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RENOVATION OF THE YEAR
Grace and Sandy Kaynor combined their aesthetics, heirlooms and family histories to return a 19th-century cottage to its former grandeur.
In a way, the words “grand” and “cottage” seem at odds with one another. Yet they are well-suited to a certain type of historic house found in places like New Orleans and Charleston.
Grace and Sandy Kaynor’s Uptown home is such a place. Commanding in scale with 13-foot ceilings and elegant medallions, yet warmly decorated with rich hues, family heirlooms and a dash of irreverence – all of which telegraph a sense of husband and wife’s combined backgrounds and tastes – the Kaynor residence manages to feel both grand and cottage-like.
“The house was in need of updates and identification with what it had originally been,” says Grace, an interior designer and co-owner of Sotre, a high-end home décor shop on Magazine Street. “It was meant to be a grand cottage, a place for entertaining.”
Built in 1853, the center hall cottage’s original architecture straddled the line between Greek Revival and Italianate – incorporating elements of both. Over the years, however, some of its architectural features – including a floating staircase and decorative moldings – had been stripped away. The Kaynors restored missing moldings and medallions, removed storage space that had been built-out below the staircase, widened doorways for a more gracious flow, added French doors to connect interior and exterior living, changed the configuration of rooms to accommodate their family of four (son Granville is 17 and daughter Phoebe is 11) and repurposed rooms to fit today’s lifestyle (the former smoking room is now a library). “We fell in love with the architectural bones of the house and the grand scale of the rooms,” says Grace, an avid preservationist. ‘The house was built with a lot of attention to detail and craftsmanship. My husband loved the proportions of it. We wanted to create a space for our family to grow in.”
Working with architect Davis Jahncke, the couple spent six years renovating the house, transforming its two-bedroom floor plan to incorporate four bedrooms, four-and-half-baths and an apartment in the rear. When they bought the property, the second floor had only one bedroom; the rest of its square footage was attic space. Today, the upstairs level has three bedrooms and three full baths. A ground-floor portion of the house that contained the master bath and closet, largely damaged by termites, was removed and rebuilt. The Kaynors also added a side porch that serves as a transitional room between the indoor and outdoor spaces, a garden room, a pergola and a mirrored shed outside.
To furnish the house, they combined pieces from their previous condo in Manhattan and their weekend farmhouse in Connecticut and filled in where needed. Antiques from their respective families and from their own acquisitions are a significant part of the pleasant alchemy and a fitting companion to the historic pedigree of the home. There are Early American pieces from Sandy’s forebears who figured prominently in the history of Connecticut and of Yale University; as well as Southern and English pieces, given to Grace by her parents. “I’m drawn to the English eclectic style of decorating,” says Grace. “I studied French furniture at Versailles but prefer English. The English style is much more relatable.”
Yet the interior design of the house is also etched with a sense of fun. One of the Kaynors’ oldest pieces, an Early American wingback chair with straw stuffing that helped confirm its 18th-century origins, is insouciantly updated with a purple fabric by Manuel Canovas. The inside of the family room’s fireplace is refinished with glossy ocean-blue tiles that Grace selected with input from interior designer Vesta Forte. The elegant silhouette of the garden room’s chandelier is strung with unfinished wooden beads instead of polished crystals. Decorative paint finishes (some by artist Sherry Haydel, others by artist E. Lee Jahncke) add a unique layer of pattern, texture and detailing.
Vibrant color is found in nearly every room. “I can do all white, but I love color,” says Grace, who drew her color palettes from a variety of places. The library’s Tiffany-glass greens and blues are a nod to the fine Arts and Crafts desk against one wall, for example. The living room’s marriage of purples, blues and greens is in sync with the large abstract canvas that resides above the sofa. The kitchen is the exception with white subway tiles, chosen by Grace to recreate the old-world look of Casamento’s restaurant. But the floor’s custom-designed and colored Mexican tiles enliven the sunny room with shades of teal, blue and charcoal.
Throughout the home, the couple’s striking collection of antique and contemporary art is mixed with mementos and one-of-a-kind finds. “We’re not elitist about our art,” says Grace, adding that the décor mixes priceless family pieces with inexpensive assemble-yourself furniture. “It’s whatever speaks to us and makes us happy.” Objets d’art and ephemera on display run the gamut from Sandy’s great-grandmother’s Tiffany desk set to a framed announcement of a cattle auction held by Sandy’s great-great-grandparents. The effect is of a house that’s been put together over time, an accumulation of beautiful keepsakes handed down through generations and assembled with a designer’s eye. Grace and Sandy met while both practicing law at the same Manhattan firm. But after marrying, Grace switched gears, studying History of Decorative Arts at the Cooper-Hewitt in New York City and obtaining a degree in interior design.
The final phase of the Kaynors’ thorough renovation was devoted to the front and rear gardens, also influenced by Grace’s love of English design, and like the rest of the house, a clear collaboration between spouses. Sandy wanted outdoor spaces for family use and entertaining, especially informal barbecues. Grace envisioned a blurring of the lines between indoors and outdoors, so that both could be enjoyed simultaneously. The Kaynors refinished the existing pool, added a side porch, a camellia garden inspired by Grace’s grandmother who cross-bred camellias, and a pergola surrounded with greenery that includes grapevine, herbs, broccoli, citrus, peas and pomegranates.
“This house isn’t just me or just Sandy,” says Grace. “It’s both of us. We took a historic house, renovated it and infused it with color and fun and sense of irreverence and a lot of dogs.”
Saarinen’s Modernist tulip table is used in the kitchen’s breakfast area. The bar area includes a Lazy Susan by Provence Platters (at Sotre) and mirrored glass backsplash from Stafford Tile & Stone. Karen Gundlach porcelain pottery on table, from Sotre.
The garden room has Adam-style windows and decorative, hand-pieced latticework by master cabinetmaker Miguel Montoya. Chandelier with wooden beads and seashells from Karla Katz Antiques.
The kitchen’s island came from the Connecticut farmhouse that the Kaynors previously owned. Grace custom-designed the Mexican concrete tiles used for the floor. Custom cabinetry by master cabinetmaker Miguel Montoya. Pendant fixtures from Circa Lighting.
Son Granville’s room features faux horn finishing by artist E. Lee Jahncke on the walls and ceiling. Light fixture by Global Views. Linens by Home Treasures and Julia B. at Sotre. The quilt belonged to Grace’s grandmother, and one of the globes belonged to Grace’s mother as a child.
The master bedroom’s balloon shade combines Manuel Canovas fabric with beaded trim by Samuel & Sons. The chair and table are thrift store finds. Nude by Tim Trapolin.
The stair treads, original to the house, were handpicked to run in opposite directions. Below the stairs, an 18th-century hunt sideboard is paired with a high/low mix of Japanese woodblock prints, Pier 1 vase, a lamp from Bungalow 5 and a celadon vase by a Canadian artist.
A painting by artist Susan Dory (Guthrie Contemporary) plays off the graphic pattern of the floor painted by artist Sherry Haydel. A grasscloth console from Bungalow 5 (at Sotre) is flanked by 18th-century American Chippendale chairs from Sandy’s grandmother’s family. Ceramic eggs with gilding on the inside by Gold Leaf Design Group (at Sotre) are displayed on the far rear wall.
The Kaynors knocked out part of the hall wall to create a door accessing the dining room and made a china closet out of space formerly used for a powder room. They added the Greek key chair rail, had plaster moldings recreated to match those in the living room and had artist Sherry Haydel faux mahogany grain the pocket doors. The French 19th-century chandelier is original to the house. Grace had the 1960s Phyllis Morris chairs gilded. Antique Sheraton-style dining table. Scalamandré silk satin drapery.
Above the living room mantel hangs a Dorothy Wexler collage pieced together from her great-grandmother’s Vassar collection of art history notes. An 18th-century settee with a Thurston Reed pillow, an Osborne & Little ottoman and a print by Robert Rauschenberg are grouped nearby.
An abstract painting by Tony Mose provided impetus for the living room’s color scheme. Custom sofa from Andrew Martin with Fabricut fabric, pillows by Robert Allen, Lee Jofa and Manuel Canovas. On the right of the sofa is an 18th century Dutch marquetry table, on the left an antique card table. Hand-sculpted brass butterfly accent table by Tommy Mitchell. Silver mementos displayed on the coffee table include a loving cup given to Sandy’s grandfather on the occasion of his marriage by His WW1 Officer Corps and a cigarette box from Sandy’s father’s wedding.
Grace, with dogs Fritz (Dachsund) and Oliver (King Charles), chose a red lacquer finish for the front door of the family’s 19th-century cottage. Paint by Fine Paints of Europe. Gas lantern by Bevolo.
The pergola, built by Miguel and Juan Pablo Montoya, is surrounded by ferns, grapevine and cumquats. Hanging swing and furniture by Sika Design. Ceramic stool by Reinaldo Sanguino.
The family room’s Windsor rocking chair and tree trunk coffee table are from Sandy’s family; the Italian painted chest was a gift from a friend of Grace’s. Tribal patterned drapery fabric by Brunschwig & Fils. Honoré Daumier print, ostrich egg chandelier from Christopher Gow of Creel & Gow in New York City.