When interior designer Olga Adler and her husband, William, decided to purchase a dated 1960s beach house on Westport’s Saugatuck Island in 2012, a stone’s throw from the ocean, they had several goals in mind.
First and foremost, they wanted a year-round vacation home, a simple beach house with a pool, and they strategically chose a home in what Olga refers to as Westport’s “hidden gem,” part of Saugatuck Shores. Next, Olga, a native of Poland, wanted to bring a European sensibility to the space. The couple also wanted to reconfigure the interior and exterior to accommodate the large numbers of guests who often gather at their home for parties, charity events and the private interior design classes that Olga teaches. And lastly, they didn’t want their beach house to scream “beach house”!
Over the course of a month, Olga, the owner of Olga Adler Interiors, a full-service interior design and decorating firm in Fairfield County, Conn., renovated the house, eschewing the typical beach motifs — starfish and sand dollars, blue and green tile, fishing netting, lobster traps and the like — for a design scheme that hints at the ocean but could fit into virtually any location or style of home, from Manhattan apartment to Ridgefield Colonial to California contemporary.
Then, Superstorm Sandy hit, and the couple found themselves picking up the pieces after their home was badly damaged.
“We’d only been living in the newly renovated house for three months when Sandy hit, and we found ourselves back at the drawing board, quite literally,” Olga recounts. “The scope of the new renovation project was more than we had planned when we originally bought the house, as this was a complete, full-house renovation after the storm.”
First, the 2,850-square-foot eco-friendly home, which the couple shares with Gloria, the eight-year-old Pointer mix they adopted from ROAR, had to be elevated five and a half feet to be rendered secure, and the first floor completely rebuilt. “The complexity of the elevation process necessitated a total rebuild of the first floor, and in doing so, we decided to reconfigure the space to capture as much natural light as possible and provide the best possible flow with as much seating as possible,” Olga says.
The exterior of the home, following the second renovation, is traditional, as befits the neighborhood, with clean, classic lines, gray clapboard siding, white trim, a cream-colored pebble walkway and driveway, and subtle green plantings. “As with many European homes, the outside is not obvious or flashy,” Olga says. “When you walk inside, however, it’s more modern, unexpected, with beautiful finishes and lots of surprises.”
Olga worked closely with Peter Coffin, of Doyle Coffin Architecture, Ridgefield, and Neal Hicks of Hicks Construction, Ridgefield, to create a space that turned the existing footprint into a plan that met every need, from extending the length of a wall to accommodate a cherished 200-year-old linen press that Olga had inherited from her grandmother and which now serves as a liquor cabinet, to allowing for a specific amount of space beneath the family room cabinets to provide space and storage for ottomans.
“We had the opportunity to plan while we were working with the architect,” Olga states. “We completely reassigned spaces, from reorienting much of the first-floor living space to overlook the redesigned backyard and adding a bank of large windows to let in light and allow us to enjoy views of the saltwater pool and Zen garden.”
Olga also made the existing kitchen into a design studio for her business and turned the family room into a new kitchen. “We created a much better use of space, and took advantage of the light,” she says.
The interior is reflective of Olga’s chic yet effortless style, mixing custom, high end furnishings and accessories with casual, more relaxed pieces. Finishes in soft, subtle shades of gray and white serve as the perfect backdrop for the numerous works of art the couple collects from local artists, including five pieces from Ridgefield’s Rachel Volpone, Buddha paintings by Kim Hanna of Redding, an acrylic framed print from Antonio Munoz, Ridgefield, a seascape by Dani Renchard of Darien, and a piece by Westport-based artist Miggs Burroughs, which hangs on the door of Olga’s beautiful dressing room.
Lighting was intrinsic to the design plan, with Olga choosing fixtures that were practical yet could serve as “jewelry” to the otherwise fairly neutral interior. The white and gray kitchen, with its spectacular contemporary glass chandelier, soaring ceiling, open shelving and shimmery white tile backsplash adjoins the dining room, which features nautical-inspired sconces from Ralph Lauren that were repurposed as light pendants above the glass ping-pong regulation size dining room table: “When the weather’s bad, we attach a ping pong net to the table and play!” Olga says. Old railroad ties joined together, framelike, provide a rustic yet artistic touch on the dining room wall.
In the foyer, two Jonathan Adler “Anemone” sconces emanate sparkly light on either side of an antique Chinese chest, while the long, rectangular living room/media room, with two side-by-side nine-foot gray Restoration Hardware couches and several chairs and ottomans, houses a large movie screen (a nod to the couple’s love of film), which rolls up to reveal a square of wallpaper that Olga had framed. “We spend a tremendous amount of time in this room, watching movies, entertaining guests … it’s also where I teach my interior design class,” Olga says. This room, like most in the house, blends expensive pieces with less costly home furnishings.
Throughout the home, pops of color appear like candies in a glass jar: Tangerine drapery panels in the guest bedroom, an oversized, airy green chandelier in the master bath, pink and orange pillows in the media room and a beautiful blue rug from West Elm in the family room all add interest and a sense of whimsy and fun to the space.
“I had to think of every detail and possibility when planning this project, and consequently, the house is exactly as I wanted it,” Olga explains. “Our home is as ‘me’ as it gets. It’s a modern beach house with a playful Bohemian streak and just enough color and pattern for my liking … everything is comfortable and easy, and it’s a perfect mix of old and new, high and low.”
For more information, visit www.olgaadlerinteriors.com.
Slideshow below: Debra Somerville photos