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STAIR GALLERIES

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A New Gilded Age Cottage With A Happy Disposition

Rural Intelligence StyleIt seems like it would be impossible to wake up in a bad mood in this house in Lenox, MA. When the publicity-shy owners called the New York design team of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta to see the house they were building in the Berkshires, Diamond demanded that they halt construction. “We arrived at this house when it was being framed,” recalls Diamond in the new monograph All-American: The Exuberant Style of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta  (Pointed Leaf Press; $95), which yours truly co-wrote. “The architect, who we knew, had designed a bridge that spanned the living room, connecting the two wings of the house.  We told our stunned clients that we would not work on this house as long as there was a skybridge cutting the living room in half. We would not negotiate. So as a replacement we designed a pair mathing staircases that flank the front door.” And then Diamond & Baratta did what they often do with McMansions: They turned it into a home with a sense of history, pedigree and coziness. Filled with wonderful pieces of folk art, the house is high-spirited country style—a house where you smile the moment you walk through the front door.
 
All photographs by Michel Arnaud from “All-American: The Exuberant Style of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta” (Copyright © 2009 Pointed Leaf Press, LLC)
 
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Weathervanes are a leitmotif for the house.Once the overhead gallery was replaced by twin stairs with nineteenth-century-style woodwork detailing, the living room could be furnished symmetrically. The large sofa is covered in a custom print with weather vanes by Diamond Baratta Design.
 
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The hooked and braided rug custom-designed for the living room incorporates round vignettes, each encircled in braid, that relate to the surrounding Lenox countryside. Hooked Pennsylvania hex signs fill in the pattern. The wing chairs are covered in a custom-woven plaid.
 
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An antique weather vane and a vintage barber pole hang by a staircase; each of the circles in the rug depicts a different local, historic scene.
 
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A spectacular antique album quilt is hung like a painting over one of the the two fireplaces in the living room. A pair of plaid-covered wing chairs flanks each mantelpiece.
 
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The fireplace surrounds are made from a series of ceramic reproduction-delft tiles, and the cast-iron andirons, in the shape of Hessian soldiers, match the fireplace tools; an antique star quilt hangs over the other living room fireplace.
 
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The original dining room was lackluster, so Baratta designed a version of eighteenth-century American paneling and created a firebox to better balance the fireplace wall. Above the paneling, Ilya Shevel painted the mural depicting the town of Lenox inn earlier times. A collection of blue Staffordshire platters offers a decorative touch. The rug, woven by Stark Carpet, was inspired by eighteenth-century American felt work and includes a variety of animal and floral motifs. A red wing chair is placed at the head of the table to contrast with the more rustic Windsor side chairs.
 
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The seats of the chairs are covered with exquisite needlepoint cushions; a detail of the mural.
 
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The red-and-white-checkerboard backsplash resembles a quilt and gives the kitchen a fresh, high-spirited look. The English lantern is one of six in the kitchen.
 
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Instead of fitting glass panels into the doors of the huge pantry cabinet in the kitchen, the designers created a series of patterns that were punched out of tin panels in the manner of old pie safes. The initial of the clients’ last name was also punched out, in the panel at the top right.
 
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Because the sitting room off the master bedroom has a row of small windows admitting very little natural light, the designers decided to keep the space on the dark side. The walls are covered in red felt, and the furniture is upholstered with a handwoven red-and-white plaid. Shutters were added to the windows, and shelves are filled with a collection of old firkins
 
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In keeping with the folk art feeling of the house, the rug has an abstracted pattern of hex signs. The tall cabinet is a French-Canadian piece that came from Monique Shay Antiques in Woodbury, Connecticut.
 
All photographs by Michel Arnaud from “All-American: The Exuberant Style of William Diamond and Anthony Baratta” (Copyright © 2009 Pointed Leaf Press, LLC)

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 09/14/09 at 08:34 AM • Permalink