If you’ve ever watched an episode of virtually any renovation show on HGTV, it’s likely you’ve seen a family similar to the Edwardses. The couple, who have three kids and a dog, started out in a small New York City fourth floor walk-up with no elevator, and moved, after the birth of their first child, to the Connecticut suburbs in search of a bigger house and larger, family-friendly piece of property.
Ellie and Mark, New Orleans and Massachusetts natives, respectively, met in college, worked, got married, and had their first child. In 2004, when big city living became too hectic and too cramped, they decamped to Darien, where Ellie’s brother lived with his wife and four children.
“We rented a house in town first, so we could get the lay of the land, and see what types of houses were out there, and what would meet our needs,” Ellie recounts.
They eventually settled on a 3,400-square-foot home, which they purchased in 2005 directly from the owner, who had lived there happily with his family since the house was first built in the early 1950s. “We made it a much more modern house simply by moving in with young children,” Ellie explains.
The setting and the yard were key for the family, who, with three active children [boys Thomas, 10-1/2, and Matthew, 9, and daughter, Courtney, 7] and Kona, the family’s dog, needed a lot of space, both indoors and out.
Working with interior designer Alice Burnham and her daughter, Sanny Warner, partners in New Canaan-based Alice Burnham, Inc., the Edwardses spent a decade renovating and perfecting the home to meet the needs of their young, energetic, busy family.
“This family, which has expanded since they first purchased the home, uses it differently than when I originally decorated it,” Alice notes. “It’s our job as designers to help the home grow along with them.”
“Our vision was to make this home a place we could stay until our kids complete college,” Ellie says. “Mark and I had both lived in one house growing up, and we wanted to give our kids the same experience. Alice and Sanny helped us develop a decor that’s elegant yet family friendly. We wanted to create a less formal space for everyday living.”
Consequently, over the last 10 years every room in the house has undergone a renovation or redecoration of some type, with the most recent project including an expansion of the kitchen to incorporate the dining room, providing a large casual eating area in the new space. The living room was expanded by moving a wall to allow for a dining table, creating one large living/dining/eating space.
“Prior to the kitchen reno, there was no room for a large table, so Mark and I would stand up while the kids ate!” Ellie recalls. “I wanted a real eat-in kitchen, where the family could gather at a table for meals and the where the kids could do their homework.”
Alice notes that the Edwardses know exactly what they like, and that the new kitchen, which was dark and dated prior to the renovation, reflects their taste and personality. “Ellie and Mark love green, brown, and beige, and that’s reflected throughout the rest of the home, so we decided to punch things up with an infusion of blue into the kitchen.” Fabric is a focal point of the kitchen and eating area, and Alice and Sanny started with “Majorelle,” a blue, green and white contemporary Martin Lawrence Bullard fabric in “Azure” for the long drapery panels to dress up the breakfast area and a valance in the kitchen, according to Sanny. “The fabric, as well as the blue-green marble on the kitchen island and countertops, really pop against the light walls, cabinets and off-white subway tile backsplash,” she says.
Kitchen island stools from Pearson, upholstered in Kravet “Gillian” vinyl that resembles leather, and two stable hanging pendants from Urban Electric in blackened pewter with seeded glass, round out the space.
“We weren’t sure if the Edwardses would like the our material choices, which were more contemporary than anything else in the house, but they loved the final result,” Sanny recounts.
The family also needed an official mudroom to house hockey, soccer and lacrosse equipment, as well as snow boots, backpacks, coats, etc. “We originally only had a bench in the kitchen to store everything,” says Ellie, “and there simply wasn’t enough room.”
With the latest renovation beginning in May 2013, the Edwardses moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where Ellie’s parents have a home and where they lived from June through August. In September, they moved back to a Darien rental property for seven months, until the home renovation was completed.
As the family moved through the reno process, it encountered what Ellie refers to as the “domino effect,” with one project leading to another. The project added an additional 1,500 square feet to the residence, with Kent Eppley and Michael Palumbo, of Darien-based ERI Building & Design, LLC and a former neighbor to the Edwardses, heading the project and working in tandem with Alice and Sanny.
“We decided we needed to add a fifth bedroom to accommodate guests and for long-term sale, and from there we decided to replace the windows and exterior siding (clapboard replaced shake),” Ellie states. “If we were going to justify the cost of a reno, it made sense to do it all at once, rather than piecemeal, and to make sure there would be a good return on our investment should we ever decide to sell.” For more information, visit www.aliceburnhaminc.com.
Photos in slideshow below courtesy of Jane Beiles