See the Home That Designer Terri Ricci Refers to as Her “Little Sanctuary”

Staying Power

This house was not love at first sight, but after multiple renovations and years of memories, a flip project became a forever home

INTERVIEW WITH TERRI RICCI, TERRI RICCI INTERIORS // PHOTOGRAPHER READ McKENDREE / JBSA

Ricci’s husband immediately fell for the home’s charming exterior, now painted in Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee.

How long have you lived here?
We’ve been here for twenty years.

What made you fall in love with this house?
I actually didn’t. My husband did. We found it in a snowstorm, and everything had a nice coating of snow, and there’s a stone wall along the property. It was very classic Connecticut. The property size was just the right amount. My husband does construction, special finishes, restoration work, and he said, “That’s the house we’re going to buy.” I was surprised, but he mentioned that all the work would be interiors, which is my specialty. We hadn’t even seen the inside.

Over those twenty years, how many renovations have you done?
After we moved in, we were going to renovate and flip it. And then I helped with the renovation, helped install tile in the bathroom, and as time went on, I realized that this is perfect amount of house. I’m a big promoter of spaces that feel cozy and comfortable. We’ve renovated three times now, with the interiors. It’s a great location, right between the Merritt and I-95, the right amount of property. So we stayed.
Our first renovation was all about making the primary bedroom feel like a suite. We replaced all the trim and doors throughout the house. And that’s how we elevated our home, by adding thicker doors that were timeless but not too traditional. We beefed up the trim, redid the materials in the bathrooms and the kitchen. And then we stayed with a neutral palette. At the time, dark floors were in, and we ended up doing that. We have Southern exposures in the back of our house, it’s very sunny so you saw everything. In 2018, we did another renovation where we redid the kitchen, made the primary suite even larger, went with lighter floors. And then we introduced more plaster into the house.

Who’s lived here over those years?
We have two sons and a dog. We raised both of them here. Right before COVID happened, we were looking at properties, and then we decided to stay. We’re both so busy. We explored putting a pool in, and when we learned we were going to be home all summer, we added one.

How would you describe your style?
I do have a consistency of always remaining classic. I do it with my own fashion, and I do it with my interiors. I put so much thought into things that I don’t want to have to be changing. If I’m going to do a trend, it’s going to be with something I can replace, but the foundation has to be something classic. I like it clean; I don’t like clutter. But I like a home that shows that somebody lives in it. It’s always warm and textural.
At a young age, all my previous employers all came from a different design aesthetic, but the one that I most connected with was Naomi Leff. We were always mixing ’40s French with modern, Arts and Crafts with modern. There were all the different movements, and I have an eye for that, but we always liked straight lines. And then there was a calling for curves eventually, but everything was linear. I carry that through, because I see that it never really goes away. Everything comes back.

Talk about the kitchen design plan.
It was very traditional colonial style kitchen. I always wanted to have an island, because I felt like I was cooking in a position that wasn’t comfortable or felt uncomfortable for people approaching me. I wanted to be engaged with the rest of the house. We had to work backwards, because we had redone our backyard with a pool and landscaping and I had to be mindful of pushing out the back of the house without disrupting that. So we pushed out the kitchen five feet, which was reflected in the kitchen, dining and primary suite. And that allowed for another bank of windows along the back of the house. It created some zones. I added a coffee station with all the smaller appliances, and then I did a wall of pantry. I felt like I had a dining, kitchen and a breakfast room, and it was too much. We added a steel window between the kitchen and dining room to open it up and make us use the space. The formality in the dining room is gone.

During the most recent renovation, Ricci applied more plaster to the house, adding depth to neutral walls. A Derrick Velasquez piece takes center stage over the fireplace, on view from the mix of custom and vintage seating options.

Do you do a lot of entertaining?
I do a lot of casual, impromptu entertaining.

Tell us about that dining room.
I wanted to ground that area of the house and make it a little bit more saturated so it drew you in and felt connected to the kitchen, because the kitchen has the lighter tones. But we also realized we needed wine storage. We ended up bumping out that niche, which brought in natural light with the sidelights and gave us the storage. Then I just felt like the dining room could be minimal and little bit more moody.

There are many interesting art pieces throughout the house. Can you tell us about some of them?
The piece in the dining room, I found through an art advisor. It played into the mood of the room, and I just loved that sense of not knowing what’s around the corner, when you look at that image. I like the element of surprise. In the living room, a piece by Landon Metz hangs over the sofa. I like how it made the room feel more modern and light. Because I’m so textural in my interiors, I find that I’m drawn to more graphic inspirational art. Whether its paintings, works on paper, three-dimensional. I love how the art gallery put the collections together so it’s not just the traditional one piece over the sofa. I like a mix.

Tell us about the bathroom.
I was gifted that vanity 21 years ago from one of my millworkers. When we renovated, I couldn’t part with it, because the quality and construction was amazing and it will hold up for another 50 years. So I painted it, added new hardware and a new countertop. It held itself to the traditional elements of the house, but then all the walls are plaster and I used marble for the shower and the floor.

Is art the last layer for you?
It has become the last layer for me. Clients can’t get their heads around it from the beginning.
It’s tricky, because everyone sees it from a different perspective, from aesthetics to value. Because I like clients to focus on quality pieces, I focus on that. And as we’re winding down, we bring in the art.

What is it like designing your own home versus client projects?
Some people will say they love designing for themselves. I go back and forth. There are so many ways of doing things, and I do like to mix different styles.
I actually make it collaborative with the office and use it as an opportunity to see how my team presents; what they’re thinking about. And then I’m acting as a client. It’s nice to see how it gets reflected on that side, and notice what we can be doing better. But ultimately, I’m making the final decision (laughs).

What was the biggest transformation in the house?
I’d say it was blowing out the back for the kitchen. But, when we first did the renovation, and friends would come over, everyone wanted to do what we were doing to make it look so different. I just cleaned it up, neutralized the colors, beefed up the trim, doors and redid the floors. They couldn’t figure out what it was.

What do you love most about living here?
I love the way the house makes me feel. Clients laugh when I tell them that they do not need a 10,000 square foot house to be happy. I’m always downsizing them a little bit, and they end up appreciating it. At the end of the day, it’s those small spaces that make them feel great. And then I have the ability to navigate the difference spaces; how they work and they flow. For me, it’s my little sanctuary. I splurged in certain areas on things—like the bedding and the countertops—and they just make me feel so good. My carpet feels like I’m walking on a sweater.

Professionals:
Interior Design: Terri Ricci Interiors, Norwalk, 203-642-3202; terriricci.com
Builder/Painter/ Plaster: Polart Group, Norwalk, 203-979-0707; polartgroup.com

 

 

 

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