bauhaus/ our house
Simplicity Reigns at Dumais Weekend Haven
Charlie and Kevin Dumais at their studio.
Photo by Eric Piasecki
At a certain point in time, every young couple fantasizes about a house in the country. Charlie and Kevin Dumais were no different. Recently married and living and working in New York, the two dreamed of a weekend retreat.
Kevin, an interior designer and principal of his eponymous firm, Dumais Inc., explains, “I had a client in New York whose apartment I had designed. The couple had recently bought a house in New Milford and we came out on Memorial Day to make a site visit. Then we visited another client in Washington and decided that maybe we should look at houses—as long as we were in the country.”
And that’s how it began. The couple came back several more weekends and extended their search into Sharon and Kent. One day while having lunch they and saw an ad for a recently renovated white clapboard house in the town of Litchfield. It featured a living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and two baths—all efficiently fitted into 1,500 square feet, plus a separate garage. Listed within their budget and with seemingly no major renovations needed, they thought it too good to be true and called the agent to make an appointment.
“Since we knew nothing about home ownership,” explains Charlie, “we were delighted that all the major things had been done—the house had a new roof, new insulation, waterproof basement, new septic, new windows and up-to-date electrical and plumbing systems.”
The aesthetics, however, were another matter. But Charlie, who is an architectural lighting designer and consultant, had no doubt that he and Kevin could make it their own.
“The house was built in 1941 and the garage added a year later,” says Kevin. “I have a great love of mid-century houses and, with its simple unadorned lines, decided that we would make this our Bauhaus country house. We could get more into vintage furniture, mixed with some Scandinavian touches that would complement the modernism.”
The Dumaises moved in over Labor Day weekend in 2015 and began their foray into country living. The house is located on a quiet street with one-and-a-half acres of land including a fern-filled back patio where there is little distraction. They got the lay of the land and began a new phase of life as homeowners.
While everything was new, there were certain things that had to be redone. First off, Charlie knew the LED ceiling lamp with the glaring light had to be replaced, as did the cheap kitchen cabinets and the appliances. And the floors were transformed from a mediocre maple color to a rich shade of mahogany. They also ripped out the tile floor in the kitchen and replaced it with the same wooden floors that are throughout the house. Because the rooms are not large, they tore down a wall separating the kitchen and the dining room, creating an open airy space. And then there was the matter of the bannister.
“It almost felt right,” explains Kevin. “But it hugged the wall and the newel post was the wrong size. So one night we took out a hammer and tore the whole thing out.” They then spent several weekends trolling the aisles of the Brimfield Antique Show and the Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market to find furnishings.
The once beige walls are now a pleasing shade of white, making the perfect backdrop for the clean lines of their midcentury purchases. The mixture works well and they have kept the lines of the furniture clean and sharp and chosen accessories with a keen eye for color and balance.
Wherever possible the Dumaises have done their own renovations, except for major undertakings like a gravel driveway and a new concrete floor for the garage.
That building has now been converted into a studio for their latest venture Dumais Made, which produces ceramic lamps, sconces, candleholders, and other accessories.
“I had done some pottery in college,” says Charlie. “We then took pottery classes at Greenwich House Pottery. I would make a group of things and Kevin would use some of it in photo shoots for his projects. At the moment I have a small studio in Manhattan where I make the pieces. Then they are transported to the studio here where I do the wiring and the finishing. My dream is to put in a kiln and sink so I can do all the work in one place.”
Dumais Made was launched with a website and quickly discovered by a local home and design shop, George Home, in Washington. Thanks to a pop-up shop last December the line has been received with much enthusiasm and the products are now being sold online at 1stdibs as well. “We want to approach other shops in the area and keep it all as local as possible,” explains Charlie, “since we really feel we have found a home here.”
In the meantime, with the help of their year-old Welsh Terrier, Dumais and Dumais are enjoying country living—but their eyes are always on the next project.