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West Hartford Family Chosen for Front Door Makeover

Nicole and Ben Gagne stand in front of their newly-designed front entryway. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Several West Hartford businesses teamed up to offer a front door makeover for a family that had been impacted by COVID-19, and on Tuesday the new look was revealed.

Posing in front of the made-over entryway are (from left) Ben and Nicole Gagne (holding Oliver) with Deb Cohen, Georgia Zikas, and the team from Liljedahl Brothers. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Nicole Gagne is a middle school teacher, and her husband, Ben Gagne, works for the Travelers but has been activated by the Army National Guard to assist with pandemic-related duties. When they’re home, they’re busy keeping up with Sawyer, 5, and Oliver, almost 3.

Nicole had mentioned multiple times to her friend and neighbor, Sarah Fennessy, that she really wanted to repaint the front door of her home at 7 Brookline Dr., but wasn’t really skilled at decorating and didn’t know what color to choose.

Gagne front entrance “before.” Courtesy photo

Last spring, Deb Cohen, a realtor with Coldwell Banker who also runs “The Front Door Project – Home Inspiration & Real Estate” website, was trying to think of how she could use her skills to help someone.

“What can I do? What’s something fun I can do to give back to someone impacted by the pandemic?” Cohen said.

After speaking with her friend Georgia Zikas, of Georgia Zikas Design, the pair decided to offer a front door makeover as a nice gesture to a local family impacted by COVID-19. They put out a request for nominees on the Neighbors & Friends in West Hartford Facebook page. There were a handful of nominees – among them Fennessy’s nomination of the Gagnes.

“Once we selected the Gagne family, we reached out to them to confirm they would be interested,” Cohen said. “They were so surprised and very grateful. That gave Georgia the green light to pull together her ‘mood board’ given Nicole’s preference for a blue door.”

“Mood board” with ideas from Zikas Design. Courtesy image

Zikas recruited Drew Liljedahl from Liljedahl Brothers, who readily agreed to help with the painting and installation.

“I reached out to my contact at Vintage Doors, and they generously agreed to provide a new storm/screen door to the family (value approximately $1,500 including storm glass, screen, hardware, etc). This was the largest and most expensive component of the project,” said Cohen.

Makeover at 7 Brookline Dr. was coordinated by Deb Cohen and Georgia Zikas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

While the project started in 2020, the pandemic also led to delays in obtaining building materials, and by the time the custom-made door was ready it was late fall, and too late for painting – but that was a silver lining and meant more could be done.

“[I thought] let’s pull in any business willing to donate,” Zikas said, and the project also grew to include planters (plants donated by Moscarillo’s), landscaping by D.W. Burr Landscaping, power washing of the house and stairs and painting of the railings by Darly & Son. Venora Electric installated a new exterior light fixture donated by CT Lighting.

Makeover at 7 Brookline Dr. was coordinated by Deb Cohen and Georgia Zikas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

New England-based Michael Healy donated the distinctive nickel pinecone door knocker, which Liljedahl installed.

Cohen and Zikas purchased the planters, welcome mat, new No. 7, and mailbox.

On Tuesday, while the Gagnes were at work, Liljedahl said he put two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Newburyport Blue on the existing front door and installed the new screen door.

The Gagnes knew the project was underway – and in fact Ben said he had learned about it because a co-worker saw it mentioned on Cohen’s Instagram page – but they didn’t know the extent of what had been done until the reveal Tuesday.

Nicole and Ben Gagne stand in front of their newly-designed front entryway. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“I love it,” Nicole exclaimed when she returned home from her job at King Philip Middle School Tuesday afternoon and was met by Ben and a crowd of contractors and onlookers.

“It looks phenomenal,” Ben said.

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Nicole Gagne and Oliver try the new door. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Makeover at 7 Brookline Dr. was coordinated by Deb Cohen and Georgia Zikas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Makeover at 7 Brookline Dr. was coordinated by Deb Cohen and Georgia Zikas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Makeover at 7 Brookline Dr. was coordinated by Deb Cohen and Georgia Zikas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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