At this 1960s raised ranch in Scarsdale, designer Malka Helft of White Plains-based Think Chic Interiors helped a young family with three kids transform a house of dark and dated rooms into a light, modern, practical home. Helft has a knack for meeting the needs of families like this one because she has three children of her own. She worked to ensure that everything from the kitchen cabinets to the upholstery on every chair and sofa was completely kid- and dog-proof. She also took a high-low approach to sourcing furnishings, mixing splurges with bargains, while creating high style that’s also low maintenance. The family’s timing was impeccable, as the project was finished just before the pandemic, so they were able to quarantine in their newly redesigned house.
A major renovation helped to bring in more light: Walls were taken down, to both open up the space and double the size of the kitchen. A deck was also added. “Just light on its own makes such a difference,” says Helft. Her clients decided to forgo a formal living room in favor of a family room instead. That family room is anchored by an oversized Bernhardt sectional that’s aimed to seat a crowd. Of course, the fabric had to be extra-durable. Not all performance fabrics live up to their names, so Helft puts them through a test. “I always order the fabrics to take home and let my kids go to town on them. I’ll say, ‘Let’s pour a bunch of stuff on it and see how it does,’” she says, “because we all know that even if you tell the kids not to sit in the family room with food, they will. You tell kids not to drink chocolate milk on the sofa, but they will.”
In this case, the winning fabric was Kravet, and that sectional is paired with an oversized Williams Sonoma Home navy coffee table in durable shagreen, which is so sturdy, the kids can stand on it and put on shows (“Because all kids love to perform in their family rooms,” Helft says with a laugh). The floor is covered in an indoor-outdoor rug scored at HomeGoods. The rug is so easy to care for, they can take it outside and hose it off if needed.
Entertaining and home cooking are at the center of this family’s life, so they needed a sizeable kitchen to accommodate. The neutrality of the white kitchen looks timeless, yet the dark floors and rich, gray island give it interest and a sense of grounding. All the cabinets are custom, by Buchanan-based Silva Cabinetry. With appliances by Wolf, the kitchen features a six-burner range, as well as a full-size refrigerator and freezer. At the center of it all is the island, stained in a dark gray, which has the feel of paint but still allows the grain of the wood to peek through. Helft recommends stain over paint for durability: It’s more forgiving when people accidentally kick the lower cabinets and kids bang their feet into the island while sitting on the stools. The chic stools in the kitchen are finished in a wipe-off faux leather. Across from the range, on the other side of island, a full wall pantry with pullout drawers ensures the kids can reach every item they need.
Thanks to the renovation, the kitchen now opens to a stylish dining room, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray. Helft always advises to try the paint shade on the wall before committing, because it can look very different in different lights. This neutral made the perfect backdrop for the large, wood table from Lexington, surrounded by Design Master chairs covered in a performance velvet. Throughout the house, the ceilings were raised to create the feeling of a more airy space, up to 10 feet in the kitchen and family room. But when the dining-room ceiling was opened, the team discovered some ductwork that couldn’t be moved. They turned this challenge into a design accent, adding molding and creating a tray ceiling. The decorative center of the ceiling frames the beauty of the RH Art Deco-inspired chandelier. Regarding the ceiling, Helft says, “Sometimes you have to go with the flow, and it turns out even better than you planned.”
In the master bedroom, she continued the theme of neutrals, with rich textures, mixed metals, and pops of color. A center fan makes the most of the 10-foot ceilings, set over the Williams Sonoma Home bed with dark-gray velvet headboard and frame. Lillian August artwork brings metal touches into the room, with the silver and gold foil boxes that play off of the brass lamps and nickel-and-acrylic drawer pulls. “When you don’t have windows over the bedside tables, it’s a great opportunity to hang corresponding pieces of art,” Helft says. For color, she picked a bench and cushions in teal, which lives well with the gray. Simple linen Roman shades are “blackout lined” for sleeping.
The family’s eldest daughter, who is 10, gave plenty of creative input into the design of her room. Her preferences led to the selection of the fun fuchsia bed playing off a black-and-white scheme, with geometric rug and art (found at HomeGoods) and tasseled bedding from Pottery Barn. The desk was especially helpful for her to have during the pandemic. This bedroom connects to a navy-and-white Jill- and-Jill bathroom, which she shares with her four-year-old sister. The porcelain back-splash from Porcelanosa has a slight sheen to it, adding a little glam. For the four-year-old daughter, they designed a girly room with antique white furniture, dusty rose walls and a crystal flush-mount light fixture. The seven-year-old son’s bedroom has a navy Pottery Barn Teen bed and dark-stained bookcases and decor, which Helft explains, “creates a room that combines a rustic and industrial look.”
To make the master bathroom appear larger, Helft placed a mirror along the entire wall, with the light fixtures set into it. This treatment creates a tremendous amount of reflection. True to the couple’s wish list, there’s both a large shower with a rainhead and a double vanity.
Throughout the house, the family focused on spaces designed for sharing and comfort. The finished lower level of the house is ready for friends and family to stay overnight, with a guest room and full bath as well as a playroom for the kids. While the family had time to break in the new renovation during the pandemic, they’re ready to entertain again. Whether they’re welcoming friends or having a night at home with just the family, they all gravitate to the open family room and kitchen. Helft says, “Those rooms are the center of their life now. They really spend all their time there.”