Aesthetic Archeology – A Big Success

20 Maple Avenue - The Fordyce Cottage

On November 6, 45 members and guests of the Larchmont Historical society gathered at 20 Maple Avenue in Larchmont’s Manor neighborhood to attend the LHS talk entitled, “Aesthetic Archeology: Uncovering Your Home’s History.” Known as the Fordyce Cottage, this magnificent circa 1890 residence commands the corner of Maple and Beach Avenues and is now the home of Jamie and Bill Curbow. It was the perfect venue for this panel discussion led by four local experts who covered the range from home building to decorating and landscaping. The audience was treated to advice on how to restore and renovate their homes by staying true to a home’s history and character by thoughtful use of period appropriate design, colors and landscaping.

The evening began on the Curbow’s newly-built open porch, which looks as if it has been with the house since the late 1800s. Delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails were followed by a welcome by LHS President Colette Rodbell, who invited all into the home’s paneled dining room for the talk. A sumptuous flower arrangement and glowing candles complemented the Victorian feel to the room. Hostess Jamie Curbow pointed out the hidden pantries, stocked with china and crystal, as well as the hidden safe, located behind the richly-stained floor-to-ceiling wood paneling. She also noted the original gas fireplace and ornate radiators.

The first speaker was Susan Emery, a Larchmont-based historic home renovation consultant and a long standing LHS board member. Most know Susan for her dedication as Chair of the LHS House Tour for eight years. Susan studied in the areas of Decorative Arts, design and culture and she shared this knowledge with the audience while presenting blueprints of her own Tudor home which she and her husband Dana recently restored. The changes made included replacing window glass with a leaded design and adding scrolling to the fascia. Only a couple of the many ways that Susan is able to Uncover the History of your Home!

If the devil is in the details, than surely the area of color is a hot zone. For anyone who has ever had to choose a paint color for their home, inside or out, you know what that means. Debra Kling, the second guest speaker, demystified the process somewhat. Debra is a Certified Color Specialist credentialed by the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. On her website, Debra claims that “a house without color has no point of view.” Indeed, color is highly personal, yet dictated by regional and cultural differences (are you one of the 82% of Americans who list their favorite color as blue?). She urged the audience to look to period-appropriate photos and antique items in the home that give away its history and offer hints at what the colors might have been. Debra also suggested sanding a small portion (in circular motion) of a home’s shingles or clapboards to uncover its original color. Chances are that the color will not be white! Turn-of-the-century homes often had dark paint on the body and light colors on the trim. A good reason: a reliable white paint for use on exteriors was only introduced in 1916, by the Titanium Pigment Company in Niagara Falls. It was in widespread use by the late 1920s and the use of white as an exterior color, most notably on house trim, is a trend that remains to this day. But which white to choose? Good luck with that. Benjamin Moore lists no less than 151 “off-whites” in its catalog.

The next speaker, Gina Samarotto of The Samarotto Design group, led a lively discussion on the role of landscaping. Gina has hosted her own garden design show on WGNY radio and she truly entertained the audience with her humor and candor relating to her field. She urged the audience to create focal points in the landscape that draw attention to the finest architectural details of a home. Make landscaping a part of the whole building/renovation picture, not an afterthought. Plant material should not only be appropriate to the period of a home but also to the color palette and style of the home. Gina stressed that bigger is better and above all, pay attention to the scale of trees and shrubs. A sampling of historically appropriate plant material includes Ilex Opaca (American Holly), Kalmia Latifolia (Mountain Laurel) and Fothergilla gardenia ( Fothergilla). You will not see the Aloe plant listed for the Larchmont area! The Samarotto Group is a full service landscape design firm and is now designing for the holidays. They will contribute 10% of all holiday and seasonal projects contracted LHS members back to the society.

Pam Washington, owner of Washington Restoration Ltd, a local construction firm, closed the event with an informative talk on the renovating process. Pam is a graduate of BrownUniversity with concentrations in Psychology and Architectural History-a valuable pairing!

The historical society sincerely thanks hosts Jamie and Bill Curbow for opening their lovely home for the event. Thanks again to the four panel speakers as well as to Nancy White and the Flower Bar for the event flowers.

Decorations from the Flower bar