A Bit of Tuscany in Kennett Square

No detail was too small for this designing couple.

Photo by John Lewis

In the 16 years Wayne and Colleen Simpson have been partners, they’ve collaborated on countless residential projects. Occasionally, clients hire them separately, but most want the package deal, with Wayne providing the architectural expertise and Colleen offering her interior-design talents. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two also collaborated on their own Mediterranean-inspired home in Kennett Square.

Ever since he was a child, Wayne has been drawn to simple things. In his travels through Europe during college, he loved Italy and its homes—especially those in Tuscany. “The houses are elegant, rustic and simple all at the same time,” he says. “That really spoke to me.” When it came to their own home, there was no detail too small to consider, from the custom stucco exterior to its placement on the four-acre site to maximize sun exposure. “It’s architecture of proportion and heft, and you get that when you see our house, because it really is simple,” says Wayne. “What little decoration you see on the outside is mostly the large overhangs and rafter tails that have been cut into a decorative shape. Aside from that, there really isn’t that much else.”

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From left to right: A set of antique doors imported from France makes an impressive statement; the first floor powder room; the kitchen’s contemporary cabinetry is juxtaposed with a traditional center island designed by the owner. 

 

All in the details …

Though the Simpsons’ home is just 13 years old, it feels like a classic. A pair of church shutters was repurposed for the home’s front door—one of things brought in to help lend a well-aged quality. Just off the entrance, the cozy library’s custom moldings and arched built-ins surround a wood-burning fireplace. “It’s a surprise to a lot of people that we built the house,” says Colleen. “Genuine and authentic details are really important to us.”

The Simpsons wanted to keep the square footage reasonable and the feel of the home informal. Each of the main rooms was designed with at least two exposures, plus access to the outside. With its 10-foot ceilings, the main living area benefits most from the open concept, with dining on one end and a living room on the other. Extra windows invite ample sunlight, and three French doors lead to the patio area. “When the weather is nice, we always have the doors open,” Colleen says.

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Wayne designed the walnut dining table, which was made by a local craftsman and is large enough for eight hand-tufted wool-linen Italian chairs. A recent addition to the space, the chairs’ neutral tones are offset by soft-yellow walls. “A lot of people say color is loud, but I think it’s comforting,” says Colleen. “It really energizes me.”

A pair of nine-foot, antique French doors is positioned at the entrance of the room, making an impressive statement. “We bought them before the house was designed, and we didn’t know where we were going to put them,” Colleen admits. “But we knew they were going somewhere.”

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Seeing eye to eye …

In designing the kitchen, Colleen wasn’t looking for a traditional, monochromatic design. For an “unfitted” European feel, she opted for cabinetry from a German company she knew well. “I’d done a few kitchens for clients with Bulthaup,” she says. “To me, the look is contemporary and timeless.”

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The sleek matte-gray cabinets complement the bold orange walls. The chestnut used in the oversized island (also designed by Wayne) and large hutch softens the modern edge of the cabinets and stainless steel appliances, and terracotta-like ceramic tile on the floor adds warmth. “It’s a happy, cheery place,” says Colleen of the house, which is also the Simpsons’ home office. “We saw everything eye to eye. We had the same vision.”

Wayne concurs. “The entire year we were designing this house, I was in a state of euphoria, because I was actually getting to build my own home,” he says. “It’s a totally different feeling when you’re doing it for yourself.” 

 

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