A Timeless Family Home with Soothing Neutral Colors

Lisa Friedman creates a sophisticated home with modern flair.
linen couches; wooden tables; rustic vases

A 10-foot sofa and oversized Verellen chaises are poised for movie viewing in the media room. The coffee table is custom, and the framed photographs are by Jonathan Smith. Photography by Joshua McHugh

Upon entering the bar of this Belgian-style residence where the doors and windows open to unfettered views of Long Island Sound, it would be easy to just gaze outward. But a 15th-century Thai mask, 1940s French crystal, a Keith Haring montage by Annie Leibovitz, and a limited edition of the book Skull Style, among the collectibles on display, pull the eye back into the beautifully curated space.

“There are lots of cool things, which add to the chicness of the room,” says interior designer Lisa Friedman, who characterizes the items as found objects. “I collect pieces when I am in the Hamptons or Puerto Rico or wherever I go.”

The image of Friedman laden with shopping bags picking for treasures in toney locales could earn her the title of Connecticut’s most exclusive bag lady, but how she assembles those items is part of a larger process that highlights her innate ability to group disparate things and end up with a cohesive whole.

In that same space, for example, where a pair of vintage slingback cowhide chairs are foils for Marc Lagrange’s sensuous nude photo, she claims, “I don’t do anything on purpose or try to match things, I just do it.” That same Nike attitude continues in the media room where, after unpacking bags filled with an array of pottery pieces and placing the vessels randomly on a laser cut oak table, she stepped back and realized, “That was it. They just worked where they were.”

But not everything in the Saugatuck residence was quite so slam-dunk. Tasked with transforming the traditional house into a timeless family home with a modern flair for a young couple with two boys, Friedman chose to step back and then she just “let the home marinate in my mind for a few weeks.”

“I knew I needed to continue with the original beauty of the home, yet fuse it with a current design,” adds the designer, who in concert with architect Marybeth Woods and builder George Desmond, began by making adjustments to the interior architecture.

white sideboard; pool table; white chairs

Verellen chairs face the James DeWulf Ping-Pong table in the game room. The wallcovering is by Phillip Jeffries. Photography by Joshua McHugh

With a goal of introducing more contemporary linear elements, they changed the stairway balusters and newel post, squared the kitchen cabinetry, and replaced the Belgian plaster with various finishes, including the smooth linen that sheaths the family room walls. The trio also transformed the third-floor attic into a heavenly meditation space with leather-tile flooring and a marble spa bath.

When it came to outfitting the rooms, an art collection started when she designed the couple’s previous home emerged as the primary inspiration. An existing piece by artist Vik Muniz depicting lovers Cupid and Psyche led the way. “It summarized the precise aesthetic we envisioned. It’s classic and beautiful and yet energetic at the same time,” Friedman says. “The underlying message established the recurring theme that power and serenity can coexist.”

While it would be easy to argue that artworks like the pottery constructed of pins on canvas over the family room fireplace or the second Vik Muniz in the dining room really are centerpieces, Friedman insists that her layering of textures and use of organic materials level the paying field.

master bedroom gray palette

In the guest room, the gray leather bed is topped with Libeco bedding, and the window sheers are by Romo.Photography by Joshua McHugh

“I never do a focal point,” she says. “I think when you walk into a room you should take everything in.” That balance is in play in the family room where Stefan Orlowski’s aptly titled artwork, The Eye, gazes on linen-covered lounge chairs, pillows with an embossed detail, a coffee table with a forged metal base, and a wood cabinet stained dark slate. “I do layers upon layers of texture instead of color,” she says.

In the dining room, banquettes upholstered in a linen silk weave, and the softness of the silk and wool rug punctuate her point. Even in the billiard room, the custom table has pockets lined with supple gray leather, and throughout the house the palette emphasis is on serenity. “My go-tos are natural organic textiles in neutral colors, used in a sophisticated way,” says Friedman. “It’s why people hire me.”

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Modern Sophisticate.
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