Living in New England

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Just as New England served as the cradle of so much of American history, so, too, has the architecture of New England come to define the American idea of home. From the colonial farmhouse in the Rhode Island countryside to the shingle-style beach cottage on Martha's Vineyard or the simple saltbox on a village square in Massachusetts, New England has evolved a distinctive residential tradition that is quintessentially American. With purity, simplicity, and a respect for the past as its hallmarks, the style we ...
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Overview

Just as New England served as the cradle of so much of American history, so, too, has the architecture of New England come to define the American idea of home. From the colonial farmhouse in the Rhode Island countryside to the shingle-style beach cottage on Martha's Vineyard or the simple saltbox on a village square in Massachusetts, New England has evolved a distinctive residential tradition that is quintessentially American. With purity, simplicity, and a respect for the past as its hallmarks, the style we associate with New England has again come to the forefront.

Celebrating houses and interiors from Maine to Connecticut, Living in New England shows us the old and delights us with the new by introducing us to some of the area's most inventive and elegant interiors. Despite the rich traditions of the region, the houses showcased in this book do not rest on their laurels. Instead, their owners -- writers, artists, designers, publishers -- have created rooms that are informed by the regional vernacular but are freewheeling and up-to-date.

New York Times columnist Elaine Louie has worked in close collaboration with the gifted photographer Sølvi dos Santos to locate some of the most beautiful, inventive, and memorable interiors throughout New England. And so this marvelous book gives us an exclusive tour of the Maine island where artist Jamie Wyeth lives and paints during the summer months, a compound that includes an antiques-filled home, a studio, and a live-in lighthouse at the mouth of the Penobscot Bay. We visit the Newport home of a grand family, its stunning interiors originally created in the nineteenth century in collaboration with Edith Wharton. Wefind a converted barn with a drop-dead view of the sea on Martha's Vineyard. And we stroll through the gardens created by interior designer Bunny Williams at her colonial farmhouse in northern Connecticut. Finally, this beautifully designed book closes with a location guide that allows us to explore the villages, towns, and countryside of New England.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743203753
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/1/1900
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 10.14 (w) x 10.19 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

When explorer Captain John Smith received a royal charter from the Virginia Company of London, he sailed from England to the Chesapeake Bay and, in 1607, founded the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia. Seven years later, on another expedition, Captain Smith mapped the coast from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod, and gave those six states, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the name of New England. Most of the original seventeenth-century settlers were English, many of them Calvinists or Puritans, who believed in plain and religious living. Some of the early homes, especially in northern New England, were farms, continuous buildings where each part had its own function — the main house, a barn for the cows or sheep, and a shed for chickens and pigs. But many of the settlers had brought with them the culture and the architecture of England. The earliest seventeenth-century homes were one-room wood houses. Then a shed was added, a center chimney, and a second story. As people prospered, they began to emulate the more elaborate styles that were popular in England. By the eighteenth century, some homeowners, like merchants or shipowners, started building Georgian houses with square layout, central hallway, and doorway framed by columns supporting a pediment. In the nineteenth century, the Georgian house was transformed into a more refined Federal style that included larger window openings and more slender muntins. The door became wider and taller and was topped by a fanlight and flanked by sidelights. From 1820 to 1860, the Greek Revival style held sway, with facades designed as two-story temple fronts withpedimented gables. The second half of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of the Victorian style, with fanciful gingerbread trim, turrets, exploded bay windows and gas lights. Plate glass encouraged bigger windows. By the twentieth century, the mill towns that had dotted New England declined as industry went south, and New England had to reinvent itself again. High-technology businesses surround Boston. Hartford, Connecticut, calls itself the insurance capital of the country, while Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are sleepy in winter and tourist havens in the summer.

Living in New England is an album of 25 different houses that shows how the owners embrace not only the New England architecture, but also the land, the vistas, and the seasons. Within New England, each of the six states has its own personality. Connecticut, whose original inhabitants were the Algonquin, has beaches and harbors, rolling hills and lakes. The landscape is gentle. When you are in northwest Connecticut, it is so quiet it feels like you can hear a leaf drop. The Connecticut houses in this book possess a kind of genteelness that matches the landscape.

But if Connecticut is genteel, Maine is rugged. Like Norway, the state has more trees than people. It is 80 percent forest and has a wild, rocky coast. When you drive the highway or roads in Maine, it is sometimes so desolate of people that for miles and miles the only view is of trees, lit softly by the low-lying sun. The people of Maine are a mix of English, Irish and Scottish, some French, a few Indians and African Americans, all known for their taciturn, dry humor. Shipbuilding was once an important trade, and those same skills survive, often translated into the building of homes rather than boats. Floors don't creak. Walls are plumb. Houses have a deep solidity about them. The homes range from a farm to Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic and Victorian.

Two American presidents, John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy have lived in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as the state is known. Other famous literary inhabitants include Edith Wharton, Eugene O'Neill, and Norman Mailer. The Boston Tea Party helped trigger the Revolutionary War and Boston is now fêted as the birthplace of American independence and the region is still steeped in national pride.

The earliest settlers arrived in New Hampshire in 1623 to fish and trade, and in 1629, the region was named after the English county of Hampshire. Although it is heavily forested and rural, more than one-third of its residents now work in manufacturing. Every four years, however, New Hampshire has its 15 minutes of frenzied, national fame when it is the first state to hold a Presidential primary election.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in America, founded in 1636 by Roger Williams as a refuge for religious dissenters; but by the end of the nineteenth century, the very rich were coming to spend their summers in Newport to play, dance, and sail.

The French were the first settlers in Vermont — the name derives from the French words verte (green) and monte (mountain). A few American colonial customs are still upheld here — voters take a "freeman's oath" to be "of a quiet and peaceable behavior."

But the common theme behind all these states is their love of nature and the four seasons, a passion that is reflected in the New England homes featured in this book.

Copyright © 2000 by Elaine Louie

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