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Family Function

Alicia Orrick and her team give this painterly New Canaan home some extra space—and the family some room to breathe.

It happens all the time: A young couple moves into a home they love, and before they know it, their family has grown and the place is bursting at the seams. Such was the case for a couple with two young boys, who moved into a beautifully detailed historic home, built in 1927 by Frances Glidden, the son of the founder of Glidden paint, about ten years ago. Since then, they’ve expanded their brood by two, and now have four children ranging in ages from seven to fourteen.

The homeowners needed more space, but wanted to give the house an update that complemented the quirky details they loved about the older home, while making it functional for modern-day family life. They chose interior designer Alicia Orrick, teamed up with kitchen specialist Lindy Weaver and architect Rebecca O’Donnell, for the job. To create the perfect blend, they tore down an unattractive addition from the 1950s, and added a new wing, which includes a family room, eat-in kitchen, mudroom and powder room. The new family room features high ceilings and a loft, the space for which was happened upon during construction. Now it’s the two youngest girls’ favorite place to hang out. “It was a real gem to find,” says their mother. Much of the stone for the fireplace was culled from meandering stone walls on the property, bringing a touch of history to the space, and a clever TV cabinet, designed by Weaver, houses a large flat screen, which pops up out of the cabinet with the click of a button on the remote, and disappears back inside when the homeowners want it out of sight.

“Their household is very busy,” says Orrick of the family. “They really wanted to create a sense of calm.” A neutral color palette enhances that tranquil feeling, but also serves as a backdrop for the pieces the family members have brought back from their extensive travels, in particular to Africa. The homeowners were very keen on using a mix of materials in the space, as evidenced by the barn beams, the industrial ladder and the Kumbuk wood coffee table. That mix extends into the kitchen as well. A big wooden barn door “is in keeping with the house,” says the wife, and also can be closed for a little peace and quiet when the kids are in the next room watching loud TV shows. Where the original kitchen was cramped and dark, the new space is open and light-filled. “I wanted bright, comfortable,” says the wife, who also loves looking out from the kitchen at the expanse of apple orchard outside. Light fixtures and Lucite chairs from Plexicraft were chosen so as not to detract from the view, and also add to the material mix.

The functionality of the kitchen is much improved as well. “There’s a place for everything in this kitchen,” says Orrick, with a coffee station for the husband, a remote motor for the hood, which cuts down significantly on noise, and Weaver’s custom cabinets keeping things organized both there and in the mudroom. The large cabinet in the dining area houses formal dinnerware, as well as the children’s arts and craft supplies for when the table becomes a project space. Immediately inside the back door, which the family uses most of the time, there is a “charging station,” with space for each parent to sort mail and plug in phones or iPods. In the mudroom, each child has his or her own cubby, and hooks abound for jackets and outwear.

The upstairs has seen a transformation as well. Orrick gave the master bedroom a design with “contemporary utility” by raising the ceiling to create more space, and using old barn beams above the original fireplace to make the new elevation work. In the boys’ rooms, the décor highlights their interests. The geode lamp beside the younger boy’s bed and the circa-1890 bird educational charts above speak to his interest in nature. As for his brother, who chose his own bedding, pillow and rug, “he wanted his room to be all about travel,” says Orrick. The tension between old and new makes this house special, but getting the balance between the two just right is key. Though its interiors have been brought into the 21st century, “from the outside it still looks like a farmhouse,” says Orrick. “In a way, the old space now highlights the new, and the new highlights the old.”

Alicia Orrick, Orrick & Company, Greenwich, 203-532-1188
Lindy Weaver, Lindy Weaver Design Associates, d/b/a details, Cos Cob, 203-869-6764
Rebecca O’Donnell, Braidenview Architects, Kingston, MA, 781-264-4929