Still Feels Like Home

This Verona homeowner wanted the designer to make her house fresher, brighter—but not too different.
Still Feels Like Home


It was a challenge not every pro could meet. Imagine a stoplight flashing both red and green. The homeowner wanted to freshen up the interior of her Verona home but keep a lot of her furniture. She craved the new—and also the familiar. It turned out that Kathryn Cook was just the designer to answer her ambivalent call.

“She really liked the bones of what was there but wanted to lighten up,” says Cook, who runs an eponymous design firm in Essex Fells. So how do you incorporate beloved existing pieces but reimagine them for a design that looks updated? Cook’s solution was to brighten up the color scheme, change the flow and mix in thoughtfully selected new elements. The result: a space that is modern, inviting and comfortable but still feels like home.

At the beginning of the process, the client admits she felt overwhelmed. “While I knew I needed a new look, I assumed that would mean having to give away pieces that I really liked but that were dated,” she says. “I loved how Kathy created a new look for me but took some 20-year-old pieces of furniture and made them look brand new.”

A linen floral print on a pair of favorite chairs in the living room served as the jumping-off point for the design. The original wood trim and mantle were preserved, but for the walls Cook selected a light, neutral color that would work well with the fabric and open up the space. She then added a coordinating rug to break up more of the wood. Window treatments were hung higher and off the wall to add dimension. “The room doesn’t get a ton of light throughout the day, so we enhanced the lighting and used glass pieces to get the reflection,” Cook explains. Once they had the right foundation, the layout was reconfigured to allow for a more comfortable and streamlined seating arrangement.

In the dining room, Cook elected to use a rich blue color for the walls. Because the space was previously a deep red, she knew it could take a bold hue, and the new shade worked beautifully with the room’s wood tones. Replacing the matching 18th-century dining chairs with upholstered ones and adding a tonal rug brought it all together. For finishing touches, Cook worked around a black-and-gold-bar piece the homeowner fell in love with on one of their shopping trips.

The next room to get a facelift was the library. The homeowner wanted this space, with its collection of family books and mementos, to serve as a refuge. Cook began by removing an old bookcase and adding in a floor-to-ceiling built-in, which she painted a glossy blue-gray. The plain walls were updated with boldly patterned wallpaper. Cook took a chair and ottoman that had been in the living room and reupholstered them in a velvet-trimmed textured tweed. The already-owned Canterbury desk and chair were the final touches.

The last space to tackle was the garden room, which serves as a connector to the backyard patio and a casual seating area for the family. “We wanted to link it to the outdoor space,” Cook explains. This was accomplished by making selections that enhanced what was there and ensuring that any new additions were the right scale for the room. The brick walls and French doors give the space immediate character. A unique storage cabinet with textured grillwork was introduced for height and interest. Finally, Cook added a rug to play up the textures and make it a comfortable year-round retreat.

“The new design makes every room a place you want to spend more time in,” the homeowner says. “The library and the garden room used to just be unused spaces off the living room. Now they are everyone’s favorite rooms.”

By Darcey Gohring

Design by Kathryn Cook

Photography by Vic Wahby

Categories: Homepage Features, Morris/Essex Health & Life