Eclectic Decor and Bold Color Put Creativity on Display in This Family Home

Color, joy, and handmade treasures fill art educator and musician Dre Towey's home. But the porch is where the action is—and the music.

Thanks to its narrow streets lined with the kind of classic architecture that gives coastal New England much of its character, and the fact that the water is never more than a short stroll away, Rowayton, Connecticut, is a village long on charm. Dre Towey's eclectic Victorian house, where she raised her three now-grown children, fits right in.

white house with painted wooden fence
Annie Schlechter

Creative energy rules the house. An art educator and self-described "kindie rocker" who has recorded five albums of children's music, Dre fell in love with the property—and its rare vintage barn and wide lawn—when her children were young and needed more space than their New York lifestyle allowed. "There was cat litter everywhere and ticking clocks. It was really musty. But everything else," she says, "was so cool."

Dre Towey playing piano
Annie Schlechter

Dre (pictured at the baby grand piano she found at a garage sale) fell in love with this house built in 1883 for oystermen. Dre mulches her flowerbeds with shells as a homage.

An original staircase with turned balusters, stained-glass windows, and an old industrial Garland stove were all selling points. After living there nine years, they remodeled to widen doorways, remove walls, and install wide-plank oak floors with a gray wash that makes them almost look Scandinavian. White walls and black accents create a backdrop for intense shades like orange, yellow, fire-engine red, and apple green.

living room with colorful decor
Annie Schlechter

A Moroccan rug and deep-blue sectional anchor the living room. Dre likes to put at least one element of saturated color in every room. Here it's a taxi-yellow side table from CB2 and her multi-colored painted guitar case. Above the fireplace, a rainbow of thread spools combines in a funky wreath-like piece of art.

dining area with wooden table and orange chairs
Annie Schlechter

Dre added an artist's flair to the old bones of the interiors, placing a quirky mix of flea-market finds and new furniture and a moment of big color in every room. There's a modern glassware collection and a Fiesta-orange hood over the range in the kitchen, a red lacquered door to the mudroom, persimmon dining chairs, and glossy black paint on the stairwell just inside the front door.

Orange chairs and textiles on the daybed stand out against the black-and-white cloud wallpaper ($4-$548, Anthropologie) in the dining room. The basket light fixture reminds Dre of a shellfish bucket, a nod to the ocean nearby. Window frames painted black mimic iron.

kitchen with white subway tile and orange hood
Annie Schlechter

Exposed beams, subway tile with gray grout, and metal Tolix stools give the kitchen a slightly industrial feel, while natural wood shelving and a bright-orange range hood keep the look inviting.

Related: How to Effortlessly Style Open Kitchen Shelves in 5 Easy Steps

doorway to kitchen with dog
Annie Schlechter

Orange reappears in the butler's pantry, where Dre stores glassware (and dog Indiana Jones' water bowl).

person drawing on large chalkboard
ANNIE SCHLECHTER

Collaborative paintings by the kids at JAM (the non-profit art studio Dre founded as a creative haven for young artists in need) appear throughout the home, along with guitar cases, skateboards, and other signs of an active, artistic family.

Chalkboard paint makes the sliding barn door a canvas for son Emmet's impromptu art.

porch with red front door
Annie Schlechter

Dre was careful to preserve many of the special features of the house, like the stained glass in the back door, while adding personality, like the glossy-red paint and quirky cow artwork.

band playing at backyard party
Dre and her band, The Bearded Ladies, take the stage, aka Dre's side porch. Annie Schlechter

Added in 2015, the wraparound porch is where Dre's modern-country aesthetic is most apparent. She considers it the heart of the house, where the family spends good-weather days reading, visiting, and playing music. It's also the inspiration—and one of the locales—for Porch Jam, a series of live concerts Dre stages in yards around town to raise funds for her non-profit.

homeowner Dre Towey

Playing on an outdoor stage like that is magical.

—homeowner Dre Towey
bin filled with ice and beverages
Annie Schlechter

When Dre hosts a Porch Jam concert at her house, she sets up her collection of biergarten tables in the side yard. A galvanized tub of canned drinks on ice is at the ready for friends and neighbors to help themselves.

With the outdoors as a setting, Dre can relax about party decor. She tops each table with a burlap runner and fills pitchers with garden flowers. Snacks are also low-key. She sets out popcorn, nuts, crackers, and candies, and lets guests fill individual paper containers.

Dre started her career teaching art in New York, but didn't discover her love of music until a friend asked her to sing backup and make monkey sounds for a recording. That led to playing in a band, recording kids' music, and rocking out on her porch on a regular basis.

"Playing on an outdoor stage like that is magical," Dre says. It's a celebration of art, music, and family—like her colorful and creative home.

Updated by
Karin Lidbeck Brent

Karin Lidbeck Brent is an avid stylist, designer, editor, and DIY expert. She has over 20 years of experience in the home publishing and catalog industry, contributing to various magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Country Living, New England Homes Magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens.

In addition to her editorial career, Karin has a passion for floral design. Her floral work has also been featured dozens of times throughout Country Gardens Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Better Homes & Gardens.

With her passion for inspiring others to add creativity into their homes, she is very active on her personal blog and continues to share DIY improvement projects with her readers.

Karin Lidbeck Brent is an avid stylist, designer, editor, and DIY expert. She has over 20 years of experience in the home publishing and catalog industry, contributing to various magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Country Living, New England Homes Magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens.

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