Making a house a home

The owners of this Ridgefield home worked with interior designer Jen Coleman — who coincidentally happened to be their neighbor and friend — to create a space that could accommodate their family and reflected their taste and personalities. — Bryan Haeffele photos

When Nora and Shawn moved into their newly built Ridgefield home with their growing family about three years ago, they were at a bit of a loss as how to decorate it.

They had previously lived in spaces of 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, with a look they described as “definitely farmhouse casual.” Not only was the new house much larger, at 4,500 square feet, but the entry and spacious public rooms were finished with exquisite millwork and moldings and they wanted to showcase the details, which included a living room fireplace.

“While we had some pieces to work with, we also had a lot of little furniture — and a lot of empty rooms,” Nora recalls. “We needed to fill in; we knew this place would need to be more formal, but still kid-friendly.”

They started on their own and “made mistakes,” says Nora, before deciding they needed professional help, particularly with the entry, living room, dining room, and powder room. One of their neighbors, with whom Nora had become friends, is interior designer Jennifer Coleman, owner of Ridgefield-based JKC Designs, and Nora asked her for guidance.

“Nora and Shawn have great taste and design sense, but needed help pulling it all together,” Coleman recounts. “My approach is to work collaboratively to solve my clients’ challenges. We have the discussion, ‘What do you want this room to be? How will you use it?’ Understanding the use of space, determining what they want, what things they will use, helps guide the design. In their case, they had some evocative paintings to incorporate.” Coleman worked with the architecture of the house to help Nora and Shawn develop a more traditional look, but one that still reflected their taste and personalities. “It was important to them to keep the natural light flowing in,” Coleman notes.

The couple wanted to soften the entryway, which was accomplished by using a patterned staircase runner and muted wallpaper in the stairwell, an updated rug, and accent pieces.

The living room fireplace is centered on the wall opposite the wide opening off the entry — its width accommodates the depth of a hall closet — and they had a sofa in front of it and Shawn’s favorite painting on one wall. Nora was agreeable to reconfiguring the space, starting with the couch placement, to which two chairs were added to create a conversation area. To fill in the volume above, Coleman suggested a dramatic light fixture, but Nora was hesitant.

Nora says they always had the option to stay in their comfort zone, but Jennifer “pushed them a bit.” Coleman contends that she likes to do something unexpected, to encourage clients to explore ideas they hadn’t considered before. With Nora and Shawn, it was looking at scale and light in different ways. “In bringing in various elements, I would present something I knew they would be comfortable with, as well as one or two items that they probably wouldn’t have considered previously, but would work. I’d tell them, ‘You can’t make the wrong choice from what I’ve given you to choose,’” Coleman explains.

Nora wanted to take her time on all decisions, while Sean was much quicker, but she eventually decided to go with the dramatic fixture, which she now loves, particularly the way it is reflected in the circular mirror over the fireplace, the frame of which is wrapped in shiny faux sharkskin.

A small bar tucked away in a short hallway between the living and family rooms enhances entertaining in either room.

The powder room had one bright light over a small mirror; they added a custom-made mirror and sconces on either side, which provide a softer light, as well as patterned grasscloth wallpaper and mixed-metal fixtures. “Now the room is a little jewel box,” Coleman observes.

The dining room nicely combines elegance with a bit of whimsy. Nora wanted it casual but not too casual, so there is lots of crystal in the room, including large crystal lamps on a sideboard, with a mirror in-between to reflect the light. A crystal ball and metal light fixture hangs over the rectangular table that easily seats eight. The palette is subtle with grasscloth wallpaper and bits of sparkle and shimmer added to the decor.

The view out the kitchen windows overlooks a stone patio with large outdoor fireplace that invites conversation and casual dining.

Nora and Shawn now fully enjoy the connected spaces, and the ways the rooms flow to create an overall look of casual elegance.

Additional photos from Bryan Haeffele:


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