50 Ways to Live Better athome

In celebration of athome’s fifth anniversary, we tapped the local talent (and talented are they ever!) to bring you the hottest tips, trends, and time-tested advice that will elevate your home to master class. Take notes, and if future house guests ask why your place looks so fabulous all of a sudden, just coyly smile and say, “I had a little work done.”

Surface Star

Want to keep your Carrarra counters looking brand-new? Mira 511 Porous Plus does the trick, says Carlos Drake of Ann Sacks. “Regular cleaners can really etch into stone and harm it,” says Drake. “I use the Mira cleaner in my own house because it smells like cotton candy and it’s easy to use. I’ll apply the sealant once a year by mopping it on and wiping up the excess so there’s no residue.” Shine on!
Ann Sacks Tile and Stone, Greenwich, 203-622-1689

Glass Act

With the past year’s weather drama, the windows of the Gold Coast’s pristine homes have gotten smacked with dirt. Solution: Dial Jeffrey Cabral, owner of Fairfield County Window Washing. His crew will swiftly take on your most daunting job—they recently restored the clarity of a 160-window Greenwich manse and were out by 4 pm. The two best times of year to get your windows cleaned are late April and early November. Book now for fall—his schedule fills up faster than Whole Foods at Thanksgiving. fairfieldcountywindowwashing.com

The Class Menagerie

The new way to infuse more personality into your home: curate a conversation-starting collection. “Visitors and friends love the experience of being exposed to a well-edited assemblage of objets d’art and welcome the unexpected,” says interior designer Susie Earls, who helped her client create an edgy yet elegant display of dog collars in her Darien home. “Don’t be afraid to showcase your collection in a bold and dramatic way, whether it’s a grouping of rock crystal, antique canes, vintage bags or Chinese ceramics.”
Susie Earls Design, 203-218-4590

Chaos Theory

While it may not comprise the sexiest square footage of your home, a well-designed closet is bliss. “Think about closet organization on a daily, weekly, and quarterly/seasonal basis,” says Jeffrey Calandra, closet organizer to the stars and owner of OCD4Life, a full-service design and organization company. “On a daily level, it could be as simple as removing hangers from the closet as you pull out something to wear, while on a seasonal level, it could be editing out unwanted items to prevent overcrowding.” Don’t have the patience to be as OCD as Jeffrey? Consider hiring a professional organizer to keep your closet in check. Think of it this way: You’ll gain precious real estate that can now be devoted to—what else?—the fall collections. OCD4Life.com


“Let fashion influence your decor. A few years ago, I redid my Greenwich home, and found that the best way I could collect my thoughts and ideas about each room was to design them around runway looks. I prepared mood boards featuring the most recent Chloe, Marc Jacobs,
and Marni collections, and it seriously helped to ground my interior choices.” —Amy Smilovic, designer and founder of Tibi; tibi.com

Hostess S.O.S.
When you’re invited to an impromptu fete, the last thing you want is to dash off to the store in a harried hostess gift pilgrimage. Stock up on Kobo’s stylish, 100 percent soy candles, which will earn brownie points with any lady of the house (hint: Water Mint’s light, clean aroma is a crowd-pleasing summer favorite). The best part? No wrapping paper required. The Drawing Room, Cos Cob, 203-661-3406

De Rigueur Downsizing

The latest thing to order off your architect’s menu? One home, hold the McMansion, please. Size does matter—and the less excess, the better. “Our average new home size has gone from 10,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet,” says Rich Granoff of Granoff Architects. “Our clients are much more interested in building homes that are efficient and ‘green’ with sustainable features like solar, wind and geo-thermal energy, locally sourced materials, and cisterns to collect rain water.” granoffarchitects.com

Hide the Party Evidence

Don’t cry over spilled Merlot. That wine-sloshed linen settée will get a second chance at life…as long as you lay off. “People often panic, grab whatever is under their sink and start spraying and scrubbing, but they make it worse,” says Daniel Scinto, owner of EcoClean, a chemical-free carpet and upholstery cleaning service that caters to high-end textiles. “Even if you’re lucky enough to get the stain out, you can still damage the fibers and make the fabric frayed and matted.” Better bet: Pour yourself a little hair of the dog the next morning and have Daniel make a house call. EcoClean, 203-256-0324; ecocleanct.com


“Step away from the beige hole. It is a cop-out for people who are afraid of color, and decorating with fear never works. I like midnight blue, tomato red, flannel gray. Start small with lamps and pillows.” —Dan Barsanti, hbhome.com

Stoke the Party

Hosting an alfresco bash is always fun…except for the mad scramble to get every inch of flank steak or chicken cooked perfectly, 20 guests over. The new favorite for feeding a hungry crowd sans stress: customized pizza ovens. “Outdoor entertaining is becoming more relaxed, and pizza ovens take pressure off the host,” says Megan Smith of Gault Energy. “You can infuse pizzas with distinct flavors by using different types of logs: hickory, applewood, maplewood or mesquite.” But be warned: You’ll literally have to kick your guests off your patio at the end of the night. gaultenergy.com

Haute Wheels

A driveway studded with boxwoods is beautiful, but a driveway studded with valet parkers is a beautiful thing. Enlisting a valet service for a fancy fete adds an unspoken stateliness to your home and makes an elegant first and last impression for your guests, says John Dent, owner of Parking Productions, the top choice valet of the Bruce Museum. It also prevents your quiet street from turning into I-95 during rush hour, which is anything but chic. parkingproductions.com

Shop Your House

Switching up your interior doesn’t demand a wallet-splitting shopathon. Stylists often borrow items from other rooms to give a house a fresh look and feel, so shop your own abode when you need a change. “It looks nice when you can reinvent items that are already part of your home and your décor,” says stylist Ronny Carroll. After relocating that hammered silver tray or floor lamp to another space, fill in the gaps with new finds to change up the whole look. Design déjà vu never looked so good. ronnycarroll.com

The Great Outdoors

Plan for outdoor living spaces just as you would the inside of your home—create a place to cook, eat and relax, says Lillian August vice president Skye Kirby Westcott. “For my wedding last fall, we designed outdoor rooms for each of these purposes, allowing 100 guests to party and lounge in comfort. Fire pits were the perfect solution to ward off the evening chill.” lillianaugust.com

Lose the Skirt

If you can’t figure out why your dining chair or armchair is so over, try showing a little leg. Andy Papadopoulos of Artistic Upholstery can remove excess material and update chairs with a fabulous new fabric. “I recommend reupholstering in 100 percent Belgian linen,” says Andy. “It has a high-quality feel and is more durable than other blends.” Turnaround time is about two weeks, so you won’t even know it went missing. Artistic Upholstery, Norwalk, 203-849-8907

Rock On

You might commission a stone wall to keep prying eyes off your property, but if famed stone artisans Andrew Pighills and Dan Snow are the geniuses behind it, you’ll have more oglers than before. The master craftsmen work individually and in collaboration for those who favor rustic elegance and graceful geometry over a chipped-to-perfection look. So how do you decide if a dry stone wall is right for you? While the initial cost can be as heavy as the rocks they use, Pighills maintains, “you get a lifetime from a stone wall…and 12 to 15 years from a wood fence.” englishgardensandlandscaping.com, inthecompanyofstone.com


“A design rule I love to break is ‘never mix metal finishes.’ I see it as an accomplishment if I can mix unlacquered brass with polished nickel, gold and silver leaf, rusted iron, even verdigris copper. A successful room is more about balance and deft use of multiple layers and texture to strike notes of rustic, modern, or luxury than it is about being matchy-matchy.” —Celerie Kemble, kembleinteriors.com


“I believe design should be minimalist but spaces should be maximalist! Choose simple lines, clean shapes, and clear patterns that speak for themselves, but punctuate those classic pieces with bold gestures and playful accessories that have personal meaning. That is what makes a happy chic home.” —Jonathan Adler, jonathanadler.com


“My favorite paint color is Farrow & Ball Orangery, which gives a warm welcoming glow to my entry hall and makes a superb background for art and antiques. It is a color that is timeless and seasonless and it makes me happy every time I open my front door.” —Bunny Williams


“Buy artwork that speaks to you. Take art for what it is created: to delight, to make you think, to touch you emotionally. If a purchase turns out to be a good investment, so much the better, but buy art to live with it. Visit galleries in Chelsea and SoHo, pick up the monthly New York Gallery Guide and visit reputable juried art fairs such as Greenwich’s own Bruce Museum Outdoor Arts Festival.” —Anne Von Stuelpnagel, Director of Exhibitions at the Bruce Museum; brucemuseum.org

First Resort

Move over, chaise. The elevated daybed from Gandia Blasco is the poolside accessory of the season. A fabulous fixture at see-and-be-seen resorts ranging from the Icon and Gansevoort South in Miami to the Mandarin Oriental in Cancun to the W Hotel in Aruba and Barcelona, its thermo-lacquered aluminum and crisp white fabric makes a sleek statement for those seeking a spa-like haven right in their backyard. gandiablasco.com


“Scale is the number-one priority when putting together a room. You can fall in love with fabulous furniture, but if it’s the wrong scale for the size of your room, it won’t look balanced. Before purchasing pieces, get measurements and tape them out on your floor—I always tape out entire rooms for my clients because it gives the most accurate perspective.” —Robert Rizzo, owner of Cobble Court; cobblecourt.com


“A design element most people tend to overlook is lighting—not only table and floor lamps but also sconces and ceiling fixtures. Great lighting can elevate a room to the next level.” —Claire Maestroni, owner of Mis en Scene, Greenwich

Bathing Beauty

The buzzword for bathrooms right now is luxury—so start chiseling out that marble palace. “People are spending more time at home and traveling less, so the thought is, ‘Why not make my bathroom experience more luxurious than what I would experience at a five-star hotel?’” explains Cynthia Saxe of ABC Stone. “Many clients want a contrast of modern and classic, with long, linear pieces of marble playing against an intricately crafted mosaic.” White is the color du jour, whether it’s creamy onyx, diamond-like Polaris or sought-after Statuary from Italy. Just don’t go chasing the pristine white of the David. “Veining and natural variation is what really creates movement in the stone, which can be beautiful,” says Saxe. ABC Stone Mosaic Collection by Artsaics; abcworldwidestone.com

Cinema Paradiso

Caviar with that popcorn? Screening-room-style home theater systems in high-end residences are more technologically tricked out, boasting 3D capability, recording studio-level soundproofing, invisible speakers, and fiber-optic star-filled ceilings, says Chris Wright of Wright Brothers Builders Inc. Key components of a topnotch home theater today? “My picks are the Runco projector, Macintosh stereo equipment and B&W surround sound speakers,” says Wright. “Even their lower-end models are crystal clear.” runco.com, macintoshlabs.com, bowers-wilkins.com, wrightbuild.com


“Repeating a fabric on walls and windows creates a continuous uninterrupted line that suggests just that—calm, fluid, easy on the eye, less drama by way of contrast. I feel enveloped. Favorites for this idea range from volumes of simple ticking to the exotic boldness of my own ‘Digby’s tent’ for Brunschwig & Fils.” —Charlotte Moss, charlottemoss.com


“When planning a kitchen, I always look to include an element that draws attention without being too overpowering in the space. It could be a cool light fixture or an unexpected backsplash design. Throwing in something edgy always works like a charm.” —Christopher Peacock, peacockcabinetry.com

Centerpiece de Résistance

If a floral display is an extension of your decor, it pays to know which centerpieces pack visual punch. We asked top floral vendors for their favorites by season:

“My mother always had amazing clematis and hydrangea in our backyard at Compo Beach. I’ll pair these quintessential summertime elements with exotic Vanda orchids to give it a bit of an edge. The tree peonies are jaw dropping—one of my favorite flowers.” —Katherine Daught Jacob, owner of KD&J Botanica; kdjbotanica.com

“For fall, I use branches, grains, and grasses like millet and wheat, fruits, and Smokebush, a deep maroon foliage that makes the flowers pop. An urn-like or compote shape is the best in the fall. It harkens to the wine harvest and makes any arrangement look lush.” —Ann Robertson, owner of Dirt Floral; dirtfloral.com

“My favorite arrangement for winter is white peonies and white amaryllis. It is soft and striking all at once. No matter how short you cut the amaryllis, always tape or rubber-band the stems—they’ll collapse otherwise.”­ —Anna Murray, owner of Tulips of Greenwich; tulipsofgreenwich.com

“I’ve been getting more requests for wildflower looks that are freeform and natural, which I love for spring. The base looks beautiful with herbs like mint, sage, lavender and scented geranium leaves. I’ll add to that viburnum, candy tufts, sweet peas, chamomile and zinnias in burnt orange.” —Alice Norwick, owner of Petals by Alice; petalsbyalice.com

Ultimate Beach Read

If your coffee table is crying out for a little island glam, look no further than Assouline’s In the Spirit of St. Barths by Pamela Fiori, the well traveled former editor-in-chief of Town and Country. From glittering aerial views of the red-roofed island to an insider’s guide to A-list restaurants and hotels on every jetsetter’s itinerary, this book makes any surface it’s sitting on more inviting. dovecote-westport.com or assouline.com


“Beds make an architectural statement and can anchor and define your room’s aesthetic. I love a modern four-poster bed with clean, classic lines and a strong stance. Add Lutron dimmers, a great sound system like Savant and my favorite nightstand item, the Thermalord water carafe by Hermes, and you have total luxury.” —Thom Filicia, thomfilicia.com

Pool Jewels

Stepping on glass sounds anything but appealing—unless you’re talking about the latest in pool design. “Glass finish has become a very popular choice for high-end pools,” says John Gedney, president of Wagner Pools. Smooth glass beads are laid into the pool’s bottom, and depending on the hue you select (light blue, dark blue, white or black), the water will take on a particular shimmer, from cool Mediterranean to inky black. “They feel smooth but give good traction,” says Gedney. “And because the tiles don’t stain, they have great longevity and require practically no service.” Wagner Pools, Darien, 203-655-0766; wagnerswimmingpools.com

Quick-Change Art

Calling all commitmentphobes: If dressing up a naked wall induces mild panic attacks, frame a panel of wallpaper for a transitional look. “We’ve been switching out wallpaper installs in our store for over two years now,” says Melissa Lindsay, co-owner of Pimlico Home. “It started as a way to add impact to pieces in our store, but now it’s become a source of inspiration, and we’re constantly hunting for new patterns.” Simply figure out the size panel you need, and install a molding around it to act as a frame. “It works great on a wall behind a sofa or headboard and gives you a whole new look that you can recast every season,” says Melissa. Her top paper picks? Osborne and Little and Cole & Son. pimlicohome.com


“Too many of us do not think about structure, so our gardens appear flat and low to the ground, lacking substance and dimension. Remember, your garden should look good all year round, not just for a few weeks of bloom in spring or summer. In our rose garden, I have a ‘living bench’ sculpted from boxwood and juniper, inspired by the garden seating I saw in Holland and Belgium. Not only does it provide a welcome resting spot, it adds year-round interest and can transform any garden with architectural shapes and structure.” —Gerard Pampalone, “Your Garden Matters” blogger; mofflymedia.com/yourgardenmatters

Take It Outside

Sometimes the smartest entertaining means no one shows up at your doorstep. Dazzle your favorite ten designphiles with an invitation to Philip Johnson’s private residence, the Glass House, a 47-acre property in New Canaan, Connecticut. A cool $25,000 tax-deductible donation to the National Trust of Historic Preservation entitles you and your guests to a private tour, which includes a peek at Johnson’s private studio library and first-edition books, followed by lunch or dinner in the Glass House. Try to book it in the early evening, when you’ll catch the sunset streaming through the house from its west-facing vista. Though it’s not your home guests are ooh-ahhing over, bragging rights come, quite literally, with the territory. philipjohnsonglasshouse.org

Door Prize

Front doors used to get all the love, but now interior doors are closing in on the competition. “The new thing is covering an interior door with leather,” says interior designer Amy Aidinis Hirsch, who recently outfitted one for a 1920’s Dutch Colonial home in Greenwich. “Choose a color like Marine blue for an unexpected punch and stud the paneling with nickel nailheads to create definition.” The plush leather begs to be pushed, swung and leaned against, and like Cary Grant or a Château Lafite, it only improves with age. amyhirsch.com

Chic Retreat

Every so often, you visit a resort so uniquely comfortable that you’re tempted to take up residence there. The Winvian in Litchfield Hills is one of those places. Its ultra-cool cottages are designed to refresh your eye with their hip, slightly humorous takes on themed interiors, from a treehouse to a helicopter hangar. Shack up in the spacious Greenhouse, Woodlands, or Charter Oak cottages and you may be inspired to text your designer on the spot with a handful of ideas. winvian.com

In Good Measure

Deciding what size rug to buy can present more of a headache than debating the merits of size 28 versus 29 jeans—and in both cases, the smaller option often shouldn’t win out. “People tend to make an area rug too small for the space or overall room,” explains Betsy Woodall of Safavieh. “In a smaller room that I’m trying to make seem larger, I would come off the wall three to six inches, max.” safavieh.com


“Comfort and chic can coexist in a family room. You want big, well-scaled pieces to lounge in while watching television, but add fabulous textured throws and colorful pops of art so the room isn’t purely one-note.” —Cindy Rinfret, rinfretltd.com

Stylish Eats

Find out where the chic set lunches when they’re not busy making other people’s homes look fabulous:

Interior designer and blogger Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic pops into the lacquered and lavish David Burke Townhouse in Manhattan after meeting clients at the nearby D&D building. davidburketownhouse.com, habituallychic.blogspot.net

Designer Whitney Roberts of Boxwood Home & Interiors loves the cozy charm and farm-fresh menu of Harvest Supper—a perfect post-shopping haunt in New Canaan. Harvest Supper, 203-966-5595; boxwoodinteriors.com

The athome team swears by Sugar and Olives, a sleek, modern lounge tucked away on a side street in Norwalk. The organic menu features incredible crepes and salads, with some produce plucked from the veggie and herb gardens growing outside. sugarandolives.com

Tiger Lily’s owner and stylish gal-about-town Samantha Knapp is a frequent devotee of Elm Street Oyster House in Greenwich. Her must-order dish: the steamed mussels. elmstreetoysterhouse.com, tigerlilysgreenwich.com


“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Stick to classic shapes. The Lawson sofa is as relevant today as it was years ago. The jeep in front of my house is an example of good design. One must be constantly aware and careful about appropriate design and whether that brings to light something from the past or a contemporary interpretation.” —albert hadley

Counter Intelligence

Don’t want your kitchen to look dated? Rethink the built-in desk. “Everyone is using an iPad for recipes and correspondence right on their kitchen counter,” says Carrie Deane Corcoran, owner of Deane. “Losing the desk frees up more storage possibilities for your kitchen.” Keep your iPad perfectly propped (and out of your puttanesca sauce) with Frontgate’s Joule iPad stand. deaneinc.com, frontgate.com

Just Add Sparkle

Newsflash: Bling is back. “I like to keep my interiors simple and highlight one piece of jewelry, one piece of wow,” says interior designer Lynne Scalo. Enter the Oak Leaf Chair in Polished Nickel by Villiers Brothers. Says Lynne, “This chair has elegance and sophistication, like a fine piece of silver passed through your family, with an organic, sculptural shape that I’d never get tired of looking at.”­ —Lynne Scalo,
lynnescalo.com, villiersbrothers.co.uk


“I love a room that has instant impact upon walking into it but reveals more as you spend time in it. When the eye moves about the space and discovers more, from eye-catching lacquer and metallics to complex color combinations, it creates a sense of surprise and movement.”
­­­—Jamie Drake, drakedesignassociates.com


“My go-to rug is Madeline Weinrib’s Butternut Wes. It’s just a great way to add zip and color to any room. I would pair it with navy or even whites to add a little orange zest for summer. It’s casual yet makes a bold statement.” —Lynn Morgan, interior designer, lynnmorgandesign.com


“Every room should have animal print somewhere in it. Animal print is always in style, it goes with everything, and it’s surprisingly forgiving… which is ideal for people with children or pets.” —Sarah Kaplan owner of Dovecote, dovecote-westport.com


“For me, the ceiling is the ‘fifth wall’ and is woefully overlooked. Think of the Italian Renaissance and the great frescoed ceilings of Michelangelo. Dial forward to today, distill slightly, and add a measure of modernity, which for me was a ceiling inspired by the New York Times crossword puzzle and my favorite authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Noel Coward, and Ian Fleming. The key to ‘down’ and ‘across’ was in the first line of each author’s book.” —Eric Cohler, ericcohler.com


“If you have an outdoor fireplace, make it a cozy entertaining area with cashmere throws and colorful pillows. Then kick back with a little jazz samba and toast to life with my favorite ‘knock your socks off drink’: a punchbowl full of Paul Newman’s lemonade mixed with sparkling water and vodka, plenty of ice, and sliced lemons.”
—Lulu deKwiatkowski
Pillows by LuluDK Matouk, luludkmatouk.com


“Be creative with your floors—choose a design that makes your room feel alive, be it classical, modern, or Oriental. Painted floors can unite a color scheme or softly create order and balance.” —Emma Jane Pilkington, interior designer, emmajanepilkington.com


“When it comes to buying antiques, always buy the best that you can afford and make sure it’s something you can see and appreciate in
your home every day. Right now I’m coveting a circular mahogany expanding Jupe table from England, circa 1845.” —Michael Bruno, founder and president of 1stdibs.com


“I like to make floating conversation areas in different parts of a room so people don’t sit in front of the TV like zombies. Conversation areas should be loosely arranged so you can reconfigure them to create intimacy or accommodate more people. Never put all the seating in a row—think about semicircles, squares, and triangles.” —Vicente Wolf, vicentewolf.com


“Buy what you love, and you will eventually find a home for it. I fell in love with a set of 1940s Italian Deco sconces in milky glass and bronze and bought them, even though they related to nothing in my world. Years later, when I built my Westport house, those sconces inspired much of the design and lighting of my home. Trust your own taste, and it will all come full circle.” —Wende Cohen, owner of Bungalow, Westport




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