For nearly five years, Julia and Nick de Peyster lived happily with their three sons in a 1,550-square-foot Cape-style house in Wellesley. Space was tight, but they loved the home’s location. The family had resided in New York City for years, and they’d grown fond of urban living. “We tried to create a city life in a walkable suburb,” says Julia. “We live a couple of blocks from the elementary, middle, and high schools. Whole Foods is four-tenths mile away, and Roche Brothers is even closer.”
Eventually, though, the de Peysters needed room to spread out. “We wanted more space to hang out as a family,” says Julia, whose sons are now 8, 12, and 15. Extra room would also mean she could host large holiday dinners, cocktail parties, and book club gatherings. Leaving Wellesley was out of the question, so the family consulted with interior designers Dulcey Connon and Cecilia Walker for suggestions on how to increase the 1942 house’s square footage while staying within a modest budget.
The designers recommended converting the garage, which was being used for storage, into living space. By knocking down a wall between the dining area and garage, they added 315 square feet to the house. “We were able to add a mudroom, powder room, family room, and increase the size of the dining area to accommodate a large table,” says Walker.
When it came to the decor, Julia had a pretty clear vision; she regularly clipped pages from magazines showing rooms she liked and stowed them in a binder. “For years, I decorated in my head,” she says. “I love color and patterned fabrics.”
“Julia wanted a deep blue Ralph Lauren feel to the space and a wow factor, so we splurged on fabrics,” says Walker, noting the dining area’s Brunschwig & Fils curtain panels and the family room’s Kravet tribal-patterned ottoman and Lee Jofa ikat drapes.
Wow factor or not, furnishings needed to be hardy enough to stand up to the wear and tear of three active boys, along with the family’s golden retriever. The sectional in the family room is upholstered in a durable commercial-grade polyester chenille by Kirkby. “It’s a light-colored sofa and it’s completely wipeable, which is impressive,” says Walker.
The chairs around the new custom dining table, which has two extension leaves, have Duralee faux ostrich seat cushions that easily wipe clean, too. “The family eats every meal at this table, so chairs needed to be able to handle the rigors of everyday dining and had to be formal enough for entertaining,” says Walker.
Flexibility was a key aspect of the design. Because the de Peysters host a steady stream of overnight guests, the family room doubles as a sleep space: The sectional has a pullout bed, and draperies are fitted with blackout panels. In lieu of a chandelier above the dining room table, Walker recommended a flush-mount drum light — it doesn’t look out of place when the table is moved to accommodate a cocktail party. The mudroom’s built-in bench was designed to serve as extra seating at Thanksgiving, says Walker. “The idea is that a card table can be pulled up to the bench for the kids to sit at.”
The de Peysters’ middle son, who had been sharing a second-floor bedroom with one of his brothers, moved downstairs to a room off the front hall. Walker and Connon transformed the space with a custom plaid Romo headboard and bed skirt, striped Nina Campbell wallpaper, and Ralph Lauren ikat fabric Roman shades. “We gave the room a sophisticated feel,” says Walker, “so down the road when the boys leave home, the room can be converted into an office.”
In the dining room, the walls above the chair rail are sheathed in a striking blue Cowtan & Tout grass cloth. To break up the color and to give the room a more formal feel, the wall underneath the rail is painted Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray. Oil-rubbed bronze and gilded finishes hark back to the era when the home was built; new furnishings are accented by artwork and antiques that have been in the family for years.
“I didn’t want to walk into another house and see that it looks like mine,” says Julia. “I wanted it to feel like a New York apartment, and it does. The space is incredibly special. It’s amazing how a small number of exceedingly nice things can make such a difference in your life.”
Jaci Conry is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.