The Aspetuck River in Fairfield County,
Connecticut, is glassy and calm as it meanders through Suni Munshani’s 13-acre property. Formerly the caretaker’s cottage, the 1935 house was in disrepair when Suni bought the farm in October 2014. Overgrown trees darkened the home’s interior, and its pine paneling was sooty and brittle. “Brickpattern contact paper covered the floors. Everything was out of plumb. The kitchen cupboards listed,” designer Kelly Mittleman says with a small laugh, as she’s the one who itemized the cottage’s many faults when she first saw it in early 2015. But Suni was determined to restore and improve it: “I liked what I saw, and part of the motivation was its charm,” he says.
Mittleman appreciated the cottage’s potential, too, and set about updating the spaces inside. To make its 1,600 square feet feel lighter and brighter, she expanded window openings, removed a wall between the sunroom and living room to let light flood in, raised headers above doorways, and elevated ceilings in the bedrooms into attic space. She added shiplap in the kitchen and fauxbatten paneling in the bedrooms, then painted all of it a soft white. “In a little jewel box like this, the extra details are fun. I wanted to create interest on the walls,” she says. “And white unifies surfaces and keeps the rooms feeling fresh and clean.”
Original features got a spiffing up: The river rock fireplace was cleaned and repaired. Mittleman brightened the living room’s paneled ceiling with a pickled finish, and sanded and revarnished the grubby boards on the walls. “The pine paneling was not awesome, but it is a period adornment. Now the knots add flavor, and it’s a nice counterpoint to the modern changes we made,” she says.
“I had no preconceived notions I would be lucky enough to acquire this property,” Suni says. “With the river going through, it’s quite charming and exciting.” Wishbone-style chairs around a glass-top walnut table join vivid paintings by artists Nina Mera and Alex Itin (in hallway). Mittleman used clean-lined, contemporary furnishings to offset the quaint architecture.