Step Inside a Modern Greenwich Townhouse
After years in Manhattan, a native of Greenwich returned to her childhood town to begin a new, but familiar, way of life.
When Carin Ohnell decided to buy a new home, she went home again to find it. During Covid, while Ohnell was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, she returned to Greenwich, where she had grown up and where family members lived. “I love the walkability of the town and the fact that this new townhouse I now own had real outdoor space, a real backyard,” she says. “That was important during Covid, and it’s important now.”
Ohnell came to the five-bedroom townhouse with few of her apartment furnishings—apart from a sinuous blue Vladimir Kagan sofa, now the centerpiece of her living room. “This house is very modern, with no crown moldings or casings around the windows,” she points out. “My goal for the interiors was that they remain modern, yet not be stark. I wanted rooms to be warm.”
Douglas Graneto, principal of his namesake Greenwich-based interior design firm, immediately acknowledged the character of the townhouse. “It’s a thoroughly Modern space, with big open areas and big windows that bring in natural light.” He understood the need to fashion rooms that not only reflected the architecture, but also the client, who he characterizes as possessing “great spontaneity, a great eye, and whose artwork reflects her creativity.” And as Ohnell adds, “A decorator’s role is to help you grow—help expand your comfort level. Douglas opened my mind to different things.”
As the townhouse’s first owner, Ohnell was intent on defining the rooms as hers. “I knew the moment I commissioned Douglas that he would help me create a home in which every room felt like home. Every homeowner has to be able to say that this is the space in which I’m going to live.”
Graneto cites the Kagan sofa as “the aesthetic jumping-off point,” not only for the design of the living room, but elsewhere in the house. Varieties of blues work their way throughout the three-story residence. “When you have large open spaces like this, you need to establish continuity, so we carried certain colors room to room.”
One of Graneto’s design credos is to find unique makers of accessories and furniture. “With this project, and with all my projects,” he emphasizes, “what makes me most proud is the mix of resources. What keeps a room interesting is to find one-of-a-kind pieces that have stories behind them.” He chose stools, for instance, made by Lumber Club Marfa, a nonprofit Texas enterprise where young girls learn the craft and art of making wood furniture. Elsewhere, Graneto chose handblown lighting fixtures to hang over the kitchen island that were made by a small company in the Czech Republic. The dining chairs and sideboard were fashioned by Wüd, a husband–wife design team, while the room’s LED chandelier is by the Brooklyn-based Roll & Hill. Of that lighting source and others he selected, Graneto notes, “Lighting fixtures make or break a space. LED has changed the way we light rooms, with the very shape of lights dramatically altered. It’s fun to play with new designs.”
Not surprisingly, both Graneto and Ohnell chose to keep the background monochromatic, with Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White the preferred hue. The homeowner’s collection of minimalist artworks—Rauschenberg lithographs, works by Jim Dine, Sol LeWitt, Ellsworth Kelly—emerge in full-relief on the walls. “I don’t believe art should match furnishings,” the homeowner emphasizes. “Artworks should stand on their own, and the less complicated the walls, the better the art works.”
Most of the shopping for furnishings took place during Covid, which meant that Graneto and his team presented their finds to Ohnell in meetings at her still-unfinished home. As Alicia Breen, Graneto’s staff designer and project manager, recalls, “We met with Carin in masks on opposite sides of a room on plywood subfloors.”
“It’s hard these days to do that big ‘reveal’,” Graneto says, “but at one point, Carin left for a few days, and so we were able to finish up everything. We could tell right away how pleased she was with the results. She still says that every time she goes in her bedroom it feels like walking into a five-star hotel suite.”
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Right at Home.