At Home with Brenda Kelly Kramer

Kelly Kramer is a featured designer for Calico Corners, and she’ll be designing a room for the company’s 2012 catalog.

Bringing the past into the present is hardly a new notion in the interior-design world. After all, what designer worth her swatches hasn’t repurposed old lumber into new wood floors, or reupholstered a few antique chairs? But, while salvaging history may be mainstream, few designers, have gone to such painstaking lengths as Brenda Kelly Kramer, who, two years ago, moved an 1890 cottage from Mount Kisco to Chappaqua—three whole miles!—and made it a seamless addition to her home.
Today, the cottage is home to her interior-design office, a stylish wet bar, a sitting room, a guest room with a full bathroom, a powder room, and an extra living room. A new breezeway, which connects the cottage to the original five-bedroom, 4,300-square-foot Colonial, helps it blend in perfectly. Plus, Kelly Kramer rescued a building—and made history—in the process.
“A house has never been moved before in Chappaqua, and I feel excited that I am the first person to save a small piece of our town’s history,” she says. “Had I not come along, this cottage would have been long gone.”
Historians aren’t the only ones who would approve of Kelly Kramer’s addition—environmentalists would smile, too. “This little cottage is one-hundred-percent recycled,” she says. “The sisal carpeting is grass, the beams are recycled, the floors are reclaimed; everything came from auctions, consignments, or eBay. It shows you what you can do without spending a ton of money. And it’s so much more fun.”

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Kelly Kramer’s sunroom resembles an old-fashioned porch. “There is no phone, no TV, no Xbox in here,” she says. She found the rattan furniture at an estate sale.

For Kelly Kramer, of course, decorating is the easy part. In fact, she had the cottage’s Bermuda décor—a nod to her British father and a host of joyful family vacations on the island—planned out in her head from the first moment she saw the cottage. “I bought all the furniture and had it stored until the cottage was done, and then I literally put everything in that day,” she says. “Everything worked beautifully.”
The cottage mirrors the décor in the main house—it’s comfortable, cozy, and whimsical, without being overly precious. “There is nothing worse than a house with rooms decorated in totally different styles—one room Southwestern, another French provincial.”


(Above) The island in the wet bar is made of Karri wood from an old woolen mill in Perth, Australia. “It gave me the look of mahogany without harvesting our precious trees,” says Kelly Kramer. The framed layout sketches were part of an ad campaign her father did in the 1960s; the table legs are newel posts found at a Horace Greeley House tag sale: $10 each.

(Above) The red Smeg fridge in the wet bar is topped with memorabilia from Crown House Antiques and an old temple in the Netherlands.

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The Bermuda theme gives the cottage a beach-house feel, especially in the sitting room, her favorite room in the house. Ten-foot ceilings make the room spacious and airy, and an original brick fireplace provides a magnificent focal point. Though the white bricks look as if they’ve been standing in the same spot forever, the fireplace was actually disassembled during the move. A team took it apart brick by brick, labeling each one, and then rebuilt it in its new setting. Kelly Kramer topped the fireplace with Bermuda limestone (the same as the backsplash that’s in the wet bar) and added huge, reclaimed barn beams along the ceiling.
While the sitting room may be her favorite spot, the wet bar is interesting, too. It’s sort of a small kitchen, the perfect place to grab a drink or snack without having to run back over to the main house. The tranquil room is home to white marble countertops—left over from Kelly Kramer’s 2003 kitchen renovation and salvaged from a library at UC Berkeley. The Bermuda limestone backsplash was left over from the fireplace, and she glazed the sky-blue walls herself.  Even the sink is Bermuda blue. “Mr. Kohler of the Kohler corporation personally supervised the production of my Bermuda-blue glazed sink,” she says. The floor, wide planks of reclaimed lumber, reflects the cottage’s interesting history. “I had a strip of wood put in the floor to mark where it was cut. I think it’s a great conversation piece.”

(Above) The Chippendale breakfast table with chairs from Christie’s in London.


(Above)This mudroom piece is actually from Pottery Barn. “On sale,” laughs Kelly Kramer. “I had a custom cushion made for it with fabric from England and custom pillows from France. My painter painted it in Benjamin Moore’s high-gloss White Dove to give it a custom look.” She designed the compass rose, a scaled-down replica of the one at her Yacht Club in Rye. “It adds a nice nautical touch to the room, and I saved money by not having to buy a rug!”

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(Above) The TWA ads were created by her dad in the 1960s.“He did them by hand,” she says. “They are beautiful and have been featured in House Beautiful magazine.” She found the roosters in a consignment shop.

(Above) Kelly Kramer purchased this crown at the now-closed Crown Antiques Store, in Chappaqua. Dating back to the late-1800s, it was originally a lamp post and then made into a light fixture 80 years ago. It hung above the Crown House entrance until it closed.

The same could be said for the red Smeg refrigerator, a retro piece that’s a departure from the peaceful,  beachy theme. “I wanted this fridge for my kitchen when I was designing it nine years ago, but it was only offered in Italy and the power wasn’t compatible with the US,” Kelly Kramer says. By the time she designed the cottage, the fridge was still on her mind—only now it was compatible. “I like mixing different styles—modern and old. It makes for a much more interesting space,” she says.  
Across the breezeway, in the main house, the English country kitchen is another inviting focal point—one that Kelly Kramer designed herself. She took the Colonial’s original tiny kitchen and bumped out the house to make room for a breakfast room, a family room, a sitting room, and an upstairs bedroom. She traded the original red Formica countertops for the UC Berkeley marble. Christopher Peacock, a kitchen designer out of Greenwich, Connecticut, found scullery cabinets for her, but, when Kelly Kramer got them, she thought the hardware looked too new, so she used sandpaper to scuff it up. “I like the fact that everything is not perfect in my home.”
Everything may not be perfect, but everything certainly goes together perfectly. Her breakfast table, a regal piece from a duke’s house in England that Kelly Kramer found at Christie’s in London, sits near $5 stools that she bought at a tag sale. Somehow, they look like they’ve been together forever. And, of course, somehow the 19th-century coachman’s cottage miraculously looks like it’s always been part of this luxurious 20th-century Colonial. In fact, just last summer, one of the cottage movers, Joe DiNicholas, of Nicholas Bros. Inc., stopped by to see how the cottage addition turned out. “He said it looked like it’s always been here,” says Kelly Kramer. “That was music to my ears.” 

Mary Lynn Mitcham Strom lives with her family in Northern Westchester and has yet to tackle her own home décor.



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