11 February 2010

Gardner-Pingree House Visit

The glazing bars of the entrance to the house were recently regilt

Last weekend, trailing in the Down East Dilettante's footsteps, my friend Nan and I hopped on the train up to Salem, Massachusetts to see the Iris Apfel exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum. Full disclosure: I was enticed as much by the exhibition - which was fantastic - as the knowledge that selections from Iris' own collection of jewelry were on sale in the gift shop.

Nan posing next to the ice sculpture of a tiger wearing Iris' signature oversized round spectacles

After being inspired by Mrs. Apfel's infectious exuberance (and one of her dramatic bangles to call my own) , we crossed the street to tour the Gardner-Pingree House, an 1804 neoclassical gem designed by Salem's golden boy Samuel McIntire.

The entrance hall floor was covered in a practical floorcloth painted in jazzy emerald and black octagons

The riot of pattern and brilliant colors found inside snapped me to attention and reminded me that some of the most adventurous and dynamic decorating happened hundreds of years ago.

Goldenrod walls, oyster trim, and a carpet of moss green, purples and magentas in the rear parlor easily make one forget the grey skies outside.

McIntire was known as much for his exquisite carving as for his architecture - the three-dimensional treatment of the basket of flowers, with its bottom fully realized, is classic McIntire

You might think the pattern of this wallpaper in the dining room was enough to add drama, but more is more...
when paired with this wall to wall floor cloth.

Clearly, this wasn't a family who was interested in white walls. Even the kitchen is a standout in its rosy hue.

The upstairs master bedroom - the docent who suggested that the carpeting downstairs might have been a little OTT...

found this carpeting restful. As an aside: a friend of mine rightfully once said that - in general - the most interesting and high style historic houses that have survived were generally owned by Donald Trump nouveau riche types who wanted to make a splash. That said, I don't think the McMansions of today will be oohed and aahed over in 100 years - or will they?

The small-scale repeat found in this blue bedroom inevitably made me think of Laura Ashley

In the study, this wallpaper cleverly incorporated marbling from the endpapers of a book in the house's collection:

Would you believe me if I said that the house has even more jaw-dropping delights for the eye? You'll have to see for yourself.


Lucindaville said...

I am loving the pink kitchen!

Anonymous said...

No McMansions will not, dare I say can not, be held in any realm of comparison to historic homes of today. There is no quality in homes being built today - and they are certainly not built with any kind of permanence in mind.


home before dark said...

To hell with the house, what bracelet did you get?

The Down East Dilettante said...

In the 40's, Henry DuPont's sister, Louise Crowninshield, paid for, and directed, a very tasty restoration of the Gardiner-Pingee House, which I was lucky enough to see many years ago...it was a triumph of decoration, however inauthentic---I plan to post some photos sometime. Interestingly, I think this restoration, which I also quite like, is also already beginning to betray the period in which it was done, the late 90's. Scholarship on these things go through fads as surely as normal civilian decoration.

It is a compelling question as to what will survive and be admired of the large houses built in recent years. The Gardiner-Pingree house, for example, was never not admired for its elegant and perfectly proportioned facade, and was much published, even in the Victorian era. When we get to the mansions of the last gilded age, so many of those, like the Breakers, or Marble house, still have a completeness and integrity completely lacking in the modern day attempts... Interesting question.

Theresa Cheek said...

Love the pink kitchen...that carpet in the master bedroom is wonderful!
HBD-you are always one step ahead of me!
And, NO, the Mcmansions of today will not stand up to time as the period homes of the late 1800's have. The quality of building materials is simply not there.

Reggie Darling said...

Great post, Emily. It was on a tour of this house that I was amused to hear from one of the other members of our tour this question when we entered the kitchen "Oh my goodness, how did the lady of the house do all the cooking in this old kitchen? She must've been here all day!" The docent was quite gentle in explaining that the "lady of the house" likely did very little of the cooking that went on in the house's kitchen...much to the amazement of the person who asked the question in the first place.

Janet said...

So glad you made it up there...house, exhibition, and all! I am dying to get back of to Salem and explore some of the other houses. Even with last summer's two visits, I feel like I barely scratched the surface.

HouseBuyersOfAmerica said...

Simply amazing!