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Interior designer Karen Houghton and her husband, Michael, who is a dealer in rare and out-of-print books, are very much a part of the fabric of Nyack, New York. This small town on the Hudson River, an hour outside of New York City, is home to many well-known members of the art and theater worlds. The Houghtons' Second Empire Victorian house, built around 1850, is located in downtown Nyack, a favorite weekend haunt for antique and collectibles aficionados.
Karen Houghton's passion for antiques began when, as a child, she would tag along on treasure hunts with her parents, who were antique dealers in Nyack in the 1960s. As she explains, "Finding an object that spoke to me, striking the deal, cleaning and mending it, looking it up in my reference books, and trying to evaluate its market valuethis is the process I learned from my parents and still follow today. I love to collect, but now I spend more time helping my clients develop their own collecting passions. At this point, my house is nearly full."
Houghton finds many pieces on the shopping trips she takes to Europe at least twice a year. "I have my lucky haunts in London and in the States that I return to regularly, but it is such fun to venture down some unknown road and discover something delightful!" Her own master bedroom is the perfect home for some of her many unique finds.
The couple's timelessly serene bedroom is filled with a mixture of these pieces along with those she inherited from her parents. The room includes an alcove, and she notes, "Since our bedroom is an odd shape, I placed the sofa on an angle.This rounds out the corner and allows the eye to travel across the room."
The alcove, original to the room, is the ideal spot for the bed. Karen has deliberately kept to a warm, earthy palette with touches of gilt throughout the space. The bed itself is crowned with a gilt ciel de lit. And at the foot of the bed, stacked atop one another, are a papered box, a gout stool, an antique tooled metal-and-wood document box, and a nineteenth-century Anglo-Indian camphor-wood box.
Says Houghton, "My boxes and baskets offer perfect storage for many of my collections. They are wonderful in themselves, and they can often be found for reasonable prices at flea markets and antique stores."
Opposite the bed alcove is a niche that holds more baskets and boxes. These are filled with antique French and American quilts. A nineteenth-century dressing table with crystal knobs and its original Carrara marble top is the perfect setting for another collectionKaren's vintage perfume bottles. The vanity is a rarity, she says, because she found it in its original condition without pieces missing. A strictly feminine touch is added by the prints above the vanity. The prints are from an eighteenth-century Parisan cosmetics catalog, and three more reflect one of her most recent passionsportraits of nineteenth-century women.
The enthusiasms of Houghton's husband are also reflected in this room. "Being the wife of a bookseller has its consequences," she says. "Almost all of the rooms and even our hallways contain books and bookshelves, so naturally we added a niche beside the bed to hold some of our many books as well."
Besides being the perfect place to settle in with a good read, the Houghtons' bedroom is a stylish nod to both of its occupants. "I can walk in to this room again and again and not get tired of it," Houghton muses. "It feels good to wake up here."
Barrie Vanderpoel is a principal at Vanderpoel Schneider Group, an interior design firm. Vanderpoel, who lives in Manhattan with her husband, Wynant, has completed numerous bedroom projects for her clients, but her bedroom is very much her own, reflecting her love of beautiful textiles, antiques, and those objects that personalize a room, like good books, family photographs, and momentos.
A canopied bed, circa 1785, draped in a white fabric by Lee Jofa, is the focal point of the room. "I really love eighteenth-century furniture," she says. "Things that have been considered beautiful for three hundred years usually turn out to be pretty good choices."
Vanderpoel has chosen pristine white sheets from Monica Noel that have a tailored trim of green. At the foot of the bed, an upholstered custom-made bench by Lewis Mittman is covered in the Old World Weavers fabric "Piona," which is also used to upholster the walls and drape the windows. She has given definition to the room by outlining the arches, doors, and some of the furniture with deep green grosgrain ribbon, which she simply glued on.
On her husband's side of the bed, on a small eighteenth-century wooden table, Vanderpoel has amassed a still life of necessities: a telephone, an orchid, and some framed photographs. She stores her magazines and newspapers underneath the table in two baskets. Vanderpoel notes, "I keep using these baskets because the proportions are so good."
At her bedside is a skirted glass-top circular table topped with a Steuben bird the Vanderpoels received as a wedding gift, along with two favorite family photographs and, always, a vase of fresh white roses.
At the top of Wynant's wish list for the bedroom was a large-screen television set easily visible from the bed. Barrie chose an armoire that she says, is "like great classic architecture."
Vanderpoel also added a piece that she feels, "adds a softness, a femininity, to the room." This is a dressing table that she designed and skirted. The lamps atop the dressing table are nineteenth-century English porcelain candlesticks she had wired, and the mirror is a reproduction Chippendale that Barrie found and whose frame she painted white. "I like elaborate pieces painted white to be more informal," she explains.
One piece that the designer created for herself over a decade ago and that she keeps re-creating for her clients is her floral-painted screen. "It's good for concealing things," she says. She puts hers to good use in front of a file cabinet full of materials for "late-night inspiration."
Throughout the room are carefully placed personal objects that are important to the Vanderpoels. Observes Barrie Vanderpoel, "I love anything that makes a room more personal. A room is a living thing. If you can't put your feet up on a table and display your favorite photos and prints and books, it has no life."