A Family Breathes New Life into an Old Style
Photographs by Jeff McNamara
Most people shopping for a new home would speed by an abandoned, dilapidated Cape. But not a young couple with a vision for a home renovation project. After living in Fairfield for ten years, and moving a few times prior, Jake and Erin Delottie hoped to find a house in a dynamic neighborhood, close to the beach and town, and a place where their three-year-old son Ty and twins on the way would love growing up. So, when a neighbor told them about the abandoned cape on Newton Street that was finally going to be sold out of probate, they saw an opportunity. “The house was moldy and run-down, clearly empty for over a year,” says Erin. Pregnant, Erin was afraid to enter it because of its condition. But in two days’ time, the couple had an accepted offer on the house.
A Carnegie Mellon grad who studied architecture for a short time before switching to business, Erin had an idea of how the house could be reimagined. Veering a bit from the normal path of renovation, Jake and Erin hired Mary Strohm, an architectural designer from BankStrohm who does most of her work in Fairfield. Strohm designed the plans for the house—the old-fashioned way—on paper. They agreed with her idea—a two-story cedar shingled home with an open floor plan, four bedrooms, and copious windows.
“The three of us truly had a collaborative design effort,” says Strohm. “Our goal was to create a house that would function for their growing family, be in scale with the neighboring houses and suit the beach area.” Following zoning laws, they had to maintain the footprint and foundation of the house, also redoing a separate two car garage and adding an outdoor shower. “We’re only a five minute walk from the beach,” says Jake. “So we use the outdoor shower all summer long, and it gives the house a vacation home feel, too.”
The backyard abuts a dead end street, which, not surprisingly, is filled with capes, ranches, new construction and is home to kids of all ages. On any typical Saturday, weather-permitting, neighborhood kids are biking, skate boarding and playing street hockey. “This is what Fairfield is all about,” explains Erin. “Great neighborhoods, where friends are just outside your door.” Outdoor living is important to the family and so they had a spacious patio and outdoor fireplace designed. “We spend as much time as possible out here,” says Erin. “It’s an extra entertaining room!”
Erin is the CFO of Rosemary Hallgarten, a high-end rug, fabric and accessory company that sells to the trade. Headquartered in Westport, the company is led by second generation artisan Rosemary Hallgarten. At work, Erin is surrounded by unique fabrics and rugs, and has recreated her home in the same vein. Most interior designers recommend using a carpet as the basis for a room’s color scheme and decor, and the Delotties follow that rule. The home is filled with Rosemary Hallgarten designs, handmade in either Peru or Nepal. Since the open floor plan encompasses the foyer, kitchen, dining area, and living room, all the designs had to connect, but are all pretty on their own.
The entrance to the home with the curved portico is charming, and you step into a cozy foyer with a light blue Lillian August wing chair and an eye-catching Rosemary Hallgarten rug in a pattern called Metallic Glaze. To the left, the dining room/kitchen is one large area, and an oversized bleached and burned oak Crate and Barrel table seats eight people—perfect for breakfast or a formal dinner. The head chairs are lucite Louis Ghost chairs designed by Starck for Kartell and the side chairs are Lillian August with indoor/outdoor Waverly “Koi” fabric upholstered by Erin herself.
“When I find what I want, I try to create it myself,” says Erin. She recently took a trip to Peru with her boss where she met with local artisans to learn the process of weaving fabric and rugs by hand. The rug in the kitchen has a dramatic lemon green and grey blue horizontal stripe not surprisingly called “Irregular Stripe.” Two sizes flank the kitchen island and blend well with the Juparana granite and Chroma quartz countertops in honed Mesa.
The family’s main hang-out is flooded with light on all sides. An oversized and kid-proof beige velvet sectional gets punches of color from a mix of pillows in yellows, browns and zigzag patterns. Throughout the home are subtle reminders of the ocean, from Erin’s own color photographs of painted blue boats to sea glass bottles and vases. Through a mudroom, you exit onto the outdoor patio that features a stone hearth and fireplace, and a large teak table. Erin’s love of fabric and patterns extends outside in navy cushions from patio.com in Westport, umbrella, and beige, green, and navy pillows with a leaf design.
A house filled with three kids under eight and a puppy is often a house filled with clutter—but not this one. Erin is a self-proclaimed organizing maniac and there’s not a pile of items in sight. “Too much on the counters or tables drives me crazy,” she explains. But Erin does like having low–maintenance greenery atop counters and tables, and Jen Maloney and Megan Pratt of Birch Designs created a stone trough of succulents that she can use inside or out, as well as terrariums that are like having mini-gardens inside.
“One of the key aspects of the design was to move the stairs from the center of the house to the right side of the house. This permitted a layout with the “open floor plan” concept,” explains Strohm. An eye-catching Hallgarten runner with mocha brown and metallic wool climbs the stairs and extends through the hallway to the master bedroom. The little girl’s room in hot and pale pinks has a dramatic quilted day bed from Restoration Hardware. Erin stenciled a large cursive “M” on the wall, adding a little drama to the space. The eldest son’s room is preppy and nautically-inspired. Horizontal green-striped window treatments blend well with a madras coverlet from Pottery Barn. A personalized wooden oar completes the boating feel and like the other kids’ rooms, is versatile and can suit any age.
Every inch of the home’s approximately 3,000 square feet is used intelligently, and in addition to the four bedrooms are a spacious basement playroom, a homework room where the kids’ art and school work is displayed, and an office. With the perfect mix of contemporary style, personal artistic touches and understated beachy charm, the renovation was clearly a labor of love, but, as Jake explains, “it was a fun process and the ideal way to get something exactly as we wanted.”