Gardner-Pingree House Visit

The glazing bars of the entrance to the house were recently regilt

Last weekend, trailing in the Down East Dilettante's footsteps, my friend Nan and I hopped on the train up to Salem, Massachusetts to see the Iris Apfel exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum. Full disclosure: I was enticed as much by the exhibition - which was fantastic - as the knowledge that selections from Iris' own collection of jewelry were on sale in the gift shop.

Nan posing next to the ice sculpture of a tiger wearing Iris' signature oversized round spectacles

After being inspired by Mrs. Apfel's infectious exuberance (and one of her dramatic bangles to call my own) , we crossed the street to tour the Gardner-Pingree House, an 1804 neoclassical gem designed by Salem's golden boy Samuel McIntire.

The entrance hall floor was covered in a practical floorcloth painted in jazzy emerald and black octagons

The riot of pattern and brilliant colors found inside snapped me to attention and reminded me that some of the most adventurous and dynamic decorating happened hundreds of years ago.

Goldenrod walls, oyster trim, and a carpet of moss green, purples and magentas in the rear parlor easily make one forget the grey skies outside.

McIntire was known as much for his exquisite carving as for his architecture - the three-dimensional treatment of the basket of flowers, with its bottom fully realized, is classic McIntire

You might think the pattern of this wallpaper in the dining room was enough to add drama, but more is more...
when paired with this wall to wall floor cloth.


Clearly, this wasn't a family who was interested in white walls. Even the kitchen is a standout in its rosy hue.

The upstairs master bedroom - the docent who suggested that the carpeting downstairs might have been a little OTT...

found this carpeting restful. As an aside: a friend of mine rightfully once said that - in general - the most interesting and high style historic houses that have survived were generally owned by Donald Trump nouveau riche types who wanted to make a splash. That said, I don't think the McMansions of today will be oohed and aahed over in 100 years - or will they?

The small-scale repeat found in this blue bedroom inevitably made me think of Laura Ashley

In the study, this wallpaper cleverly incorporated marbling from the endpapers of a book in the house's collection:


Would you believe me if I said that the house has even more jaw-dropping delights for the eye? You'll have to see for yourself.