Until recently, one couple’s classic shingle-style home in Norwalk, Connecticut, felt lacking, despite everything it had going for it. There was ample space and sunlight, impeccable bones and a sensational setting on a peninsula in the Long Island Sound. What was missing, however, was inviting interiors tailored for their large, blended family. A solution presented itself when the wife fortuitously met designer Grace Rosenstein at a gathering for mothers with young children. Impressed by her know-how, the homeowners turned to Rosenstein to deliver a comfortable, considered scheme optimized for togetherness.
When the designer first visited the house, she admired its clean lines and open floor plan, but it was the waterfront location that made the biggest impression. “I was blown away by the site,” she recalls. Thanks to a renovation several years prior, the home was outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding-glass doors, immersing its interior spaces within the picturesque surrounds. “The winding canals, the blue water, the wildlife—it’s so natural and beautiful. We took those views and ran with them as our jump-off point,” says Rosenstein.
Her first step was to assemble a color palette whose soft, coastal tones echo those found outdoors. On the ground floor, which had previously been appointed in cool shades of white and gray, Rosenstein began by “warming up the walls with milkier shades of white. Subtle differences like that made a big impact,” she notes. Throughout the residence, cream tones are joined by oatmeal, sage and mist, with a little cognac and whisky thrown in for good measure. Natural textures further serve to connect the interiors to the environs: Linen, alpaca and bouclé fabrics strike an organic tone, while touches of woven rush caning, rattan, jute and sisal nod to the reeds and cattails beyond the windows.
Wood furnishings play another leading role in the design. Working from square one (the homeowners made the bold decision to get rid of their entire existing furniture collection), Rosenstein partnered custom pieces with vintage finds whose patina give the house a warm, aged and approachable feel. This is true of the oak spindle stools, which add a beachy flourish to the all-white kitchen, and of the primitive accent tables dressing down the living area. So, too, with Rosenstein’s more sophisticated additions, such as a pair of midcentury modern Guillerme et Chambron armchairs in the great room and the Louis Philippe sideboard in the entry. Meanwhile, in the dining room, wood detailing takes the form of faux bois wallpaper. “That room is separate and quiet, so we wanted more of a cozy library feel—somewhere you can entertain, but also do homework or take a call,” the designer explains.
Rosenstein’s keen understanding of the homeowner’s lifestyle proved equally valuable when organizing the open-concept great room, which now features two separate yet cohesive seating areas. “Without walls, rooms are more expansive but less homey. I wanted the furniture arrangements to create moments of intimacy,” she says. At one end of the space, she designed a casual zone—comprised of a large sofa and two sets of upholstered chairs gathered around a television—while still carefully facilitating flow to the adjacent kitchen and outdoor living spaces. The opposite side of the great room, which encompasses a sun-drenched rotunda, has a dressier, entertaining-ready feel. There, a curved 1950s sofa recovered in a hand-printed fabric depicting birds, butterflies and botanicals anchors the area. “If the sofa had been done in a solid, you wouldn’t have this effect,” she notes. “That pattern took a lot of selling, and it made a huge impact.”
But while the designer’s bolder selections commit to memory, it’s the artfully curated sense of quietude that makes the project such a success. From its tonal layers of mist, sea and sand, to the many linen sheers that dance gracefully in the breeze and frame each window like an oil painting, the finished result is, in her words, “a little pocket of paradise.”