Like so many home improvement projects, this one started out with a simple request, but snowballed into an entire redecoration of the first floor of this stately Shingle Style home in Greenwich. “My contractor was working with the family and when they asked him to build custom bookcases in the family room, he passed the design assignment on to me,” says Mimi. “They loved the bookcases I designed so much, they asked for another pair in the breakfast room. Then the clients said, ‘while we are at it, let’s change the color in the family room,’ which led to discussions about color schemes and how colors in the adjoining rooms needed to work together. And it kept snowballing from there!”

The clients didn’t have any specific design in mind, but wanted a fresh look that was sophisticated, yet kid friendly to accommodate all their grandchildren and frequent quests. “The husband didn’t want the house to be ‘so done’ you didn’t want to sit down—it had to be a house to be lived in,” Mimi explains. “I encouraged them to look online for things they liked so I could get a better sense of what styles appealed to them.”

The heavy 1980s curtains with swags and tassels were the first to go, replaced with elegant drapes, valances, and shades that allowed natural light in, giving all the first floor rooms an airy ambience. Much of the original furniture had good bones and was reupholstered; accessories and collectibles were pared down allowing the remaining ones to really stand out. “At first, family and friends thought the owners had bought all new things,” Mimi laughs. “They didn’t recognize the furniture with the new upholstery and asked where the couple had bought the mirror over the fireplace. It had always been there but was lost among all the family’s collections!”

This was the first fully traditional home that Mimi and her team worked on, and when she suggested incorporating a few modern lighting fixtures into the mix, the wife loved the idea while her husband was skeptical. “He called it a ‘Star Wars’ fixture in the beginning, but changed his mind when he saw how well they worked in the rooms. Breaking up a thoroughly traditional home with something unexpected makes the whole look much more dynamic.”

Transforming the formerly ho-hum powder room into a dramatic focal point was the final project on the first floor. “When the wife and I started discussing painting it a dark aubergine, her husband just couldn’t take it and walked away. But after it was done, he loved it so much he wanted credit for choosing the color! It is their favorite room in the house!”

Mimi believes the reason this project was so successful was that the clients put very few restrictions on them. “We took the lead, talked about all the options, and made decisions together. I felt free to offer ideas like using the modern chandeliers and a ‘wow’ color in the powder room. They trusted us and ended up loving everything we suggested. I’m excited to start on Phase Two with the upstairs master suite.”

Photography by Tom Sibley (