In a small Gold Coast Connecticut town where porches and docks back up against the Long Island Sound, there’s been just one owner of a traditional Cape Cod home, whose boards and beams were erected over six decades ago. A woman raised her three daughters inside the home’s 1,260-square-foot floor plan, and thanks to an active real estate market, when it was time to sell, there were a number of interested buyers. But one, Raquel Garcia, a local interior designer, who also planned on raising her three daughters (Natalia, 18, Paloma, 15, and Nina, 12) in the home, caught the seller’s attention and a deal was inked. “I’m very grateful she decided to sell to us,” says Garcia, “we love it dearly.”
Inside, the home had been lovingly worn by an active family, but from a design perspective, “it had not been touched since its inception in 1954,” Garcia notes. She closed on the house Easter weekend in 2015, and undertook a radical eight-week renovation that emptied the home down to the studs—all that would remain is a Japanese maple tree in the front yard, Garcia joked. “I redid all of the internal components, stripped down the chimney flute, and relocated windows to bring in natural light” she says, “and I added a dormer off the second floor.” To accommodate her modern family’s lifestyle, Garcia left the floor plan open, and in the end, added nearly 700 square feet for a larger, though still compact, sprawl.
Keeping the footprint small, and building off the quaintness of a traditional Cape Coder, suited the designer just fine. “I love decorating large homes, but I actually prefer living in smaller spaces that are cozy,” she explained. To reintroduce character to the gutted interior, Garcia set to designing by imagining “what a traditional Cape Cod would look like if all its dreams came true,” she said. “I made sure to put back original elements, as if they were already there,” like shiplap walls painted the softest shade of custom high-gloss gray and beachy white oak hardwood flooring that ups the cottage feel tenfold.
Upstairs, where all four bedrooms reside, is all about “peace and calm,” says Garcia of emotions that encapsulate her design aesthetic. “From clients, family and friends, I hear over and over again that these are the feelings that come naturally after I finish a space. Your home is your sanctuary and your bedroom is a place of repose and rejuvenation.” For hers, Garcia chose a mid-century Schumacher print with a subtle shimmer and a custom headboard designed in her studio. In her youngest daughter’s room, she wanted to create a space that felt good to be in. “I call it her nest because it feels like little birds decorated it. If you've ever watched birds build their nest, they have twigs and all sorts of tiny things in their beak, then it all comes together so organically. That's how I feel about her cozy space.”
In the communal, high-traffic spaces, all on the ground floor, most moms would be tempted to utilize industrial-strength materials that could withstand the wear three teenage girls and two dogs, Luna and Gypsy, would generate. But Garcia opted for a range of whites, saying that “I’d rather clean a mess than hide it.”
The walls are colored with the lightest of French blues that changes as the sun’s shadows work their way from east to west. A Verellen sofa was covered in white Belgian linen, but not before it was treated with stain-resistant Nanotex, and extra soft elements came from Delany and Long’s collection of indoor/outdoor fabrics. “All of my favorite lines now have the technology to produce family-friendly fabrics that don't compromise quality and design,” she notes.
Throughout, a common design element is that of gold and lucite, a glamorous choice Garcia says isn’t about trends. “My house growing up had touches of it. They’re classic and timeless, you just need to know what lines to stick to.” For the stairwell, Garcia had a custom handrail made with unlacquered brass caps, saying, “it adds depth without the visual weight of wood.” And in the kitchen, lucite bar stools are topped in Holly Hunter leather—“they weigh about 100 pounds each,” notes Garcia on the custom pieces’ heft.
Scattered around shelves and tables are collections that Garcia has gathered during her travels or that came from her childhood home. “They all evoke a memory and have meaning to me,” she says. Stacked on the living room’s bookcases, pearl baby bibles that came from each of her girls’ baptism, and on the rear wall, a turtle shell whose meaning goes deeper than a love of the ocean. “When I was born, my father gifted my mother a gold turtle brooch with ruby eyes,” Garcia explains. “And this one he brought back from South America in the '70s. The colors are stunning, delicate neutrals. I love having these things around and I love getting to talk about them whenever the conversation comes up.”