Colonial Revival Chic: Henry Davis Sleeper's Beauport

When I first saw this photo which graced the cover of World of Interiors a few years ago, it was love at first sight. I sprang into action and bought Farrow and Ball's Arsenic...
...and was determined to create my own Gold Step Room* by painting the baseboards, cornice, and enormous armoire in my dining room this stunning oxidized copper color. Eventually - I told myself - I would troll ebay and form a similar collection of green majolica and snap!

Although the can of paint was never opened (much to Mr. EEE's relief), my affair with Beauport continues to thrive. Dreamed up by Henry Davis Sleeper, a decorator and collector whose imagination and wit knew no bounds, this 40 room summer "cottage" located in Gloucester, Mass. is a veritable Aladdin's cave of historical styles. Between 1907 and 1934, Sleeper conjured up each room out of a unique style inspiration, from Horace Walpole's 18th century Gothick Strawberry Hill to Benjamin Franklin's stove.


Sleeper found these wooden pelmets and designed the windows around them. The round shape of the Library Tower followed. Click here to see the Mother of all Wooden Pelmets.


Indeed the higgledy-piggledy exterior of the house was held hostage to the roomscapes it enclosed as evident in this photo of the harbour-front facade.


18th century "Pillar and Arch" wallpaper found in Paul Revere's house was replicated in this bedroom by Thomas Strahan and Company between 1906 and 1910.

I wonder if Sleeper ever saw this painting of an Irish Georgian interior by Philip Hussey? (The Victoria and Albert says that two types of "Pillar and Arch" paper are depicted here.)


Adelphi Paper Hangings make this Pillar and Arch paper "1776" in partnership with Historic New England, although not en grisaille unfortunately.

Another dynamite room is the China Trade Room which was formerly a medieval hall until Sleeper found rolls of this unused hand-painted wallpaper. It certainly served as inspiration for Henry du Pont's Chinese Parlor at Winterthur below....


In fact, du Pont was so taken by Sleeper's example that it is questionable whether Winterthur would exist in its current form otherwise - and to take it an extreme step further, possibly the entire colonial revivalism of the twenties which included the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1924) and the founding of the Magazine Antiques (1922).

* so-called because of a model ship of the same name displayed in the room


Photos #1, 5, 8 by Christopher Simon Sykes for the World of Interiors, #2 courtesy of Farrow and Ball, #3 courtesy of Historic New England, #6 National Gallery of Art, Ireland, #6 courtesy of Adelphi Paper Hangings