The Glow Up

We’ve clearly been spending more time at home. So why not make it the most comfortable, beautiful and fun place to be? Here, we profiled three newly finished home renovation projects. There’s the modern chic guest house (yes, it has an insane wine room), the gorgeous home training gym and the Darien-themed playroom that any kid would be lucky enough to play in. Take a peek into the minds of the designers behind these spaces and walk away inspired—you too might want to add some projects to your own lists.

 

The Chic Guest House

Who Made It Happen: Denise Davies, owner of D2 Interieurs
Time frame: Around 18 months
The Goal: To provide a retreat and multi-purpose space for the homeowners as well as their extended family and guests

Photography by Jane Beiles

A modern exterior design is carried inside with contemporary details seen throughout.

These New Canaan homeowners have an iconic midcentury modern home designed by renowned artist, sculptor and architect Bimel Kehm. Just before Covid hit, the owners hired Davies, known for her expertise in midcentury modern design, to decorate a new pool house.

“This family’s main house is incredible and the grounds are gorgeous. This new structure would be an overflow space for house guests, some exercise equipment, a wine room and just a place to relax and hang out,” she explains.

Because this was new construction, one of Davies’ challenges was making sure the pool house was designed to complement the current style of the main home. Architect Kenneth McGahren, West Construction and Old World Construction engineered the project, and Davies executed the interiors.

The entry of the guest house reveals an Asian-inspired wooden sculpture, a painting and a graphic copper pendant by Tom Dixon, reflecting the owners’ love of art and design. “The couple are big art collectors, so we wanted this interesting sculpture front-and-center when you walk in,” she says. Bright, retro-patterned tiles pave the floor, and the colors offer a hint of what’s to come upstairs. “A custom-made striped D2 runner softens the wooden staircase and is reminiscent of those potholders we all made in the ’70s,” notes Davies.

At the top of the stairs, a blue painting by CLoD hangs over a bench covered in velvet fabric by Knoll, an iconic designer of the ’70s. To the right is a bathroom, full of mod touches including a silver Lee Broom pendant and a painted Lucite mirror with rounded corners, all reflecting a 70s vibe. Just outside the bathroom is the show stopping bar, backed by an aqua groovy patterned wallpaper by Flavor Paper. “When it came to decorating, this fun wallpaper was the jumping-off point and would set the tone for the colors and the mood of the rest of the house,” Davies explains. The bar area has a lacquered base and a painted glass top, one of the designer’s signature hacks. This useful nook contains all the amenities for guests and visitors, including a coffee bar, kitchenette and a fridge.

To the right lies the serene living room, which overlooks a beautiful pond. An iconic hand chair, custom rug, sofa and coffee table offer a relaxing spot to watch TV or have a drink. Davies furnished this room with her typical approach of mixing custom pieces with genuine midcentury modern items.

“I keep true to the time period with furnishings, but I always include a few special custom items to make each space unique,” she says, adding that a mix of textures was also important to add dimension to this space, and everything had to be comfortable. To that end, Davies designed a thin 12-inch built-in to house the TV and made sure the custom, textured sofa fit perfectly within the space and is cozy. Other favorite accents include a bright blue upholstered chair that mimics the color of the bar and a Slim Aarons poolside photograph. “What more could you ask for?” quips Davies.

In the peaceful bedroom opposite the bar, a pair of floating wooden nightstands flank a custom bed. An Arturo Alvarez stainless-steel mesh pendant and a bright pink palm tree photo by Allyson Monson Photography add visual interest.

Outside on the deck, Davies infused a pop of color with a metal table and a pair of chairs by Bend, which she had custom powder-coated in fuchsia. “When using color, there’s a delicate balance and you have to use it tastefully,” she says.

Her clients absolutely love their new pool house, and Davies is thrilled with the outcome.

“Because this was a small space, every detail had to be meticulously planned,” she says. “We made a big impact with color, mod lighting, millwork and custom pieces so that everything flows beautifully.”

above: Fun blue and white wallpaper behind the bar sets the tone for the rest of the space. A clean white and wood bathroom accented with a floating vanity. below: The cozy living room is furnished with custom pieces that fit the time period of the house. The custom wine room has enough space for even the largest collector.

 

The Hip Home Gym

Who Made It Happen: Ana-Maria Leeming and Nanna Sigurdardottir of Vik+Roma
Time frame: Around two-and-a-half months
The Goal: To create a chic, multi-room workout space for their client to train people at home

Photography by Andrea Carson

left: The Remix home gym features three separate areas for group classes or one-on-one training. right: Maintenance-free living walls were installed to add warmth and natural beauty to the space.
Careful consideration was used when choosing proper lighting to ensure clients look their best when working out.

For many of us, a designated workout space during Covid was a luxury, but for this homeowner it became essential as she shifted her personal training business into her home just as the pandemic began. New Canaan-based design duo Vik + Roma tackled the project with enthusiasm and efficiency, finishing in record time with the help of Master Home Improvement builders.

The homeowner, an avid fitness fan and trainer, had a vision of launching her fitness brand, The Remix, and hosting private sessions and group fitness classes in her home gym.

“Her previous gym was in one room and not very big, so we expanded it to include the other two rooms in the basement, which made a huge difference,” explains Leeming.

For the interior aesthetics, the Swedish owner wanted to blend a Nordic, rustic feel with a modern California spa-like vibe.

“A warm, intimate atmosphere is what we were going for, and we wanted it to feel like you were in someone’s home and not in a gym,” adds Sigurdardottir.

“We chose a rich granite color for the walls and a grayish oak for the wood floors to add warmth,” recalls Leeming, noting that typical gyms are often white and clinical, so they went the opposite way and chose a palette of taupe and gray for a cozy feel. The designers installed oak wood slats stained in a weathered oak hue within several areas of the ceiling and door frames throughout the rooms to unify the three different spaces.

Natural and interior lighting were important when planning this space, and the first room of the gym has several large windows and bathes in natural light. “We also made sure all of the wall mirrors are oversized and back lit with dimmable LED lights around the border so clients look great while they’re working out,” notes Leeming.

Another unique and impactful accent was the installation of two living walls by the Green Up Group in Stamford in two of the rooms.

“The idea of the live moss walls was inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Scandinavia, and the owner loved the idea of bringing this element in to represent that part of her heritage,” says Sigurdardottir.

Besides looking great, these green walls are preserved so there’s no maintenance. Paired with the many neutral tones of warm woods, the overall feel is a muted and sexy vibe.

The first room, where private and semi-private sessions are held, houses larger exercise equipment and a stone hearth and gas fireplace that the owner fires up in the colder months. A large live wall dominates the space that also reveals a TV and some built-in shelves that display merchandise. Walking through a small hallway you’ll find a storage area and a bathroom with a steam shower for clients who need to change and go straight to work.

The second area is the main studio and feels like a VIP room in a fitness club, including more equipment and weights, balls and a hanging stall bar.

“The insane sound system is based here and is a big part of her brand,” notes Leeming. Tabata-style fitness classes are held in this room with up to 10 people where each person participates in a circuit-style workout at different stations. “The owner never repeats the same workout, and because it’s different every day she utilizes every aspect of all three rooms,” notes Sigurdardottir.

The last area is the cardio room with more equipment and a few select machines for one-on-ones. A gorgeous sauna is just off this room for those who can stay and relax after a workout. The result is a beautiful space that flows easily, and unexpected touches like the two living walls, gas fireplace and organic wooden slats make this a stand-alone space far from your typical home gym.


 

The Ultimate Play Space

Who Made It Happen: Karri Bowen-Poole, founder of Smart Playrooms
Time frame: Around five months
The Goal: To provide a fun playroom for the homeowners’ grandchildren of various ages

Photography by Jane Beiles

Kids can play various sports including soccer, basketball or even rope climbing in this Darien-themed play space.
Colorful walls and age-appropriate furnishings make it an ideal space for curious children.
Lots of storage for toys make it easy for the homeowner to keep the space neat and organized.

I always look at a space and think, “How can I make a kid want to go and spend hours in there?” says designer Karri Bowen-Poole, who loved working on this project for a couple of sweet grandparents in Darien. Their own grown-up children live close by, and the grandparents wanted a fun space for their grandchildren and all the cousins to get together and play.

“They knew if they had a fun area that accommodated all different kinds of activities for all ages that their grandkids would come over a lot,” Bowen-Poole laughs. This large room was an unused office on the second floor, and the designer was tasked with how to include several activities in this small area. “I had so many ideas of how to get the kids playing, and we were lucky that the space had amazing light,” she remembers.

Bowen-Poole designs her rooms by primarily drawing on her expertise as an educator. Her company, Smart Playrooms, creates educational and child-centered spaces that combine interior design principles and functional organization systems with a complete understanding of child development.

“I have a master’s degree in education and taught elementary school in NYC and Westchester,” she explains, “so every space I design comes from an educator’s point of view and encourages children to engage in open-ended creative thinking and play.”

Bowen-Poole renovated this specific space for kids up to age 10 and incorporated a huge foam pit, two basketball hoops, a sport court, two monkey bars and rope swings as well as a “market counter.”

A small amount of construction was involved, including the conversion of a large closet into a playhouse that measures 5×8 feet. Some shelves and a wall were taken down, the closet door was reframed to be child-sized, a rock wall was installed and a climbing ninja area was built out. “This feels like an intentional and inviting kids’ space now and makes a big impact,” says Bowen-Poole, “and the market counter allows the kids to play vet, doctor, princesses, or whatever they want.”

The climbing ninja section is a kid favorite in this room. Bowen-Poole covered the windows with a safe Plexiglass, then built the freestanding monkey bars and hung a pair of ropes, creating two circuits knowing there would be several kids in the space at one time. “The ropes hang over a huge foam pit that can accommodate all the children, and the whole room offers a fun gender neutral space for everyone to enjoy their own interests.”

The sport court with two hoops and two goals allows for basketball, knee hockey and soccer. A vinyl foam mat was designed and sport court lines were painted on it, and a pair of custom vinyl wall mats with the Darien Blue Wave logo sit under the basketball hoops to protect the wall.

The other major thing Bowen-Poole had to think about was how to address the five window eave spaces. She solved this by designating one activity per nook, including a Lego wall, a musical area with instruments and toys, a dollhouse nook, an art nook, and a building nook, and she included custom storage with baskets underneath each window. “Even though there are a lot of choices for play in the center of the room for kids to enjoy together, I like the option of the separate nooks in case there’s someone who wants to play quietly alone or in a smaller group.”

This play space has state-of-the-art equipment and accessories, sourced by Bowen-Poole who is also the cofounder of a modern playroom store with designer Denise Davies called Project Playroom projectplayroom.com. This online retail source sells modern playroom products and décor including foam pits, soft play items, climbing ropes, rock wall panels, wall decals and one-of-a-kind murals. The store sells products that combine Davies’ interior design expertise and Bowen-Poole’s understanding of child development.

In this playroom besides planning a myriad of things for the kids to do, Bowen-Poole also achieved the owners’ two main requests: that the zone be TV-free and that it differ from play spaces at the kids’ main homes so it would feel special.

“I’m so pleased with how many activities we were able to tuck into this small space, and it’s just such a nice, bright, colorful space that’s fun for the whole family.”

Bowen-Poole relied on her go-strategy, explaining that she always tried to incorporate a lot of physical play into her spaces because it’s so beneficial for kids of all ages. “I give the whole child what they need developmentally, but all the kids know is that they’re having a great time.”

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