Junior League’s Show House In Hartford’s West End A Medley Of Decorators’ Inspirations
In early February the house was empty, cold, cavernous — tired. It had been on the market for more than a year. The floors throughout were downtrodden. The master bedroom was a toothache shade of pink. The ceilings looked discolored and lumpy.
The transformation — less than three months later — of the once-bleak 7,200-square-foot mansion at 64 Orchard Road in West Hartford is stunning. The grand Tudor-style home on five acres, built in 1930, with its arches, terraces, leaded windows and majestic fireplaces, is now truly a showpiece.
More than two dozen local designers and design teams who worked on the interiors, plus more experts sprucing things up outside, have brought the place back to life, all part of the Junior League of Hartford’s triennial Designer Show House, a fundraiser that opens Saturday and runs through Sunday, May 17.
Working within the home’s daunting proportions, the designers have made it look exciting and glamorous, and yet not intimidating or over-the-top. They have found ways to put the massive rooms into inviting, livable scale and coax unexpected new life out of the multitude of smaller spaces. The idea is to inspire anyone — even if you don’t dwell in a mansion — to envision new ways to revitalize the places we call home.
Take what could otherwise be the bowling alley of a living room, with an immense, literally walk-in fireplace: Interior designer Richard Ott adeptly compartmentalized the large space into three areas, anchoring the central seating area at the fireplace with massive lamps by Global Views, with a gold branching detail that evokes the leading in the windows, echoed again in a beautiful bronze bonsai sculpture. A second portion of the room is devoted to the grand piano, while the focal point in the third area is the chess table.
Ott infuses the space with a contemporary vibe, using lighter neutrals, including the bone finish of the large credenza and airy silk draperies, hammered gold chairs, a glass-top sofa table with faux-horn legs, director-style chairs with chrome details and a quartet of glass-topped “cuff” cocktail tables that look for all the world like outsized jewelry. And the wonderful monk-like sculptures at the windows near the piano? He at first thought of using them as andirons.
Upstairs, Cindy Kranz and Keatha McCue of Galway Stallard in Avon grappled with a similarly huge scale. In what was likely once a music room (later painted a grating pink), they created a serene yet shimmering master bedroom in shades of silver and white, painting the room in a lovely gray called Nightingale and incorporating many mirrored elements.
“Our vision is to marry today’s finishes with classic design, in keeping with the house,” Kranz explained this week. “Everything in here is current, pretty, not so trendy…probably will last the test of time.” If you’re wondering how you could possibly live in such a dreamy breath of fresh air, consider: Most of the upholstered pieces and the draperies are in sturdy indoor-outdoor Sunbrella fabric.
And that’s a major point of the Designer Show House: showing visitors how they might incorporate some of the most innovative ideas from area designers in their own homes.
“We want people to be inspired,” said Mary Jo Dunn, the event’s co-chair with Liz Rogg-Ives, as she led the way down to a ground-level room where the Junior League has a boutique of design items for sale. “We’re hoping people are tired of the winter and eager to be inspired for spring.”
Kathleen Schuster, the Designer Boutique’s co-chair, noted, for example, that Avon interior designer Edith Whitman accessorized the first-floor library with many blue and white porcelains — and that visitors will find many similar items at the boutique.
With more than two dozen design spaces, visitors will want to take their time exploring the zillions of ideas at the Show House. Among more than two dozen designed spaces, here are just a few to explore:
Kristen McCory’s entry and upstairs balcony, which set the tone for the whole house. A few weeks earlier McCory lamented that the velvet fabric in “the very specific green” that she wanted for the sofa was out of stock. She tracked it down, had the piece custom-made by Michael Ciborowski of Old & Velvet in Middletown, and now it invites you in. Note, too, the refurbished light fixtures by Stanley Peck of Old Lights On in Farmington. A few months ago, before work began on the house, the fixtures all were painted a rather dead white.
The homage to Coco Chanel, with its pop-art painting by Holly Manneck and pleasing pops of red, in Hartford designer Sal Modifica’s “reflective haven,” what was once a bedroom but is now where you lounge on a Charles Spa daybed or ponder the cool Tom Corbin sculpture at the window, from the banquette the designer had custom-made to nestle into one of the home’s exquisite mantels. Modifica enlisted Sandy McRae of Distinctive Finishes in Glastonbury to create the subtle ombre walls that shift tonally from Black Panther to Raccoon to Deep Space (Benjamin Moore colors) and the glowing ceiling that was leafed in silver and then glazed.
The shirred and tented faux silk faille ceiling in the dining room, designed by Robin Jones of LCR Interiors in West Hartford and executed by Rick Narus of Narus Installations in Southington. The gathered fabric ceiling gives the once-dreary room a festive Palm Beach party feeling a la Mario Buatta, which Jones carries through with an antique silver-leaf chandelier; a table glamorously dressed with purple silk and green satin to the floor, crystal candlesticks and Richard Ginori china; a large moody marsh landscape painting by Paul Batch; a black rococo-style mirror by Lladro, and, in the window, an 18th-century French farm table holding a coffee service in sprightly pinks and greens.
The most unusual light fixture ever: Blaze & Bloom’s ceiling fixture fashioned from an old bedspring. Yes, a bedspring. Don’t miss the third floor.
The designers whose work is showcased at the 2015 Junior League Decorator Show House include: Kristen McCory of McCory Interiors, Richard Ott, Edith Whitman, Marianne Donahue, Robin Jones of LCR Interiors, Patricia Ann Brubaker of Design Poetry, Cynthia Kranz and Keatha McCue of Galway Stallard, Labrazel Home and Gilley Kitchen + Bath, Kathy Hayes of The Inside Story, Nancy Perkins of DesignSourceCT, Liz Goldberg of Goldberg Design, Ann Wolinsky of AKB Design, Sal Modifica of Modifica Interiors, Bruce Valicenti of BFV Designs, Sandy McRae of Distinctive Finishes, Tina McDowell of Tina’s Canvas, Marilyn Donzila of Marilyn Interiors, Katie Wickham of Blaze & Bloom, Steven Booth of Affordable Closets, Kerry Bell of EmBELLishments, Laurie Nilsen of Nilsen Design and Diana Reimer.
Tickets are $30 at the door. The Junior League Decorator Show House runs from Saturday to May 17. Hours are Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Designers will be on hand Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to discuss their rooms and explain their design techniques.
The Show House includes a boutique, and 25 percent of proceeds from items sold from the rooms also will go to the Junior League of Hartford.