Heart of Glass
A Weston home sings with quirky modern style, a collector’s spirit, and brilliant living color
photographs john bessler | flowers banchet flowers | produced by yvonne claveloux
Don’t judge a book—or a house—by its cover. This Weston home’s exterior might look like the very picture of traditionalism with its Old English style, circular drive, and Nantucket vibe, but one step inside the foyer and you get a very different feeling. A collection of glass vessels, spanning every color of the rainbow, sit nestled in inlaid nooks along the walls, while an eye-popping blue chandelier swirls above your head. In fact, there are jolts of color everywhere, from the cerulean blue bust in the living room to the lime green walls of the office. “When we bought the house three years ago,” says homeowner Jeffrey Selden, “it was a typically beautiful suburban space—all beige marble and dark wood paneling and stone fireplaces. But it wasn’t really our style. We’re into color.”
The new homeowners thought they would make a “few tweaks” and ended up changing every single room in the house. “When we started getting into the redo, it was so much fun that we just kept going and going,” says Jeffrey. He and his wife, Debra, were not renovation newbies, after all—they had also given a modern overhaul to their 1920s apartment in New York City, where they met. Jeffrey is the event planner at the Palace Hotel, and Debra works in magazine public relations for Time, Inc. They married on Valentine’s Day in 2004 and got right to work expanding their brood with their “honeymoon baby,” Jake, and his little brother, Zachary, two years later. But as the boys got a bit older, they realized that they wanted a quieter home for their kids. “We both grew up in Connecticut, and we wanted our kids to have the same: a childhood with a backyard,” says Jeffrey.
But even though they moved out of the city, they took a bit of the city lights with them. Jeffrey had been collecting glass art for years—vases, bowls, and other pieces ranging from vintage to modern, local to Venetian, inexpensive to quite pricey. Their collection had grown to around 200 pieces, and they knew their new home would be the perfect showcase for it. The high-ceilinged foyer was grand enough for a “wow factor”: a custom-made chandelier from a prominent glass artist, its tentacles looking reminiscent of a deep-sea creature. They added light boxes underneath each of the wall cutouts to illuminate their multicolored vases. “If I’ve learned one thing in event planning,” says Jeffrey, “it’s the importance of lighting.” (If you’re wondering how a four- and six-year-old handle all this delicate glassware in the house, Debra says, “Mercifully, the kids haven’t broken a piece yet. They’ve grown up surrounded by art and it’s given them innate respect for it.”)
Together with their interior designer, Guillaume Gentet, they remade the staid rooms into a modern mix—a little Hollywood Regency, a little space-age minimalism, a little mid-century. Most notably, they went wild with color. “Our apartment in the city had been red, black, and white,” says Debra, “and that’s probably what we would have done here again had it not been for our designer. He opened us up to a lot more.” For instance, Jeffrey never would have thought of pink for his living room, but there it is. The room is Art Deco glam: the curvy pink velvet couches, the sexy zebra rug by Diane Von Furstenberg, and shiny black lacquer work in harmony with the couple’s extensive collection of black-and-white photography on the walls. In the corner sits a huge limited edition Helmut Newton book atop a custom Phillipe Starck- designed stand. But the focal point in the room has to be Jeffrey’s tribute to Yves Klein—a ceramic statue the homeowner craftily painted in the signature blue of the artist. “It’s my homage to the artist,” he says with a laugh.
Although his attempt at glassblowing didn’t yield spectacular results, Jeffrey’s artistic handiwork is evident in other rooms of the house. The couple’s master suite has a vibrant painting above the bed, striped in oranges, purples, and greens. “We were looking for art that had these colors for our bedroom,” remembers Debra, “and Jeffrey said, ‘I’ll just make something,’...and it’s perfect.” The striking four-poster bed is made from a lathed pole cut into four quarters, silver-leafed on the inside and painted a dark purple on the outside. To counteract the funk factor of the bedroom, their bathroom is a study in spa-like simplicity—a deep white soaking tub and basic blue mosaic tile walls.
The home office is the most visually arresting room in the house—a smart decorating technique for a room usually inundated by electrical cords and ugly filing cabinets. The walls and cabinets are painted in a bold key lime hue. Gentet, the designer, employed a French glass painting technique called “eglomise” for the mod graphic pattern running along the top of the walls, giving the room a 1970s Palm Beach aesthetic (the kitschy Jonathan Adler vases on the shelf contribute to that effect). Despite the extraordinary color, the room overall is low-key since they kept the furnishings and accessories to a simple palette of black and white.
Debra’s mother exclaimed, “Oy!” when she first saw the green walls, but really, Debra gets the funky decorating gene from her parents. Growing up in Westport, her home was tres modern, filled with Lucite, mirrors, and wild patterns. The curvy white console table from the sixties in the hallway? That’s from her parents, as is the delicious dining table with Lucite legs.
Debra’s parents aren’t the only source of killer hand-me-downs. The family room has a beautiful set of mid-century Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs from Jeffrey’s side. “My grandparents bought them in Norway 50 years ago,” says Jeffrey. The Seldens reupholstered them in a rich eggplant to complement the grassy green and bright chartreuse accents in the rugs and throw pillows.
In contrast to the kaleidoscopic house, the kitchen is basically monochromatic in two shades of gray. “It’s the center of house so we didn’t want it to be about a fad,” says Jeffrey. “It just has to be simple and comfortable.” And that’s exactly what the adjoining eat-in area is all about; the Eero Saarinen tulip table surrounded by cushy leather chairs look easy to lounge upon. Breaking up the white are a few fun touches of color, like the Jeff Koons-inspired balloon dogs sitting on a shelf.
When you walk through the Selden’s house, each room seems to have a different personality, ranging from luxe to playful, from graphic to understated. But it’s just that eclectic spirit that makes this house enjoyable. It teems with the little details that make a space special. “If we had to label our houses’ personality,” says Debra, “it would be fun.”