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Playful and Layered Design in a Family’s Historic Connecticut Home

by Sofia Tuovinen

Playful and Layered Design in a Family’s Historic Connecticut Home | Design*Sponge

Historic homes can come full of surprises and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when Charlotte and Mark Smith had the opportunity to buy a 1854 Federal-style home in Southport, CT, there wasn’t really much to debate. It had been on the market for four years and stood empty when the couple came to see it for the first time. Like many other historic houses in the area, it had been slowly neglected and was crying out for some tender loving care. All it took was for Charlotte to see the beautiful sunny windows and wide wood floors to fall endlessly in love. Two and a half years later, Charlotte and Mark have no regrets. The old house has become the perfect place to raise their five children, Eleanor, Oliver, Martha, Louisa and Arthur, and a wonderful project for Charlotte, who loves bringing her family’s house to life with small updates and creative ideas.

When Charlotte and Mark, a financial analyst, first moved to Southport from New York City, Charlotte left behind her career as a guidance counselor. To accompany some of her time as a new stay-at-home-mom, she started blogging about her style and unique design ideas. She writes about fixing her family’s old house and shares ways to add flea market finds and vintage decor into the mix. For Charlotte, who is now a full-time blogger, mom, and television personality, breathing new life into her family’s home is key — it means bringing in lots of pattern and color, while always respecting the bones of the historic house and staying true to its style. She wants to ensure that the innate charm is maintained, which in turn has made decorating both a fun and challenging process. There’s nothing standard about old homes!

Charlotte’s main goal is to create spaces that are colorful, fun and reflective of her young and energetic family. Without the budget for big renovations, she has focused on refreshing her home with vintage pieces, repurposed furniture, DIY solutions, and clever design. Usually, Charlotte starts out with one main idea and begins building a room’s decor from that. Her inspiration can be anything she sets her heart on, from a rug or a pillow to some fantastic wallpaper. The next step is scouring for thrifted treasures that could work with her chosen color scheme. After that, it’s all about mixing and matching for a perfectly layered look. She is also conscious of creating spaces that stand the test of five kids and the family’s golden retriever, Frank. This means opting for sturdy pieces, having fun with the design and keeping things playful. From soft and inviting textures in the family’s living room to speckled green wallpaper in the playroom — not to mention each kid’s room, more colorful and uplifting than the next — you can instantly tell that this home has been thoughtfully designed with each family member in mind. Whether it’s tying string all over a room to make an intricate pull system, or setting up a fish shop on the back porch, the family’s house offers the kids every opportunity to play, imagine and create. For this and so much more, Charlotte and Mark are inordinately thankful. —Sofia

Photography by Charlotte Smith

Image above: The living room had three different layouts until the current one came together. With beautiful old windows facing in two directions, it’s endlessly bright and welcoming. The light blue velvet couch was Charlotte’s present to herself when they first moved to Southport, and still works perfectly wherever it lands.

Editor’s Note: To assist our readers on sourcing requests, we’ve rounded up similar style pieces in our new Home Style Preview below. Click on the product image for the details and shopping info! You can also bookmark the quick look version in our Shopping section here.


 

 

 

 


 

Playful and Layered Design in a Family’s Historic Connecticut Home | Design*Sponge
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The velvet sofa from IKEA complements the soft color palette with a punch of green.

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The graphic quote art above the living room mantel is Charlotte’s DIY project.

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The old fossil collector’s cabinet that Charlotte painted in ombre tones is the first piece she ever made that was published. “That was in Better Homes and Gardens and it’s still a favorite,” she shares.

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Charlotte retreats to the office whenever she wants to get some quiet work done. The beautifully layered space is sure to get the creative juices flowing

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The walls in the family room were mustard when the family moved in — what a difference a coat of paint makes!

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With a fireplace that is burning most weekends from noon to bedtime, the family room is where everyone tends to end up. Finding a sofa to fit the space turned out to be a challenge, but eventually one was found on Craigslist. To add some seat depth, Charlotte removed the thick back cushions and replaced them with a dozen patterned throw pillows.

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The coffee table was a Craigslist find that Charlotte painted. She had a piece of metal bent over the table top for a custom look.

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The playroom transforms into a restaurant, puzzle museum or a movie theater on a daily basis. “This room is a little small for five kids, but they love it,” Charlotte says. She has slowly but surely brightened up the space to reflect her children who enjoy it so much. The speckled wallpaper from Spoonflower adds a playful touch.

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“I love that our home is filled with laughter and colorful chaos!” — Charlotte

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“It wasn’t until we moved into the house that I truly appreciated how wonderful this enclosed back porch was,” Charlotte says. The porch opens up to the mudroom and dining room and is the perfect spot to watch the kids play in the backyard.

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The master bedroom is a happy space that Charlotte has decorated with plenty of DIY elements. “I love that every morning, one of my kids comes to join me for a little extra catnap before starting their day,” she shares.

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Charlotte used her favorite Lacefield fabric for the headboard. The acrylic frames above the bed are another creative DIY project.

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Three-and-a-half-year-old Louisa and five-year-old Martha have recently started rooming together. To make Louisa feel more at home, Charlotte made a few changes to the room’s decor. The reupholstered ottomans are recent additions.

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Charlotte added a loveseat to the girls’ colorful bedroom so that the three of them could sit and read stories together. She also made the “Happy” tapestry above the fireplace, a perfect addition to this cheerful space.

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Until a few months ago, this was Louisa’s room. Although Louisa and Martha now share a room, Louisa can sneak in if she needs some alone time.

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Two-year-old Arthur, the family’s youngest, is the first one with a designated nursery that Charlotte had the pleasure to design. “We didn’t know what gender the baby was so I used neutral tones of greys and pale blues,” she explains. The reclaimed wood focal wall was a DIY project.

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Six-year-old Oliver’s room is Charlotte’s “thrifted magnum opus.” “I love how everything has come together to still feel playful, unique and youthful,” she adds.

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The reupholstered loveseat in Oliver’s room was one of the first Craigslist purchases that Charlotte made when the family moved to Connecticut. Pops of orange tie everything together.

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Eight-year-old Eleanor is the artist in the family and requested fuchsia for her bedroom decor. Charlotte added elements of fuchsia and pink throughout the space, contrasted by light greens.

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The third-floor attic was finished in the 70s when the kitchen and smaller bedrooms were added onto the house. The guest bedroom is the designated space for Charlotte’s beloved embroidered art collection.

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The side table is made from a chicken crate that Charlotte found at the flea market. She added some legs and had a piece of glass cut out for the top.

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Charlotte and Mark with their children Louisa, Eleanor, Arthur, Martha and Oliver in front of their backyard shed.

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The backyard shed was in bad shape until last year, when it was supported and reinforced. It’s now Charlotte’s private getaway and happy place.

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The shed is where Charlotte gets most of her DIY projects done — tools, crafts and flea market leftovers are stored here.

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Floor plan of the family’s 4,700-square-foot Federal-style home.

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Comments

  • This is a such a beautiful home. Even though there is a lot of pattern and colour going on, it still feels completely balanced and harmonious. I aspire for my home to feel like this.

  • Re: “see the beautiful sunny windows and wide wood floors to fall endlessly in love.” Yes! It is crazy to me that even million dollar new homes still have little, bitty windows, exterior walls without windows at all, and thin slips of wood masquerading as “wood floors.” I think my 100 year old house could have had no roof at all when we bought it, and I still would have thought it was perfect for the six foot tall windows and original wood floors.

    The shed is my favorite. Super dope.

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