Tour this completely converted 1970s home in a Connecticut forest | Catch My Job


Connecticut has long held a special place in Jae Joo’s heart. “This is where I went to college, met my husband, got married, and had my first apartment,” says the interior designer. He also notes that he spent “countless hours antiquing and searching for the best flea markets.”

Shopping for vintage furniture stateside proved particularly appealing to Joo, whose design practice largely grew out of his penchant for collecting antiques and crafts. (Laughingly, he admits to some hoarding tendencies.) For six years, his eponymous Manhattan-based studio has become known for mixing contemporary decor with decades- and centuries-old objects, resulting in layered, understated and rich spaces full of characterful warmth and patina.

So when he spotted a midcentury house for sale not far from one of his clients’ homes in a wooded enclave in southwestern Connecticut’s Fairfield County, about an hour’s drive from his offices in Tribeca, his curiosity piqued.

“It’s in a city that really feels like a forest, and it was home [the look] to make it really fun. It was like a party house,” he says of the 1970s trend. At the same time, the abode required very little maintenance and – thanks to the largely open ground floor, vaulted wooden ceiling and tree-filled views – was both warm and comfortable.

Joo and her husband, Devin, were ideal for the gatherings of friends and family they envisioned. “We didn’t want to worry about things getting messed up,” he emphasizes. Moreover, the space successfully brings the feeling of the outside world while incorporating various antique and handicraft finds. In other words, it’s “everything I love, put together”—which is, of course, exactly what a person’s home should be.

If there’s one room Joó loves more than any other, it’s the kitchen. “I cook and my favorite thing is to have people,” says the designer, who wanted to make sure that guests could occupy the space with him. That meant it had to be as friendly as possible: “Somewhere people can relax and it doesn’t look too functional – a place to hang out.”

The free-standing fireplace ensures pleasant nights.

A wet bar off the living room.

The existing kitchen was something of an empty box, so he started from scratch and added heating elements, sometimes literally (like the large Ilve stove). The entire space is complemented by plastered walls, all-wood Shaker-style cabinetry and crown molding painted in Hardwick White and Shadow White, both from Farrow & Ball, and plenty of vintage pieces. The four-legged counter stools and Moroccan rugs that line the huge, unique oak island are reminiscent of old country kitchens.

While these nods to traditional design may seem at odds with the house’s modern architecture, Joo didn’t see that as a problem. “I always love the contrast…something so modern and something so traditional working together.”

This mixture of something old and something new can be seen throughout the house, and sometimes even within individual pieces of furniture. In the living room, for example, newly added vintage brass legs and a glass top turned an early 20th-century watercolor Chinese screen into a coffee table that fits the clean-lined, low-slung custom corner sofa she designed. And in the dining room, an RH table large enough to seat fourteen people anchors a row of mismatched vintage chairs. “I’ve been fixated on them for a while,” Joo says of some particularly special 19th-century Chinese chairs. “I could never use them because there weren’t enough of them. Now was the perfect time.”

Furnishing the house also proved to be an ideal opportunity for Joo to indulge his love of playful colors – something his clients don’t always share. His case? Skylar Hughes is a painter from Los Angeles. “He was here for two weeks, hiking, exploring the natural environment, and he was really inspired,” recalls Joo. He then created the abstract forest scene that makes the guest rooms more child-friendly, echoing and beautifying the forest views outside. The space is finished off with hand-thrown, organically shaped ceramic vessels from Joo’s friend Jenny Min, which sit atop the headboard of the custom red lacquered bed. (Other Min dishes adorn the kitchen, primary bathroom, dining room, and dressing room.)

“I wanted this house to be really lived-in, comfortable and family-oriented,” says Joo. “Most of the time, my projects are very linear, very careful. But my own style is more relaxed.”


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