A Mother-Daughter Design Duo
This Shingle-style Colonial keeps it all in the family.
Interior designer Suzanne McGrath is also a collector and storyteller who honed her skills while working as a producer for the “Martha Stewart Living” TV show. Today, Suzanne and her daughter Lauren, who cofounded McGrath II in 2010, apply those skills to every project they take on. “We create a narrative for our clients,” explains Lauren. “They hire us to create stories in their homes.”
When it came time to design her new home in Stamford, Suzanne asked Lauren to spearhead the project. “The most difficult thing for a designer is doing her own home,” notes Suzanne. “You have so many options it can be overwhelming.” In this case, the story virtually wrote itself. The 2007 Shingle-style Colonial, originally designed by architect Neil Hauck, is set on a lovely piece of land with a view of Long Island Sound.
The home was empty when Suzanne bought it, so the design duo started with a blank slate. “We wanted to play up the setting and create a relaxed, beachy vibe,” says Lauren. “We generally like to use a lot of color, but we didn’t want to distract from the outdoors. So here, we used a soft palette that feels natural and intentional.”
Lauren set the stage in the entry foyer with a faux-wood-finish wallcovering that is warm and inviting, then added a vintage green bench for a pop of color. To the left, the once-formal dining room is now a cozy library with custom millwork and burlap-wrapped walls. A tuxedo-style sofa wears a velvety chenille and is the family’s go-to spot for lounging. “It’s everyone’s favorite piece of furniture,” notes Suzanne. “Two people and a dog can lie on it.”
Opposite the library, a soft pink hue on the living room walls makes the room feel very organic and light, according to Lauren. The designers layered in their favorite patterned textiles, combined custom upholstered pieces with antique and flea-market finds, and added interest with exquisite detailing.
Toward the back of the house, pale gray kitchen walls are paired with a blue ceramic-tile backsplash. Blue carries over into the dining area with a display of 19th-century English blue-and-white ironstone. Glass doors leading to the patio are framed with cotton silk drapes in a poppy print, while a Queen Anne-style chandelier hangs above an antique oak tavern table. “I love including metal elements in rooms, especially when there is a lot of wood,” says Suzanne. And the family room is all about comfort. “We wanted as many seating options as possible,” says Lauren. “Everyone can put their feet up, and there is nothing too precious.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom is Suzanne’s sanctuary. “She lives in a home of all boys, and a dog named Sunny,” says Lauren. “When they’re home and the TV is on, she will say, ‘I’m going to my apartment now.’” A pair of custom club chairs and curved ottoman upholstered in Colfax and Fowler’s Old Blue define the water-view seating area; an 18th-century pine writing desk came from an antiques dealer in the Cotswolds.
To enhance the room’s cocoon-like feel, she hired a decorative painter for the walls, which sport a subtle cross-hatch pattern. “I sent her pieces of the chair and headboard fabric,” she explains. “It doesn’t match exactly; it’s a real push-pull. With the light, the color changes every day. The blues are slightly off—and that’s the magic.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Dynamic Duo.