This designer transformed a West Cornwall, CT, home into an eclectic dream

This designer transformed a West Cornwall, CT, home into an eclectic dream

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was interior and landscape designer Michael Trapp’s home in West Cornwall. Originally in the Greek style before the furnace exploded in 1870, the house had been transformed into a Victorian style that needed a lot of love and patience when Trapp bought it in 1990. But it was ready.

With his father in the Air Force, Trapp spent most of his early life moving around without a home base. After living in France and Spain, the family moved to Ohio, where Trapp studied landscape architecture before selling architectural items and household treasures at flea markets and antique shows around the country. Trapp developed a customer base in Litchfield County, where they fell in love with its covered bridges, rolling hills, fields and country roads. Connecticut felt like home, but his passion for exploring the world and its diverse cultures persisted.

“It was time to put down roots, and I wanted to put them down deeply,” says Trapp, who bought the house with its expansive ornamental gardens, to open a shop where he could sell treasures from his travels while living upstairs. “The land is very beautiful and rustic in the English formal sense. I immediately started working on the upper and lower gardens. I had a lot of energy when I was younger, so I did a lot of stonework and carved the land myself.

Michael Trapp surrounds himself with greenery, both in the solarium and in a portion that envelops the exterior of the house.

Stephanie Russo

Located behind the store, the gardens are romantic and tempting as you walk through them. The lower part contains a beautiful swimming pool with a fountain at the end and a small library as well as a grotto. The upper portion, which overlooks the Housatonic River and covered bridge, has a terrace with a dining area shaded by London plane trees and large boxwood walls for privacy.

Trapp says the gardens have become popular. Everyone wants to visit and see them, including interior design experts and authors Caitlin Fleming and Julie Goble. The mother-daughter duo features the gardens and Trapp House in their book Sense of Place: Design inspired by where we livereleased in September.

Along with the Trapp House, Sense of place Explores more than 20 other books, showing how immediate surroundings give meaning and beauty to home life. From the property’s rolling hills to nature and simply being outside in its gardens, Trapp’s love for every aspect of Connecticut inspired Fleming and Goebel. “What attracted us to his house were his gardens with areas that looked like rooms,” Fleming says. “There is a lot of land and space, but these beautiful areas feel intimate and a place you want to stay forever.”

Both indoors and outdoors, the spaces are filled with pieces from Trapp's travels that spoke to him.

Both indoors and outdoors, the spaces are filled with pieces from Trapp’s travels that spoke to him.

Stephanie Russo

“He asked us to be there at 5 a.m. so we could take pictures of the garden,” Goebel recalls. And he was right. By 8am, it was dark and there was no adequate light to capture what was outside. He is rooted and knows what is happening within the space.

From Trapp’s outdoor garden rooms to eclectic interior spaces, his properties are a reminder that creating your own unique and creative home takes time. Besides designing the gardens, he renovated the interior, removing walls, 15 doors, two stairs and additions over the decades. The former four-bedroom home is now a two-bedroom with a full bathroom, living area and office upstairs, with a kitchen, foyer, half-bath and his store on the first floor.

He will be closed from December through March to travel around the world and shop for his clients and stores, spending a lot of time in Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. If he falls in love with something, it reaches home.

“The way he travels and collects pieces and uses them unexpectedly in different ways is inspiring,” Fleming says. “When we visited, he had just returned from a sailboat trip on the Nile River in Egypt, and he had a lot of things from that trip in the store.”

“I like things that are interesting and weird and weird,” Trapp says. “It’s the eclectic mix of treasures you wouldn’t find in one day. I treat all of my homes as a work in progress. I’m always adding layers and moving things around, and at different times of the year, I move through the spaces differently depending on the light.

Inside, the house has a Baroque quality with ornate and elaborate architecture and design. Upstairs, in the main living area, 18th-century Imperial Chinese yellow silk brocade covers the ceiling, while the walls feature 17th-century Italian brocade with vermilion trim. Antique red velvet sofas, an antique Spanish rug, a massive Dutch armoire and an 18th-century terra rossa bowl from Florence with a marble top sit under a chandelier.

“It has a rich, intense interior, but at the same time, it has a nice, cozy feel,” Trapp says. “I want to feel like I can walk around, be comfortable in my spaces, put my feet up on the couch, and not worry about it.”

“We didn’t realize how dramatic the upstairs would be,” Fleming says. “It is a theatrical method that uses wall and ceiling coverings.”

Inside, an eclectic Baroque quality is seen room after room, as Michael Trapp blends ornate architecture with finds from around the world.

Inside, an eclectic Baroque quality is seen room after room, as Michael Trapp blends ornate architecture with finds from around the world.

Stephanie Russo

The bedrooms offer a peaceful oasis of white bedding and painted wood floors. Antiques and architectural elements, such as columns and other historical relics from the buildings, are present here and throughout the house, giving depth to the rooms. Trapp also likes to play with scale, and lighting is vital as well. “I’m very fond of lighting up a room with lamps, some task lighting, and light cases,” he says. “Lighting should be soft and moody, and it’s important that things are dim.”

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