This Southport Colonial is a sophisticated showpiece for adults and a casual space for an active family

After getting married, Francesco and Meri Leigh Daniele bought their first home in the Saugatuck area of Westport, choosing to move out of New York City before having children, despite their friends’ dismay. Following the move, they were happy living a suburban life while commuting to finance jobs in Manhattan, and planned to stay at their new abode for a long time. But five years and two little ones later, and amid a COVID-19 lockdown, they craved more space. 

“The house fit our needs at the time,” Francesco says. “And then my mom, who lives in Italy, came to visit us for our son’s birthday and got stuck here until the summer because the borders were closed. Here’s when we realized that we needed a home office, more bedrooms and extra space for the kids. We weren’t actively looking, but we drove through Southport and loved the town’s historic feel. It felt like a place lost in time.”

After falling in love with the town, they found a home they equally loved — a chic, brick Colonial-style house, which mirrored those in the South where Meri Leigh grew up. However, once they stepped inside, the 1960s house was dark with a series of cramped rooms. Having completed many home projects in their Westport home, they weren’t dissuaded. But this one proved to be out of their comfort zone, so they contacted Darien architect Christopher Pagliaro and Leia Ward, founder of New Canaan-based LTW Design, who jumped on board the project.

Pagliaro and Ward collaborated to create good flow and an open-plan layout by taking away most of the interior structure. The back wall of the house was pushed out to create a glass gallery hall that seamlessly connects all the rooms. With 10½-foot ceilings, compared to 8½-foot ceilings throughout the house, this new addition creates an inviting open concept and floods the home with natural light. Part of the kitchen also enjoys the higher ceiling, and the newly renovated entry hall is now two stories, making for a grand first impression.

“Everything is so beautiful and calming,” says Meri Leigh, who is enjoying her new role as a full-time mom to two boys, both under the age of 5, and two English bulldogs. “The first time I saw Leia’s work on Instagram, I immediately thought, ‘This is my vibe.’ We don’t like a lot of color, but we love a lot of texture and interesting things. And Leia gets it. Plus, she’s a mom and understands how to make a space livable. She’s created a place that everyone can live in without it feeling chaotic.”

While some designers will change their look based on the client’s aesthetic, Ward doesn’t. She has her own signature style and attracts clients that like the LTW look — calm, clean lines, and bold neutrals. The Danieles’ house is light-colored throughout except for a lounge, home office and powder room that Ward made dark and moody with a modern vibe.

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