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A tailored Tudor: Owner's diverse interests influence decor

Saturday, November 16, 2002

By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

New York interior designer merges owners' diverse interests in elegant Squirrel Hill house

The 1920s English Tudor on a terraced lot in Squirrel Hill features diamond leaded mullion windows and a slate roof. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette)


All it needs is a thatched roof and one might think he'd strolled off South Negley into the Cotswolds. Of course, slate was a far more practical choice for this 1920s Tudor-style home, which exudes bucolic bliss in urban Squirrel Hill.

From the layers of gardens flanking the stone walkway entrance to the sporting life depicted throughout the house, a sense of English country aesthetic abounds. But this home wasn't concocted to satisfy some designer's inflated vision of interior creation. It's a stylish catalog of the owners' passions, which include hunting (both game and antiques), gardening and dogs.

The first-floor den displays the results of several shooting expeditions. Mounted trophies stare down from the walls as reminders of the couple's adventures in New Zealand and Africa. Even the powder room is populated. But before the angry animal rights letters start flying, know that the hunts were authorized. The upholstery is a durable faux leopard skin to withstand the affections of the four dogs who live at the house.

Though the owners declined to be identified, the interior designer, Betsy Boggs of New York City, was happy to discuss the home's evolution.

"It's an amazing house that started out a mess," she declared.

Good bones and beautiful diamond mullion leaded windows were some of the architectural characteristics Boggs appreciated. The wall coverings and fabrics were chosen to please her client, a boarding school buddy, and to complement her existing furnishings.

Boggs and the lady of the house have a long friendship, which meant each was open about likes and dislikes. To gain even more perspective, she lived with her friend in the house for 10 days, while all the windows were being redone and the plasterers were at work.

"We would sit and talk on the living room floor about what pieces of furniture she wanted to bring from the old house [which was much larger] and discuss the exposure of light in the rooms," recalled Boggs.

The owner said she had to edit a lot of her furnishings to fit the new house, but that was good news for her children, who are grown with homes of their own.

But she did not give up two Serapi rugs. More than beautiful floor coverings, they were the foundations on which Boggs built the living and dining rooms.

For the living room, she chose a Nina Campbell striped wall covering in putty and cream to reflect the stone fireplace. She said the main reason she went with that background color scheme was her friend's love of all things beige, tan and cream.

"She is not a great color person, but she gets all the color from the rugs and the tea-dyed Rose Cummings linen upholstery and draperies," Boggs said.

The owners are avid hunters, and the downstairs den is decorated with trophies from their African and New Zealand adventures. A durable cotton faux leopard fabric continues the room's walk on the wild side. The silk Roman shades are a leopard toile print from Clarence House. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette)

The English favor tea-dying because it offers the illusion of age. It works well in the living room, where a collection of antique smalls is displayed on table tops and much of the furniture is English and American, including the 18th-century Massachusetts block-front desk in the corner.

The calm background palette was used in the center hall as well. Gray works well with the custom-made block wallpaper by John Quilter.

"Everything he does is hand-blocked and custom-colored," said Boggs, who wanted to build up the narrow hallway using the block pattern.

"We wanted to make it look as tall as possible."

A back porch at the end of the hall was opened up and a large picture window installed to bring in the light. The walls in the hall hold some of the owner's most important dog paintings.

"She has been collecting them for years and years," said Boggs, who shares her friend's love of dogs.

The dining room is one of the few spaces devoid of dog prints. It's dominated by an Arabian watercolor circa 1910, featuring a man with an opium pipe.

"I inherited the painting from my father," said the owner.

Gold glazed beadboard walls and a Southern pine floor brighten the kitchen. The Scalamandre fabric on the Roman shades and seat cushions continues the sporting life theme. The door to the left opens to the dog run and was added to balance the room and bring in more light. The opposite door leads to the back garden. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette)

Boggs built on that theme, inspired also by the Brighton Pavilion in England, a seaside Indian-style palace that was home to three British monarchs. The room's Silk Road style features pagoda-shaped valances over the windows, drapery fabric from Lee Jofa and red wallpaper from the English paper house Cole & Company.

Boggs originally wanted to do the walls in an elephant paper that copied the design in the drapes, but that was too much for her client.

"It was the last room we papered in the house, but I found this red and gold design that has an Asian feel. I love a red room somewhere in the house, and this is it," said Boggs.

She did saturate the upstairs guest room in a red and white toile. The bed covering, the Roman shades and the wallpaper are all the same print. The den off that room is much simpler in contrast, with a wall-to-wall seagrass rug and a daybed done in a Pierre Deux fabric.

The kitchen, the most utilized room in the house, is a warm cozy retreat with Southern pine floors. The antique lamp over the kitchen table is a favorite that has been in three of the owners' previous homes. English hunting prints are right at home on the sunny gold glazed beadboard walls. Boggs picked up that theme and repeated it on the seat covers and Roman shades.

"I used a Scalamandre fabric of hunting scenes and piped it in a dark red."

Patricia Sheridan can be reached at psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613.

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