects together,” says Ferraro. “Molly was the only one who took her side when it came to painting the family room green, even though her husband Paul vetoed the book cases.”
In addition to the home design, Patton helped plan the Ferraro’s wedding and managed all of the day of responsibilities. “She was the only one I trusted with the details,” adds Ferraro, who was married at Alder Manor in Tarrytown. When Ferraro returned from her honeymoon in October 2014, she was excited to meet Patton for their first official client meeting. Only she came home to learn that her best friend had been diagnosed with cancer.
“Of course she wouldn’t let me cancel the meeting. That’s just the kind of person Molly was,” explains Ferraro. Sadly, her cancer spread and became too virulent to fight. Today, Ferraro continues designing under their business name, Molly Patton Design, to preserve her memory and their special friendship.
Whenever possible, Ferraro incorporates something from Patton’s personal collection into her work, like a special lamp or piece of artwork. Ferraro also loves to create special “design moments”—like wallpapering the ceiling in a powder room—as Patton used to call them.
If you’ve ever seen Ferraro’s work, you know she is a risk taker, and it pays off. “I paint my client’s rooms gray all the time, but myhome is personal.” She jokes that Paul finally trusts her design instincts after all of these years. The third-level is currently painted in an amazing bold red high gloss and serves as a special area for son Leo, who recently turned two.
Her approach to decorating for the holidays is fairly simple: don’t redecorate. Instead, she loves to layer greenery, like balsam and fir, and use fresh boxwood for her planters outside.
“You shouldn’t have to put anything away to make room for holiday decor,” says Ferraro. “There are no plastic bins hiding in my basement!” Rather, she likes to work in vignettes, meaning she strategically places holiday accents that complement her current esthetic. “One plaid pillow or throw is okay, but don’t go overboard.”
“Take one of your own vases and add greenery,” advises Ferraro. “Purchase a swag of greenery, then pull it apart, and use it as filler.” Placing wreaths over a mirror, or running a textured ribbon over your own objects, is another way to incorporate the holiday vibe without being too literal. “Don’t overdecorate. It’s like make-up; you still want to look like yourself.”