Jay Johnson -- It's my ultimate fantasy to explore other people's homes, to be ghostlike and walk uninhibited from room to room. I'd like to open up closets, peek inside kitchen cabinets, and stare at artwork on the walls.
That's the great part about house tours. This time of year, they're all over the country, and these help satisfy my cravings to see how other people live, decorate, and collect. I usually come away with many ideas on how to tweak a furniture grouping, add different colors, or work with interesting building materials.
It was a rainy day in late October when we went on the 19th Annual House Tour to benefit the Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury, Pennsylvania. Billed as Autumn in Bucks County, we toured four beautiful properties.
Slate River Farm: A beautiful fieldstone perimeter wall surrounds a 28-acre property boasting the farmhouse, pool, guest house, and an equestrian facility fit for the Olympics (a grand prix, jumping course with irrigation, six turnouts, an outdoor arena, an indoor riding ring, a Horse-Fit hot-walker, and a 9-stall barn with all the coolest horse-care gadgets). The farmhouse is an oldie (late 1700s, I seem to recall), and it's been renovated to include a "chef's kitchen" (funny how updated kitchens are called something like that -- professional kitchen, gourmet kitchen, chef's kitchen), large master suite, and a wine cellar with plenty of room for bottle-side dinners.
Stoneleigh Gables: This was the newest home on the tour, but it was old in style and feel. It's a contemporary farm with a reclaimed stone Manor House which we didn't get the chance to tour. The new construction was impressive, with high ceilings, random width floors, and detailed millwork. The attached greenhouse was wonderful (someone's a very serious gardener!) and there was a "gourmet kitchen." A Chester County-style barn had 8 stalls that are home to horses, donkeys, and chickens.
Hettinger House: Built in 1765, this was a favorite of all the tour homes. A stately tree-lined driveway running 550 feet off the road leads you to the iron gates of this home. There's been updates, but lovingly restored details glow, including random-width heart pine floors, hand-wrought moldings, raised paneling, 18-inch-thick stone walls, wide window sills, and 6 working fireplaces! The dining room has the original "keeping room," open beams, a large fireplace with slate hearth, and a built-in dish closet. I loved the master bedroom with a SECRET PANEL (shades of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!); a bookcase swings open to reveal stairs that go up to the attic.
Wright House: This house was in several interesting pieces; the original home was build in 1750 and there were additions tacked on for 150 years, with a major 2000 renovation which physically moved the house and expanded it to more than double its former size. The stone exterior was preserved and extended, with interior details and millwork inspired by Philadelphia homes of the period. Random-width cherry floors, historic paint colors, fine antiques, and custom workwork really dazzled tour visitors.
Take the tour with me in the following video . . . .