A newly renovated chateau in Stonington, Connecticut, is the ideal setting for a close-knit clan’s beautiful celebration.
Brielle M. Ferreira
1 of 7Photo: Jonny Valiant; Styling: Linda Hirst
Celebration with a View
After much searching, Diederick and Amy van der Velde found the home of their dreams in Stonington, Connecticut, where they first met as teenagers. While the house was in good shape, the van der Veldes knew they could make some changes to help it really shine. "The house was well cared for, but it felt pretty dated," says builder Stephen L. Johnson, who along with designer Dru Adams, was commissioned to take all three of the home's levels down to the studs. To take advantage of the water views, Johnson knocked down the walls that separated the living room from the kitchen and dining areas to create one large, open space, and traded in the home's small windows, which were few and far between, for gigantic, panoramic ones that extend the length of the grand room. “I love to perch in the sitting room and look out over the water,” says Amy.
The result of the renovation is a light-filled main floor that's ideal for entertaining, thanks in part to an extra-large, custom dining room table. "Before we moved in, the previous owner said to me, 'This house is mystical. The light is always changing.' It's so true. There's no such thing as a bad day here." This perhaps explains why the family chooses to spend its happiest moments at the house—each summer break and even the occasional Christmas.
The updated kitchen is as hardworking as it is welcoming, thanks to top-of-the-line appliances and an eat-in island. The all-white motif lets the water views be the star and allows the family to accent it with green wreaths and red poinsettias for the holidays. The column of open shelving is perfect for displaying favorite cookbooks and serving pieces.
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Room for Everyone
The house quickly became the spot where everyone gets together, and thankfully, Diederick and Amy planned for that, too. They commissioned local craftsman Charlie Burger to create custom bunk beds for the kids' rooms, in an effort to ensure that there would always be plenty of space for friends and family. Fun nautical accents such as portholes and beaded board make the new additions as fun as they are practical. "He put so much love into making them," Amy says.
Even the powder room received a punchy new look with statement-making, crimson-hued zebra print wallpaper. Streamlined sconces, a pedestal sink, and white hexagonal tiles keep the room balanced and not overdone.
One look at the happy family as they unload their oversize fir tree from the roof of their car and gather around to trim it together for the holidays makes it easy to understand the impact of the home. "It's the kind of place that almost doesn't exist anymore: safe, peaceful, tranquil," he continues. "It's all right here. We're very lucky."