When restaurateur Rose Bonura (Rosie to her friends) bought her historic 18th-century home 27 years ago in Stamford, Connecticut, she dreamed of the day when it could be properly and gloriously restored. It might have taken just over two decades, but the time finally came, thanks to a hungry traveler who wandered in one day for his first of many, many meals.
That visitor was New York–based interior designer Ryan Lawson. “[My partner and I] have a house up in Connecticut about an hour outside the city and practically every weekend, we go to a restaurant in New Canaan called Rosie,” Lawson says. The food-loving designer and the design-loving foodie quickly bonded. Bonura’s house, they both realized, would be a shared labor of love.
Lawson has spent the past four years carefully renovating and updating the interiors of Bonura’s two-story Colonial. “Miraculously, she is only the fifth owner since it was built in 1730, which is crazy to think about.” The original owners had six children, and the property was passed down five generations before Bonura’s stewardship began. However, after buying the 1,300-square-foot house in 1994, Bonura’s sole focus was raising two children and, later, running her popular eatery. “We moved in broke with two kids,” she explains, “but I knew one day I’d be able to really bring the house back to life.”
“Rosie has always loved the home and garden but frankly didn’t have the money to spend restoring it,” adds Lawson. “But the kids have since left home, and we were able to come up with a plan to make her dream a reality.”
The first order of business was to enclose the original back porch and turn the space into a long open-concept dining area that flows into the kitchen. “It has the original roofline of the house above it, so we opened it up to the rafters,” Lawson explains. “We kept the rooms at the front of the house intact and left them the original scale.”
As a consummate entertainer and passionate cook, it was important that Bonura’s home kitchen be both beautiful and functional. “She’s an excellent hostess who cooks big dinners, and the tiny kitchen wasn’t up to par. She needed a space that could be overflowing with an abundance of food and flowers.”
With the major construction job out of the way, Lawson focused on redefining spaces—like turning the former jewel box of a dining room into a library—and infusing the homeowner’s bohemian aesthetic throughout.
“I’m very emotionally attached to the house,” Bonura says. “The people who built the house were Matthew Sherwood and his wife, Thankful, which has always touched me. I’m so grateful to Ryan for helping me lovingly restore it from top to bottom.”