Friday, December 2, 2011

Details, details, details

The magic of this house has always been in its details. I'll start with the big ones first.

Front staircase, second floor
Bedrooms: There are eight, though I think one is theoretically the master bedroom sitting room. (It also works nicely as a playroom, music room, and office.) There are five bedrooms on the second floor, three on the third. My favorite has always been the guestroom at the end of the second-floor hallway, in the back wing over the kitchen. It's bright and cozy, with sloping eaves and windows on three sides that overlook the back yard. 

Bathrooms: There are two full baths (complete with big cast-iron tubs) on the third floor and two full baths plus a half-bath on the second floor. There's also a powder room tucked under the front stairs. 

Closets: There must be at least 20. That includes the massive linen closet, a walk-in master bedroom dressing closet with its own window, and a cedar closet the size of a small room on the third floor. In the back hall, there's a mysterious closet so narrow we could barely squeeze in sideways as kids. There are closets everywhere.

Porches: Five if you count the front entrance, which isn't technically covered but has a broad, brick entry area with a beautifully detailed overhang (pictured at the top). There's also a side porch off the driveway, a back porch, and an enclosed porch next to the kitchen. Finally, there's the large screened veranda that opens out from the living room through French doors. I grew up calling this "The Piazza," despite its remote connection to anything Italian. But that was the name we found on the blueprints, and it stuck.  

The butler's pantry
Then there are the details that trace back to the house's roots in another era. There's a butler's pantry with big glass-front cabinets, old copper sink, and plate-warming rack (which never really worked, but was still neat). Down in the endless basement, there's a dusty old-fashioned canning room, a laundry room, and who knows what else...I was never brave enough to really explore. Off the kitchen, there are back stairs that climb to "servants' quarters" on the top floor, with two bedrooms and bath deliberately built with plain, unadorned woodwork and simple fixtures to clearly distinguish the space from the "family" side of the house.  

By the 1970s, it was hard for us to grasp that only a few decades earlier, such a different kind of life must  have been lived here. A cook who prepared all the meals? (I'll bet she knew exactly how to make that warming rack work!) A chauffeur living over the garage? Maids or governesses who slept upstairs? It felt like a fairy tale, but the architectural evidence was there.

Living room fireplace
Sadly, though, I don't think we really appreciated most of the important details about the house. We whined about dusting the parquet floors and washing the miles of intricate woodwork. Spending hours polishing old brass light fixtures* wasn't high on anyone's list either. But whether we could see it or not, all around us were bits and pieces of irreplaceable craftsmanship and elegance...the curving turn of the staircase, the classically detailed fireplace surrounds, the tall foyer archways, the beautiful carving above the front and side porches.

Last weekend as I walked through the empty rooms, I kept seeing things I didn't remember, thinking, "When did that get there?"  After all these years, I was finally seeing the house for everything it is, and always was, and to be honest, it took my breath away. Which is why I'm here, writing this blog.

So bring your imagination and explore the house a little as it is now. I'm having a bit of trouble organizing and captioning images...but hopefully you will get the idea, and more importantly, see the house for what it can be.

*None of the light fixtures shown here are original to the house. They are either recent additions or replacements. The original double-sconce brass fixtures in the foyer had a beautiful, torch-like shape, with fine detail and round, etched glass globes. They were in perfect working order before the house was last sold. I have my fingers crossed they have been safely stored somewhere in the basement...

Images from the interior of the house...

Newel post detail
Front staircase
Living room, with French doors to piazza

Kitchen and breakfast room
View into dining room from foyer

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