Monday, April 7, 2008

Style Guide: Colonial Farmstead

A restored 1740's dwelling near Valley Forge exhibits an artistic mix of old and new.

In 1968, a single owner -- an artist by profession -- moved into this 1742 farmhouse in Audubon, Pa., with a vision and penchant for restoration.

She took on the project of reviving the old house wholeheartedly, doing it over one room at a time. She made numerous visits to Washington's 1777-1778 winter headquarters in nearby Valley Forge, where she borrowed ideas for restoring architectural details and the historical accuracy of her color palette.

Ten years ago, she met a fellow devotee -- a restorer of furniture and crafts accessories -- and rallied him to her cause. In the barn that now houses the art studio, the couple work together to arrange antiques into room settings, which they either incorporate into the house or sell at antiques shows. They also tend to five acres of gardens.

Living Room

To offset the massiveness of the 20- by 40-foot living room, the owner divided the space into sections based on activities. A trio of wing chairs -- two with matching blue moiré upholstery and one a classic check fabric -- is grouped with a Chippendale sofa to form a cozy sitting area. A piano and desk, not visible here, provides balance to the other end of the room.

Despite the dark wood tones of decorative moldings, ceiling beams, plank floors, and furniture, the cream-colored walls and large mullioned windows make the room bright and cheery. The stepback cupboard provides useful storage for collections of copperware and pottery. A bird's-eye maple Queen Anne gateleg table is positioned in front of the Boston rocker, just left of the fireplace.

The property has been named Colonial Yard. Join us on a tour of the house, and see how one homeowner combined two loves -- art and restoration -- to transform a mid-1700's farmhouse into a comfortable home for today.

Dining Room

Like the living room, the dining room features a wonderful blend of cream-colored walls and dark wood antique furnishings. A seven-drawer walnut Sheraton chest, still with its original brass hardware, serves as a sideboard to the 18th-century three-board pine hutch table. Four restored spindle-back chairs surround the dining table, while a single bow-back Windsor occupies the far corner.

Given the depth of the original plaster walls, the windowsills provide a deep display space for welcoming candles and special pottery pieces. The jabbots and side panel draperies -- made by the homeowner -- help to soften the graphic grid of the mullioned windows. Together with the tabletop homespun linens, they provide visual interest and historical accuracy to the room.

Master Bedroom

The bedroom features an unusual mix of pattern, color, and design. A black and white plaid wing chair keeps company with an 18th-century pine hooded cradle. The Queen Anne Highboy -- a 19th-century piece -- gives a dramatic design focus to the room, while providing plentiful drawer storage.

Although the fireplace mantel is a standard height, Wilson (the owner's Boston Great Dane) makes it look small by comparison. A Chinese rug unites the room, with its intricate pattern and rich color theme.

Bed Detail

The portraits mounted above the headboard in the master bedroom reflect the artistic talents of the owner. Even though they are contemporary interpretations, shown here on the aged plaster walls, they look very much like the Early American originals. In addition to portraits, the owner also paints bucolic pictures -- rustic, pastoral scenes -- of animals.

The headboard itself offers a unique design statement. Crafted of mahogany wood and featuring a rich red finish, it combines top-capped corner posts with a graceful arabesque scroll cut-out and double-ended finial top detail. The navy and white coverlet was woven in the 1860's.

Child's Room

In one of the children's rooms, dark wood paneled walls and sand-colored painted floorboards create a perfect setting for the furnishings and collectibles contained within. The vintage clothing hung on the wall and on the door of the antique red cupboard, c. 1850, fits life-size dolls that the homeowner makes. The hand-painted bridebox on top of the cupboard was also made by the owner.

For childhood amusement, a wheeled Shetland pony, partially visible at right, keeps a watchful eye on the woolly bear seated in the 1880's wicker baby carriage across the room. The coverlet on the four-poster rope bed is also from the mid 1800's. A hooked rug continues the color theme at the foot of the bed.

Chair Detail

The house offers a number of unique antique furnishings and accessories, among them this 19th-century plank bottom chair. Simply crafted with only minimal carved detailing on back supports, the chair is enhanced by authentic hand painted embellishments. The stenciled designs appearing on the plaster walls and painted floorboards are more recent additions -- hand-painted by the home's resident artist. The framed portrait resting on the chair seat is another example of her work. It is only one of several original portraits featured throughout the house.

No comments: