A Ho-hum Colonial gets an Overhaul
Photographs by Jane Beiles
When Nina and Brian Morrissey were house hunting in 2012, a property they viewed on Hidden Lake ticked a lot of boxes for the couple: a prime location on a cul-de-sac with close proximity to schools and Wilton Town Center. There was also an unexpected bonus. The house was situated in an exquisite setting, with a rolling lawn overlooking a picturesque lake. It was easy for the couple to imagine their active family enjoying the green space and admiring the tranquil views.
The Morrisseys were smitten with the two-acre property. Though it needed plenty of work both inside and out, the couple believed it had terrific potential. Sure, the 1965 Colonial was tired and dated but Nina saw that the house had great bones. “It needed a major cosmetic overhaul to bring it from the 1960s up to the present,” she says. The busy realtor and mother of Julia, 14, and Jack, 11, knew she was equal to the task but also knew that she needed help to achieve her vision.
Nina’s search for an interior designer with whom she could successfully collaborate happily ended on the day she met Ashley Gouveia. “We just clicked. She got me, and my style, and understood the look I wanted to achieve,” recalls Nina. “My husband especially appreciated that she was budget-conscious.”
Gouveia adds, “Nina wanted the new house to maintain the elegance of their previous home, but was looking for a more relaxed, cozier feel. I love working with natural linen fabrics and sisal carpeting, so we used that as our departure point, deciding on a color palate that incorporated many different blues and some gray. In addition, Nina wanted to use a number of the family’s existing pieces, so everything had to work together.”
Not everyone would be comfortable agreeing to paint her dining room walls a bold midnight blue, but Nina welcomed the idea, and it is used to great effect. The dark navy (Benjamin Moore’s “Mysterious”) is a striking contrast to the white-coffered ceiling, crown molding, and wainscoting. As well, it adds a masculine, tailored feel to the space, while also providing a dramatic backdrop for the “jewelry” in the room, which includes a gold sunburst mirror, antique porcelain dogs, vintage sconces, and a pretty French sideboard.
The living room flows directly off the dining room, and it’s a showstopper. With wall-to-wall mullioned windows on two sides, the decision to let nature be the star was a wise one. The neutral furnishings in white, ivory, and greige take their cue from the bright and airy space. A settee is upholstered in an elegant toile and a pair of slipper chairs are covered in white linen with nailhead detail. Two feathery sheepskin-topped stools add an unexpectedly playful touch, and the delft-blue walls provide a welcome pop of color.
Many people only use their living rooms on formal occasions, but that is not the case here. “This is my favorite room in the house, “ says Nina. “It’s sun-filled and so serene. I frequently sit in here to read or visit with a friend.”
The tailored theme continues in the family room, which is painted a soothing light blue. Two capacious sofas are upholstered in a denim-colored chenille—both practical and pretty. Pattern is artfully incorporated through the use of oversize blue and white batik throw pillows, a navy and tan striped flat woven wool carpet, and X bench upholstered in a tribal print. Custom cabinetry painted a high gloss white houses books and a large flat-screen TV, along with pottery, Buddha heads, and small primitive sculptures.
Adjacent to the family room is an inviting reading/conversation area with a fireplace. One can easily imagine hanging out here with the kids after school and sipping cocoa, or enjoying a lazy Saturday morning drinking a latte while reading the New York Times. The kitchen overlooks both spaces and has a convenient breakfast area. The homeowners kept the white Shaker cabinetry but replaced the black granite countertops with honed quartz in warm browns, beiges, and cream tones. The tumbled marble backsplash in tan provides a nice balance.
“Nina knows what she likes, which for a designer makes the job easy,” says Gouveia with a smile. “More importantly, she kept to her vision, so she never went off-track as many clients can do. There wasn’t any waffling. Typicaflly on a project I only present three options to my clients for a particular item such as fabric, furniture, carpets, and accessories, to avoid overwhelming them. With Nina, I could arrive with a shopping bag full of fabrics and narrow it down to the top two in under ten minutes.”
Once the inside of the house was completed, the homeowners turned their attention to the outdoor spaces. When the family first moved in the yard was overgrown and the back patio was unattractive and in disrepair. Brian made it a priority to completely rehab the area and was involved in overseeing the design and construction. “The built in kitchen and fire pit was a huge splurge,” admits Nina. “But it was money well spent because we’ve gotten so much enjoyment out of it.”
Living through the redesign process is never easy, but Nina’s attitude is sanguine. “Everyone always says a renovation project takes twice as long as you expect, and it’s absolutely true. However, I can honestly say it was well worth the extra time. We couldn’t be happier with the house. We just love it!”