Connecticut Charmer

Once a diamond in the rough, a pondside bungalow is now picture-perfect thanks to the homeowners’ design know-how and leap of faith.

BY Janice Randall Rohlf | Photography by Dan Cutrona

Deb and Rick Kollmeyer know their way around a house renovation. They’ve done it three times. But until they bought their current house in Stonington, Connecticut, each place was renovated with resale in mind. When the couple cut short a Block Island vacation to see a new-to-the-market property in this charming borough of Mystic, Deb’s first reaction was, “We really could get old in this house.” Rick’s was, “There’s potential? Where?”

Built as a barn in the 1800s, the structure had been moved from Vermont to its current location by the initial owners in 1979. Since then, just about nothing, inside and out, had changed. Reclaimed wood, trending now as an accent, was used extensively, overwhelming the interiors and making the house very dark despite its numerous windows. Disregarding a building code against it, even the wall behind the stove and the living room fireplace surround were made of wood.

Formerly dark and heavy on the wood, the kitchen is now flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows in the adjacent dining room. A Moroccan-influenced tile backsplash, cream-colored cabinetry and a leather-finish Fantasy Brown granite peninsula make it a cozy space to grab a bite.

Where Rick saw a “beat-up firetrap,” Deb, a designer by training, had vision. As soon as she walked in the door, she says, “I was knocking down walls in my head.” The existing laundry room, for example, became a new butler’s pantry and wine room, while a cavernous bathroom was divided and remodeled into a powder room and much-needed hall closet.

Deb’s affinity for mixing materials and textures and blending old and new is evident throughout the house. She wanted the fireplace, not the T.V., to be the focal point of the living room, so she worked with the stonemason who crafted the front of the house to construct an oversized hearth from local stone that sets the tone for all of the downstairs.

Nearby in the dining room, a three-wall mural of the Battle of Stonington, original to the house and painted by local artist Mary Schwab, narrowly escaped a new paint job. Deb was surprised that it actually complemented an off-white mid-century modern dining table and chairs, and for good measure, she tucked a decorative side table from Madaba, Jordan, into the mix.

A butler’s pantry with Wood-Mode “Brookhaven” cabinetry in Vintage Deep Sky and a hammered stainless steel sink.

Deb’s design specialty is kitchens and it is the heart of this home (“The worst kitchen I’d ever seen,” she says) that really put her expertise to the test. To give the cramped space a more open feel, one wall was knocked down and a heavy ceiling beam removed along with most of the dark reclaimed wood. Now, cream-colored Wood-Mode “Brookhaven” cabinetry, a backsplash of Moroccan-influenced porcelain tile by Quemere Designs and stainless steel appliances render the cozy space inviting. Most days, Deb and Rick brew coffee in the blue Wood-Mode butler’s pantry modeled on one she admired in a boutique hotel, and enjoy it sitting at the kitchen’s peninsula. In nice weather, the pondside patio beckons.

When they first saw the house, the Kollmeyers figured it would be a summer home and weekend retreat from their condo in Boston’s South End. But when Rick sold his company, they seized the opportunity to move full-time to Stonington. They love that the town is vibrant year-round and have made many friends, among them pastry chef Adam Young, owner of Sift Bake Shop, who was a finalist in the Food Network’s 2017 Spring Baking Championship, and owner Brian Gates, who oversaw a painstaking restoration of the 1853 Spicer Mansion, now a luxury boutique hotel.

In fact the Kollmeyers are so fond of their town that this month they opened Adore, a home furnishings boutique on Main Street in Mystic, where, says Deb, “People will be able to buy home accessories and small, interesting furniture pieces from the 19th to the 21st century, and from all over the world.” Traveling to keep the store stocked with treasures is surely on the couple’s agenda, but staying put never seemed better, now that they have the home of their dreams.

In the dining room, mid-century modern furniture unexpectedly complements an existing mural of the 1814 Battle of Stonington. The homeowners collect heart-shaped stones like those in the bowl on the table, and they pamper their Tibetan Terrier, Tashi.

One drawer of the wet bar is tricked out as a humidor for Rick’s Cuban cigars.

In nice weather, Rick and Deb enjoy the privacy of their patio and fishing in the pond.

The master bedroom combines blue and white, and toile and dark wood, for a restful ambience.

The cottage-style house reminds Deb of her years growing up in England.

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