Better Homes & Gardens: Cool Down

Tones of gray lay the base for an artful blend of rustic and midcentury modern, turning a drab builder home into a soothing retreat

For their weekend getaway, New York interior designer John Willey and his partner, Frederick Aronstein, aimed for something of a palette cleanser. “I wanted just whites and grays and blacks – a calming scheme because we deal with color and pattern throughout the workday,” John says. That meant changing their 1990’s Colonial-style cottage’s palette of buttery yellow and dark brown to the cool, toned neutrals John favors. Sleek but warm furnishings and bold modern art energize the rooms and balance the home’s rustic bones, as well as showcasing John and Frederick’s personalities. “It’s fantastic to come up on a Friday, light a fire, relax with friends, or just enjoy the sounds of nature,” John says. “Every little corner – the whole place – brings me joy.”

Style Detail No. 1: In the kitchen, the existing cabinetry traded its chocolate-brown finish for high-gloss black. Granite counter tops with gray and cream tones replaced green laminate and blend with the butcher-block- topped open island.

Style Detail No. 2: Whitewashing the wide-plank wood floors modernized and brightened the spaces. John and Frederick introduced shots of color in the neutral spaces with modern artwork.

Style Detail No. 3: In addition to artwork, color comes into the house through accents like their collection of vintage yellow glass bottles.

Style Detail No. 4: For the breakfast nook, John chose a rope-wrapped fixture and cane bistro chairs for a casual vibe.

Style Detail No. 5: Upstairs, the wood ceilings were left unpainted to warm the spaces. Otherwise, the gray palette flows through, tying these rooms to the rest of the house.

Style Detail No. 6: The staircase shines with its statement light fixture, white spindles, and glossy black rail.

Style Detail No. 7: Floor-to- ceiling white subway tiles with black grout add varied texture to the master bath. The vanity and side table provide plenty of storage for linens and toiletries without overwhelming the small space.


Hilary Adorno