Ellen Cesario Ferns has been in the business of making other people’s spaces feel warm and welcoming for years. As the proprietor of Store Four in Wakefield, it seemed only natural she and husband Robert Ferns looked to create the same ambiance in their own home.
“We really like to entertain, so the way we’d use space was really important to us,” says Ellen. The couple moved into the 18-year-old South Kingstown home seven years ago, although the layout was something they didn’t necessarily have on their wish list. “I originally thought I wanted an open kitchen and open floor plan, but this house just spoke to us,” she says. Instead of making any major changes right after moving in, however, the couple decided to live in the house for a while to adapt to their new surroundings and identify spaces they needed to modify to best suit their taste and lifestyle.
For example, the couple had a dining area in the kitchen they just weren’t using for meals as they often used their dining room. Ellen and Bob re-invented the space as an intimate seating area to enjoy a cup of coffee or relax with a magazine. Ellen explains, “We considered how we used our space. We have an island with stools if you want to eat in there.”
While many of today’s homeowners are eschewing traditional dining rooms, Ellen and Bob are embracing theirs, designing it with a decidedly unfussy aesthetic. “It’s great because you can cook, the kitchen doesn’t have to be cleaned right away and you can sit in the dining room and enjoy,” Ellen says with a laugh.
Formal living rooms are also underutilized by many of today’s homeowners, and Ellen and Bob found themselves in a similar quandary. “We never used it. We just didn’t go in there because of the way the furniture was placed,” she says. Another reason they didn’t use it is because the space dictates use as a formal living room, so they naturally adhered to the role the room was supposed to play. “But we found we had needs for this room,” she says. So, in an unconventional twist, the two considered their personal interests and created a multi-use room. “It’s an office, music room and a cocktailing room,” explains Ellen. “When my husband and I got married, we had a band that played Frank Sinatra music, so we’re a throwback a little bit. That’s our personalities.” She says that the room is the perfect place for the couple to come together after a long day of work, pour a glass of wine or mix a cocktail and talk about their day. Bob, a talented musician, often picks up the guitar and plays some tunes. “We’re so excited about it. My husband looked at me recently and said, ‘I love this room.’”
The space embodies their “do what you love” philosophy. “It’s the same thing with the eat-in kitchen – there’s what they intended the room to be, but it doesn’t have to be. I tell this to customers too. What is it you ascertain doing in the space, or what do you want to do in the space?” It’s also about personalizing each space, she says, and Ellen practices what she preaches. In order to merge the trio of purposes that unfolds in the former living room into one cohesive aesthetic, she hand-picked a mix of old and new pieces that worked together unexpectedly harmoniously. An antique table that serves as Ellen’s desk is juxtaposed by a modern lamp, while a pair of swivel chairs in a classic hounds tooth pattern, which coincidentally is a modern design trend, adds dimension. Accessories that are equally fashionable and functional, like the tray that was a wedding gift they use for cordial bottles, give the room depth and character. “A lot of times you have the furniture but you have to rethink how to use it,” she advises. “I always had a tagline for the store: Store Four, A Lifestyle Experience, because we want people to come in to enhance your lifestyle. Over the years, I realized when doing our own home, that oftentimes your needs change. I had a few customers who asked me to help them pull together their own home and it’s turned into this new business, Décor Four.” This secondary business, an arm of the original Store Four, offers design services that capitalize on Ellen’s longtime experience in the home décor industry and her ability to blend old pieces and new. “I found there was a need for it. I’ve styled people’s tables for parties and realized to them, doing that can be stressful, but for me, its fun.” Up until now, Décor Four has mostly been a via word of mouth venture, but as we’re in the midst of the holiday season, the timing is ideal for South County residents and beyond. “It’s something I’m passionate about because I can help people. Sometimes people are looking for a little color and you can add a pillow and a throw and it changes the way you look at the whole room. I was an art major in college, so I have this intrinsic need to design,” she says. “People think you have to be a certain way, but sometimes you have to break the rules.”
Since Store Four seemingly offers something for everyone with a wide spectrum of décor and accessories, it might be hard to pinpoint Ellen’s own personal style, but she reveals her aes- thetic is a classic meets modern hybrid. “My family has had businesses in this town forever and I have a real sense of liking where I am from, and I still appreciate how we came here and when things were handmade and hand done.”
In their home, Ellen and Bob have a few family heirlooms that carry much more sentimental value than monetary worth. “People can see we appreciate that part of our lives. There’s a huge painting that used to hang in my grandparents living room and we tried to design around it. It may not have been something I would have bought, but we love it. ... Our house is definitely styled in a way we love but we definitely don’t want people to think it’s a museum.”