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Gloomy Guesthouse Gets Much-Needed Makeover

Katy Cleare couldn't believe her eyes when she looked inside the Connecticut governor's guesthouse. It was dark, dingy and filled with what Cleare refers to as disposable, hand-me-down furniture. "It looked just like a frat house," she says.

Cleare, principal of Westport, Conn.-based Catherine Cleare Interiors, LLC , is an interior designer with clients from Rhode Island to Florida and many places in between. She was also one of 13 decorators enlisted by Connecticut Cottages & Gardens magazine (CC&G) to spruce up the historic Hartford, Conn. mansion over a two-month period last summer.

Built in 1909 as a private home and purchased by the state in 1943 for use as the governor's residence , the Georgian-style house had seen better days. The rooms and furnishings were dated. The designers' assignment was to turn the tired rooms back into an elegant mansion.

Cleare was assigned the guesthouse, a red brick cottage with a steeply pitched slate roof. From the outside it was "the cutest little thing you've ever seen -- a Hansel and Gretel house." But inside was another story.

With no budget and little time, Cleare took stock of what she had to work with. The study had good bones. There were architectural details and built-in bookcases. But it was dark and gloomy. She decided a coat of citrus green paint would bring the room back to life.

Next Cleare addressed the furnishings. She scavenged tables and chairs from a jumble of discarded furniture in the basement. "It was mostly a mish-mash of junk," she says. She painted the mismatched furniture and all the moldings a high-gloss white, which contrasted beautifully with the citrus walls and created the illusion that everything belonged. Bold floral fabric donated by Schumacher went on chairs and sofas.

The project was a whirlwind from start to finish, Cleare says, but enormous fun. "That little house looks darling now. Sassy and fresh."

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