Decoration of Independence
A well-traveled pair boldly display their eclectic and artistic style in a renovated Colonial Revival.
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There’s also a den—“Chuck’s man cave,” Linda says—a retreat with sloping ceilings that is suited to reading or contemplation. Another bedroom has been transformed into a cheerful work room for Linda, with a large desk with a painted chair. “I wrap gifts up here,” she says. “I iron up here.”
Art, collected over the years in the many places they have lived and traveled, is everywhere. Linda has a keen eye for accenting furniture with art in unexpected ways and infusing rooms with a sense of fun and wonder.
They watched as artisans in Morocco began weaving the rug displayed on the wall in the foyer. Whimsical sheep and chicken figurines were crafted in New Mexico. The illuminated miniature buildings that form a village on the dining room sideboard were sculpted in clay by an artist in Michigan. The intricate black-and-white framed prints on the wall are the work of Delaware artist Steve Howard.
Sometimes art is close at hand, just waiting to be reinterpreted. The framed picture in the dining room—a century-old portrait of Linda’s ancestors in Italy—began with an aged photograph that was restored, enlarged and tinted. The two ceramic bowls, one pink, the other green, were handed down by her mother. They are displayed in the glass-fronted cabinets in the butler’s pantry.
“She used to make cookies in them when I was a girl,” Linda recalls.
The couple’s stained-glass lamps are art, as well as antiques. They shimmer on the desk in the foyer and on a side table in the dining room. A stained-glass torchiere illuminates the living room.
A rustic wood dining table was born in Ireland, purchased in California, then shipped west, along with heavy wood Craftsman-style chairs and the sideboard. They were discovered in a shop across the street. A vintage-style toy tractor is a playful touch beneath a Queen Anne side table.
Chuck wondered what lay beneath the paint on the massive front door, so it was stripped to reveal the warm grain of American chestnut, valued even more highly since the wood was wiped out by a blight and has not been available since 1950.
For routine maintenance and repairs, the Dormans call in the same workers from Porter Restoration who originally restored the property. “They still have a relationship with the house,” Linda says.
The Victorians were masters of siting homes in a way that took best advantage of sunlight, shade trees and prevailing breezes. The Dormans are appreciating that foresight today, enjoying the unique amenities of their home’s many porches.
“In the summer, the front porch is the place to be in the morning on a very hot day,” Chuck says. “In the afternoon, it’s much cooler on the back porch because that space benefits from the shade of the house.”
The Dormans designed a low-maintenance oasis in the garden, which they enjoy from the first spring day tulips burst from the earth until the autumn leaves fall.
They turned to Kerns Brothers of Wilmington to lay a path of antique railroad pavers and build a hand-pieced fence of red cedar. It’s a leafy, tranquil setting, a private getaway from the city where the only sound is a bubbling stone waterfall.
“I’m completely at peace sitting in my Adirondack chair, watching the fountain and smoking my cigar,” Chuck says.
GET THE LOOK
- Look to everyday items for opportunities to infuse a space with charm and personality. Linda Dorman brightened a butler’s pantry with mixing bowls from her mother and dishes decorated with paw prints for her cats.
- Get friendly with your porch. Set out a few chairs and a small table, furnishings that will draw you and others to the porch, a space designed for socializing and enjoying the outdoors.
- Corral the TV. Instead of installing multiple televisions throughout the house, choose a single room for the tube. You will read and talk more—and free wall space for art.
- Cherish the past and live in the present. If you live in an old house, look for ways to respectfully integrate such modern conveniences as a powder room and second-floor laundry room.
- Embrace your whole house. You will enjoy every room if each space has a designated purpose, even if it’s ironing.