Friday, July 18, 2014

My Dream House is For Sale

Every so often, I get the urge to search the local MLS for houses that might whet the appetite for a move. Rarely do I find anything that I think is going to be worth trading for, certainly not in our budget, but it doesn't stop me from looking at houses that are listed at prices I don't think we could ever afford.

Today, I found THE one. You know, that house that makes you slack mouthed and all fluttery inside. A little more than 45 minutes from my office, and an hour and a half from where we currently live sits a beautiful and elaborately constructed mansion that quite literally took stock of my must haves and checked the box on EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Can I afford it? No.
Am I going to pine away at night thinking about every single thing I'd do to make it mine?

In fact, I decided that I was so enamored with the house, I'd do a blog post devoted to it, and the way that I would decorate it, if the money just happened to fall gracefully into my lap.

Your jaw just dropped, didn't it?
This was the first photo I saw of the house. From that moment, I didn't care what the outside looked like, where it was, whether the next door neighbor was a gas station - I wanted it! Hand-painted wallpaper with a sweeping staircase, check and check! Granted, the carpet would have to go, as would the furniture, but the grand and yet intimate space was beautiful just the same. Anyone with half an iota of sense knows to overlook things like carpet, and take in the true beauty of the architecture here. I promise, when I tell you the price, you're going to die! (Well, maybe not die - but those flutters may turn into palpitations, while you decide whether or not moving to Western New York is a good idea!)

The photos are from two different listings, one older, one newer. So, you'll see a game of switch up with the furniture, but all the same, it's the rooms and house I want you to see here, not the furniture or décor, which, unfortunately, just isn't anything worth mentioning.
This is your grand foyer. Entering into the house through a smaller wood paneled vestibule, you enter this space before being taken into the adjoining dining or living rooms. Behind the foyer is a library, and we'll get to those spaces too.
As I said, after picking my jaw up off the desk, and looking around to see if anyone had noticed that my lap was filled with drool, I immediately began decorating the space in my head. Of course, the wallpaper stays. With Gracie and de Gournay so popular, and yet so expensive, who would take down chinoiserie wallpaper that has stood the test of time? Up would come the carpet, and in it's place, bound and measured to fit seagrass, with antique brass carpet rods like this:
Design by Mary McDonald
While a painted floor is quite spectacular, I think I'd keep the integrity of the original floors (if in good shape) and just have everything custom bound so that it mimics this carpeted foyer:
Design by Jeffrey Bilhuber
Having the stair carpeting feed right down into the carpeting below is a great idea to keep the space feeling open and the flow seamless from foyer to upper landing. To keep from scrolling back up, keep these changes in your head, and look at this picture again:

Are you seeing it? Of course you are. While the room is clearly big enough for furniture, having seating in the space, at least this much seating and in this typical living room sort of way, is too much of a good thing. What the space really needs is a large and impressive front hall table. Something round, and larger than you might expect, to fill the room and encourage even greater flow in the space, and echo the rounded walls of the staircase. It'd also pull furniture away from the wall and moldings to help reveal the beautiful architecture that this current scheme is hiding.
I envisioned this room at Martha Stewarts house, Skylands, in Maine.
The round table, skirted with beautiful fabric, is encircled by mismatched antique stools and ottomans. Atop it, a planted urn weights the center of the table, while books scattered and stacked about fill the outer brim.

This, in my opinion, is the perfect way to furnish this large grand hall. It's convenient and beautiful, useful and playful, completely in keeping with what may have been intended when the architect crafted this masterful estate. I even like the idea of softening the otherwise hard lines of the interior moldings and millwork, by skirting the table. I don't know that I'd have something so lazily drooped in this house, however. Perhaps something more tailored. A bit like this:
Design by Alex Papachristidis
While this isn't a round table, you could employ the same pleating and ribbon and tassel detail for a round table, like this:
And if you couldn't find mismatched but coordinating antique ottomans and stools, you could always go for new. The look of a grand hall table with ottomans around it isn't a foreign concept. In fact, it may have been the brainchild of David Easton, who uses them in nearly every space he decorates.

Design by David Easton

Here he pairs up x-frame stools, upholstered in the same fabric with a round table centered in the room, breaking up the space into two distinct areas.
Design by Jeffrey Bilhuber
Jeffrey Bilhuber did the same thing here, skirted table with ribbon and fringe detail, x-frame folding stool covered in Bruschwig & Fils tiger velvet. If I were to think so far into this whole thing, picking colors for fabric and trims, I would say that I'd likely pick up either on the reddish orange that seems to be present in the wallpaper, or that beautiful emerald green. Against the neutrality of seagrass, either color would blend perfectly with the wallpaper, which quite frankly, along with the exquisite staircase and paneling should steal the show!
Alright, so moving on, right? Remember that the foyer opens up to the living room to the right:
That room along with most of the bottom floor, if not all of it, from what I can tell in photos is paneled with premium wood paneling and outfitted with a black marble fireplace surround and mantle.
Now, imagine, from this angle, the carpet is gone. The staircase has beautifully bound seagrass with antique brass stair rods cascading downward into a beautiful seagrass rug perfectly fitted to the foyer. A round table, covered to the floor in beautiful fabric, trimmed in stunning fringe and ribbon detail is surrounded by small-ish ottomans. The tabletop, quite large, is centered with a beautiful concrete urn, filled with orchids, and interior design books are stacked on the surrounding circumference, along with small trinkets of brass, glass, and blue and white porcelain. You with me? GREAT!
If you know my taste, and if you're reading this blog, you likely have a good idea, you can probably already guess where I went with this room in my head. I hate the natural woodwork at CDLV, and would pick up a paint brush in 2-seconds flat if Scott would ever give the go ahead. But this, this millwork should never see anything but a soft cloth. It's stunning, and no one took a better leap in decorating a very similar room, than Mary McDonald in the Beverly Hills home she shared with John Bersci.
The view into the room even made the cover shot for her book jacket! Don't worry - we're getting there. First, the rest of the space.

The room has, what looks to be, wonderful natural light, along with gorgeous double-arm sconces every 8-10 feet along the wall, flanking very symmetrically the intended floor plan. (Not what you see here.)
The French doors you see on either side of the fireplace lead out into a very large sun porch, which is fully enclosed. Unfortunately there are no photos of this space. So, I know you're thinking - what did Mary do?

Honestly, have you even thought of another way to decorate the space? I bet not after seeing these photos. Beautifully upholstered sofas and chairs of all different styles, but in the same crisp white linen only help to further accentuate the beauty of the paneling. A map of Paris, divided into 20 frames help to give light to a dark corner and that beautiful French gilded mirror anchors the middle of the room above the sofa.
Remember the living room of my dream house? Here it is again:

Where that curio cabinet now stands, an exact copy of the Mary McDonald arrangement could exist. Top the sconce arms with beautiful white linen shades, and bada-bing bada-boom, donezo! The rest of the room is made up of similar intimate seating arrangements, like Mary's space show above.
You can see in this photo that the sofa arrangement I referenced above is to the far left, beyond, centered in front of the screen is another, and to the right two club chairs take their rightful place in front of the fireplace on either side of a card table.  In another photo above, you can see that a similar sofa and French cameo chair arrangement mirrors the one in front of the screen. In such a large space, to have so many beautiful, intimate groupings of furniture is the best plan, and with a much similar foot print to my dream house, this room is the PERFECT room to copy to a T. Even if yellow is not your favorite color, keeping your room a base of white, and using one color, like Mary has here (choosing yellow) you'll get the same look.
Moving on. I said that there was a library behind the staircase, remember? Accessible from the living room, the space is also paneled and very large.

Here you get a view of both the beautiful stone fireplace (isn't it GORGEOUS!?!) and the French doors that lead out to the much larger sun porch. In this room, I've called it a library although it doesn't look to have any shelves, I would have a beautiful baby grand piano. (Rationale here, if I could afford this house, I could afford a baby grand piano!)
I can only imagine the amazing acoustics this room must have. Pull up that rug, replace with a beautiful woven one, and have the piano take the main stage. Wood framed, but upholstered chairs, tying in with furniture from the living room, inspired by Mary McDonald could be placed against the wall here, under each of the sconces. With the lid closed, a beautiful blue and white porcelain, chinoiserie bowl could hold a large arrangement of flowers, orchids or lilies, and ottoman, maybe even in the same fabric used to pop color into the white living room would be gently tucked beneath the curve of the piano.
I know you're wondering, Artie, do you even play the piano? Answer is ... no. But, in a room like this one, I'd sure as heck take the time to learn! Moving on, back through that beautiful living room and into the foyer, and toward the dining room, which is located to the left of the entry hall.
See it there, just beckoning you through the large, door less opening? Another beautiful paneled room (remember, most of the first floor, if not all of the first floor is) the dining room has lots of light and a second fireplace!

Isn't this tragic? HA! Who wouldn't just jump up and down to decorate this room? I know I'm practically pulling out the credit card now. This room very clearly deserves a long, formal dining room table. Putting a round table in this room would not only complicate the beauty of the round table in the entry hall, but keep your guests from enjoying the room as it was intended. I'd go with something like this:
Design by Bunny Williams
Granted, the room here is not paneled. There aren't very many on the internet that are, but it makes my point all the same. A long, formal table surrounded by slipcovered chairs. I think it's important in a space where the architecture is so masculine, and the hardness of the wood table and walls exist, to soften with upholstered or slipcovered chairs. I also think that while the chandelier that is there is lovely, changing it out for a crystal chandelier will go a long way in evening out the feminine and masculine play that every room should have.
Check fabrics wouldn't do. So I'd opt for more solid here. And since it's within view of both the living room and the foyer, I'd like wrap in those colors to give the whole first floor entertaining space a seamless flow.
I think that with such a large dining room, there is bound to space on the left of this photo and against the wall, for a very long, skirted buffet table. Nothing was ever so gorgeous as the skirted table that Mary McDonald (come to think of it - if I could afford this house, I could probably afford her to come decorate it) did:
Again, giving some softness to an otherwise angular and hard/sharp room, the skirted table is the perfect feminine energy for this room, and I think it'd be perfect in my dream house dining room. Don't you?
Moving upstairs, more of that gorgeous staircase and wallpaper ...

And here again, I'd wrap that seagrass all around the hall. Aren't you loving this GOREGOUS staircase and hallway. They just don't make houses like this anymore (this one was built in the 20's) and if they do - it'll cost you millions just to have something that LOOKS similar. This just can't be recreated.
Looking at this upper hall, reminded me of the upper hall at Suzanne Rheinstein's house:
Here, like I would do in my dream house upper landing, Suzanne flanks a chest with chairs, positioned under sconces, with beautiful etchings framed above. I don't know that I'd hang anything on the paper - I suppose it would depend on if the vignette would need height. Again, a look at where something like this would fit perfectly:
See it? Right there, between the two sconces that already exist. Perfectly ready for a hall vignette! There are unfortunately no photos of the bedrooms online. So we'll end the upstairs tour here, and go back downstairs for a quick view into the kitchen and butlers pantry.

Again, everything here is still paneled, but painted white. Original cabinets with their original hardware are still in tact, with glass front butlers pantry storage for those beautiful pieces of china and silver. The kitchen, still a service kitchen really, has a beautiful stainless steel counter and built in sink, I don't think I'd even touch it! Apart from the floor, which I'd likely go right over with a carrara marble mosaic, and the wallpaper, which would come down in favor of paint, there's just not a lot I'd change. To me, seeing these old kitchens in their entirety lends a certain charm to a kitchen that newer kitchens never seem to have in these old houses.
So are you ready to see the outside of the house? Do you think you know what it looks like? I bet you're wrong! I know I was ...
Did you picture a beautiful old tudor? I know I certainly did. With all of that millwork, it just seemed natural that the exterior of the property look like a replica of Bruce Wayne's manse. But instead, it's a charming red brick colonial with a Spanish tile room and original copper gutters and drain boxes.
Again, for the level of quality and craftsmanship shown here, and in the inside of this meticulously maintained beauty you're likely guessing a price north of $1,000,000. Right? I mean, depending on where you're reading this, you could have been thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-10M.
The house is on the market for $249,900 in Batavia-City, New York, just 45-minutes south of Buffalo. Sadly, even at what I'm sure is a shockingly small number compared to what you might have been thinking,I still can't afford it. While I might be able to swing the mortgage, the $10K tax bill just puts the house out of my reach. However, if YOU are within reach of making this home, (my dream home) your home, and you want to make an offer, you can contact my partner, Scott Akdogan at Keller Williams Realty for more details. While not the listing agent, he'd make one heck of a buyers agent for you - and it comes with a special bonus, access to me!
Scott can be reached at:
Scott Akdogan
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
Keller Williams Realty
I'm leaving you here my darlings, as I go off to sulk in the corner about my inability to live this dream, in the hopes that one of you, might be able to - and will invite me over, if not to decorate the space, at least soak it all in! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quick Little Trip ...

Scott and I whisked ourselves away this weekend for a little vacation in the Brandywine Valley. It was much needed, trust me! If you read the blog with any regularity, you know I love the Brandywine Valley, that beautiful, Eden-like area where Philadelphia meets Delaware and Maryland. We had a reason to go, Patti LuPone (broadway legend) was performing her show "Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda ... Played that Part" at Longwood Gardens, but our only reason for staying the long weekend was exploration, relaxation, and restoration.

We started at one of my favorite stores in Glen Mills, Pa, Terrain at Styers. Terrain is the brainchild of the Anthropologie brand. A store devoted to gardening and plants, it's a nursery done only the way that Anthropologie could possibly pull off. Unique, one-of treasures are mixed with hand crafted soaps and beauty products, plants and gardening equipment strewn about the lush pebble carpeted grounds with glimpses of fine upholstery, art, and home décor through every window and open door. It's a magical place, and I'm constantly and irrevocably inspired every time we visit:

Next we headed off down the road for a little antique store shopping. There are 4 antique stores on Baltimore Pike, all of which carry a variety of things and operate in a Co-Op format with vendors renting small spaces and filling it with literally, whatever they want. Sometimes it's good - and sometimes it's not.
At one of these antique stores, a large open air porch wraps the entire house turned shop, and I couldn't resist playing Alice when I saw this awesome oversized chair:

How fun is this? I don't think it's for sale, because it's been here every time we stopped in to the store. Architectural fragment litters the porch, everything from windows and doors, to fireplace surrounds and columns are ripe for the picking. Inside, I thought this little sign was brilliant for the baker or cook who likes a little whimsy:

Keep Calm and Add Butter
Next we checked into our hotel, unpacked our bags, and then headed back to Longwood Gardens for a quick spin around the gardens before Patti's show. (I'm totally on a first name basis with her!)


I even got inspiration for our kitchen remodel from the antique kitchen on view in the home turned museum of Longwood Gardens' creator and benefactor, Peirce duPont.
Then we headed over to the stage, to grab our seats before Patti came on to perform. Now, if you know anything at all about her, you know that pulling your camera out to take pictures while she's on stage is begging for an embarrassing invitation to leave, so I left my phone tucked neatly into my white pants, and enjoyed the concert! She's an amazing performer!
The next day we headed into Baltimore, but before getting there, we stopped off at Ladew Topiary Gardens by recommendation of my friend Amy. It was lovely!

It was a lovely garden, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. The inside of the Ladew house is spectacular, a home I could move right into without changing a thing! Unfortunately, they do not allow interior photographs. Next we headed down to Baltimore, and to the National Aquarium. I'm a huge aqua-nerd, so, anytime we are near an aquarium of any repute, we go.
While it was a lovely aquarium, the highlight had to be the introduction to Calypso, the 490-pound green sea turtle missing its left, front flipper. Found off the Long Island coast in 2000, the turtle was just 6-pounds when rescuers nursed the now mammoth turtle back to health. The missing left flipper, lost to a severe infection when Calypso was found, doesn't even seem to bother Calypso. We had a great time, but so far, nothing has compared to the Boston Aquarium.
We headed out to the harbor, strolling around the water and even taking a hike up Federal Hill to appreciate some of the architecture and available real estate!

We headed into the shops along the harbor, including the candy shop where they had laughable, oversized portions of popular candy bars, including my favorite: Sweettarts!
I didn't have any, but I had to take a picture in jest. As night fell, we took one more leisurely stroll around the harbor, before we headed back to the hotel.
The next day, we headed off in a northerly direction to Philadelphia. We had been to Philadelphia before, of course, but I wanted to run into IKEA quickly, and it's a great city.

We of course, made a stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, where I ran those steps like a champ, showing Rocky a thing or two in my burlap Toms. Then we walked around the area, finding our way to Fairmount and the Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum. They were closing up for the night, so we didn't get to tour - something I'm sure we'll make plans to do next time, but the restaurant across the street was intriguing.


Situated perfectly inside of an old firehouse, Jack's Firehouse was a visual delight. Dark and moody, the food was amazing. I had their pulled pork piled high on corn chips seasoned with a blend of powdered spices, and their bone-sucking ribs. If you're ever in the area - I highly recommend it! After dinner, we went to the King of Prussia mall for a little retail therapy, and then back to the hotel.
The next day we were heading back to CDLV, but before we did that, we stopped off at Winterthur to make use of our Member passes. I could tour the house over, and over and over again. And have! In fact, blogging about it several times, here and here and here and here. This time we did a short tour, the introductory, which is free to members and takes about 45 minutes. On this tour, you get to see my favorite room in the house:
The Chinese parlor. This room was created around the wallpaper that Mr. DuPont found in Paris, although the paper had been hand painted in China. He brought the paper back to this house in the Brandywine Valley and had his architect create the room, size, height, and coved ceiling around the exact size available from the purchased paper. The rest of the room is filled with fine early American antiques and slipcovered furniture. You can see better pictures of this room, and read more history from the links above.
We got home last night, late, and fell into bed. Today started like any other day before we snuck away. Full of things to do, and people to see! If only we could afford to live like tourists 365-days a year!