Designer Melissa Lindsay blends organic elements with glammed-up pieces to transform the interiors of a traditional New Canaan home
photograph by Amy Vischio
If you walk into Pimlico in New Canaan, the shop known for its deftly curated assortment of decorative objects and home furnishings, you immediately recognize the sensibilities of its owners, interior designer Melissa Lindsay and her business partner, Jill Saunders. Natural materials—raw wood, cowhide, stone, feathers and twigs—nestle comfortably with manmade objects made of shimmering metal and sparkling glass. The proprietors like to call this mix traditional with a twist. It’s an approach that lends itself to clients looking to soften the somewhat formal lines and strict symmetry of the Federal and Colonial houses that remain the most popular styles in the county. And it’s what attracted homeowner Malia Frame to Melissa’s Pimlico design practice.
The nineties-era Colonial owned by Malia and her husband, David, was in need of updating. Their project would require an expansion of the building footprint to add space for a media room and improve the kitchen and first-floor layout. Malia also knew the home’s furnishings and fixtures were ready for an upgrade, so she enlisted a team to make structural changes and customize the architectural details of all the interior spaces. Incorporating Melissa’s skills and viewpoint to guide the selection of textiles, furniture, objects and fixtures, Malia would complete the vision she had for her home. “Melissa has an amazing eye,” says Malia. “She had done the design for our family room, so we definitely wanted her input to be a key part of this project.”
Fairfield-based architect Matthew Dougherty and interior designer Lin Moty worked on the floor plan and the millwork, paneling and molding designs that create a detailed canvas for the finished interiors; Melissa also advised on the kitchen design. The pattern and flow of the renewed and improved spaces came together with the help of custom builder Vebi Gjyliqi, owner of V & A Value Construction.
David Frame recounts the scope of the work. “We wanted another place where we could watch television away from all the activity in the kitchen, yet adding the media room allowed us to accomplish many other things. We could create a circular flow. The additional space allows for access to the dining room from the back and the front, giving us a more open kitchen, a larger mudroom and a second bath on the first floor. As a bonus, we got an amazing guest room on the second floor above the television room, a very welcoming bathroom, and also a kids’ office.” With a bit more than 1,000 additional square feet in the floor plan, the bones of the project were in place, and Melissa’s signature decorating approach came into play.
Entryways often reveal a home’s personality, and the stepped-up style of the Frames’ foyer is no exception. While Melissa hewed to Malia’s dictum that materials should stand up to the rigors of an active family—the Frames have three young children—practicality does not preclude a bit of glamour. For the foyer floor, Melissa and her client chose a cowhide rug treated with metal, giving a soft glimmer to the nearly indestructible material. It’s one of the pieces in Melissa’s repertoire of design solutions that she dubs “organic glam.”
The double-height foyer, a staple architectural element of recently built homes, can sometimes read as a cavernous void, so the project team tackled the problem with thoughtful detail. The subtle geometric pattern of the white-painted paneling and millwork, contrasting with dark floors, stair treads and railing, and a single narrow strip of dark-stained molding, give the large space character and finish. To furnish it, Melissa used a generously scaled console of pale wood with elegantly turned legs. It’s topped with twin tall mercury-glass lamps, their shapes following the lines of the console supports. A stair runner with a bold repeat provides some rhythmic energy. This small vignette captures the balance Melissa achieves between light and dark, soft and hard, glowing and matte elements in her designs.
The entry’s furnishings also reflect the calming and sophisticated interior palette used throughout the house. It combines a range of neutral, natural tones with softened metallic accents. Melissa takes a layered approach, using textures and patterns to add visual interest.
“A neutral palette for the upholstery, rugs and walls allows for easy tweaking and changing. Then you can bring in the fun fabrics, lamps and side tables,” says Melissa. “When you want to refresh the look, you can easily update using accent pieces without breaking the bank.”
Although rugs and furniture play leading roles in a successful decorating scheme, the importance of light as a supporting feature cannot be understated. Fixtures and the light they cast complete a room, and Pimlico’s inventory of distinctive chandeliers, sconces and pendants—many are one-of-a-kind—play a key role in the renovated spaces of the Frame house. In the kitchen—now open to the dining area and connected to the family room via the replacement of partition walls with columns—the lighting scheme allows for ambient and task illumination, incorporating beautiful fixtures. “I like lots of light, especially in the kitchen,” says Malia, “but Dave likes a softer, less intense light. We solved the problem by having good general lighting with recessed units throughout the house, then adding some style with the fixtures that Melissa helped us choose. We have dimmers to control every light, so we can customize. It’s a great solution.”
As one of the finishing touches, Melissa and the Frames enlisted New Canaan gallerist and consultant Heather Gaudio, who selected art for key locations in each room. “She understood the project very quickly and selected perfect pieces,” says Malia.
Melissa did not overlook the small details. In Malia’s office space near the kitchen, she installed Osborne & Little wallpaper above the desk. Its poppy pattern injects a bit of rose pink—the homeowner’s favorite hue—in her personal space. “It’s so Malia,” says Melissa.
Since completing the interior design in late 2011, the Frames’ renovation has won admirers. Last fall, the foyer and family room designs garnered A-List awards from athome magazine. Judges praised the spaces for being comfortable, stylish and peaceful. In the end, that’s just the right balance for a busy New Canaan family.