Brought to Light
An old storage barn is transformed into an open, airy home
Trevor Tondro (gallery below)
INTERIOR DECORATOR Maureen Rivard has always been somewhat of a natural when it comes to spotting good finds for the home. When it came to recognizing a good home for herself and her family, however, Rivard was much more hesitant to trust her instincts. In 2004, on her initial visit to the turn-of-the-20th-century structure that was soon to become her own, she was put off by the overgrown property and dark, outdated interior. It took six visits, including one accompanied by a builder friend, before Rivard realized that cosmetic changes were really all that were needed to convert the house into the charming residence it deserved to be. Though her sons, Kenneth, 20, and Conner, 16, were slightly skeptical—one asked, “Mom, what have you done?” after he first saw it—Rivard has made good on her response “Just trust me.” After much renovation and innovation, all three have come to love their now transformed and lovely space.
Rivard admitted, even after buying the house, that it seemed a big project to be taking on. But inspired by the ten-foot ceilings—rare for an antique property, and what she loved about the house from the start—she set out to create an airy and light-filled interior. Old carpet was torn up and unneeded walls were torn down; trees were removed outside and fresh paint was added inside. Says Rivard, “I basically brought the house down to a shell,” from which she then remade the living areas, and slowly but surely, the home’s unique beauty started coming to the surface.
Now an open kitchen, dining, and family room dominate the main floor. Despite being the home’s hub of activity, it is still a soothing and serene space, with abundant light from French doors, simply adorned windows, and skylights sparkling against white beadboard walls. Pale blues accent the rooms, and clever storage solutions—like a large freestanding armoire—streamline the look. The first-floor master bedroom, tucked off the front hall, continues the soothing white palette. Shafts of sunlight softly filter in through sheer curtains, making it easy to see why this is Rivard’s favorite room—“truly my sanctuary,” she says.
The house as a whole is a cozy retreat for visitors who step inside. It is impossible not to smile upon sight of the playful turquoise front door, and worries are shed, along with shoes and coats, in the welcoming riverstone tiled entryway. From here to the breezy side porch, from the living room’s inviting sofa to the back patio’s charming pergola, the relaxed atmosphere is one Maureen worked hard to create. “Your home is your refuge,” she explains. “In times of transition, in times of stress, it has to be the peace you come back to.” Though it took extensive renovation with this house in particular, Rivard has certainly succeeded in creating a refuge.
Perhaps it is the distinct lack of clutter that makes Rivard’s home so peaceful. She holds herself to the decorating principle of 19th-century British craftsman William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Maureen’s decorating is a perfect fusion of both practicality and elegance. For example, a distressed turquoise post at the top of the staircase is simultaneously decorative as well as a clever support for the once-wobbly banister. Down the stairs and around the corner, two ornately carved stone reliefs pair up to create the base of the dining table—again, practicality meeting elegance. Another happy marriage of form and function is the use of mirrors, in a variety of sizes and frames, throughout the house. More than just artsy, their reflective faces brighten rooms and seem to expand the house well beyond its 2,200 square feet.
The decorating in general is what truly distinguishes this house. For Rivard, it was the most exciting part of renovating. “I just had a really fun time,” she explains. This is apparent in the combination of old flea-market finds and new eccentric pieces that grace every room. Bar stools from an ice-cream parlor are reupholstered in leopard print and placed at the kitchen island. Artwork ranges from a wall-hanging steer skull, picked up at the Elephant’s Trunk flea market in New Milford, to carefully matted and framed craft projects from her sons’ school days. The colorful border from one piece of artwork inspired the unique painted floorboard pattern of turquoises and soft yellows in the family room. Rivard insists that decorating is all about “listening to the house.” She certainly has—a storage shed on an estate whimsically named Upagenstit by former residents is now appropriately filled with Rivard’s brand of whimsy.
With a house that seems practically perfect, Rivard glances around and admits, “I’m always looking for a new project.” The last time she said this, a small salt-water pool gleamed in the backyard a few months later, so who knows what might appear next? She mentioned the possibility of installing new French doors upstairs, or revamping the bedrooms; it is clear that for her, there is always more that can be done. For now, though, her updated antique is a model of efficiency, comfort, and charm. After moving from a house almost twice the size, Maureen Rivard has instilled her new place with what she calls a “much more potent energy.” Quite simply, she says, “I feel good every time I walk in the door.”