Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Style Guide: Early American Farmhouse

Early American furniture, pottery, and textiles fill a 1734 Saltbox in Connecticut with tradition.

Antique collectors for more than three decades, the homeowners of this Connecticut home had always wanted to own an old house. When their younger son entered college, they began the search for their dream home in earnest. "The moment we pulled into the driveway, we knew this was the house for us."

The four-bedroom Saltbox, which dates back to an early-18th-century farmer, features wide-plank floors, thick plaster walls, and fireplaces made from local stone. Many rooms still have the original ceiling beams.

The rooms have been filled with personal treasures collected over the years -- decoy and pottery collections, folk art paintings, and Early American antiques. Now that the house is a reflection of the owner's personal tastes and lifestyle, it has become a "dream house" come true.

Join us as we tour this lovely Connecticut residence. Perhaps it will provide inspiration for the house of your dreams.

Living Room, Detail

In this corner of the living room, the homeowner's passion for Early American style is clearly evident. The traditional blue and white wood cut pattern on the upholstered armchair offers a rich complement to the solid red sofa fabric. On the wall, a pair of folk art portraits hold a watchful gaze.

The tea table is dated 1740. It showcases a lamp made from an old milk can, an 1816 redware bowl, and a bouquet of dried hydrangeas from the garden. The home has retained much of its historic character, including the exposed corner and ceiling beams shown here.


To introduce color and pattern into the commodious kitchen, the owners sheathed the stair risers and the base and hood of the indoor grill with hand-painted faïence tiles.

Purchased in Pennsylvania, the 18th-century cupboard near the staircase at right holds redware, stoneware, and slip-glazed crocks and jugs. The open door accesses a hallway now used as a utility area.

Kitchen, Another View

Exposed ceiling beams, cherrywood cabinets, and granite countertops further distinguish the kitchen. Trompe l'oeil morning glories ramble around the room, bordering the squat wooden door that leads to the root cellar, where the owners store wine.

On top of the center island, crusty loaves of fresh bread baked in the living room hearth's beehive oven vie for attention with fresh produce and a hand-carved holstein that was bought at auction. The dining room, with its stenciled wall border, folk art painting, and bow-back Windsor chairs, is visible beyond.

Dining Room

Two sizes of vines trail across the dining-room walls; a third, smaller rendition of the stencilwork edges the fireplace. The early-1800's painted panel that hangs above it once served as the center section of a fireplace surround. Mismatched Windsors, including four bow-back side chairs, surround a pine trestle table set with Blue Canton porcelain and crystal stemware.

The painted cupboard, found in Maine, houses late-19th-century textiles, including a fine c. 1870 Lone Star quilt on the bottom shelf. Two c. 1820 Hitchcock spindle-back side chairs flank the fireplace; a Shaker-style cotton confetti rug covers the floor.


A crocheted canopy, plaid bedskirt, and graphic Compass quilt dress the master bedroom's reproduction pencil-post tester bed. "When we moved in," says the owner, "we had to cut three inches off the bed frame just so that we could get it into the room."

An early-1700's blanket chest features flame-painted panels; the c. 1760 cupboard boasts brilliant blue paint as well as a tiny hole, the work of a mouse long since departed. An antique hobbyhorse with tin stirrups, leather bridle, and horsehair saddle was a Christmas gift.


Painted in shades of historic green/grey, this two-story shingled Saltbox is beautifully sited on its Connecticut property, with lush ground cover and natural landscaping. A wooden bench below the draped American flag signals a warm New England welcome to those approaching on the brick walkway in the foreground.

In the back, the owners have planted an English perennial garden along a 60-foot-long stone wall that existed on the property. They have also restored a blacksmith's shop that was built near the dwelling during the 1800's.

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