The Perfect Family Home

Houses that are designed from floor to ceiling can feel stuffy and unlived in, but that’s not the case with this Rye residence, which is warm and inviting—and with four children younger than 10, it is definitely lived in, yet remains lovely and put together. 

Interior designer Sara Gilbane infused each room with color, texture, and pattern to create a layered, loved look. Everything—from the drapes to the area rugs, from the upholstered chairs and pillows to the artwork, even the wallpaper and paint—works well together, creating a vibe that’s simultaneously luxurious and down to earth.

The living room, which is formal yet comfortable, has a tidy beauty that appeals to adults, without the no-kids-allowed vibe. “We started with the living room [when designing the house],” Gilbane says. “It is an important room because it’s a throughway into the dining room and sunroom. This is the most neutral room downstairs, and we wanted to get it right.” 

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The kitchen is traditional with modern touches. 

Artwork throughout the home—all chosen by the homeowners—varies in style from room to room and includes a border of sculptural flowers around the living-room doorway that leads to the light-filled sunroom, which is also a feast of patterns and textures. 

A built-in banquette, covered in navy fabrics, throw pillows, and neck rolls, wraps around the sunroom. The stone fireplace is the focal point of the space, which is where the family hosts friends and plays games—the room’s blue backgammon table is wonderfully chic. 

The mudroom was designed with ample storage and a cubby for each family member.

Style coexists with function in almost every area of the home—even the mudroom, where geometric Moroccan tiles cover the floor and cubbies give each family member a place for storing coats, boots, and sports equipment. 

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The kitchen is traditional, with a grand island in the center for eating breakfast or snacks. Rattan chairs around the island lend a little coziness to the space, while glass pulls give classic cabinets a bit of glamour. 

What was once the nursery, transformed easily into a big-boy bedroom. The daughter’s bedroom, which is covered in teals and greens, is feminine, but not too girlie. 

And if the downstairs is mostly for the adults, the upstairs is all for the kids. In the middle of the children’s rooms, there is a family “playroom,” although there is not a toy in sight—everything is tucked neatly in closets, large baskets, and camouflaged cabinets (complete with an Xbox and TV that lift and lower via remote control). The “playroom” has enough seating for the entire family plus friends, and strategically placed bookshelves line the back stairwell landing. “The kids used to climb on the ledge around the stairwell, which was very dangerous,” the homeowner says. “Sara came up with the idea to put narrow bookshelves around the ledge [as a safety measure], but they also serve as a place to put the kids’ library of books.” 

The bedroom called the “treehouse” because it’s fun and overlooks the yard. The blue in the bathroom ties in with the rest of the room.

Down the hall, an alcove holds a built-in desk for the kids to do art projects or homework. 

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And each child’s room is as different as the personalities of the children themselves. “The kids’ rooms needed to feel youthful yet still be spaces they could grow into,” Gilbane says. The family’s 10-year-old daughter is not a “girlie girl,” explains her mom, but her teal, apple green, and purple bedroom still feels feminine. “We used a Katie Ridder fabric for her window treatments and dust skirt,” Gilbane says. “We grabbed the teal from that fabric and painted the moldings for a fun pop [of color].”

The sunroom is used for dinner parties and playing games.

The powder room gets its color from the bold artwork and wall coverings.

The boys’ rooms are relaxed and practical yet stylish. The 9-year-old son’s room has a sleeping porch with a swing chair, and it feels like a treehouse overlooking the yard. And what was once the nursery now has a Katie Ridder wallpaper that features whimsical and artful sailboats, which Gilbane calls “magical.” The room is now a space more suitable to a little boy than a baby, thanks to a more sophisticated design and transposable furniture. 

“The [homeowners] knew what look they wanted, they knew what colors and patterns they loved, and they had a timeline,” Gilbane says. “From there, they handed the reins over to [me] and let [me] run with it. I take great pleasure working with young families, and to know how much fun they were going to have in their home made it such a sweet project to work on.” 

The family room upstairs is classic but comfy enough for the kids.

How to Mix and Match Patterns

Designer Sara Gilbane shares tips for choosing colors and patterns—and making them work together. 

Get Started

Start with a favorite piece. You can then set about creating the rest of the design scheme. 

Vary the Scales of Fabric

It is very important to have varying scales of pattern in a room. For example, in the living room I used a large-scale pattern on the drapes, the walls are a neutral grasscloth, and the rug has a smaller-scale woven-diamond pattern.

Mix Patterns 

Mix geometric patterns with florals for a fresh feel. In the sunroom, I mixed the geometric Moroccan floor tile with the floral fabric of the throw pillows, which is timeless and fresh.

Create a Layered and Loved Look

Layer materials for a lived-in look. In all the rooms in this house, you will find a heavy combination of linen, velvet, wool, embroidery, grasscloth, lacquer, wood, brass, glass, and pottery. 

Use Different Textures

Vary the textures of fabrics in the room. I never create a room of just linen; different textures bring a room to life.

Set the Mood With Color

The navy of the woodwork in this bedroom opens up the small space, while the pattern on his roman shades keeps it fun and playful. Another example can be seen in the formal powder room, where exuberant stripes show that this family does not take themselves
too seriously.

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