Designer Emily Del Bello Refreshed This Darien Home for Her Family
When the designer and her family relocated from NYC, it was time to make designing their own home a top priority.
“We saw a bunch of houses, and, stepping into this one, it just felt like a family home,” remembers designer Emily Del Bello, who, in 2020, was looking to plant roots in Darien after 10 years living in downtown Manhattan. “It needed to be updated, but the bones felt so special to me.” Del Bello’s career was really taking off, so it was hard to spend all day working at her eponymous NYC design firm, then come home and log more hours. “We had to totally bring it up to speed and give the whole house a facelift,” she remembers. “My house was always last on the list, and it felt like the process was dragging on.”
To get things rolling, Del Bello prioritized completing the essentials before move-in. This included her two young sons’ bedrooms and all of the hardscaping— refreshing the walls and installing new floors throughout the house: “Those elements would be dusty and disruptive for our family,” the designer notes, enlisting Evan Dadoulis of Norwalk’s Smart Solution Contractors to keep things moving. The team was also careful to preserve the home’s character, like its arched entryways, exterior stucco walls and exposed-beam ceilings.
“Emily has a unique and fresh approach to design,” Dadoulis says. “I know at some point I’m going to wonder what she’s thinking, but in the end, without fail, it all comes together. She sees it before anyone else does, and as a builder I appreciate someone who has that vision.” The vision for this home was to preserve the garden, Mediterranean-inspired exterior and create a transitional/organic modern feel inside.
The next step was sourcing furniture, and finding the perfect pieces was both a labor of love and a unique challenge for Del Bello. “I had some things custom made, and there’s a lot of vintage. I wanted things that feel different and singular to our family,” she explains. “In the beginning, I wanted my house to be ‘us,’ but I was putting so much pressure on myself to make it something amazing and different.”
In an effort to think out-of-the-box and flex her muscles as an interior designer, Del Bello would sometimes get a piece home and question if she’d wandered too far from her comfort zone. “My husband, John, finally said, ‘No more ordering things unless you’d order them for a client. If you would, and it’s what you love, get that,’” she explains. “I went back to what I loved and trusted, and from there, all of the pieces started coming together.”
This included the designer’s tried-and-true principles, like favoring soft, organic shapes to hard edges. “I always do round corners in my designs. They have a better flow in spaces, and then there’s the added bonus that when your kid is trying to be Spiderman and jumps off the sofa and hits his head, there are no sharp corners.” In fact, Del Bello’s sons (ages three and five) were front-of-mind with many design choices. “It’s all about the fibers,” the designer reveals. “Viscose for example…Yes, it’s gorgeous, but if water spills on the fabric, it’s done. I never want any child to feel like they can’t go in a certain room, or parents to feel nervous when their kids are over.”
So, while furniture erred toward practicality, lighting presented an opportunity to splurge. “I love lights; they’re the jewelry of the room,” she says. “They’re on the ceiling, no one can touch them, you can invest since they won’t be damaged.” For example, the Trueing chain pendants above the dining table reminded Del Bello of Jennifer Fisher earrings. Wallpaper presented another opportunity to go luxe. She selected handpainted Fromental wallpaper in the dining room and a dark-and-moody Relativity Textiles snake print in the powder room. Meanwhile, the children’s bedrooms wear plaid and textured vinyls that Del Bello says can withstand “dirty hands all over.”
The result echoes what the designer strives to deliver for many of her clients with young families—beautiful, unique, balanced interiors that are secretly durable and welcoming for children (and cocktail party guests) to run free. And Del Bello couldn’t be happier: “Not only did I grow as a designer, but I also found out what I truly love.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Family Time.