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Tour This Family’s Cozy New England Quarantine Guest House

It’s all in the details.

new england guest house
2020 is the year that everyone realized the infinite value of a country home. A verdant destination to flee to is a motif that interior designers Peter Dolkas and Michelle Ficker became well acquainted with when a Brooklyn-based family tapped the duo to do their guest house in Litchfield, Connecticut. “My husband has always wanted a country house, he grew up with farmland—you know, huntin' and fishin' in North Carolina—so he always had this vision," Dolkas and Ficker's client shares with Coveteur. After months of searching for the perfect spot in Litchfield County to no avail, the couple decided to take a break. Serendipitously, the very next day, they found their home. “This place came on the market and we were up in Salisbury, and my husband looked at me a little guilty and a little wild-eyed [because we had agreed to wait six months before looking again]," she explains. “It was like a [foregone] conclusion in a way, and he came back and I could just see it on his face—this was a special spot." Her husband was particularly excited about the guest house, which, when the pandemic hit, became a full-time project due to the fact that the family relocated from their home in Brooklyn to this new property in Connecticut. “We realized that this was the moment," she explains. “When you're hanging around a place and you've got a lot of time on your hands, you can identify a lot of projects. So that's when we were like, let's do this. Let's build this thing out; we can have families come, and it can be a quarantine space."

The project took approximately six months, and within that time, the client gave the design duo carte blanche. “After we presented the design to them, the husband didn't even enter the guest house until it was fully completed," Dolkas says. “He went from seeing it without any walls to fully decorated! Incredible self-control…" The final product is a cozy New England guest house with gorgeous splashes of color, thoughtful furniture pieces, and charming decor accents in unexpected corners and crannies. The space is composed of a kitchenette, bathroom, a bedroom with bunk beds for their two boys, a living space, reading nook, and a second guest bedroom.

The kitchenette drives home the aesthetic with details like Shaker cabinetry and relaxed shades of blue. “Being in Litchfield County, we knew we could utilize elements of classic New England decorating, like the splatter-painted floorboards, block-printed wallpaper, and skirted kitchen cabinetry," Ficker explains. “But at the same time, we wanted to keep it unfussy and relaxed, which led us to include items like the bean bag chairs and chipboard coffee table." The kitchenette is in the same space as the living area and thus serves many purposes. “It's a kitchenette for guests, a gaming center and movie-watching space for the boys and their friends, and extra sleeping spots when it's a full house," Dolkas notes. “Keeping those needs in mind, we designed the built-in sofa to be wide enough to sleep extra guests and be a comfortable lounge spot for TV viewing. We also kept durability in mind with the wood-paneled walls, high-gloss sealed countertop, and wallpaper—which is actually very good at disguising wall scuffs and nicks!"

The floors were originally intended to be a bright acid green, but Dolkas and Ficker pivoted to a shade of blue. “We talked about the floor color so much," Ficker says. “We probably did forty samples on our own, between the two of us, like in our own apartments. Just splatter painting millions of different colors together. That is a good life lesson there! It's about having the vision and giving it a go." Dolkas chimes in, “It's really helpful to see large paint-outs on boards in the space before committing to colors."

Even though the property is snug, the goal was for the house to sleep as many guests as possible. “The bunk beds were custom-designed by us," Ficker says. “We both love Welsh blankets, and it felt fitting for the kids' room because they are durable, woven in fun colors, and are really warm for Connecticut winters. We just wanted it to be a really fun place to have sleepover parties—no matter your age." The larger guest room includes creature comforts and a cozy atmosphere. “Good lighting to read in bed, plenty of blankets in case you get cold, a carafe for water, plenty of room in the closet; these are all things you need in a bedroom to make it homey," Dolkas says. “When a guest room has been designed with the guest's needs in mind, it feels comfortable."

The design duo approached the bathroom with one simple goal in mind: “We wanted it to feel clean and fresh," Ficker says. “The tub wasn't in the plan originally, but we decided the bathroom deserved (and had room for) a tub. You can get a great view of the sun setting over the hills when you're soaking." Other thoughtful details, like the side tables and framed artwork, contrast the white Restoration Hardware bathtub beautifully, as does the bright blue floor.

Decor moments throughout the house reflect personalized sensibilities, especially the artwork. “It's a print of Banqueting House in London," Dolkas says of the small photo hung below the printed sconce. “We found it at City Opera Thrift Shop on 23rd Street, where you can always find something amazing and the proceeds support the New York City Opera and the arts." Another thoughtful vignette in the guest house is the reading nook. “The family is avid about reading, and we designed a library for them in their Brooklyn town house, so it felt right to include a reading nook here, too," Dolkas explains.

Since completion, the guest house has rarely been vacant. “We have repeat guests and people love it," the client shares. “When guests come and we're like, 'Yeah, you're gonna be in the guest quarters,' you know they're thinking, like, over the garage? But then they open it and the jaws drop because it's beautiful! It's been thought about, it's been carefully planned. And so I think people feel very special."

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