Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Style Guide: Early American

A renovated 1970s home in Massachusetts adopts an inviting country character.

When we think of remodeling we generally mean one of two things: the expansion of living space or the modernization of an older home.

For the owners of this contemporary 1970s dwelling in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, however, remodeling became a way to make old what was new. The homeowners wanted to add architectural embellishments and traditional details to a home lacking in such traits, and to create an environment that reflected their personal love of Early American style.

"Now that we spend time in the country, I find myself enjoying older, more traditional things," the homeowner admits. Throughout the home, cream-colored walls and gray-green trim create a neutral backdrop to the charming mix of color, collectibles and architectural details. A stairway off the front hall entrance leads to a sleeping alcove above. Bold colors are repeated in the woven floorcoverings and floral-patterned upholstery fabrics. Collectibles -- from Roseville glass to a sculptor's iron trolley -- mix and mingle as display pieces and furniture accents.

We welcome you to step inside and enjoy what we felt was an artful makeover and beautiful example of Early American style today.

Living Room, Another View

The cherry-colored window frames and green-painted baseboards set the color theme of the living room. It is a color story that is richly interpreted in the woven plaid floorcoverings, red floral-patterned sofa, and dark green wicker side chairs. A 19th-century iron trolly serves as a unique coffee table, revealing the homeowners' fascination with industrial design.

The full height of the ceiling is made evident by the two-story casement windows, draped with swagged panels of woolen crepe. A pair of matching bookcases offer their own decorative accents while providing functional displays for glassware, collectibles, and family photos. A piano sits in the far corner.


The living room bookshelves provide a practical and decorative display for a variety of collectibles. In addition to the odd grouping of books, decorative boxes, family photos, and Michael Graves pendulum clock, the shelves feature the homeowners' extensive collection of Roseville and Van Briggle pottery.

The bookshelves are unique unto themselves. They combine cherry boards in receding widths with maple geometric cutout supports. The similarity of the natural maple against the cream-colored walls gives the cherry shelves the appearance of being suspended without support. At the bottom of the photo, a detail of a modern wicker chair is visible, with green-painted finish and metal frame construction.


Attention to detail brings personality to every corner of the living room. An iron grate salvaged from a 19th-century Maryland home hangs above the 1800s North Carolina pine mantel. The fireplace, which is painted in slate gray, gives the impression of cast iron rather than wood construction.

The rustic pine drop-leaf table pictured at right displays more of the homeowner's collectibles, here red clay pottery and antique game boards. Although the metal folding chair is a modern addition, it seems a natural complement to the space. The floral frieze continues to provide the only wall-mounted adornment.

Dining Room

By mixing the old and the new, the dining area and kitchen blend warmth and comfort with contemporary conveniences. A local furniture maker crafted the table from 18th-century floorboards. The mismatched chairs -- some painted, some stained -- were purchased in New Mexico. They are unified by a stylized Indian print fabric on the seat cushions.

In the adjacent kitchen, cherrywood cabinetry with simple raised panel construction clearly reflects the appeal of Shaker style. For modern convenience, easy-care countertops and backsplash, industrial lamps, a commercial style range, microwave oven, and track lighting have been added.


Despite its traditional styling, the kitchen was redesigned with efficiency and convenience in mind. A geometric design motif accents the easy-care Nuvel Formica countertops and backsplash. The cabinets, crafted in solid cherrywood with raised panel construction and black door pulls, provide abundant storage. And, for the resident chef, the commercial gas range and oven meet every requirement.

A greenhouse-style window with side casements was installed to enhance the room's natural light. The enlarged windowsill offers an ideal place for additional countertop storage, ripening fruit and vegetables, and plants requiring full sunlight.


The cream-colored walls of the master bedroom serve as a neutral backdrop to the unusual red clay painted furniture shown here. The bed -- with its majestic scale, scroll detailed posts, and hand-carved arabesque headboard -- nightstand, and step stool were all pieced together from salvaged 19th-century furniture elements.

For added color, a tasseled pillow with gold accents and a boldly patterned bed quilt reinforce the red, brown, and black tones found in the painted furniture. Additional decorative accents include a hooked rug, iron wall sconces with brioche-shaped lampshades, and a Caribbean scene painted by the homeowner's mother.

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