Mimi Fong Transforms a Blank Canvas Into a Colorful Family Home
The first floor of the townhouse was one huge room with a kitchen at the far end. The second floor’s master suite suffered from an inefficient layout. The basement was unfinished with an intrusive mechanical room at the bottom of the stairs. The lighting plan, while up to code for Darien new construction, was woefully minimal. In short, it was a perfect blank canvas to showcase the talents of award-winning interior designer Mimi Fong of Luminosus Designs.
The clients were life-long city residents, but with a baby on the way, they decided to take the big step out of Manhattan into a townhouse in the tony suburb of Darien. “We liked that it was new construction and that we could personalize the space,” says the husband. “But when we looked at the builder’s story boards in the model homes, everything looked too traditional and cookie cutter. We wanted something like our downtown apartment—but better!” In their case, this translated to modern, light-filled rooms.
It was clear the existing lighting plan wouldn’t satisfy Fong’s clients. She spent hours revamping it, adding recessed lights and junction boxes for chandeliers throughout the home. She also made use of natural light and designed window treatments in the breakfast and living areas with two layers of shades, each with a different opacity to provide day and night privacy.
“We had a year to plan while the unit was being built,” recalls Fong. “But the clients needed to move in 10 weeks after the closing, so that was our timeframe to complete all the built-ins and custom work—the kitchen, baths, closets, flooring, lighting and painting—as well as furnishing the entire house.”
To define spaces on the first floor, Fong designed a custom screen to create a foyer lit by a striking wood veneer chandelier. She negotiated with the builder to replace the massive stone fireplace dominating a side wall with a sleek ribbon-style one set in a partial wall that created separate dining and living areas. In the kitchen, a custom breakfast nook features an oversized table that can comfortably seat 10 and is a focal point for family gatherings.
The master suite was more challenging, requiring an entire redesign. The original plan called for a hallway separating the bathroom from his and hers closets, wasting space. Also, the steeply sloping rooflines limited placement for bathroom fixtures and furniture. “The developers were very accommodating with our new design, which allowed both vanities to share one wall in the bathroom and the bed to take center stage in the bedroom,” Fong says.
Still, all the disparate angles were an issue, so Fong employed a bit of “smoke and mirrors” wizardry to distract the eye. “In the master bedroom, we created a consistent horizontal line across the room to bring the eye level to the highest plane, unifying all the different slopes,” she explains. “We also upholstered one wall in a fabric that matched the bed, creating a more pronounced headboard effect, which keeps everything to scale.”
And in the basement? Ikea cabinets now neatly—and inexpensively—hide all the pipes and mechanical boxes while creating plenty of storage. A spacious media room and handsomely outfitted home office complete the space.
As the homeowners have gotten to know their neighbors, they are delighted to note that “our layout is very different from all the other houses.” They were also happy to leave the design details to the professionals. “When you haven’t been dealing with it, homeowners can get steamrolled by developers,” the husband says. “Mimi really fought for us so we could have exactly the house we wanted. She was even pretty tough on her own contractors after the closing. She pointed out small things we didn’t even notice and made sure everything was perfect.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 2017 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Perfect 10.