Perched on a hill overlooking the quaint hamlet of Bedford Village, this gracious 1930s home is a portrait of old-fashioned Yankee charm. One could easily imagine a young Katharine Hepburn gliding down its staircase or taking tea in a sunlit corner. But while the appeal of center-hall Colonials—and screwball comedies, for that matter—is arguably eternal, traditional houses can read a bit stiff, especially for a young family. That’s what the client, a single mother with three children, thought when she first viewed the property: She loved the elegant bones and 10-foot ceilings, but wished it were less buttoned-up. “The design brief was to create a more vibrant family home,” says designer Brittany Bromley. “We really wanted to make it feel lighter and more open.”
Addressing the need for a more connected layout, the project team, which included Bromley, architect Patrick Croke and general contractor Jason Siemers, carved new openings between most of the first-floor rooms. On the second floor, they redistributed the square footage to enlarge the bedrooms, adding storage as well as a new laundry facility. As is often the case with old houses filled with surprises, “This was one of those jobs that started out small in the beginning, but its scope seemed to grow daily,” notes Siemers.
Similarly commonplace for period homes, the bulk of the renovation occurred in the kitchen, where reconfiguring the existing layout allowed for a generous cook space and eat-in breakfast nook. “We wanted to give the kitchen a better relationship to the existing outdoor spaces,” says Croke. With the architect’s luminous new fenestration in place, the lush backyard and bluestone-lined terraces now seemingly flow into the home’s central core.
To refresh the interiors, Bromley punched up the palette and introduced unconventional finishes while simultaneously celebrating period details. Upon entry, grass-cloth wallpaper, hand-painted in an abstract pattern, winds its way up the main staircase. “It sets the stage for the idea that you’re going to encounter traditional tropes, but they’re going to be interpreted in ways that are both modern and relevant to the way these people want to live,” she says. For instance, the foyer’s midcentury chandelier, leopard settee and hot pink Moroccan rug bid a warm welcome, but do so with unexpected sass.
That playfulness extends to the living room, a fizzy parfait of melon and kiwi that toes the line between formal and fun. Not many clients would be game to paint the walls of such a large and prominent space a pale peach lacquer, but Bromley says the feminine hue wasn’t a hard sell. “At that point in the project, we had a real creative currency with her and she trusted our instincts,” says the designer, who daringly paired the color with acid green silk taffeta drapes. “We wanted to honor the beautiful dentil moldings and allow you to feel the grandeur of the ceiling height, but also do something less predictable and a little tongue-in-cheek.”
Sherbet tones continue in the dining room where a vintage French birdcage chandelier presides over the table, resembling an ornate miniature pagoda. Bromley scored the antique pendant early in the design process and it quickly became the muse for the room’s color scheme. It also inspired the hints of exoticism found in the swooping curves of the cornice board and the midcentury Italian hammered-brass tree sculpture. “To me, that’s what’s so interesting about design,” she says. “It’s the layering of those little moments that are influenced by other things that make a space feel collected and curated.”
Upstairs, Bromley took a more subdued approach in designing the main suite, where soft pastels create a restful atmosphere. “In our business, we hear more and more that clients want their bedrooms to feel like a hotel, but they’re not looking for anonymity, they’re looking for simplicity and elegance,” she says. “That’s what we were trying to accomplish—to create a retreat where she could leave behind the craziness of her life.” Chinoiserie and animal print fabrics in serene colorways keep the mood quiet while still feeling of-a-piece with the rest of the home.
But the room where Bromley’s penchant for pattern reaches full crescendo is surely the media lounge. There, the designer imagined the space as an opulent Turkish casbah replete with tortoiseshell wallpaper. Embracing the room’s petite proportions, she wrapped the perimeter in an oversize, custom U-shaped velvet sectional. By going big and bold, she took what seemed like a deficit—a smaller room typical of old houses—and turned it into a jewel box, which neatly sums up Bromley’s vivacious edge: “We love to take design challenges and turn them into triumphs.”
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