Every day, Todd Tauzin walks into the one place he’d rather be than anywhere else on earth. Home.
As a matter of fact, the first time he walked into the house he now shares with his wife Paula and their two daughters, Todd knew it was the right house for them. “We were looking for a new home and the couple selling this home didn’t use a realtor. They were the ones who showed us the home. I saw it online on Friday night, we came to see it on Saturday and on Sunday, we put in an offer.”
Paula says the home had a happy feel to it. “You just know when a house has good vibes, and the juju in this house was really good!” She says the house has been “a place of healing” for her. She was very ill on moving day, and having interior designer Susan Fontenot there to coordinate was a godsend.
The home is also a place where Todd and Paula blended their families, each parent to a daughter. The girls were 13 and 16 when the family moved into the Bridgewater home a little over four years ago. “I was literally standing at the front door telling the movers what room to put things in,” recalls Susan. “I wasn’t real familiar with all of their furnishings—I had only been to their previous home once--so it was a bit of a challenge.”
Todd met Susan through her husband. “I went to their home and I really liked Susan’s style,” Todd says. “I knew I wanted Paula to meet her.” Paula said she had seen Susan’s work in a show house before and remembered it well. “It’s important for a designer and client to click and Paula and I did right off the bat,” Susan says. “It’s been fun for me to work with the Tauzins because our taste is the same. Of course there have been challenges along the way, but it’s a respectful give and take that has worked for us over the past few years.” Paula adds, “we have a kinship that is important when it comes to what Susan does here. She understands what’s important to me and she works to make that fit into the design of our home.”
Todd adds that he likes how the house flows, with the master bedroom downstairs and the girls’ bedrooms upstairs. The previous owners of the home had three boys, so they knew it would be a teen-friendly home. “We needed a place for daughters, dogs and books—all important to us both,” says Paula. “This home was able to accommodate them all.”
The home is impressive, sitting atop a hill on a wooded lot. An open courtyard leads to the front doors, decked out in stylized rectangle wreaths for the season. The doors open into a grand entry hall that gives a glimpse of the home. Instantly, the feeling is one of welcoming and warmth. A small sitting room is to the left, a music room to the right, and the formal living room is straight ahead. The Tauzins are “dog people” and their two pups greet visitors at the door.
The music room is furnished with a black grand piano. A long iron heater grate from New York City serves as a sideboard, with personal items artfully displayed. On the wall above the grate is a black lacquered screen with gold Asian-inspired art. “I got that from a little old lady’s house in London,” muses Paula. “It took forever to have it cleaned and restored. I can just imagine that lady sitting around in her flat smoking cigarettes!”
The living room features mid-century modern furniture and large-scale canvases by some of Jackson’s most prominent artists, including William Goodman, Courtney Peters and Kelly Williams. While the living room is “formal,” Paula says she wants everyone who comes into her house to feel comfortable. “I don’t want it to feel ‘precious,’” she says. “This is a place for people to feel relaxed. I’m all about story, and inspiration and art,” Paula says, as she points out a tall painting of trees with roots that extend below the earth. “That one is all about family—roots and digging deep. It has a lot of meaning to me, because we are putting our roots down as a family in this home.”
The living room opens onto a large, but cozy, kitchen anchored with a huge marble-topped island. The walls are filled with colorful artwork. “I believe in using what you’re inspired by,” Paula says. “It all comes together when it counts. I may find a two dollar painting at a thrift store and put it next to a piece of fine art from a gallery. I also love kid art. In a way, my home is like a journal – it tells the story of our lives. And it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. I like smattered, battered and bent! If it stops us in our tracks, we use it.”
Susan says that when designing a home, she is careful to learn what kinds of things the homeowners really love. “I love textiles,” says Paula. “It’s my main thing. I’m not hung up on one style. I like a mixture of styles. Susan adds that with the Tauzin home, she started with tradition as the base and went from there. “It’s been a work in progress. They had eleven years of accumulated stuff, and we had to do a deep edit. We continue to tweak it all the time. It looks better today than it did this time last year. It’s ever-evolving.”
Besides the kitchen, the Tauzins spend most of their time in the TV/game room. A pool table is on one end with two comfortable couches on the other. “I had the couches recovered in an orangey earthen tone,” says Susan. The room is accented with oranges, turquoise, fuchsia, bronze and gold. “I like anything glamorous and shiny,” laughs Paula. “But I’m also a country girl, so I like to bring the outside in whenever I can with organic elements.” In this particular room, it’s a large cylindrical root ball that sits atop a pedestal in the corner. “Susan does a good job with juxtaposing different items.” From an antique rug topped with a Lucite coffee table, to the colorful pair of abstract paintings by Jackie Ellens, there are many different styles in the room that are carefully curated to create a visually stunning, yet comfortable and inviting space. In the corner sits a butterscotch leather armchair where Todd relaxes after work.
Down the hall is the master bedroom. The headboard of the bed is salvaged steel from an Egyptian gate. On the wall behind the headboard, a Moroccan rug is hung. Art in subtle shades of black, gray and cream are hung on the walls. “I got some of these pieces from the Goodwill art auction,” Paula laughs, just another example of how she likes to surround herself with things that make her happy. “It doesn’t always have to come from an expensive place to look good.”
Paula says she had a few things on her wish list when she and Todd where searching for a home. “I wanted real beams that were structural, not those ‘fake’ beams. We really loved the beams in this house and we learned from the previous owners that they came from a river bottom.” Paula also wanted to have different nooks for people to relax in and read. “I think it’s important to have those little environments in a home. I like lots of texture and I want it to feel snuggly. We all love to read, and this home is perfect for that.”
Another thing that was important to the couple was for their home to be a gathering place. “It has always been a gathering place for the kids,” Paula says. “Because the former home owners had a pool company, they built a magnificent pool. That pool became the gathering spot for all the neighborhood kids. Todd and I enjoy entertaining as well, and we throw a lot of parties. Sometimes we entertain casually around the island.” Each time they have a party, Susan is there to help with the decorations and whatever else needs to be done. “She even tells me it’s time to get dressed and to put on my lipstick,” laughs Paula.
Susan says that Paula has high expectations, and Paula says Susan keeps her on point. “It’s been a great relationship,” Paula says. “Susan understands me perfectly, and I love what we’ve done here. Todd works hard and it’s important to me to provide a wonderful environment for him to come home to each day. Todd smiles as he settles into his leather chair in the TV room. “Since we’ve lived here I don’t feel the need to travel anymore. I really love being at home.”