Uncategorized April 12, 2017

French “Style” Country Estate

Home By Design

april | may | 2017




Steven Favreau, president of Favreau Design, longed to move to the French countryside. But with family in his hometown of Boston, and offices in both Boston and San Francisco, that kind of move presented a logistic challenge. In 2011, he found his solution in a 5,000-square-foot home that was built in 1832 and set on twenty-five acres in the beautiful countryside of Chelsea, a small farming town in Vermont. “I love American history,” says Favreau, “and decided to redo the home with a contemporary attitude, but with a nod to the period.”

Renovating a historic home is a great undertaking that often includes making unexpected structural and whole-house updates. “The electrical situation was so bad, I was concerned that a fire was very possible. We had to repair that immediately,” he explains. “And we found that a wall between the kitchen and dining room was putting pressure on the floor and causing the house to slowly sink into the basement.” He knocked the wall down and put in an enormous beam in the kitchen for support. The floor stopped sagging and slowly settled into its proper height.


The floors were the original pumpkin pine. Because the floorboards were textured and hand hewn, Favreau had them sanded down by hand to retain the aged details. They were then stained a dark espresso color, given a satin finish, and topped with a wax coat. On the walls, six layers of wallpaper were removed and the plaster was reskinned. Favreau maintained everything he could from the original architectural details. Moldings, five wood fireplace surrounds, the banister, and even the old hardware were carefully refurbished. The trim was painted a creamy white. Once these basic foundations were laid, the color—amazing, intense, intoxicating color—was introduced.

Favreau found photos dating from the 1800s that showed the foyer with stripes on the walls. He wanted the foyer to be dramatic and jolt the senses, but he also wanted it to be part of the whole. So he took bits and pieces of the foyer decor and incorporated them into the rooms surrounding the foyer. “The home is one [book] and each of the rooms is a chapter,” he explains.

He found mother-and-daughter artistic painters in town who accomplished the phenomenal striping on the foyer walls. “I had seen wonderful wallpaper with stripes, but it was no longer available. So I designed a similar stripe pattern using brown, fuchsia, and white paint,” says Favreau. “The painters astoundingly painted the stripes by hand!” A faux-leopard stair runner and white, faux-animal mounts lend a touch of whimsy.

The dining room off the foyer was papered in fuchsia with a pattern that is reminiscent of stacked plates. Favreau purchased the traditional chairs at an auction, then added bright-teal paint and the candy-striped upholstery. “I like a contemporary feel, but love antiques,” he admits. The cushions are in a purple crocodile-patterned material. In contrast, the table has a serene industrial feel. And the ceiling and rug offer a calming touch in subtle cream tones with patterns that mirror each other.


ABOVE: Favreau’s love of pattern and color bring the master bedroom to life. The wallpaper is Autograph by Andrew Martin (andrewmartin.co.uk), a soft ecru base color covered with subtle autographs of people who have been famous through the ages.

Favreau enjoys designing in the tone and voice of a period rather than catering to the absolute historic details of an era, seen here in the formal dining room.



Favreau often adds a touch or humor or whimsy to his designs. A portrait over the living room fireplace pictures a very serious woman, who looks to question Favreau’s mix of intense color and modern Lucite with venerable antiques. The powder room features a playful, black, flocked wallpaper. A formal sitting area is juxtaposed by a bold striped wall.


The 1865 portrait over the fireplace is of Aaron Davis, a former Chelsea postmaster and one of the very early owners of the house. In fact, the estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Davis House.

The living room is much more subtle in its design approach than the dining room. The walls are a calm, sky-like color by Benjamin Moore called Palladian Blue. But as quiet as the room is visually, Favreau felt it just called for some orange. He designed the furniture, which is upholstered in gray faux-chinchilla framed in a bold medallion print by Pindler.

The designer kept the kitchen muted on purpose. “As much as I love pattern and color, I never want the design to go too far,” he says. “I used a wallpaper that has a wonderful pattern created by the end cuts of logs and gives the room an indoor-outdoor feel. It reminds me of the firewood piles found all over Chelsea.” The kitchen cabinets are reclaimed furniture pieces that came together over time. The island is supported by a printmakers’ chest with small drawers for storage. The overall tone is calm and light, but Favreau couldn’t resist a little color play. “We have a dog named Hubble and Chelsea is the county seat so it’s a shire,” he explains. “I did an arrangement of multicolored letters spelling out the name of the house ‘Hubble Shire Farm’ in the eating area.”

Favreau’s biggest challenge in creating this design was logistics. “I was living full time in San Francisco and working with a local contractor in Chelsea,” he says, smiling. “The entire renovation was done by e-mail, phone, sketches, and photos sent back and forth between us.” The result: a bold and courageously colorful design that still voices the historic tone of the 1800s.

Maria Walker

Maria Walker


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