We personalize our homes, decorating with framed photos of family and friends or displaying items from our travels. These connections to our past and special times bring back memories and give our lives meaning.
Nicole Lombardo keeps the memories of her late mother — an amazing sculptor — alive by showcasing her sculptures within specially crafted niches throughout her Westport home. Her mother’s art inspired the home’s design and has built a strong emotional attachment to where the family lives.
Originally tapping Lucien Vita of Westport-based Vita Design Group to renovate their home in their beloved neighborhood where Nicole, her husband Keith, and their three children had friendships, the family was happy when fate stepped in. Another property on a cul-de-sac around the corner came up for sale, which would enable them to better achieve their desired size and layout.
“They could do so much more with a new build when displaying the sculptures than they could with a renovation,” says Vita, who was excited that the Lombardos took a leap of faith, hiring him seven years ago for what would be his first new-construction project. Having completed three renovations in the neighborhood already, the word on the street was that he could do this.
“Lucien was able to interpret my vision and make it come to life,” says Nicole. When closing her mother’s 2,000-square-foot studio in Newport, Rhode Island, she put most of the sculptures in storage before the build.
“My mom’s art is sourced from Carrara marble in Italy. Her art is three dimensional, so it’s not like putting a print on the wall,” she says. “You need to capture the art and see it from all sides to appreciate it. Lucien was able to subtly place pieces within columns, support beams, and under a stairwell.”
While connecting to Lombardo’s mother and her art is at the heart of the home’s design, it was also about connecting to each other and nature. The Lombardos wanted to easily entertain with friends and extended family, while enjoying the outdoors as much as the weather in New England would allow them.
“We have a large Italian family that gets together every Sunday,” Lombardo says. “The dining room and informal dining area completely open to each other. When we open the back doors, we’re connected to the outside seating area on the porch. While we’re within different spaces, the openness allows us to feel like we’re all together.”
A double-sided fireplace enables the family to use their porch during the cooler months. It’s designed with bi-folding door panels on either side, creating a seamless feeling between the indoor and outdoor spaces. “The fireplace design has a steel wraparound mantel with a structural aspect to it,” Lombardo says. “The idea was to circulate conversation around its beauty as we did with my mom’s pieces. So, there’s a sculptural influence as well.”
Lombardo didn’t have a strong sense of all of the different materials and variety of styles within the design industry, but she knew what she liked. She was inspired by Napa Valley’s indoor/outdoor way of living; the warmth of Vermont’s farmhouse style; and the exposed-steel, industrial aesthetic found in SoHo from her days living in New York City with her husband.
“People like different styles and can’t commit to just one,” Vita says. “We find a way to meld them together, giving the design an enduring quality because it’s hard to repeat.”
A traditional, galvanized roof and warm elements are a nod to Vermont style. Steel beams support the spaciousness of the structure, while large glass doors and windows connect the home to the outdoors. The result is Napa Valley meets Vermont meets SoHo: a perfect balance between traditional farmhouse architecture with industrial chic and sophisticated contemporary living.
“Incorporating the steel with the display of the art was at the forefront of the design,” Vita says. “We created niches for the art within the two support columns flanking the dining room. It’s both aesthetic and functional at the same time.”
Lombardo adds: “The lighting played an important role within the niches and throughout the space. And windows above the kitchen cabinets bring in more natural light. We can see the tops of the trees!”
Other interior light fixtures selected by Westport-based Mar Silver Design are unique in their three-dimensional sculptural style. “Mar’s work spoke to me,” Lombardo says. “It’s very organic. She’s an art collector and reminded me of my mom.”
Lombardo’s husband is also a collector, but of wine. And it was important for him to have his own wine cellar. Drawing on what he has learned about wine from his wife’s family, he continues to develop his own love and direction with it, she says.
“We have a mudroom and hangout space for the kids like most people want when building a modern-day home for their family,” Lombardo says. “But our main focus was designing a home where we would connect to each other and build memories.”