POWr Instagram Feed

05 March 2009

Colonial Revival Chic: Henry Davis Sleeper's Beauport

When I first saw this photo which graced the cover of World of Interiors a few years ago, it was love at first sight. I sprang into action and bought Farrow and Ball's Arsenic...
...and was determined to create my own Gold Step Room* by painting the baseboards, cornice, and enormous armoire in my dining room this stunning oxidized copper color. Eventually - I told myself - I would troll ebay and form a similar collection of green majolica and snap!

Although the can of paint was never opened (much to Mr. EEE's relief), my affair with Beauport continues to thrive. Dreamed up by Henry Davis Sleeper, a decorator and collector whose imagination and wit knew no bounds, this 40 room summer "cottage" located in Gloucester, Mass. is a veritable Aladdin's cave of historical styles. Between 1907 and 1934, Sleeper conjured up each room out of a unique style inspiration, from Horace Walpole's 18th century Gothick Strawberry Hill to Benjamin Franklin's stove.


Sleeper found these wooden pelmets and designed the windows around them. The round shape of the Library Tower followed. Click here to see the Mother of all Wooden Pelmets.


Indeed the higgledy-piggledy exterior of the house was held hostage to the roomscapes it enclosed as evident in this photo of the harbour-front facade.


18th century "Pillar and Arch" wallpaper found in Paul Revere's house was replicated in this bedroom by Thomas Strahan and Company between 1906 and 1910.

I wonder if Sleeper ever saw this painting of an Irish Georgian interior by Philip Hussey? (The Victoria and Albert says that two types of "Pillar and Arch" paper are depicted here.)


Adelphi Paper Hangings make this Pillar and Arch paper "1776" in partnership with Historic New England, although not en grisaille unfortunately.

Another dynamite room is the China Trade Room which was formerly a medieval hall until Sleeper found rolls of this unused hand-painted wallpaper. It certainly served as inspiration for Henry du Pont's Chinese Parlor at Winterthur below....


In fact, du Pont was so taken by Sleeper's example that it is questionable whether Winterthur would exist in its current form otherwise - and to take it an extreme step further, possibly the entire colonial revivalism of the twenties which included the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1924) and the founding of the Magazine Antiques (1922).

* so-called because of a model ship of the same name displayed in the room


Photos #1, 5, 8 by Christopher Simon Sykes for the World of Interiors, #2 courtesy of Farrow and Ball, #3 courtesy of Historic New England, #6 National Gallery of Art, Ireland, #6 courtesy of Adelphi Paper Hangings

13 comments:

Janet said...

I think you might like this: http://www.gunstonhall.org/tour/passage.html

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Janet - or maybe LOVE it?! So many houses, so little time! EEE

bwemerson said...

I fell madly and deeply in love with the Golden Step Room at first sight at the precocious age of 13. Forty-three years and five Beauport visits later, the passion remains, unabated. The experience of going down a couple of steps from the deep richness of the octagonal dining room and into the light of the Golden Step is one of the best decorating tricks I've ever encountered. Sleeper was indeed a genius. And speaking of the pillar and arch wallpaper, are you familiar with the 18th hand painted classical grisaille wallpapers at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in nearby Marblehead? They should also be on anyone's life list. http://www.marbleheadmuseum.org/Mansion_Tour.htm

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

BWE, I trotted right on over to the website, and was it worth it. It's quite unusual, don't you think? and the original condition made my heart race. On to the list it goes!

Toby Worthington said...

Beauport is simply wonderful, unknown to me until seeing it presented here in one of your finest posts to date. Loved the way you deftly connected the dots, as it were, from one decorative element to another.
(Still swooning over those carved wooden pelmets, by the way!)

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Thank you, Mr. Worthington! It really came to together well. David Adler also swooned over those pelmets - you're in excellent company! EEE

J. Shearron said...

Isn’t curious why this house that’s been open to the public forever is suddenly getting a lot of play? What's it all about, this sort of universal way we all come to a particular esthetic at once- the same is true in fashion. What made WOI suddenly take notice?
In 2004 when I was at Hilfiger I published a big spread of the Step Room in book we did about New England (nobody bought it). I too had been obsessed with Beauport for years- from books –and I still have never been there.
I suppose there was a moment some time in the late 20’s when Adler, Dupont and the rest of the gang all called or wrote each other gushing about the fabulous interiors of Sleeper’s house. How fantastic it must have been to see it all for the first time while he was in residence!

ALL THE BEST said...

Emily,
I too once conceived of a room filled with green majolica. I even started a similar collection (courtesy of ebay). And yet it remains packed away...maybe one day.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

One day indeed, Ronda! So many ideas, so few rooms! EEE

magnaverde said...

Great post, Emily.

In (I think) Steven Salny's book on David Adler, there's a postcard from Adler's collection that's tagged as 'unidentified' but it's clearly that little wood-swagged gothick window at Beauport. As to the weird synchcronicity of things, when that WOI article came out, I had just seen another spread on Beauport in a country-style decorating magazine that I normally don't read--maybe Martha Stewart or Country Living--and believe it or not, I thought the place looked much better in the US magazine. The spread had the dark, moody feel of a typical WOI feature, while the photos in WOI itself were more straightforward and, I thought, less interesting. It was like a momentary reversal of the Poles, comparing two such different interpretations of the same rooms done in such a short period of time.

The really interesting thing, though, is that issue of influence, and the ways in which one person, without ever intending to do so, can act to galvanize & stimulate an appreciation for something or other on the part of other, more widely-connected (& thus more influential) people, which broader influence then takes off into the culture at large. Anyway, I've always thought of Sleeper as the stay-at-home counterpart of Edward Knobloch, who ran off to England & triggered the re-examination of Regency over there. Who knows what larger effect we will have on others by what we do or say, or hang on our walls? The butterfly effect needn't always produce chaos.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Magnaverde - I LOVE the Sleeper - Knoblock comparison!!! That made my day. And imagine if Knoblock had as deep of pockets as Sleeper seems to have had - surely Brighton Pavilion would be in its shadow. EEE

pve design said...

Arsenic and Lace. A deadly combo.
Adore that color. I have an entire folder dedicated to it.

Anonymous said...

In conjunction with conservators from SPNEA, California Paints produces "Historic Colors of America" where you will find several colors from the rooms of Beauport, including the Golden Step Room.