A Home for the Holidays
Share a holiday feast with the Ward family
Meredith Ward is fond of saying that when you love where you live, you are happy to share your home with others. And share is what the Ward family does well, especially during the holiday season when it isn’t unusual for guests of all ages to roll up their sleeves and join in the cooking.
“Our doors are open all the time,” says the upbeat mother of three who thinks nothing of combining a friends-and-family cooking party with a seasonal food drive to benefit the Ridgefield Food Pantry. “When I was growing up, the holidays were really a big deal.”
One reason the Canadian couple was first attracted to the charming Georgian Colonial they have owned for ten years is because they could envision the house filled with family from Toronto, who come for extended stays. The house also had a good-sized kitchen, a must for Meredith, who grew up cooking with her mother, father, and grandmothers.
“When I first drove up to the house, I couldn’t breathe,” says Meredith. “I knew no one but me was meant to live in this house.” The Wards fell in love with the wide hallways, the nooks and crannies, the non-conventional floor plan, and the park-like property. Tucked back from the road and protected by trees, the place has the feel of a remote country estate. The lush gardens and proximity to town and neighbors also appealed to Meredith, a serious gardener and floral designer herself.
Because the house was in the shadow of a number of oversized trees, Meredith and husband Michael decided to remove all but one. What was left was a perfect evergreen for the family to light for the season. “The tree is so tall, we get calls from neighbors when it is lit. That is such a treat for us to hear that they are enjoying it, too,” says Meredith.
Inside, the house had the appeal of an older home, with plenty of places to add festive holiday décor. But it also had the contemporary amenities the Wards required, including an open kitchen. With an assortment of furniture passed down through their collective families, the Wards envisioned a place for everything they cherished, including a display of dishes from Meredith’s great-great-great-grandmother that she uses for her holiday table.
What little the house was missing, the Wards decided to add. They hired architect Jeff Mose and builder Patrick McNamara, both of Ridgefield, to incorporate a new sun porch, larger windows that let in more light, and an additional bedroom for the Wards’ frequent guests. The couple spent a year planning the alterations, which took an additional year to complete.
A second-floor landing that the Wards use as a library now encircles an inviting entry hall. To the left is the original living room, where a baby grand rings with Christmas music played by Michael. Beyond is an enclosed porch that houses the Mary Conway Memorial Bar, an antique piece named in honor of Meredith’s grandmother. “She loved her cocktail, so we always refer to it that way,” she says. A large dining room, also off the entry, houses a festively decorated table that often seconds as a place to do jigsaw puzzles when not being used for seasonal gatherings. While all the rooms are charming, laden with detail and beautiful woodworking, it is the kitchen that is really the heart of the house. Just a few steps down a wide hallway, it opens to a window-encased breakfast room and a family area flooded with light.
Throughout the home, a comfortable, slightly eclectic décor blends traditional with contemporary. “Everything I grew up with is old,” says Meredith as she waves her hands around the house to indicate various family heirlooms. “We like things fairly modern, so I would say our house has a bit of a granny-chic dichotomy.” The Wards collaborated with Molly Hirsch Interiors on several projects around the house. “A relationship that began as friendship has lately moved into that of client and designer,” says Meredith of Hirsch. “We continue to work together as the design of the house evolves.”
While the Wards were attracted to the house from the start, the home’s history made the house even more appealing. As the story goes, a well-known silversmith named Edward San Giovanni designed the home with the same painstaking care he took with his beautifully designed sterling pieces. Before the house was fully inhabitable, however, the silver market crashed and San Giovanni was forced to sell. The new owners, who named the home Nettle Beck for all the trees, would often see the sad man standing in the driveway looking at the beautiful house he had built. When urged to come inside, he always declined.
“I think of myself as a caretaker of this house. Everyone who has lived here or has been associated with it has loved it,” says Meredith. “I’m always advocating to stay home.”