Color & Texture in a Darien Colonial

A brand new house is the perfect backdrop for carefully curated layers by Clarity Home.
Darien Home Dining Room Bar Cart

Photography by Neil Landino Jr.

Depending on your point of view, the notion of a blank canvas can either be very daunting or incredibly irresistible. For one couple with three young children, the wall-to-wall expanses of white in a new Darien Colonial proved to be the latter. “There was no one else’s touch on it. It was completely raw,” explains the wife about the appeal of the spec home designed by architect Alex Kaali-Nagy. “My husband and I both love big classic houses, and this one was also in a neighborhood where we always envisioned living.”

Similarly, interior designer Amy Zolin of Clarity Home Interiors saw the untouched walls, wainscots and crown moldings as the perfect backdrop for layering on the saturated hues, subtle patterns and textural variety that would make the house a standout. “I love color and I like taking risks,” says Zolin, who dove in with deep peacock walls enhancing the crisp white paneling and a painted table in similar tones in the entry. An offbeat emerald-cut pattern on the wood floors designed in collaboration with decorative artist Christopher Rollinson (“We steered clear of more traditional diamonds or squares,” Zolin notes) further contributes to the idea that this is a traditional home with a bit of an edge.

Drawing inspiration from an abstract painting by Janet Mait, the designer introduced pops of fuchsia in the living room with accent pillows on the white velvet sofa while continuing the deep blue on a pair of crushed velvet stools that provide seating by the fireplace in the long, narrow space. “My father is from India, so I love bright colors,” shares the wife. Reminiscent of a jewelry display, the glass and brass coffee table is lined with a pink velvet shelf, and a white hair-on-hide chair adds a textural layer.

In answer to the couple’s request to reuse and repurpose as many items from their previous homes as possible, the designer flanked one window with their two matching wood chests and mirrors, and reupholstered a set of vintage wood-framed chairs with a chinoiserie dragon fabric. “It’s an iconic subtle print on linen that is very crisp and fresh,” explains Zolin, who sheathed the walls in a calm taupe-gray grasscloth and then framed the windows with white linen drapes edged with hand-sewn gray beads. “We were going for a light, layered look and the dark chests were tricky, but the wall covering was perfect against those gorgeous pieces.”

Darien Home Pool House

Photography by Neil Landino Jr.

In the dining room, lively emerald drapes set against silver leaf walls with a handpainted bird and butterfly motif is another successful juxtaposition. “The wall pattern ties to their Herend Rothschild china,” explains the designer, who utilized an existing table and chairs, freshening the latter with durable white Perennials fabric. “The exploding chandelier is a modern surprise.”

A Chippendale leather wingback, a commodious tufted blue velvet sofa and lacquered paneled walls in the den establish a warm, inviting ambience. “This room is the same size as the living room, but we wanted it to feel smaller and cozier, and details like the faux wood wallpaper on the ceiling and the handpainted linen shades with a subtle floral pattern help accomplish that,” says the designer, who grounded the space with an Irish linen rug. “It feels like wool, and it’s so soft—it was like wrapping the room in a cashmere sweater.”

Stepping into the landscape where architect Ed Clemente designed the pool house to be a mini-me replica of the main residence and builder Bob Fieber finessed the pergola and brick details, Zolin notes, “The architecture is traditional, but it has a modern, youthful vibe.” The efficient structure includes a full bathroom on one side, dressing room with built-ins on the other, and handy refrigerator drawers in between. The blues and grays established in the main house continue on the wicker furnishings, and an exuberant floral array in the landscape also ties back to the primary residence. About this, the designer explains, “The colors in nature and the hues on the interiors play off each other to create a lovely balance both inside and out.”

The print version of this article appeared with the headline: A Blank Canvas.