This home was lovingly maintained by all of its previous owners, so it was in fine shape when its current occupants purchased it in January of 2015. Originally from the Bay Area, the couple said the 1912 house reminded them of a California Craftsman. Their son was an infant when the family moved from New York City to Larchmont, and the prospect of renovating was a bit paralyzing for the couple, so they enlisted interior designer Sara Touijer of Touijer Designs. The house still had much of its original character and needed only minimal cosmetic changes, so it was easy for the designer to transform the house into a space that perfectly blends the husband’s and wife’s styles — one more traditional and the other ultra-modern. The project took only seven months from initial floor plans and measurements to finalizing the last accessory. The remodel started with the solarium, which needed the most work because of uneven floors, and included the dining room, entry, and living room. Touijer used the couple’s NYC apartment furniture, but she needed much more to fill the space. She purchased 90 percent of it online. The main desire of the owners was that their home be family friendly, incorporate their mid-century aesthetic, and have a classic, timeless look they could love for years to come.
“The biggest challenge was to use furniture and fabrics that can withstand daily juice spills and cracker crumbs,” says Touijer. “In the living room, we chose an off-white fabric for the two sofas. Most people with children and pets (the family also has a St. Bernard) shy away from lighter-colored fabrics on upholstered pieces, but the fabric content makes all the difference. I tend to use man-made fabrics, such as polyester, for homes with children and pets, because it is virtually indestructible.”
The other challenge was to merge the home’s old character with the new furnishings. The house’s striking original details include coffered ceilings and detailed trim. “The dining room is such a spectacular [space], with amazing architectural details,” says Touijer. “The trim work on the walls and coffered ceilings creates a repeating, geometric pattern that makes it so stunning. Initially there was a single chandelier that lit the space adequately but didn’t fit the scale and impressiveness of the room. We selected dining pendants with a boxy shape from Williams-Sonoma, to repeat the architectural look. The wallpaper was removed, and the walls were lightened with a neutral paint color above the trim work.” The designer bought dining chairs from eBay and reupholstered them in a plum velvet fabric from Kravet, which lends rich color to the room.
The town of Larchmont, with its lovely beaches and seaside views, inspired the colors. “We wanted a soothing color palette that’s livable and relaxed,” says Touijer, who used Benjamin Moore paint throughout the home. In the entry, she chose abalone. She went with Lacey Pearl for the living room, November Rain for the dining room, and Linen White for the sunroom. The home is also filled with personal touches, so it doesn’t feel like you are in a showroom but rather a layered, lived-in space. And the layering of the couple’s personal history throughout the house was the couple’s favorite part of the design process. For example, framed spy cartoons in the dining room are from the husband’s father’s childhood in England. The wife’s grandmother’s sideboard is a useful piece. The one thing that the owners wish they had done differently has nothing to do with the design itself (they love that) but rather the process.
“If I could do it again, I would have documented the stages more clearly,” says the wife. “It felt like such a blur: moving in, construction on the floor, a year of breaking down a zillion boxes for recycling. Though now we celebrate this beautiful space, I’d like also to cheer where we came from.”
Sara’s Stylish Tips
Sara Touijer of Touijer Designs gives advice for creating a layered, luxe look Unusual pairings make great combinations.
I love the juxtaposition of different styles. Visual variety is a great way to make an impact in a room.
Incorporate sentimental items.
It’s always a nice touch to bring personal items into a design. You want your house to feel like a home, not a store.
Fabric is key.
Even young families can get away with light-colored upholstered pieces, as long as they choose the right fabric. Sara suggests polyester or other man-made textiles.
Consider the style of the house when making furnishing decisions.
The style of the house and the furniture should complement each other, but they don’t necessarily have to match.
Source smaller items online and larger items in person.
I love Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Ethan Allen, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Kravet. These are places where you can see the furniture and fabric in person, which is important for large furniture purchases. I source smaller items, such as accessories and lighting, online.
Have an open line of communication.
Be forthright with your designer and give feedback, whether positive or negative. A designer basically has to get inside the client’s mind to have an idea of their style and aesthetic. Houzz and Pinterest are great sites that I suggest clients use.
Use painter’s tape.
Before making any purchases, take accurate measurements and verify dimensions. Custom pieces are not returnable, and they are often expensive. Painter’s tape is a great tool: Tape out furniture dimensions on the floor. When you see the footprint, you’ll know right away if a piece works or not.