Designer Fiona Leonard Strikes a Youthful Balance in a Darien Home
Like a lot of young, married couples, Chad and Sarah Huber longed for the day they could trade their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment for a spacious country house with a yard for their children. When that dream became a reality, and they were suddenly faced with the prospect of furnishing a four-bedroom home in Darien, they did what any tech-savvy couple might do: They turned to the internet for help. Sarah compiled a list of local designers; Fiona Leonard was the first—and only—person she called. “She sounded so down to earth and immediately understood what we had in mind,” Sarah says.
The couple envisioned transforming their quirky ’70s house into a warm, color-infused space with a slightly eclectic aesthetic. “The house had character and charm,” Leonard says. “It just needed to be refreshed. It wasn’t suitable for a young, hip family.”
First up: Dated fixtures, paint colors and window treatments had to go. Other changes were mostly cosmetic, such as new paneling in the family room and a reconfigured mudroom. The biggest challenge was finding a way to balance the couple’s divergent tastes. “Sarah leans toward a youthful, sophisticated but bohemian vibe, while Chad gravitates to a cleaner, more modern look,” she says. The designer conceived a plan that satisfied both their needs—incorporating fun colors and patterns, with a mix of modern and traditional furnishings and accessories throughout.
Coral red print wallpaper in a downstairs powder room was the “gateway to the whole design,” says Leonard. “Sarah picked this paper first. It is pretty and modern but a classic Sister Parish design. It set the tone for the color palette throughout.” Brass sconces and a custom wood-framed mirror warm up the space, while a wooden stool from Serena & Lily adds a contemporary touch.
The designer gave new life to the family room, where the original brass-rimmed firebox was ditched for a modern stone surround and a brick hearth. When Huber fell in love with a bright Kathryn Ireland fabric and wanted to use it everywhere, Leonard suggested covering a custom chair near the fireplace and then layering in other fabrics that were more understated. “There is a lot of color in the room,” she says, pointing to the blue sectional, the chunky oatmeal area rug and the smoky gray-blue walls. “But it’s less jarring.”
For the living room, the designer divided the space into a play area at one end, complete with a teepee, and a formal sitting area with a bar at the other. “The light colors might seem a little scary when children are around, but everything is covered in indoor/outdoor fabrics and there are no hard corners,” Leonard explains. A photograph of a vintage matchbox car by Don Hamerman provides a youthful pop of blue, while a felt ball garland adds textural punch. The room’s huge picture windows reveal expansive views of the tree-lined yard.
Perhaps the most dramatic color story is the room Leonard designed for the Huber’s then-infant son. “It was a bizarre room with bookshelves that ran along one wall,” she says. To distract from the awkward layout, she painted the two opposing walls a deep green, added a navy-and-white buffalo plaid window treatment, and papered the backs of the bookshelves in a Parish-Hadley star print. “It’s an older aesthetic,” Leonard says. “But she got something playful with the stars.” A Moroccan pouf adds a pop of citrine. “For a kid with a crib, it’s a pretty sweet room,” she adds.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2018 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: In Total Harmony.