Restoring this beautiful antique in a modern-day masterpiece is just another step down the road for Maureen Rivard
If home is where the heart is, interior decorator Maureen Rivard believes that the heartbeat of the home lies in the kitchen. With her latest redesign, this accomplished house renovator achieves the clean, open galley she’s always dreamed of.
Passing through an enclosed porch, visitors are led into the kitchen’s airy, bright space, with vaulted ceilings. Shelves stacked with pristine, white plates and bowls line the wall in lieu of boxy cabinets. Pots and pans hang from an old plumbing fixture secured to the ceiling. Two armchairs surround a café table, providing a French feel to the morning-coffee-and-paper routine. At the center of the room, a large, sturdy island invites guests and family members to a congenial gathering spot for eating and entertaining. The kitchen also opens to the living room.
Like so many of Rivard’s projects, the mid-19th-century house looked far different when she first peered through the wavy-glass windows three and a half years ago. A bedroom, bathroom, and office took up the space where the new kitchen now lives. After five visits her vision became clear. With the help of trusted contractor, Joe Fossi of Pelham Country Homes, the duo tore down and rebuilt walls to update the flow of the rooms. Rivard then worked her magic, marrying the home’s distinctive, antique charms with her signature clean, crisp decorating style. “It makes the bones of the house show better,” says Rivard of her desire to de-clutter old homes. “Vintage houses tend to have more character—fun rooflines and ceiling angles.”
The well-maintained property has historic ties—the Lynch family of Merrill Lynch originally owned this caretaker’s cottage, built in 1850, although the main estate across the street is now part of Ridgefield Academy. Other unique aspects of the land appealed to Rivard’s taste—a barn for storing decorative pieces; a wide-open meadow, caddy-corner to the main home; and a guest cottage overlooking the view.
Rivard kept many elements of the cottage’s skeleton, such as the plaster walls, strip-oak flooring, and black-and-white marble entryway. “It’s not about perfection,” she says, indicating the original pair of chipped light fixtures hung on either side of the door leading to the living room.
When decorating, Rivard often starts with a blank canvas and rarely brings pieces from previous homes she’s lived in. “I like to bring character that stays with the house when I go,” she says.
French doors cover the living-room bookcases and leaded-glass windows frame the sole china cabinet, in the kitchen. Two white pillars elegantly divide the wide space between the two rooms. Rivard purchased them at a tag sale nearly eight years ago, carting them around until she saw a place where they would fit. “I’m always picking up, finding, and gathering,” she explains. “Often I don’t have a use for it right away, but I know that I will.”
Her collection of decorative pieces—and her creativity with their placement—never ceases to surprise. On the closed-in front porch, an old door lies across two large garden urns, where it serves as a makeshift table. In the living room, Rivard cut down the legs of a painted-pine table, originally meant for dining, to coffee-table height. She says that “finding something funky and different, turning it into a conversation piece” is what she loves to do.
Rivard laments that the floor plans of antique homes are often choppy, broken up room by room. This explains the offset placement of the original kitchen at the back of the house. When renovating, she turned the old kitchen into a bedroom and full bath, which doubles as her work studio. Though the house measures a cozy 3,200 square feet, it feels spacious as a result of Rivard’s changes.
Upstairs, the master bedroom epitomizes her iconic vision of simplicity. White linens don the bed, and the recently refurbished bathroom resembles a soothing sanctuary. Tucked away down a back staircase, additional bedrooms provide a space for Rivard’s two college-aged sons—Kenneth, 22, and Conner, 19. “The dorm rooms,” she jokes.
The outside provides tranquil space to relax, as well. A pair of Adirondack chairs creates an inviting venue overlooking a pond. A watchful Buddha sits peacefully on a stone wall at the edge of the water. Behind it, a sprawling meadow offers an unfettered view through the surrounding wooded terrain. Two hawks nesting in pine trees above the patio also call this place home.
While Rivard’s “new” home provides privacy and comfort for her family, how long she will stay is another question—this is her fifth home renovation in her 17 years in Ridgefield. “I love the project of finding a house that’s kind of sitting there and not getting a whole lot of attention,” she says of her propensity to keep a watchful eye for a home in need of TLC. “Just how I like them.”