Arather simple-looking modern house is nestled up high in a rocky crag in the tony Tokeneke area. The clean lines and gentle, neutral tone of the exterior and the subtle landscaping set the house apart from the Colonials that saturate the neighborhood. Its uniqueness is its curb appeal. I step inside the front door, and Coconut, the McGlade family’s fluffy white dog, wags me into the sleek foyer punctuated by a tall vase with a beautiful arrangement of branches.
Turn the corner, and the sight of the light-infused kitchen loft (which faces south) to your right and the casual dining space and living room to your left is a wonderful surprise. I feel like I should take my shoes off in such a pristine-looking home, but Melanie McGlade, its owner, laid-back and lovely in chic yoga clothes, insists I keep them on. My tour of this fresh and fantastic home commences.
Designer Shaun Jackson, who is also laid-back and lovely, is standing by Melanie’s side with a proud smile. It’s obvious that they’ve been friends for years. In fact, they first met while living on the same street in Rowayton. Both their husbands grew up in Darien, both have two kids, and both have a deep appreciation of the community. When Melanie and her husband, Tom, found the perfect location to build their dream home in Darien, they decided to summon Shaun’s well-proven design skills.
It took two relatively drama-free years to design (thanks to Deborah Berke and Partner Architects) and build (thanks to J&J Custom Builders) the house and decorate it. Shaun and Melanie began collaborating during the blueprint stage. When asked the secret to their working relationship, Shaun smiles, “Melanie makes quick decisions.”
Together they furnished the home from scratch—and the collective effect is stunning. It’s obvious from the wide-open layout of the kitchen and living/dining room that the McGlades live to entertain in their 5,500-square-foot creation. “We use almost every square inch,” notes Melanie.
In the kitchen Hugh (age fourteen) and George (age eight) pull up to the counter for a quick breakfast and then Melanie shuttles them off to school. The oak floor in the airy entertaining zone is pickled white, adding freshness. I can almost picture myself having a glass of wine on the couch in the glamorous living room, where the photo art is mesmerizing. But before I get lost in la-la land, Shaun and Melanie whisk me away to see the rest of the house.
Melanie’s office glistens with sunlight and has a groovy chocolate-and-cream patterned area rug and super-organized desk. Melanie admits that she can’t stand clutter. “Even my kitchen spices are organized by type,” she jokes.
Next stop is the decked-out media room. Shaun is excited to show off the sassy way they incorporated top-tier technology with comfort. With just the flick of a switch, the shades slowly and smoothly drop down in synch with a giant Stewart/Runco screen. Pointing to an investment piece of furniture, an orange console, Shaun notes, “Mel likes color. She likes fun, festive, lively and clean. She doesn’t take the design process too seriously. She knows we can change a pillow fabric if we have to.”
We continue on the ground floor to the master bedroom suite, complete with his-and-hers bathrooms. The bathrooms (hers is green-tiled and pretty, his is gray-tiled and macho) share an outdoor courtyard that includes a shower, an indulgence for good weather. Tall hemlocks form a privacy screen for the courtyard.
The personal luxury is also carried through to their funky master bedroom, complete with a beloved working fireplace. Shaun says it was important for her to give Melanie a gorgeous and peaceful place for reading and sleeping. Melanie’s built-in bookshelves are stacked with well-thumbed pages, so it’s mission accomplished for Shaun.
Upstairs the boys share a bathroom but have their own bedrooms, which Shaun calls “spartan and masculine.” The basement, which offers tons of storage for hockey equipment and other bulky boy stuff, is extremely kid-friendly with video games, a piano, and tons of toys. “Sometimes Tom works from home down there,” Melanie says, hinting that he’s mellow enough to not need a fancy, separate office. On the basement level, there’s also a top-notch wine cellar and spa-quality sauna, a gym, a homework area and a bathroom.
We take a quick journey outside to see the tiny jewel of a private, freestanding yoga-house that Melanie, a yoga enthusiast for ten years, uses regularly. Shaun’s influence is felt here, too. The studio décor is inviting—from the majestic and glowing golden ceiling paint to the thick-framed mirror triptych for checking poses. At the end of the tour, Melanie seems at peace with the nest she has feathered with her dear and talented friend Shaun. “I wanted a clean, organized space that feels relaxed and lived-in. Something that’s comfortable and has style,” Melanie remarks. For sure, her wish has been granted.