House Tour: A Colonial Home with Contemporary Flair

A family house gets a makeover that proves period details, modern furniture and active kids can all live together happily.

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Meet the Bell Family

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Ten years ago Barbra and David Bell fell in love with a classic 80-year-old Colonial in Connecticut. Despite its less-than-perfect condition, the couple found beauty in the home's good bones. So they bought the fixer-upper, adding on and updating with a respectful nod to grace notes like arched doorways, deep moldings and high ceilings. When it finally came time to decorate, Barbra tossed tradition aside with a mix of midcentury classics and contemporary pieces. "We like houses that combine the old and the new, and wanted ours to be energetic, family-friendly and fun," says Barbra, mom to Jackson, Harrison and Sophie. The zingy hues splashed throughout reflect her belief in living with the colors and objects you love—and following your instincts. "One morning we decided on a whim to paint the breakfast nook orange," Barbra says. "Now every time I walk into that room, I'm happy."


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Family Room

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In the family room, Barbra and her husband, David, chose stylish furnishings that can also weather daily wear and tear. A brown sectional invites lounging and TV watching—the Ultrasuede upholstery looks luxe but is easy to wipe clean. The black-and-white Greek key pattern rug grounds the space. "I wanted something that makes a bold statement and helps hide the inevitable stains," she says. Vintage velvet stools and wooden Eames chairs can be moved around for flexible seating.

"I like to change accessories, especially plants, seasonally," Barbra says. "I'll switch potted herbs for orchids or daisies."


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The kitchen—part of the new addition that includes the family room and mudroom—features lots of white woodwork and dark plank floors. An old-style marble-top pastry table and retro glass pendant lights complement the traditional cabinetry. The couple opted for an unmatched dining set, pairing Knoll's Bertoia metal side chairs and a contemporary glass-topped table. "They also happen to be easy to care for," says Barbra.


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Barbra threw in kicky tangerine accessories—like rugs, place mats and window shades—for warmth and pop.


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Kitchen: Get the Look

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Benjamin Moore Rumba Orange (2014-20)


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Bedroom/Office

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"I always wanted a chocolate brown room," says Barbra. The walls make the perfect backdrop in the study for hits of her preferred shade of orange. Barbra painted an old metal étagère herself and chose a Louis Ghost armchair by Kartell to make a subtle statement at the desk.

Touches of zebra print give the room exotic flair, and the colorful ceramic garden seats can be used as tables.


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Bedroom/Office: Get the Look

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Sherwin-Williams Grounded (SW 6089)


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Bedroom/Office: Get the Look

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Barbra and the kids stash coats, bags and shoes in a quartet of cubbies lining a wall in the mudroom. "There's a large closet next to them, so my husband didn't want one," explains Barbra. The dramatic striped runner is made from self-adhering floor tiles. "Instead of replacing an entire rug when it gets dirty, you just switch out individual pieces," Barbra says.


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Bench Seat

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The bench seat by the staircase that leads to the bedrooms holds a seasonally revolving selection of sports equipment.


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Homework Station

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Two desks flanking a window turn an upstairs hallway into a homework station for the kids. Their framed artwork hangs on the orange accent wall.


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When Jackson asked for a bright red bedroom, Barbra met him halfway by painting the ceiling in his favorite hue. "With khaki walls, it's a nice element of surprise," she says. His choice of a boat-shaped bed inspired the nautical theme with authentic flags strung across the ceiling. Barbra refinished the side chairs that she found at a roadside tag sale.

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.