Design icon Albert Hadley believed decorating was “about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.” To which his protege–and design superstar in his own right–David Kleinberg would add, “In our world there are people who design rooms for Instagram. I design rooms for living.” That philosophy, along with Kleinberg’s signature ability to put a fresh face on traditional design, held instant appeal for a couple preparing to leave the Westport residence where they raised their three daughters in favor of a home with a more relaxed plan. “We wanted something that would work for just the two of us but that would also be a draw for our kids and grandkids,” says the husband.
The couple saw Kleinberg and his associate, Lance Scott, as the perfect pairing with local architects John Gassett and Jerry Hupy (who, ironically, the couple first discovered when vacationing down south). “We knew we wanted a team that included an interior designer who would select furnishings with the architecture in mind,” explains the wife, “as well as surround us with artwork and other pieces we’ve accumulated over decades.”
It was also important to the homeowners that the architecture remained consistent with the local vernacular, and Gassett and Hupy determined that a gambrel home best fulfilled this request. “You find gambrels throughout the Connecticut shore, and unlike the inherent grandeur of a Georgian, this style has a casual elegance that was perfect for them,” says Gassett. With its western red cedar shingles and painted iron-gray trim, the residence, which was constructed by general contractor Brian Macdonald and his team, is sited to have a welcoming street presence.
The friendly feeling flows inside. “One of the things that informed the interiors was their collection of art, items and ephemera,” says Hupy of the homeowners. He and Gassett articulated niches and shelving to highlight the clients’ photography and collections, and then Kleinberg and Scott introduced custom-scale furnishings as complements. On one side of the living room, for example, a woven cotton sofa and an Andrew Moore photo share a niche, while on the opposite end in another alcove, a Tina Barney image and a Christophe CÃ´me console are just steps from a table with turned legs. Such genre blending strikes at the core of Kleinberg’s “traditional now” philosophy, which emphasizes a classic approach while reflecting the current time.
“In the 1980s I might have used chintz, but now I use a textural pattern instead,” says Kleinberg, pointing to the raised diamond pattern on the room’s armchairs and the nubby texture on the rug. Mixed metals–nickel-and-brass floor lamps in the living room, and stainless steel on the kitchen stove hood–add another layer of interest, and in the master bedroom, woven-silk walls enveloping a parchment-covered bed and a suede ottoman further illustrate his point. “You don’t have to have seven colors in a room to keep it from feeling bland,” he points out. “Texture is color.”
There was discussion at the start of the project over whether to have a separate formal dining room. That debate ended with a single, contemporary-leaning open space and two tables that expand to seat 24 as needed. Thanks to a thoughtful molding package, the generously scaled room retains a sense of intimacy. “Trimwork dramatically changes the proportion of a room,” says Hupy. “This room is sized to accommodate more than 20 people, but the detailing makes it also feel perfect for two people reading books.” Further upping the ante is the family room, where caned-back sofas, a vintage Italian light fixture and a stained concrete table harmoniously coexist. As Scott explains, “Whenever possible we took the traditional layout up a notch by including artisans who are working in the now.”
In keeping with the architecture, landscape architect Wesley Stout and project designer Elisa Miret-Pollino opted for a traditional landscaping approach in the front of the house that included a retaining wall fashioned from granite, and an expanse of lawn softened with ornamental grasses. “Conceptually we tend to keep the front of a house green and simple, and place color in the back where you can sit and enjoy it,” says Stout. The end result is a home that welcomes clean-lined modern interjections while still respecting the surroundings. “The older we get, the younger we want to appear, and I think that holds true for how we live as well,” says Kleinberg. “And just like us, our rooms should age gracefully.”