In Rare Form: A Celebrity Designer Renovation

“The hand-painted foyer is the most dynamic room in the house,” says designer Steven Favreau. In a nod to Vermont’s rural history, he hung animal heads against the bold stripes; a leopard-print stair runner adds high impact.


Purples and pinks, as well as crystals suspended like rock candy from the chandelier, create a delicious dining experience; the vintage wallpaper pattern sweetens the theme. The photograph over the fireplace is of Aaron Davis, the long-time homeowner. The wallpaper and chair back fabric is from Osborne & Little, while the chair seat fabric is by Pindler & Pindler.


When Steven Favreau first got his hands on Hubble Shire Farm, a brick Federal-style farmstead built in 1832, his work was cut out for him. “It was a lovely home, but it was very tired, very worn,” says Favreau, a bicoastal designer who was a contestant on HGTV’s “The White Room Challenge.”

The house, located in the small town of Chelsea and listed on both the national and state registers of historic places, had outdated knob-and-tube electrical wiring; leaky, corroded steel pipes; and eight layers of wallpaper. Yet it was early May, and the homeowners wanted the whole place renovated in time for a traditional New England Thanksgiving.

“In the 1830s, wallpaper was very stylish, especially among wealthier folks,” the designer notes. However, peeling back and scraping off those layers of family life, reskimming all the plaster walls and putting up fresh wallcoverings were just the start of his overhaul.

In the kitchen, a wood pile pattern on the wallpaper celebrates tradition. The quiet Thermador range hood looks like it’s suspended in space. “I was staying away from upper cabinetry, so I put oak dressers on either side of the stove,” says Favreau.


HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF | Favreau honored the home’s original time frame even while installing contemporary updates. Most of the wallpaper patterns are modern twists on traditional themes, such as the paper in the small first-floor powder room. “During the Victorian period, people used wallpaper with silhouettes on it, so I found a pink paper with black silhouettes that mimics that pattern,” he explains. In the kitchen, he chose a stacked log pattern, an homage to the woodpile Vermonters often had outside.

He did not order custom kitchen cabinets but found oak dressers to flank the new stove. “Back in the 1800s, we were using old pieces of furniture, not calling and getting custom cabinets,” he tells, “but function takes precedence over form.” So, the dresser drawers are roomy enough to accommodate pots and pans, an ample spice collection, and items used less frequently, such as cupcake tins and a food processor. Two built-in cabinets hold plates and glasses, including the rose-strewn English china that belonged to the homeowner’s great aunt.

The timeworn, hand-hewn wood floors throughout were also spruced up. “They were that yellowed color – pumpkin pie, they call it,” says the designer. “I wanted that dark chocolate espresso shade, and the local contractor almost had a heart attack.” However, the floors were sanded and varnished to that rich new look.

“When you add contemporary to old or old to contemporary, you elevate both genres. It’s very exciting,” says Favreau.


Silhouette wallpaper from Cole & Son.


LIGHT MY FIRE |The house has five restored wood-burning fireplaces, and in the living room, Favreau designed two sofas that face each other by the hearth. Each has one arm; that way, people can face the fire and feel the warmth without the intrusion of a second sofa arm.

“Back in the day, they all nestled around the fireplace,” he says. He added gray fur – faux chinchila – to the sofas because he imagines the family cuddled with a bear throw on cold nights. “You can create a story with a home,” he notes.

Master bath wallpaper from Peter Fasano.


CANDY LAND | For the dining room, the designer found chairs at Sotheby’s in San Francisco and painted them with a turquoise lacquer, like blue taffy. The seats are faux purple crocodile, and candystriped cut velvet graces the backs.

“The whole purpose was to feel yummy at all times with visions of beautiful desserts, and delicious colors and flavors,” he describes. The wallpaper pattern depicts fancy dishes filled with fruit to carry out the sweet story theme.

A happy place for the homeowners and their proud pet, the bedroom features black, white and orange. “Even though Vermont is so rural, it also has great artisans, including Anichini in the next town over,” says Favreau.


Favreau with his chair and ottoman for Robert Allen Design.


LOCAL TOUCH | Favreau was committed to hiring workers from the Vermont town to do the renovations on the carefully preserved house, which even weathered a few rounds as a bed and breakfast.

For the brightly striped foyer, he was unable to get the wallpaper pattern he had planned on, so he hired Chelsea painter Sue Wilmott to duplicate it with her paintbrush.

“Every single one of the craftspeople was local – the contractor, the painter, the plumber – and Chelsea is a town of 1,200” says Favreau. “Yet, they were some of the best craftspeople I’ve ever worked with.”

Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for that beautiful orange bedding that picks up the color in the patterned rug from Global Views. Luck would have it that Anichini, maker of fine linens favored by the rich and famous, is based in nearby Tunbridge, VT. The black-and-white dust ruffle on the queen-size bed? “I sewed that myself,” says Favreau. No detail was too great or small for his refresh of this historic homestead.

Photography by Eric Roth.

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