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This Seaside Home Is the Perfect Mix of Old and New

In an airy home just steps from Long Island Sound, a pastry chef turned entrepreneur filled a new house with old-world finds and soft, natural materials to create a relaxed vibe that’s as fluid as the tide.

The words shiny and new have never resonated with Laura Jayson. “Give me something old or weathered,” she says. “I like objects with history.” And true to form, when a crumbling Victorian in an unbeatable location—right on the edge of Long Island Sound on Rowayton’s Bell Island, and just a stone’s throw from both her parents’ and sister’s places—caught the eyes of Jayson and her longtime love, Ted Waters, they couldn’t resist the opportunity. But even she had to admit the structure was a goner. “The walls were so rotted, you could put your finger through them,” she recalls. “We had to tear it down and start fresh.”

Fortunately, Jayson knew just the person to turn to: Andy Glazer, a family friend and local builder who specializes in restoring historic houses and constructing new ones in the spirit of the past. Together, they designed a three-bedroom home that has all the charm of a weathered seaside cottage, but without a hint of creakiness, dimness, or drafts. Their next priority was optimizing the site’s incredible views. “Sometimes the sound appears glassy blue, other times a steely gray,” says Jayson. “It changes from hour to hour, season to season. It’s mesmerizing.” To create essentially a viewing pane for it, Glazer opened up the entire back wall of the first floor with 10-foot-high Kolbe windows and matching French doors that lead right out to the water. “That was the best decision we made,” she says. Envisioning, building, and outfitting the home also turned into a creative vocation for Jayson: A formally trained pastry chef, she owned Flea, a vintage home-goods shop and café in Rowayton, for a time before launching El Co, a design, development, and consulting business, with her partner, Laura Grabe. They’ve also refurbished a 1950s camper trailer, transforming it into a mobile “caravan bar” that’s used to cater parties around the area.

Back in Jayson’s home, earthy materials give every room a lived-in patina. Decorative ceiling beams were sourced from an old barn in Wisconsin, and stone walls in the kitchen, made from six-inch mortared granite, have the centuries-old feel of farmhouses in Ibiza and Majorca. “We love that finca style,” says Jayson, who cooks and entertains regularly. “It has warmth and soul.” The soft palette of grays, taupes, wheats, and whites continues upstairs, where glossy painted floors anchor the couple’s serene bedroom. From those northeast-facing windows, the family can take in some knockout sunrises. “They’re beautiful,” she says. “It’s just a matter of waking up in time!”

[Picture caption above: Ebb and Flow - To complement rather than compete with the view, the couple’s living room is a study in neutrals and organic textures, from the smooth concrete fireplace façade to the stucco walls to the plush sheepskin and cowhide accents. The midcentury chairs were flea-market finds, the vintage Adrian Pearsall double rocker was procured on eBay, and the teak tables are from Terrain.]

The house is clad in gray wood shingles, echoing the neighboring ones built when this town was still an oystering village. Waters looks on as Jayson and their son put toes in the sound.

Love and Light

Reclaimed-wood beams lend a wellworn feel to Laura Jayson and Ted Waters’s Rowayton home, which they built in 2011. The Brazilian-hardwood dining table is an antique, and the Ay Illuminate light fixture was purchased at HomeStories, in Brooklyn.

Close to Home

The couple; their son, Jayse, age 3; and their Labrador, Jake, relax on the pergola in their front yard. “I grew up right around the corner,” Jayson says. “Rowayton is a small coastal community with tight-knit families. In the summer, there are probably more boats than people here.”

Reflective Surfaces

An array of old mirrors, which Jayson snapped up for less than five dollars each and spray-painted white, brightens the downstairs powder room. The wood paneling on the walls, repurposed from the floor of an old inn in New Canaan, is also used on the home’s first-floor ceiling.

Cook's Quarters

Stone walls give the kitchen a rustic quality, while open shelves and a high-powered professional-grade faucet make it efficient. The pendant lights and stools are vintage, and the countertop is pietra del Cardoso, a honed granite Jayson admires for its “water-like pattern.”

Jayson (in hat) and her business partner, Laura Grabe, with their refurbished mobile caravan bar, which can be rented to cater outdoor parties (elcohome.com).

Calmest Waters

The master bedroom holds little more than a king-size rattan bed Jayson bought years ago, a nightstand she painted white, a vintage lamp, and a ceremonial juju hat from Cameroon (found on Etsy). The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Moonshine.