A Coastal Normandy-Style Home Gets a Striking Revival
Really, all I wanted was a mudroom,” says designer Marisa Bistany Perkins of M West Designs. In a quest for that perfect room, she wound up purchasing and renovating a 1920s Normandy-style home in coastal Connecticut. “We lived in a cottage-style home with five dogs and two kids,” says Perkins. “I just needed more space for the dogs!” The house they found wasn’t massive—only one room deep all the way across—but it had plenty of outdoor space and a spot for that much-needed mudroom. “We didn’t need a huge Connecticut house with miscellaneous spaces,” she says. “We like small, and we wanted a house where we could use every inch.”
The plan was to open up the house, but keep it within the same footprint as much as possible—adding only a few feet to the back to bump out the kitchen (which formerly was so small it only fit fridge drawers). She also wanted to take advantage of the outside, so a pool and pool house addition were planned. As renos often go, the project turned into more than anticipated. Perkins—in the midst of time-consuming projects of her own—relied on architect (and often collaborator) Krist Dodaro, of Dodaro Architects. “I have complete trust in him. I knew if he thought it was going to look good architecturally, it would.”
“We’re always looking to see how much we can accomplish with the least amount of disruption to the exterior envelope,” says Dodaro. “We strive to understand the pattern language of the buildings on which we work, so that the new work can exude a certain period-correctness in harmony with the existing architecture. This doesn’t mean slavishly copying every existing detail and shying away from something that is not present with the existing architecture.” Outside, for instance, Dodaro ripped up a massive patio to build a pool and a pool house that feel like they’ve been there forever. “We reiterated the beautifully textural, whitewashed brick, but paired it with a gorgeous, period-correct, lead-coated copper roof, in lieu of a more consistent slate roof found on the main house,” notes Dodaro. “This detail shift, along with an expressive timber framed structure, helps to distinguish the pool house in a compositionally sensitive way from the main structure.”
Inside, Perkins had the chance to inject the interiors with her laidback, funky traditional style. “I don’t have any rules,” she says. “I don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over whether colors work or not. If I like it, it goes in the house.” Her effortless style of decorating is heavy on antiques, textures and color. “I love color and can’t live without it.” The foyer, though, was kept simple to highlight the original stair railing and the view through the house to the water. An antique bench covered in a bold fabric hints at the colors used throughout the house.
In the living room, Phillip Jeffries’ Lightning Strikes paper on the walls and curtain panels of a snakeskin-like textile add subtle playfulness and texture. Preppy, red-painted chests used as side tables sit comfortably with chrome midcentury chairs and Chinoiserie stools in a striped velvet. “Everything flows together, but it’s not in your face matchy-matchy. A room needs many different layers of texture and material to feel good,” says Perkins. In a sitting room off the kitchen, another Phillip Jeffries paper—this one faux fur—gives the wall dimension. Perkins pulled from colors around the house, but in this cozy corner, deepened the hue to create more of jewel box feel. “Color and texture give it so much life, and, to me, that is cozy,” she explains. “I could not live with all white.”
And live in this house they do. “When you have so many animals, there is no precious space,” notes Perkins. “This house is the perfect size for us and the dogs, and there is so much outdoor space for them. Oh, and the kids like it too! Can’t forget about them.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 2018 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Full House.