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Family Affair

With help from her architect brother-in-law and designing sister, Heather Kreitler completes the interior of her Greenfield Hill home from abroad.

Few people might describe a 15-month home renovation as a painless process. Heather Kreitler went so far as to call it easy. That’s because when it came time for Heather, her husband, John, and their four children to return to the States after living in London for six years, she turned the task of converting the family’s 4,500-square-foot vacation house in Fairfield into a 6,000-square-foot residence over to her brother-in-law, architect Peter Morgan of the New Jersey-based firm Outerbridge Morgan, and his wife (Heather’s sister), Susanne Morgan, an interior designer.

“We always knew we would end up in Fairfield because my husband grew up here,” Heather says. “When we bought the house as a holiday retreat in 2000, we knew it would eventually become a permanent home.” And while the house’s foundation stayed the same, “we pretty much gutted the place,” she says. The plans, which included expanding the house with a second story, were drawn up about a year before the family’s move — which definitely helped ease the pressures of a long construction — but it was good family relations that was the real key to the success of the renovation. “My husband, my sister, my brother-in-law and I really shared a vision for the house,” Heather says. Though the family was able to track progress through online photos (and tile samples sent via air-mail), “We pretty much entrusted Peter and Susanne with everything,” she says.

And she wouldn’t have done it any other way. “It was easier to be away for the renovation. We were oblivious to anything that may have been stalled. When I’d come to visit and see the house it always made me say wow.” The truth is, says Peter, it really did go that smoothly. “We kept the original foundation, but changed the exterior from a cottage style to a classic New England shingle aesthetic,” he says. “There were a few structural issues, but it was definitely one of our most successful projects.”

For the interior, Susanne strayed slightly from the local aesthetic to incorporate some British elements. “We included the details they loved about their London home into the scheme,” he says. “We put glass transoms over the doors, built paneled archways and heavy trim, and incorporated coffered ceilings into the open floor plan.”

But a finished house does not make a home. Though the Kreitlers did move to Fairfield with favorite furniture items carried across the pond, the house was decorated almost entirely in Connecticut. “My sister is a really talented designer,” Heather says. “But I really wanted to be involved in the decorating too.” So most of the designing took place after the move. With a style she labels eclectic — “I like classic with a little bit of edge, traditional that’s modern… I love Swedish style, but I also have a passion for Asian-inspired décor,” — she and her sister set out to favorite area haunts like Circa Antiques and Mandarin Collection in Westport, Country Swedish in Norwalk and Pickets in Fairfield.

“There are a lot of English pieces in the house,” Heather says. “I brought back a lot of the light fixtures from our London home. The living room furniture is covered in British textile maker Bennison’s “Chinese Pheasant” fabric. The rugs in the living and dining rooms are from The Rug Company.” She offset the English pieces with a Lucite table from Bungalow in the living room and an antique Chinese sign over the fireplace. “I like the things in my house to have a history,” she says. “They can be fun and playful but also have to have lasting power so I won’t tire of the look.” And she means it: The furniture in the dining room was purchased for her Westport house over a decade ago, moved to London with the family, then came to this Fairfield house.

But her favorite room in the house is definitely the kitchen. Though she had not envisioned as large a kitchen as her brother-in-law had built, she can’t gush about it enough. “It just fills up with sunlight,” she says. “And it’s really heavenly for cooking. We have a big stainless-steel island, with five chairs where the kids hang out and do homework.”

Morgan is a fan of the island as well. “The stainless island is one piece of six-by-eleven-foot stainless steel that molds right into the sink,” he says. “It is an incredible feature.” Next to the kitchen—which was built where the original garage once stood — is the breakfast area, which replaced the old sunroom. The furniture in it, along with the kitchen stools, was purchased from Country Swedish. The lights above the island are designed by Philippe Starck. The glass brick backsplash was found at Klaff’s in Norwalk and the countertops came from New England Stone in Milford. And it isn’t only the humans of the house that flock to the kitchen. Chelsea the dog spends all her time in there as well.

Facing the kitchen is the family room. And that it really is. With a bright orange rug and a drum table the Kreitlers bought years ago on vacation in New Hampshire, the room’s color palette and mood is taken from the painting above the mantel, which was painted by Lois Smith, Heather and Susanne’s mother. “We’re a design family,” she says. “We all have a real artistic streak.” Morgan couldn’t agree more. “The real key to the success of the house is how Susanne’s great taste worked in collaboration with Heather’s. The interior just really works.”

Does that mean the house is done? “I really love the house,” she says, then admits, “I’m always shopping, always looking…”

Outerbrige Morgan, Rocky Hill, New Jersey, 609-497-3900; outerbridgemorgan.com