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A Classic 18th-Century Home

An antique original gets period-style built-ins made from salvaged wood, and an old barn was moved to the site to become the kitchen addition. By Annie Kelly | Photos by Tim Street-Porter

    A collection of early American furniture adds to the ambience of what was once the all-purpose main room. Note the cooking fireplace and wide-board floors.

    Antiquarian George Schoellkopf admits that the 18th-century Hollister House was not his first choice when he went looking for a country place in Litchfield County more than 30 years ago.

    He had a garden in mind, inspired by Vita Sackville–West’s Sissinghurst in England, and he bought this property because it came with 11 acres of possibilities. He had no idea it would become an obsession; today the land is a dizzying array of parterres and walled gardens formally organized by hedges, high brick walls, and fieldstone borders, with views leading from space to space, including a pond and the surrounding fields. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a project of the Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of American gardens.

    The garden was intended to reflect the house. While it is not full of 18th-century plants, their colors resemble the structures on the property, which are painted dark reds and browns. Schoellkopf also has included plants native to the region, such as bee balm, or Monarda (first mentioned in a 16th-century book describing plants in the New World), but primarily he has chosen them for their exuberance, aiming for a lush, overabundant look borrowed from his favorite gardens in England. He designed the garden at an angle to the house, resisting the temptation to geometrically line up the views from the windows, as he wanted the landscaping to unfold for the visitor.

    Inside, the house is “cattywampus,” as Schoellkopf calls it—an old American term meaning “askew” or “crooked,” which is usually a sign of true authenticity. He made additions when the French artist Gerald Incandela joined him at Hollister House. They imported an 18th-century barn from the other side of Washington, Connecticut, and it serves today as a large kitchen and living room leading from the new front entry. This structure has a level floor and straight walls at right angles. However, the original old two-story house leans, creaking at the footfall of each visitor. Here, the wide-board wood floors dip up and down, and the plaster and paneled walls slope gently to the ceiling. Guest bedrooms are off a central living space dominated by a huge chimneypiece, and a narrow wooden staircase leads up to a private series of book-filled rooms. Schoellkopf specialized in American folk art and 18th-century furniture in New York for many years, and this charming Colonial house is furnished with pieces that he did not want to sell in his Manhattan store.

    These owners added an 18th-century barn to serve as a kitchen and extra space. The use of antique and recycled wood for the cabinets and table make the addition blend in with the old house.

    Hollister House, named for a local family who owned it for more than 160 years, is a long way from the harsh Texas climate where Schoellkopf grew up. As a child, he tried to plant in a little patch of garden given to him by his mother, and he even had a small greenhouse for a while in New York. But it is here, in Litchfield County, that he is able to live out his twin passions for gardens and all things 18th century.

    Asked why we no longer have the fine sense of proportion so evident in the early furniture and architecture of New England, Schoellkopf, who has written about gardening for various magazines, replies that in the past, people were more involved in the making and ordering of things, and therefore their eye became more refined. This also serves to explain the ordered beauty of his garden, which you can see for yourself; it’s open Saturdays from May through September:

    Published in: Early Homes Spring/Summer 2013


    lauri lombardi March 2, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Don’t ever change your magazine. Keep it about ‘old’ houses. This Old House has gotten so trendy. I prefer the classics. Keep up the good work. :)

    Debby Boyle October 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    How do I get your magazine?

    Old House Journal admin October 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Debby: Please follow this link to get to our subscription page:


    Lori Viator, Assistant Editor November 3, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Hi Debby,
    Thank you for your interest in our magazine!
    This article was featured in our Spring/Summer 2013 edition of Early Homes. A few copies are still available for purchase. You can call me at (978) 282-3170 to have one mailed to you. Price is $6.99 each, and that includes the shipping.
    The Fall/Winter 2013 edition is just hitting newsstands now. Look for it in bigger bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Books A Million. Or call me to order this one, too.
    Because Early Homes is a newsstand-only special edition, there is no subscription available.
    Lori Viator
    Assistant Editor
    Old House Journal | Arts & Crafts Homes | Early Homes
    Home Buyer Publications, a division of Active Interest Media
    Editorial office: 10 Harbor Road, Gloucester, MA 01930
    (978) 282-3170,

    Nick August 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Love this house, love the rooms, but I’m a stickler for authenticity I guess. If I had a period room filled with great early furniture, I wouldn’t have oriental carpets on the floor. They were used on tables, well into the 18th century, and even by the very early 1800′s, most homes didn’t still have oriental carpets on floors. Yes, I know, the owners of this home aren’t living in a museum, they’ve mixed early beauty with modern comfort. I on the other hand WOULD live in a museum. :)

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