Family Trip

Tour One Family’s Expansive Connecticut Home That Was Originally a Two-Room Cabin

Nearly 9,000 square feet of reading nooks, a library, and just one TV. It’s not exactly the description of your typical suburban home these days, but New York City–based mother-daughter interior design firm McGrath II’s 30-something clients aren’t average either. “They’re both creatives, and I have to say they were fearless,” says Lauren McGrath, who along with Suzanne McGrath has a studio shop in Greenwich, Connecticut. “A lot of our clients are afraid of committing to too much pattern or color but they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it! You only live once!’” Enter a mudroom painted an “amazing” archival pink, a kitchen awash in leafy green, and a breakfast room enveloped in rich chocolatey brown, all by Farrow & Ball.

“They don’t take anything too seriously in life, and that’s reflected in the house,” Lauren adds. “There’s nothing stuffy about it.” Lauren had recently moved her family from Brooklyn to Connecticut. In historic Southport, she happened to meet their future client, a fellow Brooklyn transplant and new parent who, like her, was getting to know a new town. A few months later, he called Lauren up and hired McGrath II.

The property the client and his wife were set to overhaul was originally a two-room gentlemen’s hunting cabin built in the 1950s in Westport and expanded over the years to become a series of small interconnected rooms. It wasn’t only that the house required significant renovation, Lauren says, but it also “needed a lot of decorating to give it a story.” The design duo leaned into their clients’ desire for an English countryside aesthetic and worked with their architect, David Preusch, to ensure the additions featured moldings and details that could be described as charming over contemporary.

In the large new family room, Suzanne says they petitioned for zero recessed lights in order to create a cottage-like glow with an assortment of lamps, sconces, and, in one case, a custom vellum drum by Blanche Field. And for the primary bathroom, featuring a Waterworks bathtub and double shower, she says, “We wanted to make it feel like it wasn’t new.” Even the playroom for the couple’s two young children, cocooned in a bold Farrow & Ball wallpaper reminiscent of candy cane stripes, feels delightfully retro thanks to a series of Babar prints.

The primary suite and library were also built from scratch. “What I think is really charming is that for such a big house as it is now, renovated, the kitchen is in the original part,” Suzanne says. “We didn’t tear it down and make a big suburban kitchen, even though she loves to cook. We put it in one of the two original rooms and made it great.” The other became the narrow dining room, which did take some negotiating. Suzanne campaigned to change the abode’s defining feature, a stained glass window she says, “looked really odd.” But the client said no. “So Lauren was like, ‘Let’s put some William Morris in there and see how it all comes together.’” That red floral wallpaper took it in the direction of a cheerful English garden. Suzanne says, “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it is so good. I like that window now!’”

As the McGraths were sourcing soft and tactile fabrics and furnishings, they knew they had to keep it youthful and optimize for coziness, and also they had to buy what was ethical. To that end, much of the furniture is antique or vintage, including their most special find: a chestnut and wrought-iron Italian Baroque–style refectory table from Stair Gallery. “For our clients, sustainability is very important,” Lauren says. Instead of “making all this custom stuff from scratch, why not find something that already exists and give it new life?”

Of her easy-going clients, Lauren says, “They’re people who laugh easily,” happy bibliophiles and home cooks who entertain often. “They just love life,” she says. “And I think that’s what the house is all about.”