Lee Ann Thornton Keeps it Fresh and Young for a Family of Five

In this Greenwich home, every room is a family room

Living room designed with Michelle S. Smith fabric, J.D. Staron rug and Highland Court fabric on sofa

Interior designer Lee Ann Thornton likes to plan ahead. So much so that when a young couple seeks her expertise for their home, she often begins by envisioning the baby shower, followed by the tenth birthday party, high school graduation, maybe a wedding in the living room. “I think about families being together and being together in every room of the house,” she says. “I think, too, about every joyous celebration that a family could observe over the years. I design with that in mind.”

For a home owned by Lisa and Matthew Lori, who have three young boys, the designer not only planned ahead for every family occasion, but did so with the Mediterranean in mind. “Lisa is drawn to all things southern European so the Mediterranean was our jumping-off point for the design of the interiors,” says Thornton. “The goal was to create a European feel.”

Lee Ann Thornton

Architect Sam Mitchell of Mitchell Studio collaborated on the project, working to restore substance to this older home. “We weren’t trying to set the clock back 100 years, but we hoped to make the house feel fresh and young to suit the new owners,” says Mitchell. A unifying detail is the use of antique oak floorboards from France. “The moment people walk in, they think these floors have always been here, original to the house,” says Lisa Lori.

In every room of this five-bedroom house in Greenwich’s Belle Haven neighborhood, both adults and children are allowed to have fun on their own or together. “This is a very, very close-knit family that does everything together,” stresses Thornton.

“One of the things Lee Ann did so masterfully,” says Lori, “is that she created so much seating in every room. We can all can be together anywhere.”

For the long, narrow living room, Thornton maximized space by positioning furniture to create distinct seating areas, while ensuring that everyone can still easily interact. A Champagne hue on walls treated with Venetian plaster provides a neutral backdrop for boldly patterned furnishings that include a scroll-armed daybed and white wood-framed chairs upholstered in a navy-blue linen and a pattern that matches the draperies. “I like sectional sofas, chairs that swivel, furniture that’s functional with fabrics that are durable, items that any family member of any age can live on and in,” says Thornton.

Sun room with Klismos chairs upholstered in a Lucy Rose fabric adn custom banquette covered in Sterlin & Knight fabric

The sunroom incorporates one of the designer’s trademarks: a bar. “A defined spot for drinks and snacks is always a fun place for people to gather,” she says. Thornton designed a 15-foot banquette covered in a purple fabric, a hue that carries throughout the house. She positioned French bistro-style tables and hung café curtains that wrap the window on the lower portion, ensuring privacy while allowing unfiltered light to stream in above.

Although the family members break most of their daily baguettes in the kitchen, the Loris wanted the ability to accommodate friends and their children in the dining room. “We never want any part of the house to be roped off or not available to the children or to any of the people who come to our parties,” says Lori, who writes about children and parenting, in addition to fundraising for Operation Smile. A dining room that’s formal and informal was created by covering the walls in a tree-bark-patterned, high-gloss paper, “making for something very sophisticated, luscious and glamorous,” she adds. The room’s size and shape called for a round table that could accommodate eight. To add seating, Thornton designed a banquette by the picture window. 

This is a true family home, not just in function but also in spirit. Every Sunday evening, the Loris gather together for a family meeting. “We purposely choose a room without any TVs or toys to distract us,” Lori says. “We talk about the week. The children bring up any gripes they might have. And we finish with each of us saying something nice about someone in the family.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: A Family Affair.