Inside a Festive Westport Home by Fraizer Peters
When the Westport Historical Society asked Nicole and Dan Donovan to be part of its annual holiday house tour, saying no was not an option. They’d bought the renovated Frazier Peters house in 2008, hoping that Dan’s parents would someday move into the “cottage” (the original Peters section built in 1930). His mother, Mollie, was a longtime volunteer at the historical society. Her research was key in authenticating the Westport home, which allowed her and husband Jack to present the couple with a historical society plaque as a Christmas gift in 2010. “When Mollie passed away in 2011, the town mourned along with us. The Westport Historical Society held a celebration of her life and dedicated a gallery in her memory,” says Nicole Donovan. “So when they asked if we would be on the holiday house tour, we couldn’t say no. We did it for Mollie.”
Throughout the home, nature-inspired trimmings by Cyrus Paktinat of the Flowerfall of Westport were the perfect complement to the stone and shingle house. Known for work he had done for Mollie at the historical society, Paktinat came recommended through friends as well. After discussing general themes and designs, the homeowners gave him free rein. “I love flowers and have them in my house all the time, but I knew that Cyrus needed to create for us. His work is gorgeous,” says Donovan. “He even did some things that we could keep beyond the holidays. The mantel flowers have dried: We still have them on the living room and cottage mantels.”
In the family room, a palette of traditional greens, whites and reds was established by the stockings that Nicole Donovan handmade as each child was born. “There is an intentional nod to kids in my designs at this time of the year to make things enchanting,” notes Paktinat. So he created a Fantasy Forest—a paperwhite forest complete with real moss, tree-trunk pieces and miniature spruce trees—on an antique table in the family room. It was a huge hit with the whole family. “Our kids loved it,” says Donovan. “We put our own little Christmas village in the forest after the tour. It was awesome.”
The blues of Nantucket, where the family summers every year, inspired the living room design, where a seaside landscape (an eighteenth-anniversary gift from Nicole to Dan) by Zhen-Huan Lu hangs over the fireplace. “The mantelpiece I created in the formal living room includes all of the colors from Nantucket’s native shrubs and coastal perennials that I saw on my most recent visit to the island,” explains Paktinat. In the breakfast room, blues and whites are also reflected in a tablescape of Teroforma linens and tableware.
Family friend and designer Yvonne Claveloux helped with the formal dining room design. “She found the concrete urns and antique mercury glass globes and had a great idea about how to use them,” says Donovan. “I thought they looked like big, fun ornaments on the table.”
Being part of the tour turned out to be a family affair from start to finish. “My youngest son and daughter walked around answering questions and telling stories,” says Donovan. “We don’t have ‘off-limits’ rooms; the kids can go in every room. Cyrus told me that he loved our house because ‘you know a family lives here.’ I love that.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 2012 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Honoring the Past.