Descending from a long line of architects, interior designer Ainsley Hayes decided to take a different path. Even before she took up the decorative arts, that route was political science and history. Now, Hayes says her background “helps every day. It puts what we’re doing into a historical context, and I hope that there’s a longevity in that.”
Her family member’s occupations have left their mark as well. Hayes, who studied design at the Boston Architectural Center, believes a home’s interior should tie into its architecture. For her own home, an antique Greek-revival style farmhouse, she opts for a more traditional look that reflects the exterior style. Amidst a range of styles, antiques and family pieces take center stage.
Forever the student, Hayes is working with the New Canaan historical society to date her home, which is currently presumed to be anywhere from 1758-1820. “Every home comes with stories,” she muses.
Take, for example, the home she designed for the New Canaan Holiday House Tour. The owners raised their five children in the home and moved away, but eventually found their way back to the very same house. A previous homeowner donated the historically-significant property to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, SPNEA, but didn’t have enough of an endowment for the organization to keep the home. To preserve the home’s history, many rooms weren’t electrified until the 1950s.
Since then, much of the house has been thoughtfully restored. “You get the sense of the old home, how it fit into the community,” Hayes says. When her clients got word that the house might be torn down, they bought it back and put on an addition to fit their needs. “The holiday tour really showed off the oldest house in New Canaan, and how livable it can be,” explains the designer.
Hayes says that although antique homes may present some challenges, creativity and a respect for the original architecture offers “the best of both worlds.”
For the coming year, the designer is busy with projects spanning from New York City apartments to homes in New Canaan and Westchester County. She hesitates to pin down a particular “style” of design because as she puts it, “my aim is always to have a happy client.”
Hayes does admit to an affinity for modern accents, saying that there is a place for contemporary style on Connecticut’s traditional backdrop. “There are some beautiful modern pieces that can fit into any context,” she says, like the loom chair and tulip table, for example. “And lighting. It can really liven a traditional setting.”