Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Style Guide: Early American, Primitive

In an antiques dealer's 1820's farmhouse, natural decorations harmonize with cherished furnishings, prized collectibles, and family heirlooms.

"An old house is the ultimate antique, and a way of life," claims the owner of this four-square Ohio farmhouse, an antiques collector of 20 years' standing. The loving care that he and his wife devoted to the restoration clearly bears witness to the claim.

The house is filled with furniture and accessories collected on cross-country travels in search of Early American treasures. The house, however, never seems more complete than when the couple's grown children and young grandson come to call.

In keeping with the traditional farmhouse lifestyle, the kitchen is the heart of the house and the center of family activities. With the aroma of Mom's holiday specialities filling the room, the fireplace providing its own special warmth, and the table dressed for Christmas Eve dinner, we have been called to supper.

Make yourself at home, and enjoy the simple pleasures of farmhouse living.

Family Room

The soft yellow walls and gold-colored sofa in the family room come alive with the addition of multicolored quilt throws, layered rugs, and a flame stitch seat cover. Tabletops and wall-mounted curio shelves also support the color themes with odd matched candle sticks and hand-woven baskets. The Albany stove visible on the far left bears the date 1858.

The traditions of Christmas are also featured with a full tree and even fuller cache of toys and gifts beneath. Each branch is tipped with popcorn. Toys underneath are corralled by a fence the owner's father constructed in 1940.


To warm the parlor, the owners built a Rumford-style fireplace to fit within the surround of a mantel the son retrieved from a nearby dwelling. During the holidays it becomes a perfect repository for a still life of seasonal fruits, which frame a Seth Thomas pillar-and-scroll mantel clock dating from around 1825.

The traditional-styled furnishings, earthtone upholstery, and classics like the 1740's banister-back chair in the foreground add their own warmth to the setting. A loose cushion provides comfort as well as protection for the original cane seat.


Upstairs the bedrooms are furnished with both comfort and practicality in mind. The stark white walls provide the perfect backdrop to the mix of blues and reds found in the woodwork, furnishings, and floor coverings. A rail hung at window top height offers a functional display for collectibles and family keepsakes.

The owner's grandson makes quick claim to the trundle bed in the room his parents share when the family visits for the holidays. The wood-spoke wheel on the right, which once supported a country carriage, now provides a sculptural element for the room.


The buttery occupies a newly built addition behind the farmhouse. The white-oak floor boards, taken from the attic and reinstalled in alternating widths of 16, 18 and 20 inches, are protected from winter trackings by a generous-sized rag rug.

A piggin on the floor alongside the Ohio water bench is filled with rosehips, which the owners gather in abundance during the holiday season. The bench now serves as a display for the butter churn and band box on top and clay jugs on the shelf below. Other collectibles crowd the shelf near the ceiling.


Popcorn and cranberry strands festoon the staircase for the holidays. The paneling underneath still retains its original red paint finish. The slant-lid countertop desk with Shaker styling has been in the family for 40 years. An antique ladderback now serves as the desk chair.

Although the room was originally lit by candlelight, today an electrified chandelier captures the look and style of the period. A Wedgwood blue baseboard gives the room a decorative edge, uniting it with the blue painted chest in the dining room beyond.


A colorful display of fruit, including the hospitable pineapple, fills a wood-carved trencher on top of a red painted tap table. Both the trencher and table were lucky finds on a holiday visit to New England. A matched pair of ladderback chairs with rush seats and checked cushions fits comfortably under the extended tabletop surface.

The wall-mounted cupboard, c. 1840, is from Ohio. The age-worn and highly distressed finish -- so desirable in today's furnishings -- is natural here. In addition to its interior storage space, it offers a display area for the small objects perched on top. A collection of colored baskets is also displayed on the wall shelf above.

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