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.
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.