Fall­ing for His­tory

A 19th-cen­tury home in a New Jersey ham­let be­comes a cou­ple’s cat­a­lyst for leav­ing con­tem­po­rary style be­hind and em­brac­ing old-house charm.

Country Sampler - - Contents - Writ­ten by CHERYL HACK­ETT Pho­tographed and Styled by GRIDLEY + GRAVES

A New Jersey cou­ple are un­ex­pect­edly charmed by a his­toric 19th-cen­tury home, lead­ing them to cast off con­tem­po­rary style and fully em­brace a pe­riod aes­thetic.

Some­times old houses at­tract the most un­likely buy­ers. That was the case for Linda and Thomas Ley­hane, who had been hap­pily en­sconced in a con­tem­po­rary home full of Dan­ish mod­ern fur­nish­ings when they came across a his­toric home for sale in Rin­goes, New Jersey. The vil­lage is named af­ter John Ringo’s Tav­ern, a meet­ing place for the Sons of Lib­erty dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War. The home in ques­tion, lo­cated on 3 acres not far from the tav­ern, was a for­mer gen­eral store dat­ing back to 1850.

When the Ley­hanes stepped in­side the home, they were cap­ti­vated by the orig­i­nal wide-plank pump­kin-pine floors, the hand-hewn posts and beams, the mul­ti­paned win­dows, and the three

pe­riod fire­places. The com­bined ap­peal of the build­ing’s his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture were more than enough to per­suade the Ley­hanes to leave mod­ern style be­hind and be­come old-house stew­ards.

The orig­i­nal two-room store had been ex­panded with a large res­i­den­tial ad­di­tion in 1890, and, thanks to a pre­vi­ous owner’s ef­forts, the en­tire home was re­stored in the 1980s. Since the Ley­hanes took own­er­ship in 1996, they have made mi­nor im­prove­ments in keep­ing with the home’s unique char­ac­ter. For ex­am­ple, they re­moved the kitchen is­land to make room for an an­tique farmer’s ta­ble and chairs and made over the dark-green kitchen cab­i­nets with a dis­tressed white fin­ish. They also added a laun­dry room and re­stored a small porch near the kitchen.

New Eng­land’s rich fall col­ors inspired the in­te­rior paint scheme, which in­cludes golden yel­low in the front room and kitchen, olive and sage in the liv­ing room and din­ing room, and a warm tan in the bed­rooms. To en­sure the rooms re­main bright, win­dows through­out the home are dressed simply in clas­sic white or lace sheers.

The Ley­hanes en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced a pe­riod aes­thetic, delv­ing into their home’s his­tory to be­come flu­ent in the types of fur­nish­ings that would have graced sim­i­lar coun­try homes dur­ing the mid-19th cen­tury. To find the proper pieces, Linda be­came a fix­ture at es­tate sales, flea mar­kets and an­tiques shops in nearby Lam­bertville, New Jersey. She also trav­eled to fairs in Amish coun­try to seek out an au­then­tic se­lec­tion of quilts.

Over the years, the Ley­hanes have gath­ered an­tique ta­bles, chairs, li­nens, pot­tery and util­i­tar­ian items, along the way mas­ter­ing the art of blend­ing old items with re­pro­duc­tion pieces such as light­ing, art, rugs and up­hol­stered seat­ing. “Dec­o­rate with items you fall in love with,” Linda says of her strat­egy for se­lect­ing the per­fect as­sort­ment of fur­nish­ings for her home.

Much like a cu­ra­tor, Linda cre­ates vi­gnettes that cel­e­brate the an­tiques’ crafts­man­ship and prove­nance. “I use an­tiques and col­lectibles to make a state­ment,” she ex­plains. To do this, she lim­its col­lec­tions to three or five pieces so she can as­sem­ble small odd­num­bered group­ings. For ex­am­ple, in the din­ing room, three but­ter churns stand at at­ten­tion be­side a cup­board.

With their home’s beautiful blend of new and old, the Ley­hanes have come to un­der­stand what it means to honor the past and value their role in pre­serv­ing their much-loved his­toric home so that it can be ap­pre­ci­ated for gen­er­a­tions to come.

A trio of wood-framed mir­rors re­flects light be­tween the liv­ing room win­dows and co­or­di­nates with the trim­work, pro­vid­ing a back­drop that per­fectly frames the set­tle and wing chair in the seat­ing area. Au­tum­nal pil­lows and pot­tery en­hance the setting.

Linda and Thomas Ley­hane’s 19th-cen­tury home is nes­tled in a his­toric ham­let along an old stage­coach line.

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