Expect the unexpected at this Sharp Hill Antique
Photos by Jane Beiles
Joanna Buchanan describes her eponymous brand of home accessories and jewelry as “colorful, whimsical, and eclectic, with a large dose of glamour.” The same could be easily be said of the Sharp Hill home she shares with
her husband, Brad Pascarella, a business owner who oversees commercial construction in New York, and their children Georgina, ten, and Hugo, eight.
Buchanan’s eye for style comes as no surprise, given her peripatetic background. Born in the Philippines, she grew up in Hong Kong, and attended boarding school in England. Later, she studied fashion marketing and design at the University of Northumbria. “It was always about print, color, and pattern for me,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t going to be John Galliano or Alexander McQueen. I gravitated more towards commercial design versus catwalk design.”
Just over four years ago, the family was living in a snug brownstone apartment in Manhattan. One day, upon arriving at a social event on Long Island, Hugo got out of the car, and, according to Joanna, “as he viewed the expanse of green grass his face lit up and he just started running.” Brad and Joanna exchanged looks and realized that it was time for a change. “We wanted more space, more green, and a more natural environment for the children,” she explains. “Life seemed to be accelerated in the city, and we wanted to slow the growing-up process down a bit, to let our kids just be kids.”
Brad’s parents live in Westport. His father is the superintendent of schools in Danbury, so it was natural for the couple to begin their house hunting close to family and in a town that “ticked off the good-school box.” Their search soon expanded to Weston and Easton, but none of the properties they saw felt right. While scrolling through listings online, Joanna was intrigued by the look of a stately1839 antique on Sharp Hill Road. “At that point we didn’t even know Wilton existed,” she admits. “And Brad didn’t like the idea of moving to a town he’d never heard of or to a house with only two bedrooms. But the minute we pulled into the driveway, without even looking inside the house, he said, “‘Well, I think this is it!’”
There’s a saying that in love there is a lid for every pot, and perhaps the same is true of real estate. To anyone else’s eyes, the house and landscaping were a disaster. “The garden was completely overgrown; there were weeds everywhere. It was a jungle,” says Joanna. And the interiors weren’t much better: Dark navy walls with navy carpets, and views of the property obscured by heavy window treatments all made a gloomy impression. Despite the many red flags, the couple saw potential and fell hard for the property.
“Everyone tried to talk us out of buying this house because it was such a wreck,” recalls Joanna. “Even the broker tried to talk us into buying a place in Weston, but there was no question that this was the one. We both knew immediately what it could be, and that it would be an amazing space for our family, in an amazing setting.”
The couple’s vision paid off. Once the dusty drapes came down, natural light flooded the interior. When the carpeting was lifted, gorgeous 18-inch original wood plank floors were revealed. All the walls and trim were painted white, and then select spaces were wallpapered with bright patterns. The living room has a modern orchid motif in white, green, and periwinkle against a pale lilac background, which coordinates beautifully with the colorful textiles (many of them designed by Joanna) and leaf green mantle of the fireplace.
A stairwell that leads upstairs is adorned in a wide stripe white and cobalt blue wallpaper. The old kitchen was ripped out and a new one was designed by Brad using Ikea cabinetry, black appliances, a black granite farm sink, Moroccan tile backsplash and gold-tone hardware. The dining area features a vintage table base topped with an oval acrylic top and modern chairs creating an understated but sophisticated feel.
Flowing from the living room is a multi-purpose space with painted white floors, round wood table, Kelly green iron chairs, and a large white armoire. “We use this room for everything: dinner parties, brunches, business meetings, and special events like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.” Adjacent to this area is what was once an attached greenhouse that has been repurposed as Joanna’s studio and design space. It now sparkles with bee-themed home accessories from her line—bejeweled napkin rings, beaded placemats, elegant ornaments, and an array of fun but elegant jewelry. Joanna started her business four years ago when the family relocated to Wilton. In addition to her website, her product line is now carried in shops around the world including Neiman Marcus, Harrods, Bloomingdales, and One Kings Lane.
Upstairs the advertised “two bedrooms” have morphed into four cozy ones. One room without a closet was made into a space for Georgina. A fourth room was carved out of a large closet and now has a loft bed for Hugo. None of the bedrooms have curtains so they are full of natural light during the day. At night, says Joanna, “I lie in bed and I can see the moon.”
An outdoor shed has been transformed into an art studio for Brad and a place for Hugo to practice his drumming.
In addition to being highly creative—Brad’s artwork hangs throughout the house—the couple is also very organized. They managed to get the entire house renovation completed in a mere three weeks.
“We talked about how we wanted the house to feel, and the kind of vibe we were going for. I wanted our home to feel optimistic and happy,” says Joanna. “We love the space and we use every inch of it. We also like to entertain a lot. Friends come up from the city and spend the day, or stay for a night. It just works for our family.”