Decades of Home Work – Interiors
My home also functions as a museum with changing exhibitions, whose schedule depends on ads being shot for Niermann Weeks. Over the years, it’s come a long way from a rudimentary farmhouse, thank goodness.
The original front entry hall was just a big empty room, no closets, not hooks, no cupboards, no place to put anything upon entering the home. Joe cleverly designed closets hidden behind a series of doors that folded open and shut. He had recently purchased a French theatrical prop from the New York design maestro John Rosselli (www.johnrosselliantiques.com), which inspired him in the decoration of these doors. Now you see the doors- unpainted – closed and open;
The kitchen in 1994 was then so cramped and ugly that the teardown happened before my camera arrived, but it’s gotten better since its knotty pine days. To make it look bigger, we used upright raw fir slats placed vertically on all the walls and cabinets. The counters are limestone, whose color and texture we liked, but which has proven too soft. It has now cracked in several places, which I ignore, as I still like its soft look. That little spice cabinet in the far corner has descended in Joe’s family through the maternal line; he’s the first man to inherit it, and we’ll probably toss a coin to determine which of our daughters will get it next.
Our living room measures 40 x 20 feet with a fireplace smack in the middle of the 40’ outer wall, a space we often find clumsy. When we first moved in, the house was almost unfurnished, although stained carpets of unknown longevity covered perfectly good hardwood floors. As Mrs. Helgar commented when we first toured the living room, “Don’t mind the stains on the carpet. They’re from when my husband was dying.” We didn’t mind those stains very much, since all the carpeting quickly found a new home in a dumpster. Once the house became a blank slate, then our fun began.
The living room’s single front and side windows didn’t let in much natural light, so they went poof quickly. In my family we like generous fenestration and no curtains, to let in as much natural light as possible. The windows start at the floor molding and go almost up to the ceiling, with the side effect that the room looks much taller than its ten feet. John Saladino (www.saladinostyle.com) suggested a pinky white paint for the entire house, again a trick to visually expand its size. Sisal carpeting was popular then, so naturally we followed that trend. This ad photo displays a front corner of the room in all its blandness.
Joe replaced the knotty pine “dining room” on the back of the house, whose then shoddy construction and lack of insulation is visible in my snapshot. When his mother visited for Thanksgiving, we aimed a portable heater on her feet to keep the cold at bay.
The new enclosed veranda covers the entire back of the house, adding an extra 20 feet in depth. Custom Marvin (www.marvin.com) windows go almost floor to ceiling, and easily open to let in fresh air. The DC photographer Ken Wyner (www.kenwyner.com) caught the room’s coolness in this ad shot.
Over the years, however, we discovered that we must be pigs, since we could not keep dirt and smudges off our walls and carpets. We re-painted and changed out the sisal, but to no avail. Living in the country with animals, the neutral palette just had a very short life span. Finally we tired of the eternal touch-up and moved into a newly fashionable, brightly colored palette. Martha Stewart’s Living Egg Yolk paint provided the vibrancy we hoped for, and Joe found an unusually long Ushak carpet on eBay that just fit the space perfectly. The ceiling is now a pale, neutralized blue in semi-gloss. I took this snapshot to send to my cousin Stephanie Salis-Bauer, who likes to keep track of how our home morphs.
We’ve lived with this palette now for several years and find it more forgiving of our actual life style. The walls don’t show every dirty fingerprint and nick, and the rugs clean up perfectly. We re-arranged one day for Susan Stiles Dowell, visiting magazine scout, showing off our new Toulon Settee. Please go see more about Susan’s design writings on Facebook and Linkedin.
Borrowing a trick from DC’s Debbie Anderson Winsor, I asked my daughter Claire to bring me back birch logs from Massachusetts. They make a nicer view in the fireplace than its dark, sooty interior.
The new and improved dining room also makes us more content. Daughter Eleanor changed out all the furnishings except my Frascati Console to accentuate our depth of color. Now when spilled food or dirty footprints happen, we can quickly sweep the carpet and sponge off the table top. Life has become so much easier for me.
That’s how my home has adapted to changing fashions, Niermann Weeks’ advertising needs, and our lifestyle. Why don’t you send me pictures of how your home has changed, and then I can show them in another blog? It would be fun.
Thanks for reading along with me!