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An Aesthetic Victorian Makeover

This old Victorian home in Connecticut held enough clues to guide a stunning restoration that evokes another time, in a house that embraces family life. By Brian D. Coleman | Photos by Edward Addeo

    The study features a Herter Brothers burled walnut desk, lit by a Tiffany Studios lamp. In front of the window is the silver-gilt bronze sculpture “Il Grande Trovatore” by Giorgio de Chirico.

    The study features a Herter Brothers burled walnut desk, lit by a Tiffany Studios lamp. In front of the window is the silver-gilt bronze sculpture “Il Grande Trovatore” by Giorgio de Chirico. (Photo: Robert Benson)

    By the time its rescuers found the impressive Queen Anne in 1995, it had been . . . simplified. Gone were the dormers, roof cresting and soaring finials, the gable decoration, the pediment over the porch. The exterior seemed bloated in cream and beige. Interior woodwork made of oak, chestnut, and redwood had been slathered in Colonial Revival white, and leaded-glass windows and transoms had been covered.

    But in its massing and remaining details, the house reminded this owner of his grandmother’s Queen Anne in California, a happy place from his childhood. The Connecticut house offered generously proportioned rooms with high ceilings, and enough bedrooms to accommodate all the children visiting together.

    The house had had an auspicious start. In 1882, Judge John Hoyt Perry engaged a local architect to build a tasteful residence suitable for a man of his prominence—an “artful” home with a matching carriage house. Featured were steeply pitched roofs with multiple gables, lacy wood cresting, and imposing brick chimneys. A three-sided bay created a tower in front, wrapped by a veranda, with walls clad in both clapboards and decorative shingles painted terra cotta and Indian red with accents of green and tan. A porte–cochere and a glass-walled solarium, both added in 1905, further integrated the asymmetrical house into its park-like setting.

    Today’s homeowner was fortunate to meet preservation architect and decorative-arts enthusiast David Scott Parker. Parker has a special affinity for the Aesthetic Movement, which would have influenced the interior design and furnishing of an “artistic” house in 1882. Parker worked with the family to return the once-stately house to its glory, keeping restoration historically accurate while creating a livable home.

    Period photographs guided replacement of missing exterior elements, including roof embellishments, and also restoration of the wraparound porch. Leaded-glass transoms and windows, based on originals discovered during the work, were re-created for the solarium and the parlor. Analysis of old paint layers suggested exterior color selection, with paint from Benjamin Moore’s Classic Colors: ‘Santa Rosa’ is the pale terra cotta on the upper shingles, and ‘Giant Sequoia’ the salmon on lower clapboards. Five acres of grounds have also been returned to a 19th-century appearance with a pair of gazebos added to the arbor, and stone walls and wood fences restored or re-created according to archival photos.

    The master bedroom’s gold-leafed wood mantel and plaster strapwork ceiling were inspired by Whistler’s famous Peacock room. The room is furnished with a rare maple bedroom set attributed to Philadelphia cabinetmaker Daniel Pabst.

    The master bedroom’s gold-leafed wood mantel and plaster strapwork ceiling were inspired by Whistler’s famous Peacock room. The room is furnished with a rare maple bedroom set attributed to Philadelphia cabinetmaker Daniel Pabst.

    Inside, the goal was to create artistic, historically accurate rooms, but ones that would serve the modern needs of the owners and their extended family. Parker considered the use of rooms for day or evening, and chose appropriate finishes and furnishings.

    The parlor, used for daytime entertaining, was papered with embossed Anaglypta wallcovering finished in a light salmon dusted with gold powder; the walls glow in afternoon sunlight. This room has an original mantel and is furnished with an ebonized Japonesque settee and adjustable-back armchair attributed to Philip Webb and designed for Morris & Co.

    The adjoining solarium is painted in sylvan greens (Benjamin Moore’s ‘Norway Spruce’ and ‘Cedar Path’), which complement the earthy colors of the encaustic-tile floor by the venerable English company Minton–Hollins, who date to the Victorian era. An elaborate leaded-glass transom was discovered by workmen drilling into a wall; it was restored and became the model for re-creating the missing transoms. Furnishings are of the period and include a carved teakwood bench and armchair by Lockwood de Forest and a Moorish-style gueridon, or small table, by Tiffany.

    The original wall decoration of 1882 was re-created in the dining room and set the Anglo–Japanese scheme. Rare furniture by British Aesthetic Movement architect Thomas Jeckyll is complemented by a new mantel in Jeckyll’s style.

    The original wall decoration of 1882 was re-created in the dining room and set the Anglo–Japanese scheme. Rare furniture by British Aesthetic Movement architect Thomas Jeckyll is complemented by a new mantel in Jeckyll’s style.

    The adjacent Music Room is generally a space for nighttime entertainments: the owner’s children include a pianist, a cellist, and an opera singer. This room has a sophisticated Aesthetic treatment, with ebonized woodwork. Walls are upholstered in Clarence House’s ‘Palazzo Strozzi Blue’ jacquard. The ceiling is hand-stenciled on a gold-leaf ground in a pattern based on a Herter Brothers ceiling in New York City’s Seventh Regiment Armory. The room is hung with period art and furnished with the best of Aesthetic Movement pieces, including an intricately carved Herter library table lit by a rare Peacock table lamp made by Louis Comfort Tiffany for his own home.

    Restoration of the dining room was an exciting project: Decorating clues remained in an alcove that had been walled over and covered with a pier mirror. A blind window—stained and leaded glass visible only on the exterior wall—suggested the existence of the alcove. After it was reopened, the original paint scheme of 1882 was revealed, a striking combination of stenciled, bronze, and gilt roundels and fans on a brick-red ground. The original pocket doors are exquisite, in natural redwood and chestnut.

    A new kitchen in the style of a grand butler’s pantry replaced a Euro-modern remodeling with cramped spaces. Original leaded-glass cabinets were found in the carriage house.

    A new kitchen in the style of a grand butler’s pantry replaced a Euro-modern remodeling with cramped spaces. Original leaded-glass cabinets were found in the carriage house.

    The Anglo–Japanese motif inspired the room’s furnishings, mostly rare pieces by British architect Thomas Jeckyll, a leading designer of the Aesthetic Movement in the 1870s. The missing mantel was replaced by a new one done in Jeckyll’s manner. The room is anchored by a vintage Hammersmith carpet designed by John Dearle for Morris & Co.

    The kitchen had been remodeled by previous owners in a Euro-modern style with white laminate, but it remained a congested warren of small spaces. David Parker relocated a powder room, closet, and the basement stairs to give the new kitchen a central location. He designed the new space in the former butler’s pantry. The leaded-glass cabinet doors are originals, a lucky find in the carriage house.

    The 19th-century restoration continues upstairs, where the eye-stopping master bedroom was inspired by James McNeil Whistler’s famous Peacock Room in London (now at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.). It has a strapwork ceiling in plaster and a carved wood mantel, both gilded in real gold leaf. The room is furnished with a rare maple bedroom set attributed to Daniel Pabst, the famous German-American cabinetmaker who worked in Philadelphia during the late Victorian era.

    Published in: Old-House Interiors January/February 2011

    { 4 comments }

    Robert Grothier December 30, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Dear Sirs,
    I would be grateful if the writer of this article , Brian D. Coleman, would get in contact with me.
    Many thanks,
    Robert Grothier

    maude July 20, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Wow… The Tiffany lamps in that house are incredible just by themselves. The peacock one must be at least half a million at auction.

    Jim Boone September 12, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Would love to see exterior of house to better understand the period of house and how interior restoration relates to it.

    I have a Queen Anne from 1887 that has many Anglo Japanese details both inside and out so am interested in this style.

    Thanks Jim Boone

    Matthew Brown November 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Breathtakingly beautiful.



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