When 17th-century captain John Smith deemed this corner of the colonies a part of New England, he was onto something. The state now known as Connecticut abounds with British charm from village to hillock. But for the clients of designer Lee Ann Thornton, a further whiff of Old Blighty was required for their late 1800s Greenwich Colonial. “They’re traditional people at heart, but they have a fun spirit, so a timeless, fresh approach was truly the right thing for them,” Thornton says.
As you might have guessed from their layered and pattern-rich abode, the clients are Anglophiles, right down to their pet Corgis (Queen Elizabeth II’s favored dog breed). “The owners love visiting England and have a beautiful antiques collection, much of which is English,” shares designer Allie Macaluso, Thornton’s colleague and daughter. “Overall, they have a very British sensibility, which gave us a cue as to the direction we were going to take with all of the color, happiness and chintz. This was a dream brief for us because it’s how we love to decorate, too.” Adds Thornton, “It became evident that these clients wanted their house to feel enveloped. Think, Cozy with a capital C!”
And that it is. The house already shared a bit of DNA with any Cotswolds cottage in that its rooms were intimate in scale—especially the bedrooms on the second floor. There, the designers deployed a range of space-maximizing tricks, from ripping out closets to covering up a window. “Anything to grab a little extra wall space,” Thornton says.
But what the sleeping quarters might lack in square footage, they certainly make up for in sumptuous design. Each epitomizes the beloved Jane Austen quote that “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Textured wallpaper from London’s own Guy Goodfellow wraps the vaulted ceiling in the primary, where a canopy bed is notched charmingly between two built-in shelves stocked to the brim. “The room is literally wrapped in their books and beautiful items. It’s a jewel box,” Macaluso comments. Nearby, a daughter’s room is awash in a cosseting flurry of pattern on pattern replete with ruffle-edged lampshades and a pastel wallpaper flitting with birds. And, for the guest bedroom, everything from the bed skirt to the window treatments is adorned in the same floral print, with a recovered family heirloom settee tucked into a fairy-tale alcove. “We wanted it to feel like a gorgeous hotel room in London,” Thornton says.
Moving downstairs, the public spaces showcase a similar mastery of pattern mixing, albeit with more physical and visual room to breathe. “I’m from Los Angeles, which has this gorgeous aesthetic where things are soft and welcoming, but very clean,” Thornton shares. “That sensibility mixed with the divine charm of English interiors is kind of our sweet spot.”
Key to bringing an element of cleanness to this home is the duo’s use of parallel lines and strict borders, which provide a sturdy juxtaposition. Take the whimsical floral drapes across the family and breakfast rooms, whose vertical edges are trimmed with a red-striped cotton tape. Or the lighting program—a medley of linear fixtures in crisp black finishes. Wall treatments too work to introduce a more contemporary perspective, from the mudroom’s milk-white shiplap panels to the family room’s cool-toned grass-cloth wallcovering to the living room’s gleaming blue paint, which brings the boundless, expansive feel of the Malibu sky into the space’s otherwise British-leaning disposition.
There and throughout, the clients’ storied antique pieces mingle with joyful fabrics and flourishes, resulting in “a layered look with an old soul,” Macaluso says. A prime example: In the breakfast room off the kitchen, the clients’ existing brown-wood Windsor chairs “didn’t feel as warm as we wanted,” Thornton says. The fix: custom dressings. “To channel that very English look, we added seat cushions and slipcovers with tiebacks. Now, they look like they’ve been around a long time, and that was a big impetus for this project. We wanted it to feel like this house had owned these furnishings for many years.”