Photos by Regan Wood
Rye-based designer Sara Touijer creates a space that is equal parts functional and chic for a family of three that loves to entertain.
Imagine a home where there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. That goal was achieved in high style at this modern ranch in Rye. The homeowners, a family of three, worked with their friend and Rye-based designer Sara Touijer to transform the 1950s house into a comfortable space for family living and entertaining. Touijer, of Touijer Designs, likes to design for families; she says she keeps functionality and durability in mind, while also creating an aesthetically beautiful design. The home boasts a cool mix of high and low: Ligne Roset lives alongside CB2. The design suits the family’s lifestyle and maintains a smart look via built-ins and storage that make it easy to stay organized.
When the homeowners were moving from an apartment in Riverdale and searching for a house in Westchester with more room for their family, they discovered the ranch, a fixer-upper crying out for renovation. “The house has great bones,” says Touijer. “The idea was to maintain its footprint so taxes wouldn’t increase. The home is unassuming from the front but once you get in, there’s room upon room, and everything flows.” Black-framed windows give the whole house a contemporary feel and contrast with the white board-and-batten siding outside. A regular door with two sidelights was replaced with a large walnut pivot door to create a striking entrance. Walnut wood accents are featured throughout the home, adding to the cohesive feel.
Before moving to the Rye ranch, the homeowners had undergone many home renovations, and thus, knew what they wanted. The wife says Touijer executed her vision perfectly when designing the home: “I think we got it right this time.” They wanted a space that was practical, and ideal for hosting: the wife loves to cook and invite guests. “I really like clean surfaces. I like to think about all the ways we use a space and plan for what we need to have on hand and how and where to store it,” the homeowner says.
An open floor plan — ideal for entertaining — was achieved inside by removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and expanding the opening between the living and dining rooms. To transform a basic living room with standard eight-foot ceilings into a showstopper, the team borrowed space from the attic and built a vaulted ceiling with wood beams. That living room houses a pair of Blu Dot sofas that face each other, primed for entertaining. The couches are paired with a McGee & Co. coffee table on a Shades of Light rug by the gas fireplace, which was previously a wood-burning stove. By the window, a long cushioned seat provides more room for friends and family to sit; drawers underneath conceal storage. A corner anchored with a large RH leather armchair and ottoman — the ultimate reading nook — draws the eye with some graphic, tribal-like art found at an estate sale. The art on either side of the fireplace was sourced from Ballard Designs. “I want things to be accessible,” says Touijer. “It’s about durability. All of the fabrics are manmade materials, cleanable, the kids can jump on the sofa. That’s key.”
In the adjacent dining room, the most important piece is the table. The homeowners had been eyeing a piece from B&B Italia that was $10,000. Creatively, Touijer hired a carpenter to build them a table that looks very similar for half the price, with a steel beam across the base. The wood top is extra wide to accommodate two chairs at either end when they entertain guests. “It is excellent quality with a super-durable finish so the wood won’t stain. We saved some money there and used it elsewhere in the budget,” Touijer explains. The fully-upholstered chairs around the table, from Wayfair, serve as a visual contrast to the light wash oak table. Though the colorful, eye-catching artwork looks like it was selected for this space, it’s actually something the homeowners picked up at the Affordable Art Fair and had adorned their former apartment.
When the family of three isn’t having a meal in the dining room, the kitchen peninsula with stools serves as a more casual place to eat. The kitchen was designed so that everything needed is at arm’s reach. The wife loves cooking and has taken classes at a culinary school, so she had a keen sense of the layout and materials she wanted. Countertops are durable Caesarstone, while the backsplash is Neolith. Bright-white upper cabinets are visually unassuming with no hardware, while the lower cabinets have pulls in a matte black finish. All the cabinets were custom-built by Kieran McCauley of End Grain Woodworks in Wilton, Connecticut. On the appliance wall that features a double-wall oven from Thermador and a built-in microwave, the oak cabinetry warms up the room, balancing the black and white.
In the more private rooms of the house, such as the master bedroom, there’s a similar sense of order and calm. One wall of built-ins stores most of the couple’s clothing. The bed by Ligne Roset was purchased for their former apartment but fits in seamlessly here, flanked by floating bedside tables in walnut, sourced from Etsy. The couple’s 7-year-old daughter weighed in with her dreams for her chic-yet-girly bedroom, painted in a subtle lavender hue (Benjamin Moore’s Heaven). She longed for a canopy bed, and a pop of her favorite color: blue. That blue was picked up in the bedding, which has a tie-dye, Japanese shibori quality to it. Touijer created a piece of custom art for this room.
While many rooms in the house are painted white or a very pale Benjamin Moore Misty Gray, the den and office have a soothing, moodier feel thanks to their dark walls covered in Benjamin Moore’s Arctic Seal. The den is where the daughter plays piano and the family sits to watch TV. The sectional was a piece that made the cut from their previous house and it’s paired with a chevron-patterned cowhide rug. Graphic art on the wall in the den is the designer’s work, a splatter paint. The husband was inspired by Touijer’s art and wound up creating his own splatter paint piece for his office.
Where to splurge and where to save? A few design lessons:
Plan to spend the most on the pieces that you sit on (or at) every day: sofas, kitchen/dining table, and the bed in the master. “Invest in a good sofa, something with good bones that’s made to last,” says Touijer. She shares that cheaper couches may need replacing in just a few years.
Custom doesn’t always mean more expensive. The handmade dining table in the home cost $5,000 less than the upscale, branded one, but it looks almost identical.
Don’t pay a lot for items like a console table that just sits there; it’s a place to stash your keys and display a decorative item or two and shouldn’t get much wear and tear.
Save on art by shopping estate sales, affordable art fairs, and even creating your own.
During the warmer months, the couple hangs out with friends in the sunroom; this indoor-outdoor hybrid room with a fireplace is just the spot to sit with drinks and a cigar, Touijer says. And the sunroom leads out to more gathering places: two fire pit areas, a patio with a large dining table, and a pool with pergola in the backyard. Touijer admits that she loves spending time in the home she has designed. “It’s like my dream house, in a way,” she says, adding that the homeowners, her friends, are the dream hosts. Touijer says of the homeowner, “She’s always entertaining and she makes the best dirty martinis. I lucked out by finding her as a client and a friend.”