When Ashley Sharpe first laid eyes on the 1909 Colonial Revival that sits like a beacon on Bronxville’s charming Garden Avenue, she had the distinct suspicion she was staring at the home where she would raise her family. “When I walked through the gate and up the front steps, it felt like I was boarding the Titanic,” she says. “There was something so solid, grand and wondrous about it.”
Sharpe and her husband, Jim, had been craving more space outside the city, so they embarked on “a great experiment” one summer, listing their Manhattan apartment on Airbnb and renting in Bronxville to test-drive village life. “We fell for the charms and the easy commute,” says Sharpe. “We loved it from the get-go.”
Finding the architectural gem—originally designed by William A. Bates, one of the town’s formative architects—felt fated. They made an offer and Sharpe’s wheels began turning, imagining how she might reinvent the home for her young family while honoring its history and the love locals have for its time-honored façade.
“It was a massive project, but I wasn’t daunted,” says the designer, who spent a decade of her career with Kemble Interiors in both New York and Palm Beach, before starting her own firm. “What I hadn’t anticipated was what it would be like to live through the renovation.” For nine months, the couple ate every meal out with their 2-year-old son in tow, sleeping on an air mattress next to his crib and relocating their makeshift bedroom as construction wrapped room by room.
Thankfully, she had trusted support: To adapt the home for the 21st-century living, Sharpe called upon Palm Beach friends and experts, architect Peter Papadopoulos and landscape designer Keith Williams. “It was a passion project for us—a team of great friends who have known and worked together for years,” says Papadopoulos. “Keith reimagined the gardens while Ashley and I redefined certain interior spaces, namely, expanding the kitchen area to modernize it for social gathering.” Adds the architect, “ultimately, we did very little to alter the character of this special house.”
Formerly berry fields, and dotted with prolific hydrangeas, lilacs and azaleas, the lush grounds were a natural muse for Sharpe’s design concept. “The architecture and the landscape really play off one another,” she says. That conversation begins on the front porch—a gracious corridor delineating home from garden—where the designer fashioned a procession of seating areas outfitted in cheerful stripes to mimic the exterior’s white shingles and green shutters.
Garden hues then continue indoors where Lee Jofa’s iconic Hollyhock chintz—splashed across pillows in the entry and again in the living room—drove the palette. “It was timeless, like the house itself, and seemed a fitting pairing,” says Sharpe. Fresh greens feature throughout the residence, from emerald walls in the living room to sage cabinetry in the kitchen. Notes Sharpe, “I believe in creating continuity so there’s a sense of peacefulness and nothing hits you too abruptly.” In another botanical homage, she enlisted Florida-based artist Amelia Rossi to hand-paint cascading flowers across the dining room ceiling and an Indian-inspired floral in the entry.
When it came to fixtures and furnishings, Sharpe followed the same rule she employs with her clients: “I didn’t want to spend money on disposable design. This house had stood the test of time and I wanted pieces that would do the same.” To that end, she chose classic upholstered silhouettes “that could take a new fabric in 10 years and not look dated.” Throughout, touches of unlacquered brass, and material hits like rattan and caning, feel equal parts fresh and perennial.
When the transformation was finally complete and the air mattress deflated, the Sharpes only had a few months to host the kinds of parties they’d envisioned throwing. COVID hit and quarantine began. She spent her second pregnancy working from home, recently welcoming a second son into the world, and into the nest she so lovingly curated. From their front porch swing, the family slowed down and savored their surrounds. “There’s an all-American bustling of activity on this corner—the whistle of the crossing guard, the bicycle bells as children make their way to school, the horn of the Metro North train pulling out of town when the wind blows in just the right direction,” says Sharpe, adding of the beacon she so proudly calls home, “It’s wonderfully comfortable, inviting and timeless.”