Antique Dealers Restore a Historic House

An intact historic house gets the right owners: a couple of antiques dealers.
Classic New England austerity describes the 1748 house.

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For Jean and Lincoln Sander, the 1748 Benjamin Curtiss House was a rare find. This classic center-chimney Colonial in Connecticut was in pristine condition. Knowledgeable antiques dealers had lived in the house for much of its recent history; loving care was written all over it. The house had not been remodeled. In fact, the only incursions were minor—such as wall-to-wall broadloom carpeting—and dated to a three-and-a-half year period of habitation by the sole owners not into its heritage.

The owners added fixed, interior window panels thoughout, along with carefully retrofitted air conditioning. French doors in the kitchen provide air circulation in good weather.

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Lincoln Sander is a founding member and former executive director of the Antique Dealers Association of America. He and Jean became another set of sympathetic owners. Not that Jean was sold immediately on the idea. Structural work and updates were necessary, including a new furnace, roof, and siding. Jean jokes, “I started working on the house when we first moved in, and never stopped.” 

A Dutch chandelier hangs in the dining room. Chairs are antique, but the table is a custom-made period reproduction that can seat up to 10. On display is a bowl of antique wax fruits.

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Her claim is undoubtedly true, and her dedication to doing everything right partly to blame. For example, she hand-dyed upholstery and curtain fabrics to achieve just the right tone, using hand-selected fine fabrics to do antique sofas and chairs justice. Colors echo throughout the interior, bringing sumptuous continuity. The front rooms of the house are virtually untouched from their original state. 

A New England gateleg table occupies a corner of the sitting room. Jean Sander hand-dyed fabric for the sofa and New England wing chair.

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Judging from extant outbuildings, which include a corncrib, the house was a farm at one time. Still, unlike humble farmhouses, the interior of this one has high ceilings and big rooms, testimony to the original owner’s wealth. Built-in corner cupboards and seven fireplaces, including a fireplace in the basement that once served as a summer kitchen, were part of the charm. 

With its bake ovens within the firebox, the keeping room’s cooking fireplace can be dated to the 18th century. The Connecticut clock has wooden works.

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Jean went to Historic Deerfield (Mass.) and Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) to copy the bed hangings. A friend steered her to an artisan in Poland, who did the intricate crewel work. Every square foot of the Curtiss house shows attention to detail, astute knowledge, and love of old houses.

See the garden

On a butterfly table sits a kidney-shaped wine bottle with liqueur glasses.

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Furnishing with Antiques

Professionally, the owners have been dealers specializing in 18th-century New England antiques. They moved into the 1748 Connecticut house with a vast personal collection, which includes some truly extraordinary pieces. “We look at antique furniture as art,” says Lincoln Sander.

To be faithful to the house’s roots, they’ve focused on Connecticut’s primary early furniture makers, taking just a few notable detours into the neighboring Hudson Valley. That “huskier” Dutch furniture has dimensions Lincoln finds appealing. He often can pinpoint the city or region where a piece was made. Less cross-pollination took place, so style elements tended to be distinct to a region. 

An antique Dutch kas (cupboard) is one example of Hudson Valley craftsmanship in the house.

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A small collection of folk art sits atop a painted cabinet.

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Fruit made of wax is one collection, on display in the dining room.

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Bed hangings in the children’s room are crewelwork by a Polish artisan. The bird on the head panel is based on a pattern from Historic Deerfield.

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inspiration Historic Deerfield Historic houses & collections reflecting Conn. River Valley heritage
interior storm windows Allied Window Indow Windows Innerglass Window Systems Mon-Ray
early lighting Authentic Designs Handmade reproductions Classic Lighting Devices (860) 267-8814 Authentic New England Colonial lighting Historic Housefitters Hand-forged lighting Period Lighting Fixtures Handmade early American Deep Landing Workshop Custom-crafted lighting

Tags: Historic House OHJ October 2021

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