An Example of Bygone Glory

Cauffiel House stands as a stunning testament to the tastes and trends of the 1930s.

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Stenciled sea horses in the hall bath remain from a past designer show house event. Photograph by Jared CastaldiCauffiel died in 1955. As the years passed, two of his children began to spend more time in their summer home, eventually moving in full time. The house remained in family hands until 1993, when the mansion became part of Bellevue State Park. In 1997 it was the setting of a designer show house to benefit OperaDelaware.

Last year, Cauffiel House was closed while access to the grounds was improved. That also gave Jeffers and other staff members who are devoted to the house an opportunity to spiff up the interior, which is decorated to reflect the 1930s.

In keeping with the state’s emphasis on austerity, they shopped for bargains, scouring estate sales, second-hand stores and antiques shops for the elegant but simple pieces the Cauffiels might have chosen themselves.

Throughout the house are framed botanical prints and vintage bric-a-brac brought back from shopping excursions. In the sitting room, the fireplace is flanked by a camel-back sofa and a pair of wing chairs. The landscape oil painting over the fireplace was retrieved from a closet at nearby Bellevue Hall.

In a closet at Cauffiel House, Jeffers found the original blueprints for the home—“back then, they really were blue,” she notes—and had them framed. They are now on display in the foyer.

Only two family-owned pieces of furniture remained in the house when the state acquired it: a gate-leg game table, now on a sun porch, and a large mahogany table with claw-and-ball feet in the dining room. The crystal chandelier and mirrored wall sconces are original, too, as is the paneled wainscoting with reeded chair rail.

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