A simple renovation turned full-blown overhaul nets a young couple an open and airy home that combines the serenity of nature with the colorful flair of their heritage
The home of Nupur and Nitin Jindal stands tall in its enclave of low-slung 1950s ranches and split-levels just off the Post Road in Greenwich. Part country barn aglow at sunrise, part American modern, the house has occupied this spot since it was finished in 2011.
“We wanted to be close to downtown, to the train station and to stores like Whole Foods, and we wanted to be where we could take walks in the evening,” says Nitin.
He and his wife looked at dozens of houses before deciding on this one, having found the others “suboptimal” to their needs. “This property had upgrade potential.”
So it was in 2010 that the couple, he a trader known to ride his bicycle to work on an occasional summer morning, and she a strategic business consultant currently on hiatus to care for their young daughter—both of them natives of India’s northern states—bought the lot and the structure on it. Like many houses on the block, the house seemed ripe for a modest renovation including the addition of a second floor as well as a spacious en suite guest room to the first floor that Nupur says could accommodate rotating sets of grandparents visiting from India.
“When they come, they stay for a long time,” she explains.
They hired architect Rich Granoff of Granoff Architects in Greenwich, whose work they admired and because they were interested in modern design.
“We had a tight site and a tight budget,” says Granoff, who explains that the slope in the backyard squeezed the footprint even further. “Our objective was to maximize the spatial experience of the home and create a light, airy feeling throughout.”
Little by little, the plan for a humble renovation evolved into a full demolition followed by the construction of what Granoff calls a “neo-shingle style” house that was respectful of the homes in the surrounding neighborhood. The entire process took about a year and a half, and Granoff’s new clients say they enjoyed every bit of it even if they had to endure a few bouts of sticker shock along the way.
For its resistance to harsh weather, Granoff chose red cedar for the exterior—a combination of shingles and clapboard—and selected a natural finish. The composition makes a bold contrast with the green lawn and ornamental boxwoods, while the clapboard cladding makes a statement on the center section of the building, where a horizontal roofline bridges the twin peaks of two wings encased in shingles. As accents, Granoff added stucco and aluminum half-round gutters and shaded the entry in a sleek modern pergola.
Inside the front door, the main living area features a double-height ceiling that is made possible by the basic configuration of the floor plan: a two-story horseshoe that encloses a central column of voluminous open space that rises to the roof. Granoff adjusted what could have been an intimidating verticality to one that is more human in scale, with the addition of a floating beam that conceals lighting and traces the perimeter of most of the room, warming up the space as it does.
“So often modern interiors feel cold,” says Nupur, adding that she finds herself inspired by the details of the pre-war apartments of New York where the couple lived for a year before moving to their first house in Greenwich. “We wanted a modern house that was warm.”
It is a combination of natural elements and unexpected dashes of bright color that gives the home its heat. These include an arresting stacked-stone fireplace that stretches to the ceiling like an interior chimney and a truncated triangular coffee table made from a single slab of black walnut with a flared sap edge. In addition, draperies are hung from the ceiling and embellished with orange bands at their hems—and repeated on windows elsewhere in the house. Finishing touches include chandeliers and decorative objects with organic forms and materials, and art from India. Together the components ground the home on terra firma and make it familiar and inviting.
Nupur, loyal to the vibrant colors of her heritage, was determined to infuse her new 5,800-foot roost with some flourishes reminiscent of the subcontinent. Two tailored sofas upholstered in a crisp gray wool feature velvet accent pillows in the colors of bee pollen, peacock and the fruit of a ripe papaya. Area carpets with whimsical geometric patterns were customized to echo the colors of the accessories. Scattered throughout the house are art and statues of Hindu deities, a collection Nupur hopes to expand on during a trip to India later this year—“only if they’re well made,” she says.
Interior designer Victoria Lyon, now in business for more than twenty years and based in Greenwich, joined the team at an advanced stage of the process.
She says she added some naturalistic components while preserving the structure’s fluid relationship with the outdoors.
“It’s got these large windows and wood beams and a stone fireplace,” says Victoria. “I wanted to keep the open and airy feeling.”
In addition to upholstery fabrics and draperies, she added chandeliers and pendant lights made from bentwood veneer that emit a warm glow, decorative objects like tea tree balls, a vintage lamp with a volcanic looking orange finish and some potted twigs she painted by hand in a pale-green, an exercise she compared to a Zen-like challenge of her patience. (She scheduled the exercise before bedtime to calm her down on several consecutive nights.)
“I wanted these elements to look organic.”
The daughter of a costume and textile curator and the goddaughter of an architectural historian—and someone whose father, grandfather and great grandfather dabbled in real estate, specializing in fixer-uppers—Victoria says she sought to strike a contemporary note with some traditional and transitional touches.
Upstairs, a balcony functions as a connector between the two bedroom wings, parents on one side, children on the other. One can imagine it will serve as a dramatic setting for a reenactment of Rapunzel one day. Victoria softened the soaring catwalk with draperies that match those in the living and dining rooms downstairs. “The loft adds to the serenity of the house,” she says.
Another source of serenity in the house is the master suite, which, with its large floor area, tall windows and window seat, Victoria says proved a challenge to decorate from the perspective of affording privacy and creating a sense of intimacy.
The designer chose a muted palette that would be hard pressed to disturb any sweet dream. She chose a wing-back headboard that wraps around the pillows and covered it in tufted upholstery; installed a feminine writing table with a mirror for reflection in more ways than one; and mapped out a petite seating area opposite the bed that is notable for its soft lines and soothing hues. The window seat, seemingly wide and long enough for stretching out and napping, is dressed with graceful draperies that almost puddle on the cushion.
Though her business, mostly residential, is centered in Fairfield County, Victoria has worked far afield in places such as Switzerland and Florida, and closer to home in Larchmont and New York City. After a stint at Polaroid where she studied art reproduction and built the world’s largest camera, she studied interior design at Fairfield University and then at the New York School of Interior Design. Her first commission was her realtor’s own house. The realtor was pleased.
“Art and design have always been my passion,” she says. “Nupur liked bright colors and this brings the house to life.”
On the main level, the living and dining rooms, the kitchen and the den enjoy views of the backyard, where the sloped garden is planted in the summer with a colorful array of roses and hydrangeas. There is also a patio that runs the length of the house and includes a grilling area, a dining table (dal and chicken curry are among Nupur’s specialties) and a sitting area for cocktails—a lovely area where the couple spends a lot of time entertaining friends.
“This home is typical of what we like to do when our clients are open-minded,” says Rich Granoff, who worked with colleague Shanna Benjamin as project manager. “We have a saying in our office that our best clients get our best work. The Jindals were not afraid to take risks.”
It’s a safe bet this trader-strategist couple took a very good risk. The neighborhood seems to have only begun reinventing itself.