Dilettante: Something new in Old York

Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Culture

Dilettante: Something new in Old York

The study had originally been a dark and masculine room, with blue-grey walls and a deep red ceiling. Decorator Anne Cowenhoven lightened the look with cream-colored linen fabrics and copper accent pieces.

by Jan Brennan

YORK — This town’s historical society, called Museums of Old York, has done a decorator show house every summer for the past 23 years. York, settled in 1624, has an abundance of old houses, so for 22 years the Museums group had no trouble finding a historical property to showcase. This year, they have done something different: They’ve chosen a  house that is just 12 years old.

Harmon House was built in 2000 on the site where a 26-room hotel had stood since the mid-1800s. The hotel, also called Harmon House, burned down in 1965. The property sits on a high bank above the York River, and the new Harmon House offers water views from almost every room. Though built to resemble an old shingle-style cottage, the house is very 21st century, with six bedrooms, four baths, plenty of closets and the requisite great room with granite countertops in the ultramodern kitchen.  

Visitors to this fund-raiser for the Museums will  get to see what 13 professional design teams can do when their creativity is unleashed on a modern canvas; the results are sure to inspire many a homeowner.

I had attended the open-house preview in the spring, when the public gets a chance to see the house in its original state. Visiting again last week, just before the show house opened on July 14, I immediately noticed some major changes. The great room now has a much lighter, more airy look, thanks to designer Gerald Pomeroy of Boston. Gone are the dark granite countertops (replaced with white marble) and the traditional mantelpiece (the fireplace is now faced with sparkling, white moonstones). The color scheme is all sky-blue and white — yes, a bit of a cliché in a waterfront house, but here it really works beautifully to create a sense that one is outside in nature.  

Gerald Pomeroy of the Gerald Pomeroy Design Group in Boston brought nature indoors to the great room by using moonstones to face the fireplace and seashells to decorate the sky-blue-and-white space. 

Another very noticeable difference is the change in color palette. Some rather daring color schemes had been used in the house under its previous owner: One bedroom had a purple ceiling and green walls, another had a dark green ceiling and blue walls. I was curious to see if the designers would keep those colors and work with them. Nope, they’re gone — but the house is still plenty colorful. The “teen girl bedroom,” for example, is decorated in hot pink and lime green, reminiscent of the late 1960s. It’s fun and splashy,  but since the house sold to a new owner just as the decorators were beginning their work, this room’s designer, Georgie McGowan of Georgie’s Home & Garden in York, painted the walls a serene apple green with a shadow stripe technique, so the new owner can easily use the room as an adult bedroom or office.

Decorator Georgie McGowan found this antique bed for the "teen girl bedroom" and used the headboard's shape as a recurring design motif.

Color also was the inspiration for Anne Cowenhoven of Accent & Design Inc. in York, who was assigned to re-do the study. She noticed that the grey stones in the fieldstone fireplace actually contain tones of mauve, cream, rose and yellow. She found a fabric with those exact colors, and had that cloth made into curtains and throw pillows. Then, since the fabric is printed with a design of a pagoda-like structure, Cowenhoven looked for side tables, andirons and art objects that have the same graceful curves as the pagoda. She even worked with artist Judy Dibble of Brookwood Designs to dry-brush stencil that shape onto the walls in a copper color, an exact match for the copper coffee table and bowls. While I might not have noticed this mirroring of shapes and colors if she hadn’t pointed it out to me, the result is still felt subliminally; the cohesiveness of all the elements gives the room the restful feel that a library should have.

There’s plenty of other design ideas to be gleaned from the 18 decorated rooms and riverfront patio. Museums of Old York has a sales office in the house for anyone who would like to purchase furniture and other items used in the rooms. Also, some of the knick-knacks and tableware on display, along with other coastal-theme decorations and jewelry, are for sale in the boutique set up in the home’s garage run by the Daisy Trading Company and Daisy Jane’s of York. And don’t forget to walk up to the home’s third-floor loft, where the York Art Association is displaying artworks by its members.

Museums of Old York’s decorator show house is open every day except Tuesdays, through Aug. 11. Admission is $20. For hours, directions, or information on the Wednesday luncheon lectures and Thursday evening programs phone (207) 363-4974 or go to www.oldyork.org.

blog comments powered by Disqus