Near & Far Aid Designer Q&A Series Part 4: Ariane Mermod
Tell us a little bit about your design style?
My husband says “I am very Swiss (I am in fact half Swiss) when I design our houses” because I need the rooms to be arranged in an orderly and logical way, and for the spaces to be balanced with lots of light and long sight lines. The Colonial vernacular really resonates with me. As far as decorating goes, we like to let our houses speak for themselves, so we try to keep the interiors pretty neutral. I am a big fan of the paint color “Snowfall White” by Benjamin Moore. The furnishings are a combination of family pieces that we move from house-to-house, mixed with upholstered pieces that we buy specifically for each house, which above all, need to be comfortable.
You and your husband “saved” the Gideon Wakeman Home from demolition. Tell us more!
We were in the process of renovating the Charles Bedford house on Greens Farms Road and I would drive by this house all the time and it intrigued me. It was on four acres, which would have been perfect for my horses, but by the time we had finished and sold the first project, this house had been bought by a developer and sub-divided. We made an offer literally weeks before the Historic District Commission stay (hold on demolition) was about to expire.
Is this your first restoration project?
This is our third historic home renovation. We renovated a Federal brick townhouse in Greenwich Village when we were first married, doing a lot of the work ourselves, and then the Charles Bedford House, c. 1909, and the Gideon Wakeman House, c.1782, both in Westport.
What builder did you partner with?
We used Buttendorf Construction for all of our structural work and to enclose the house. They are comfortable and experienced working with historic homes. I supervised the finishing of the interior and the landscaping myself.
In remodeling an 18th Century antique, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Craftsman who respect and understand the way a colonial house is built and can work around it are hard to come by. After the Buttendorfs addressed any structural concerns, I worked with a small, but patient and clever crew, who could tailor their work to the needs of this old house. My sheet-rockers thought I was crazy when I made them put up two layers of sheetrock to mimic the thickness of the old plaster walls.
Your style definitely reflects a global point of you. How are your travels represented in your design?
My family and my husband’s both come from Europe. I was also raised in the Virgin Islands. So our aesthetic is certainly formed by those memories, but also our work in fashion and finance took us all over the world and we picked up many small treasures along the way. One of my favorite souvenirs is a collection of sand from beaches we have been to all over the world. They are displayed in glass bottles; look for them on the mantle in the hallway that connects the living room to the great room.