Leaning on the sleek workspace of her dual range, dual dishwasher, multi-sink kitchen with its AGA English cooker, Susan Buzaid declares, “The family would absolutely starve if they counted on me to cook.” It’s a surprising statement from a woman with such a dream kitchen. Even more surprising when you consider that her holiday guest list can easily reach 35 in number.
Fortunately, husband Jay is the culinary expert, and on a crisp December day has conjured up an elaborate Lebanese meal for friends, leaving Susan to do what she does best, the table settings and décor.
Buzaid is co-owner of Olley Court, a home fashion design store in Ridgefield. Her talent for interior design has helped expand the retail store into a full-fledged decorating service, which also offers color consultations and staging, with clients in Wilton and surrounding towns. Not surprisingly, Buzaid spends a lot of her time giving facelifts to tired spaces.
Home problem solving starts with listening to what clients want. Buzaid seeks to know how her clients live—are there children at home and are there pets? She wants to know which of their possessions are meaningful and what they are trying to achieve in their living space. “Sometimes its just a matter of editing out stuff,” says Buzaid who can be ruthless when it comes to reclaiming space so clients can breathe and enjoy their belongings. And, when it comes to the family home, Buzaid practices what she preaches.
The couple purchased their expanded 1990 shingle-style Cape eight years ago when Buzaid says she was looking for a new project. Not too far from Redding center they found their secluded yet not oversized house. It was perfect for the “open concept entertaining” favored by Buzaid with very livable space and was a welcome reprieve from the center hall colonial they had tired of. It also had a large yard that would allow Buzaid to pursue her other passion—gardening.
While the house had potential, it came with challenges. There wasn’t a place for the piano their two daughters enjoy playing. It was dark and had a chopped up kitchen with a removed dining alcove, a rotting screened porch, and no true mudroom. Still, it had “good bones” and two additional pluses—a first-floor master suite and a study off the center hallway where Buzaid could work.
Along with being co-owner of Olley Court, Buzaid is a practicing psychotherapist specializing in adolescent psychotherapy. While she limits her practice these days, she still needs a quiet, private space convenient to an entry for clients. The study could easily be transformed to suit her needs. So the Buzaids went to work creating a house they would enjoy coming home to.
To accommodate Jay’s love of cooking and Susan’s love for an open floor plan, walls between the kitchen and the eating alcove were removed. The front was bumped out with windows added to lighten the room and highlight their favorite piece, a unique sterling-silver farmer’s sink that looks more beautiful with each distressed dent.
A mudroom with a downstairs powder room was added. The rotting screened porch was replaced with a large family room with a heated floor and lots of windows to enjoy the gardens outside. Refrigerator drawers, double dishwashers, a separate bar area, and an oversized island make this dual kitchen an ideal place to showcase the high-end appliances from Jay’s family business, Powerhouse Appliances in New Milford. A long rectangular table completes this room as a true eat-in kitchen and great entertaining spot.
The rest of the changes to the house were cosmetic, but no less dramatic. The floors were redone in a rich dark stain to contrast the creamy white painted moldings and trim work. Buzaid opted for a consistent strain of soothing hues running throughout. To create interest she added startling splashes of unpredictable color with accessories, the bold pinkish purple dining room chairs and the artwork on the walls. “Colors need to flow, spaces need to flow and each room has to have a personality and a purpose,” says Buzaid, a petite energetic woman with a commitment to made in America products. “Each room in the house should inspire you to do something different.”
Buzaid’s signature approach with clients is to repurpose rooms. In her own home she immediately knew that the dining space off the front hall would better serve as the music room where daughters Lindsay and Samantha could practice. The former family room was transposed into a dramatic dining room with large walls to show off dramatic pieces from the local artists the Buzaids favor. An inviting fireplace surrounded by built-ins to highlight favorite collectibles takes up one side of the room. And following the advice she gives to clients, Buzaid houses her large seashell collection in one breakfront rather than cluttering her space by scattering it throughout the home. With a conversation enhancing round table, the room can be both crowd friendly or cozy enough for the intimate group sharing this holiday lunch.
Back in the kitchen, Jay is adding the finishing touches to the Mezze, the first course of small dishes of tabouli, hummus, tahini, and crispy bread. More courses will follow. The halls are decked, though not in traditional red and green. Buzaid’s preference for muted colors blended with lots of greens and touches of dazzle is evident with every turn. The table setting is elegantly inviting with blue toned balls and gold trees sparkling in the candlelit centerpiece. The house is festive and welcoming. Everything is just the way Buzaid likes it.