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A blended home for Christmas

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Story by Lee Rennick | Photos by Erin Kosko and Lee Rennick 

Russ and Jennifer Connelly moved into their home in 2011, but it now looks nothing like it did when they brought in their then young family -- Brooke, Cole, Caroline and Sam. They have totally remodeled the entire space blending Jennifer’s love of the traditional and Russ’ love of modern, contemporary minimalism.

“It is all thanks to Jerome from The Peddler,” said Jennifer. “He was able to blend our two polar opposite styles and make us both happy, while creating a great place for our kids.”

Jerome Farris also worked a lot of heirloom furniture and decor pieces into the interior design that come from both families, while builder David Pullias blended the two styles into the new architecture. The most outstanding combination of their two talents being the show-stopping den with sliding doors that open to the pool area during warmer months.

“It was Russ’ idea to renovate the den area,” noted Jennifer. “David, Jerome, Russ and I met at our kitchen table and Russ took the lead. I had worked with Jerome for a while, so he knew my style. Once David and Jerome got Russ’ style, Jerome looked out for my interests.”

The entire family moved into Russ’ parent’s home before construction began, and then the whole back wall of the den area was removed. The home was filled with lots of thick trim pieces and fluted columns, including a set that were part of what was removed to put in the almost floor to ceiling glass wall in the den that fills the once dark space with streams of natural light.

The fireplace and built in book cases were also removed, adding a massive contemporary two-level gas fireplace and new built-ins that integrated with the cleaner, more open lines of the room. Its mid-century sleekness is festooned for the holidays with a garland of magnolia leaves.

“Russ wanted to have a concrete fireplace,” explained Jennifer, “but that was expensive, so it is faux painted to look like concrete.” The effect is stunning.

It is the den where the family of six (seven with daughter Brooke’s husband, Joseph Lemley) gathers around the Christmas tree during the holidays and on the chilly days of winter with their two dogs, Elmo and Poppi.

Holidays are About Family in All Its Variations

Family in all of its variations is important to the Connellys, and they are supporters of adoption. Jennifer commemorates Sam’s adoption with an ornament on the tree and has a collection of adoption themed décor in the study that includes Radko ornaments supporting adoption that her sister, Christy, adds to every year.

“I love Christmas,” said Jennifer. “We started with a box or two of Christmas ornaments and now we have too many to count!”

Jennifer also collects Byers Choice Christmas carolers. She was drawn to them because her mother used to decorate with them when she was a child.

“They remind me of her,” added Jennifer.

Covering the top of the cabinet in the foyer that Jennifer found in a vintage store, these carolers add a little of her traditional feel to the space with their Victorian clothes and retro look.

Running up the steps to the second floor is another garland of gold bow-adorned magnolia leaves, directing the eye to the portraits of the Connelly children which run up the wall in gold frames as you enter their home.

A collection of nutcrackers began with a gift from Jennifer’s mother-in-law, Vivian Connelly. She enjoys putting them in the kitchen and the breakfast room where they are tucked onto counters and into niches.

The kitchen and the breakfast dining area were some of the first remodeling that the couple did after buying the home. Originally, the current kitchen area was a side patio and the current breakfast dining area was the home’s kitchen.

A more traditional look is at play in the kitchen, with the dusty gray painted wood cabinetry and glass-fronted doors over the built-in in the dining space. Colorful plates and serving dishes peek through the glass, many of which have been passed down through the generations. There is a yellow pitcher that belonged to Jennifer’s Granny, rose china and a teapot from her grandmother’s collection and porcelain bowls from a wedding shower.

“The house didn’t have a lot of storage,” explained Jennifer, “so we had David build the piece in the breakfast room.”

Santas are the focus in the dining room, which features a table and chairs that once belonged to Jennifer’s mother. To give the chairs a more modern contemporary feel, Jerome simply painted them white and added new fabric on the seats. He balanced the antique table with contemporary, gold statement lighting and a bold gold and white abstract piece of art over the buffet that picks up on the curved shape of the light fixture.

“One of my Santas in the dining room came from my brother’s wife, Mindee,” said Jennifer.
In the dining room china cabinet, a collection of Swarovski crystal from Russ’ aunt and uncle shares space with plates that belonged to Jennifer’s mother.

Upstairs Offers Sanctuary for Teenage Kids

Their four kids’ bedrooms are upstairs. And, the Christmas decorating continues up there. Each room has a special piece of décor. For example, in her son Cole’s room, Jennifer has placed a creche that was brought back from Jerusalem by her mother and sister. It is made of olive wood.

Also, upstairs is a bonus room where Caroline has often hung out with her friends, as have her siblings with theirs. Here the annual family portraits from many a past Christmas sit in special decorative frames. 

From the upstairs, the pool area can be seen with its cabanas and pool house at the far end of the property. Under the pool house cover there is a fireplace so the sitting area can be used on cool evenings as well as on warm summer days. 

Main Bedroom Suite Offers Quiet Oasis

While the kids have their spaces upstairs, Jennifer and Russ have built a relaxing and elegant retreat in their main bedroom suite on the ground floor using creams and blues. Here there is a reading nook with an exit to the pool area, and plenty of space to stretch out on the bed and watch a game or the news before turning in for the night.  

A contemporary tufted headboard bed is paired with seating that is traditional in styling, but ageless. Art Deco glass side tables on either side of the bed offer a dash of vintage inspired glitz. 

Jerome has placed some unique art in these rooms also, including the very modern textural piece that hangs over the bed and the framed collection of clay plates that hangs at the entrance to the space. Both of these pieces are very contemporary, but blend well with traditional styling, while adding visual interest to the space.

When the main bedroom was remodeled, the ensuite bathroom was turned into a spa-like retreat with a luxurious stand-alone soaking tub and a marble walk-in shower. It offers double sinks and a built-in boudoir table with plenty of storage. 

Complete Renovation is Now Wrapped Up

Over the years, the Connellys have renovated the pool area, kitchen, bathrooms, den and study, dining room, living room, main bedroom suite and foyer. They have also added a basketball court and a batting cage for their kids and one day grandkids. 

“We started the last renovations during the pandemic,” said Jennifer “and finished them in August of 2021. We wanted everything to be done by Thanksgiving, and it was.”

Their first home was located in Innsbrooke, and then they built a home in that subdivision. Next came a house in Crowne Pointe. And, finally, they moved to their current home.

“I plan for this to be our forever home,” said Jennifer.

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