Combining old and new elements in unforgettable ways in Stamford.
Maintaining the delicate balance between antique and modern styles in a home is a challenge for any interior designer, but it is a feat that Donna Benedetto has clearly mastered. Her aesthetic seamlessly blends old and new elements with her own custom-designed pieces, resulting in a sophisticated, layered look. Benedetto’s clients had a special appreciation for this unique “mix not match” approach. Having seen her talents at work when she spent 18 months remodeling their office spaces to exude a sense of homelike comfort, Benedetto’s clients immediately became residential ones when they bought and remodeled their own home. Thus, she became, in her words, “The designer who came and never left.”
The home itself has inherent appeal as a waterfront property, a feature that Benedetto highlights in beautifully subtle ways with every design choice she makes. In each room, silver, gray and icy blue tones contrast with warm browns, taupes and shades of white. Metallic, hand-painted walls offer a touch of shimmer that plays off the natural light, while organic rugs create textural variety and further echo outside elements. In many cases, her restraint is every bit as effective as her bolder design statements. For example, the entire back of the home is made of glass and features a breathtaking view, which Benedetto brilliantly enhances with the use of simple, gauzy window treatments. The result is a series of serene spaces that emphasize the beauty of the outdoors, rather than competing against it.
At the same time, however, the home’s design presented its share of challenges for Benedetto throughout the design process. As a waterfront property, the home stretches up five floors with numerous angles; this layout, combined with its original Tuscan feel, caused the home to seem disjointed and awkward. Benedetto combated this issue with custom furniture designs and accessories that “brought the outside in,” creating the illusion that the house and the water are virtually connected. Furthermore, since this home was her clients’ personal residence rather than a vacation home, it was particularly important for each space to serve multiple purposes to maximize continuity and flow.
The dining room area perfectly illustrates all the strengths of Benedetto’s design style. The vintage dining table was refinished with a gray custom lacquer and paired with delicate chairs and an antique chandelier imported from France. Sheer window treatments that can be opened and reclosed create an ethereal effect. The walls display a paint treatment designed by Benedetto, which contains a metallic strie that is reflective of the light that comes in; some areas seem to shimmer while others appear flatter, depending on how the light shines. The room is completed with an elegant, pale gray rug.
Similarly, the feel of the lower-level family room makes it ideal for everyday use and casual entertaining. Throw pillows with exotic prints add pops of color throughout the space, and complement the otherwise neutral furniture pieces. Again, Benedetto brings together antique and new pieces in stunning ways, pairing custom-made benches and upholstery with vintage artwork and accessories. The originally dark built-ins were painted white and put together with a faux bois wallpaper, giving the room a natural and organic feel. Lastly, Benedetto added a banded, organic rug with a large nail-head design to tie the space together. The wallpaper is clearly the standout feature of the guest bathroom, giving it a rich feel. In keeping with Benedetto’s signature style, the room boasts classic taste with modern updates, executed with the goal of maximizing the space. The floor was fashioned with traditional materials, including lagos blue marble for the border, and a combination of gray and carrara brown marble in the center. In contrast, Benedetto updated an otherwise classic vanity with a carrara marble top and nickel legs. A built-in medicine cabinet was transformed into an elegant mirror, keeping the space as open as possible. Everything needs a place, Benedetto says, and so she specifically plans how each part of the room will be used so that each space blends and doesn’t detract from the rest of the room.
In designing the guest bedroom, Benedetto considered the clients’ older son, who visits often. As a result, the space has a distinctly masculine feel combined with softer, beachy undertones. The shades of blue are deeper, bordering on navy, yet are mixed with the same silver and white hues found throughout the rest of the house. A gray-and-white chevron rug complements soothing gray walls, while the right side of room features all water views. In keeping with Benedetto’s “old meets new” motif, the headboard is custom-built while the remaining furnishings are new, save for a gorgeous, vintage driftwood lamp that has been lacquered black and serves as a statement piece.
A similar sense of simple elegance can be found in the sitting room area of the master bedroom. Here, the window treatments are hand-embroidered with a silver background and a mixture of cream and icy blue embroidery. The room’s focal point, however, is arguably the armoire, which is custom-made with fretwork detail that is carried over from the foyer. Not only do these charming details pull the home’s design together, but the armoire adds a sense of grandness and sophistication to the space on its own. Benedetto says her primary goal was for this area to be textural. “People think you always need color to create drama,” she says, “but it can also be done with really subtle elements. Those spaces can be more interesting, I think, than your more intense spaces.”
The rest of master bedroom, in contrast, features a custom bed facing the water, complete with built-in shelves and an upholstered headboard. In this area of the bedroom, Benedetto utilized a limited color palette for accessories, focusing on white, gold and slate blue. The headboard and Euro pillows are similar shades of cream, while vintage pineapples and coral books add cohesiveness to the space. The idea here, says Benedetto, is one of “less versus more.” As with most of the chandeliers in the home, the two chandeliers in the bedroom were both imported from France. While there is a unique focus on limitation, this area shares commonality with the sitting area in that both spaces bring together different textures in creative ways.
The fifth floor of the home, which is the top lookout floor, is Benedetto’s personal favorite. Her design is simple, allowing the water view on the left side of the room to command much of the attention. Unlike the remainder of the home, the wall color here is dark and moody, which brings out the blue in the water and establishes the space as a quiet place to relax. An organic, pale-gray sisal rug ties together with a Mongolian lamb ottoman, along with polished nickel sconces made from tree branches. The space also features a chocolate brown, reupholstered chaise lounge, one of the few pieces Benedetto’s clients brought with them into the home.
The foyer sets the tone for the entire house. The room features a circle window that is off-center, so she designed a custom bench to fit the space. She also designed the breathtaking wallpaper, featuring a hand-painted, silver leaf metallic, chinoiserie background. The limestone floor was laid in a herringbone design, giving the room a driftwood and organic feel to balance out the formal wallpaper. A delicate shell chandelier adds an unexpected yet delightful hint of character. In short, the foyer combines all of the elements found within the rest of the house to create a glamorous yet natural effect.
The main living area offers a final glimpse into the complexities of Benedetto’s design style. The fireplace features a custom screen with mirror surround, which reflects the water from outside. Clean and contemporary, it is formed with custom polished nickel and glass. A vintage Buddha made from carved wood with gold leaf details stands beside it.
Outdoor and indoor, old and new, paired together in perfect harmony-- these are the choices that set Benedetto apart from other designers. These are the ways she has taken gorgeous pieces of antique furniture and breathed new life into them, time and time again. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Donna Benedetto entered the world of interior design after selling antique treasures for years. Perhaps it was that appreciation for classic, timeless beauty that informs much of her success today.
Donna Benedetto Designs
20 Harvest Moon Road
Easton, CT 06612