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Cape Crusader

When Yvonne Claveloux attended a tag sale across the street from her Westport residence, she bought more than just chipped china: she purchased the home.

Ten years ago, Yvonne Claveloux crossed the street from her pristine Westport cape to peruse the offerings of a tag sale being held at the infamously rundown home across the street. But instead of discovering a dusty piece of Haeger Pottery for her beloved collection or a more typical find — a chair in need of a coat of paint and a new cushion — she came home with a signed napkin that would later become a contract to buy the neglected house. “The kids in the neighborhood called it The Haunted House. It was pretty dilapidated,” she remembers. “But to me
it was lovely.”

The family of four, including daughters Alex and Isabella, moved into the 1935 Cape Colonial in 1996, and in 2001 began a full year renovation, which, by construction’s end, gave them a 3,600-square-foot house. “We didn’t want to change the character of the house but we did want to open up the living area to make it airy and bright,” she says. So they kept the original exterior and added the 1,000 square feet of extensions to the kitchen, family room and second story master suite at the back of the house to maintain curb appeal. “No one thinks the house is haunted anymore,” laughs Yvonne, who filled the home with a combination of calming hues and bright accessories, family antiques and catalog buys. “My style is a combination of antiques with modern and cottage elements,” she says. “I like to keep it clean, minimal and uncluttered.”

Citing influence from her Cuban heritage, her love of South Beach — where the family has a second home — and her time spent studying fashion design in Italy (which led her into a career in travel before landing her in interior design), Yvonne is conscious not only of how her environment looks, but how it feels. “My style has evolved from cottage into contemporary,” she notes. This is evidenced most clearly in the seaside hues in her bedroom, as well as the vintage-inspired porch furniture. “The décor is always evolving; nothing here stays the same for long,” she says. “I’m constantly changing the fabric and paint colors.”

And while restlessness underlies her decorating choices, it basically ends there. “My husband and I both grew up in Westport. We were high school sweethearts at Staples,” she says. “I’ve traveled all over the world, but I came home to Westport because it is where my roots are and where my heart is.” Her home is equally a balance of heritage and love, dominated by the many antiques passed down from both her husband Guy’s family as well as her own.

In the family room, a simple sofa and chairs provide a neutral backdrop for bright, chain-store accessories. The large fireplace features stones that were handpicked by Yvonne at the stone yard, the walls are lined with pieces from her Haeger Pottery collection and the room gets a burst of color from the bright poppies that she painted on a canvas herself after scouring the market for years for simple, bold artwork. The star of the contemporary comfortable room, however, is the coffee table, which once belonged to Guy’s grandmother. “It was a console table but the legs were cut down to cocktail-height. We can open one or both sides to expand it for dining,” she says. “A lot of people have tried copying the idea, but I haven’t seen it work as well as this one does.”

Next door, in the family’s formal living room, antiques are updated again. Guy’s grandmother’s sofa is covered in cream linen and made modern thanks to a pair of oversize graphic pillows. A light blue wooden chair came from her parents, as did a bench, both painted and reupholstered. And two side tables from Ikea provide a modern, if not economical, touch. “The room’s color scheme,” she explains, “was inspired by the series of prints of eggs that hang over the sofa.” They came from a flea market.

“We love to use the patio and porch,” Yvonne says, referring to it as their third sitting room. “We spend a lot of time there in the summer.” And so the design recipe follows suit: The furniture is a combination of vintage wicker pieces that Guy had growing up combined with newly acquired items that Yvonne painted to match the original set. “It’s probably my favorite part of the house,” she says.

Upstairs, the honorable lightheartedness continues. In the master bedroom, a flea-market-found bed was updated with a coat of white paint and then paired with two green side tables, an Ikea bench and a painting Yvonne produced specifically for the space to round out the look. “It has a little South Beach Flavor in it,” she says. “The shag rug gives a modern, whimsical element.” But all this is kept airy thanks to the lofty ceilings and large windows that were installed during the renovation. “It is a quiet place to get away,” she reflects.” When I walk in, I feel totally at peace.”

Also on the second floor is the slightly bolder guest room, which is dominated by a carved wooden bed — another family heirloom. A painting of a large red apple, again painted by Yvonne, a polka dot blanket and vintage side tables painted red to match resonate with one another.

“The salespeople laugh whenever I walk into the hardware store,” she says. “It means my husband’s out of town and I’m doing something new to the house before he returns.” Though she can chuckle about it, she’s not apologizing. It’s a passion that works for the family. “I’ve taken a lot of the old pieces we have and made them look and feel contemporary,” she says. “That’s really what I did with the house renovation as well. It’s comfortable and easy. It’s home.”