Designer Christopher Maya Brightens Up a Grand Georgian
When two great design minds come together on a historic property, beautiful things are bound to happen. That's what materialized when architect Mac Patterson and interior designer Christopher Maya collaborated on a 1936 brick Georgian in Fairfield County. The five-bedroom, five-bathroom home, covering 8,000 square feet, had been lovingly cared for over the years by multiple families, but had recently landed with new owners. Downsizing from a larger home in Greenwich, the couple wanted to create a full-time residence to accommodate visits from their children, now grown but living nearby. Renovations would require rehabbing most of the interiors while leaving the rooms in their original shape. “It was more adjustment than complete alteration,” says Patterson. “The house is well built, but the rooms needed slight reconfiguring.”
To that end, Patterson concentrated on certain rooms where the family resides most, such as the kitchen. He streamlined the capacious space—a breakfast nook, butler’s pantry, and cooking area with a multitude of drawers and cabinets—and topped it all off with a quilted backsplash and elegant hood. The master bedroom, which had been two rooms, was opened up into one long space, bookended by a fireplace and a terrace. A tray ceiling replaced the formerly very low one, and Patterson installed bookcases to house the couple’s many volumes.
The library, however, posed a bit of a challenge. “Knotty pine was so popular in the thirties,” says Maya. “We didn’t want to tear it out, so we lightened it up and repaired certain spots.” The designer has worked on other grand Georgian homes and was impressed by the properly scaled proportions in this residence. “There’s so much integrity to these rooms,” he says. His traditional sensibility appealed to his clients as well, as did the nontraditional elements he introduced. “It’s all a learning process,” he says, “and a listening one. You’ve got to know your clients perspective, and see what the house brings to the table too.”
Maya and Patterson’s clients had seen the house with a broker years before—even put a bid on it—but to their dismay, it was removed from the market. Through the keen eye of their broker, they were able to restart the process when the house again became available.
As the interior designer, Maya’s goal was comfort and calm. He dispensed of the furniture from their prior residence—save for select family heirlooms—and started from scratch, building family-friendly pieces in the way of chairs with large-check prints in the bedroom and a variety of seating areas in the living, family and sunrooms. “This is a house with an abundance of fireplaces, and where dogs are allowed on the furniture,” says Maya. The homeowners—self-described as “neutrally elegant”—err on the conservative with color and pattern. Maya respected their stance, employing warm yet lively fabrics for the furniture and stains for the wood, and choosing colors from nature, such as blues and greens in the bedrooms that create a peaceful ambiance.
The pièce de resistance when it came to the whole project, however, was working with the homeowner’s extensive art collection, comprised mainly of 19th-century French paintings and sculpture. “They had very specific thoughts about how they wanted the work lit and placed,” says Patterson. Maya found it exciting to be in the midst of two people so passionate about collecting, as well as stunning works of art—from delicate medallions to a Carpeaux bust. “It shows their sophistication and a lovely level of taste,” he says. Patterson concurs: “They have beautiful pieces. It’s wonderful to see it all in such a beautiful house.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Right at Home.