I titled my space “Modern Passage” at the 2012 Junior League of Boston Show House. “Modern” for two reasons: to juxtapose a modern aesthetic in a Victorian setting; and to redefine the historical function of the back hallway/stairwell — in the 1800’s, solely for the use of servants and children — now, for modern-day use.
Contemporary wallpaper and high-gloss trim played into the modern decor. But I also like to mix some rustic elements into any scheme, and was inspired by the Potter Estate’s history. I had researched the history of the estate at the Newton Public Library.
In the Special Collections room at the library, I found a Newton Local Landmarks Report that had information about the Potter Estate and its architectural significance and history. I learned from the document that John C. Potter had purchased the land in 1862, originally owned by Newton, Massachusetts’ earliest settlers, the Jackson family. In the early 1800’s, William Jackson had established a candle factory on the property of the Potter Estate. John C. Potter was a Boston Merchant, in the shoe and leather industry, who had bought the land when it had been subdivided for suburban residential development. Potter sold the property to Kate T. Flanagan in 1893, and between 1895 and 1917, Joseph F. Flanagan, a wealthy stockbroker, acquired the property. In 1921, Joseph Flanagan left his estate to the Sister’s of St. Joseph of Boston — today’s current owners.
And so, an idea was born, and my inspiration for the traditional and rustic decor emerged from the history of the estate.
Early in September, I had Tracy Foley searching for antique wooden shoe molds to display in the space — the shoe molds representative of John Potter’s business. Interestingly, the vintage wire basket (also from Water & Main) is quite possibly from the same period, labeled, “The Washburn Company, Worcester, Mass.” (In 1831, the Washburn and Moen Manufacturing Company was established in the wire-making industry and later became part of American Steel and Wire in 1899.)
I had framed property maps from 1874 through 1917 to show the evolution of the estate’s ownership, and wanted a contrast of the white linen mats and clean, modern frames against the textured, organic grey wallpaper. I also had taken antique French lusterware saucers (again, from Water & Main) and had them framed in shadow boxes, but instead of centering the saucers, off-set them to display more negative space and elongate the art.
The framed saucers are a nod back to the function of the back hallway space, where servants passed through from the kitchen to the back entrance and would use the window to the butler’s pantry.
Above the butler’s window, I placed an antique, wooden gear-mold mirror. The gear mold actually came from an old, abandoned factory in Michigan, but in this Back Entrance space, it represents the industrial history of the candle factory that once existed on the property.
A modern gilded lantern juxtaposes the rustic, industrial mirror and its circular shape. The gold lantern contrasts the movement in the wallpaper and warms up the crisp grey and white palette, blending in the warm wood tones of the original woodwork.
Finally, an antique Banjo #5 wall clock by Boston clockmaker, E. Howard & Company, is of the same era as the home, c. 1880.
The one bright spot of color — amongst the neutral palette of greys, whites, and brown tones from the original woodwork and rustic wood accessories — comes from an original 6″x6″ oil on panel by Amber Waterhouse. Displayed below the stairwell wall, “Lost Marbles,” is symbolic of the children, from the Potter and Flanagan families, that graced the space over a century ago.
My goal was to update the interior of a Second Empire Victorian home with modern decor, while embracing its history in the hallway by taking the onlooker through a “passage” in time — creating a dual meaning behind “Modern Passage” with its contemporary function and design.
all photos by Ei3’s, except “Lost Marbles” courtesy of Amber Waterhouse