Not far from me, in the back country of Stamford, CT, is a unique treasure. The Bartlett Arboretum contains 91 acres of woodlands, display gardens, notable tree collections and hiking trails open to the public every day of the year. In addition, they offer classes, seminars, children’s activities and special events.
The original Bartlett Homestead building from 1913, which functions as an administrative building, historical museum and visitors’ center, was in desperate need of rejuvenation and so the idea of a designer showhouse was born. Guided by co-chairs Victoria Vandamm of Vandamm Interiors, Robert Knorr of Nordic Contruction and Helen White of Home Resource Guide, talented local interior designers were brought together to give the historic home a much needed makeover.
photos above courtesy of Bartlett Arboretum
Generously sponsored by New England Home Magazine, HRG, Nordic and Hearst media services, the showhouse’s theme of bringing the outdoors in, “Garden Rooms by Design” was timed to coincide with the Bartlett’s Annual Spring Garden Tour. Last month, thanks to The Daily Voice, I had the opportunity to tour the house and speak with many of the designers.
The foyer, staircase and landing, designed by show honorary chair Victoria Vandamm, were the perfect segue from the gardens to the interior. The beautiful hand-painted mural set the tone for the entrance. “It is rare that I have the opportunity to work with such a talented and devoted decorative artist as Suzanne Bellehumeur.”
Celebrating the arboretum with a decorative floral theme, the timeless chinoiserie motif was hand painted by Bellehumeur, above, with a modern twist, cleverly intensifying the florals as the mural rose to the second floor, to coordinate with Vandamm’s design. Bellehumeur shared, “Black velvet-like flowers adorn the walls complimented by faux crocodile and mica infused venetian plaster (see below) creating a complimentary backdrop for the modern furnishings and accessories.”
Vandamm assembled a lighthearted eclectic collection of furniture and accessories for the landing, giving this relaxing spot a colorful modern interpretation for the traditional setting.
Vandamm explained, “The welcoming warmth of the honey yellow in the foyer and staircase of the house with the soft grey/white chinoisserie downstairs graduating to velvety BLACK flowers upstairs was the jumping off point for the sharpness of the citrus green Magnolia Blossom lamp and the lime touches that then got softened with the calming aqua tones. The sparkle of mica on charcoal and glinting of metallic and glass silver makes the space come alive. Since this is a walk through space for the entire house, the colors and motion pave the way to the other rooms of the house.”
Back downstairs, off the foyer was Barbara McEntee’s “romantic indoor porch.” I loved how you entered through the arbor built into the doorway.
“I loved doing a romantic porch room reminiscent of days when life was slower paced and more gentile – birds chirping, plants blooming, and women writing letters and thank yous. Although I couldn’t live without my cell phone!” I think we can all relate to all those sentiments! One wall featured this charming vignette with an antique bird cage perfectly perched in front of elegant Gracie wallpaper panels.
Across the room an antique bamboo serving table holds a beautiful orchid. A serene room in cool soothing tones, I loved the play of tonal textures.
The Orchid Room was Isabelle Favette and Tom Wolff’s version of a personal workspace. Favette & Wolff created original canvases in tones of peach and gray to complement the orchids, supplied by Venamy Orchids and Sam Bridge Nurseries.
Isabelle Favette commented on their space, “Favette & Wolff LLC, a fine art and mural firm for over 25 years, offers the Orchid Room as a bright sanctuary and retreat. The walls of this office flow with the infinite variety of orchid species and reflects the proprietor’s love of these unique plants in Life and Art.”
Tucked into the back corner of the first floor was Soudi Amini’s enchanting “Secret Garden.” With a stone pathway in the gravel floor and a space enhancing mirror tucked behind an arbor, the delightful space felt like a lush and spacious “indoor oasis.”
“My fascination with architecture and design began as a young girl marveling over mosques, palaces, tile work and ancient Persian and Islamic architecture in Iran, my native Middle East home. The feelings and moods of those wonderful buildings and gardens plus my travel in the Tuscan countryside were my inspiration for my garden room – an indoor space that reflects the fullness and beauty of an outdoor garden…a comfortable environment perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine or cup of tea. This has been a special project for me because I have been able to incorporate my love of gardening into the creation of a unique interior space.”
Come back next time as we explore more of the nature-filled rooms in this special showhouse.