The majestic Tudor estate home on Orchard Road in West Hartford will open to the public for tours beginning April 25, 2015.
By Ronni Newton
The stately 21-room mansion at 21 Orchard Rd. in West Hartford wasn’t exactly an ugly duckling because its bare bones were good bones, but now that more than two dozen area designers, artists, and landscape professionals have transformed the estate with their creative visions, the home has blossomed into a truly fabulous show house.
“Everybody has been saying that this is the greatest transformation ever,” said Junior League of Hartford Public Relations Consultant Kristen Fritz of the organization’s 13th decorator show house.
Indeed that may be true, as the home’s 23 interior spaces grandly showcase the designers’ personal styles but also flow smoothly together in luxuriously traditional elegance blended with sleek modern touches that render nearly every space striking yet livable. Images of many of the spaces can be found below.
The entryway’s role is to set the tone for the experience, and Kristen McCory does just that with a grand foyer that she said “functions as a social place, where you would want to sit down, have a cocktail, read a book.”
“I just wanted to have fun and go with what felt right,” McCory said of her design for the two-story space, with its oak-beamed cathedral ceiling and leaded glass windows. The room is inspired by color, highlighted by a green velvet sofa. The custom-made bookcase by New England Cabinetry mimics the pattern in the leaded glass windows that surround the space.
Edith Whitman’s library, also on the main level, is “a room reminiscent of Downton Abbey,” she said. The woodwork was left untouched, which was a requirement, and the room is charming, warm, and a space perfect for relaxation.
Robin Jones of West Hartford’s LCR transformed the dining room into a style he calls “Old Palm Beach.” The room’s natural ceiling, Jones said, is lumpy and made from some type of plaster-covered stone that was trying to invoke a 16th century feel. That ceiling is now covered with tented and shirred fabric installed by Richard Narus, which Jones said “makes the room seem larger and more intimate at the same time.”
Jones added a chandelier, which surprisingly the dining room did not have.
“This is a magnificent home. It’s an honor to be able to do this,” Jones said.
The carpet under the table, just like most of the rugs in the house, is on loan from Marianne Donahue of J. Namnoun Oriental Rug Gallery.
Heading upstairs to the second floor, the master bedroom’s formerly pepto-bismal-pink walls are now a soothing gray (“Nightingale” by Benjamin Moore), and Keatha McCue of Galway Stallard said she started with the gray-patterned sofa and transformed the bright and spacious room with combination of classical and modern elements. All of the fabric on the windows and upholstered pieces is indoor-outdoor, McCue said.
Kathy Hayes, owner of West Hartford-based The Inside Story, took a yellow guest room and turned it into a warm and comfortable bedroom with “oat straw” walls, creating a seamless environment that envelops people.
“It’s a relatively quiet room, not really ‘poppy,'” Hayes said. Most of the objects in the gold, red, and sage room are handmade by local artists. “I was hoping to make a room where men and women feel comfortable. I don’t do girly well,” she said.
Up on the third floor several West Hartford designers had a chance to show off their creative visions. Laurie Nilsen and Diana Reimer of Nilsen Design transformed small white blank canvas into a dream office – with teal walls, a teal stucco-textured ceiling, and a luxurious tufted chair.
“It’s a show house. You have to be a little edgy. It’s ‘go big or go home,'” Nilsen said of the bold statement the room’s teal walls make.
Nilsen had a great time working on the show house this year. “The most fun about being part of the house is that there is something new every day. It’s an amazing transformation,” she said.
West Hartford resident Kerry Bell, of EmBELLishments, took a salmon-walled, white-fixtured little bathroom and transformed it with richly-colored bold fabric and French gray painted walls.
“I used fabric every way I could – from the sconces to covering the plumbing,” Bell said. “It was fun to do, really exciting,” Bell said of her first Junior League show house.
Paintings by West Hartford artist Tina McDowell hang throughout the hallways and stairwells. McDowell also transformed a linen closet into a beach-themed enclave.
The bedroom designed by West Hartford’s Blaze & Bloom was transformed from a blank space that no one would ever notice into a brightly-colored truly memorable room complete with – no kidding – a chandelier upcycled from an old bedspring.
There’s much more – Marilyn Donzila’s relaxing retreat with a fabulous view of Hartford, Bruce Valicenti’s Thibaut-inspired bedroom, and Sal Modifica’s sophisticated lacquer-walled sitting room.
The last stop on the tour does not disappoint. The living room space provided a noble blank canvas with its ornamental beams and imposing fireplace, and Richard Ott added cleaned-lined modern sophistication that perfectly melds the space with the view of the home’s park-like property visible on three sides through ornate leaded glass windows.
The final stop on the tour: the Boutique. A collection of handmade crafts, accessories, and other items are available, with a portion of sales benefitting the Junior League of Hartford and its programs.
The Junior League of Hartford’s Decorator Show House is a fundraiser, and event co-chair Mary Jo Dunn said the organization hopes to raise between $130,000 and $150,000 to fund its programs for the next few years.
Dunn said that out of the 13 show homes, this one is the “most grand.”
Beginning April 25, through May 17, the Show House will be open for public tours. Tickets will be sold in advance until April 24, 2015 through the Junior League of Hartford website: www.JLHartford.org
There are other special events scheduled as well. For details, visit www.JLHartford.org.
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