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Getting Fresh

In 2005, after ten years in town, Connie Dirvin was ready to hunt for a house in Darien that would readily accommodate her growing family and have just the right features to create a backdrop for her design ideas. The search led her to a well-crafted and classic 1927 Colonial, close to the shore and just down the street from her good friend, Anne Carr.

“Even though we definitely want a modern aesthetic for the way we live, it doesn’t mean we want surroundings that are cold or austere,” Connie says. “When we bought this place, the interior was very traditional—dark-stained cabinets and moldings, lots of wallpaper. But I really liked the architectural details, the rooms had great flow, and we loved the location.”

The Dirvins immediately undertook some modest renovations, updating the interiors to accommodate Connie’s modernist-minimalist decorating plans. She retained the well-articulated architectural details so often found in homes of 1920s provenance and refreshed the walls, baseboards, moldings, built-ins and wood trim with pure white paint that reflects and amplifies the home’s abundant natural light. Except for the sunroom— where new flooring was stained white—all existing wood floors were ebonized to anchor the bright, sunstruck surroundings. The effect is clean and fresh, a dramatic setting for Connie’s stylish mélange of modern and vintage, off-the-shelf and bespoke furnishings.

Connie orchestrates a busy schedule for herself, her husband and three school-age children. As she added her design plans for the house to her already packed calendar, she discovered that the Internet had become a rich source, for ideas and for buying, and a wonderful timesaver for achieving her decorating goals.

To accompany locally acquired furnishings and accessories—Pimlico in New Canaan and Bungalow in Westport provided many standout pieces—Connie completed her
interiors with finds from Atlanta to Italy, facilitated by the Web’s worldwide, 24/7 market potential.

She and friend Anne, on parallel tracks with their renovations, realized nearly simultaneously that browsing and buying online was an efficient strategy for streamlining a project. Thus inspired, the pair developed a business plan to provide design shortcuts for similarly busy homeowners. In the fall of 2006, they launched blinkdecor.com, a guide for the interior design enthusiast, that is already creating international buzz.

Connie’s just-completed interiors, sun-drenched and sparkling with splashes of pure color, provide hints of the fresh ideas that the pair’s Website offers browsers.

“I like modern design, minimalist furnishings and lots of light,” she declares. Just a peek through her front door will confirm that this philosophy has dictated the renovation.

Connie’s embrace of contrasts—pairing white with accents of super-bright hues or with darkest ebony; mixing modernist icons and chain store basics in every corner of the house; and fearless juxtaposition of her newest finds with vintage goods—reveals her finely tuned perspective. She also embraces change.

“I like interchangeable pieces,” Connie says, who will reposition chairs, sofas, rugs and accessories on a whim, to instantly refresh a room. “Decorating is time consuming, but if you choose well, it’s easy to move things around and give your interiors a lift.” One of her hints: all her sofas are white. “You can have something new with no effort; all you do is change the pillows.”

While many of Connie’s furnishings are culled from a well-edited list of sources that browsers can locate on blinkdecor.com, others found their way to her house by serendipity.  The vintage 1970s Lucite and Plexiglas étagère in her dining room was a $100 discovery that she spotted at a Southampton estate sale. “The piece was missing a shelf and a door handle, so it went for a song,” Connie smiles, as she reveals another way that the Internet has helped with the furnishings. “I found the replacement parts online.”

Adaptive reuse was also a feature of the Dirvin renovations. While she wanted an open feel for her kitchen, Connie hesitated to discard the custom cherry cabinetry that lined one wall. “We moved a portion to my older son’s room and painted it white,” Connie explains. It holds his books and belongings, optimizing storage space in a room of relatively small square footage.

The remainder of the dark cherrywood cabinets in the kitchen were a nonstarter in the modernist setting that Connie had envisioned. She decided to rescue the well-crafted cabinetry with a coat of white paint and some sleek new metal pulls, courtesy of Spectra Decor. A few modern accessories, such as a stainless steel ceiling fan, and the white-and-chrome stools that flank the island, complete the low-tech, high-style rehab.

Many of Connie’s decorating solutions are simple yet ingenious. She freely pairs iconic modern furnishings, such as her custom-upholstered Barcelona chairs from Knoll, with decidedly not one-of-a-kind Lucite nesting tables from Crate & Barrel’s modernist offshoot, CB2.

“If you’ve got a focal point, the accessories can be simple and classic, and you don’t have to spend a lot to achieve a great look.”

Connie also experiments with striking color combinations. “Orange and silver work really well together,” she insists, as a silver leaf chest from Pimlico, topped with silver lamps and accented with orange accessories, beautifully proves. Even materials that she uses sparingly are placed with great effect.

“I really love lots of light, so I don’t use curtains very much,” she says. An exception is the master bedroom, where turquoise accessories, including curtains rendered in a turquoise, lime and hot pink Designers Guild fabric, provide a brilliant contrast to the white-on-white space.
As for wallpaper, the Dirvins removed yards and yards before applying the many gallons of white paint that illuminate the details of the home’s interiors.

However, when redoing the pool house, Connie discovered a pattern she could not resist, a design by the artist who created the “wallpaper” on blinkdecor’s Website. “Splash,” a bright modern design in the same hue as fresh-squeezed orange juice—in a custom match for the terry cushions that grace the pool house’s vintage wicker furnishings—has just the right attitude to make the cut for Connie’s thoroughly updated home.

Blinkdecor.com; info@blinkdecor.com
Bungalow, Westport, 227-4406
CB2, Chicago, Illinois, 800-606-6252; cb2.com
Designers Guild; designersguild.com
Pimlico, New Canaan, 972-8166
Spectra Décor, 800-550-1986; spectradecor.com