Uncovering a Dream
Traditional formality meets casual country appeal in a historic California home that blends handcrafted furnishings with family antiques.
A California couple reinvigorate a historic Victorian cottage with a touch of formality and loads of casual country appeal.
Antiques collectors and country-design enthusiasts have long been captivated by the magic and charm of historic dwellings; indeed, many dream of one day living in their own quaint bungalow or rural farmhouse. Judy Neumann was no exception. “I had always wanted an older home,” she recalls. “Our previous houses were newer, although we tried to make them look old with the addition of antiques and vintage touches.” Two decades ago, Judy achieved her aspirations when she and her husband, Jerry, purchased an 1879 Queen Anne Victorian cottage in the foothills of Northern California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Located in Grass Valley, the Neumanns’ three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot cottage boasts ornate decorative millwork, fish-scale shingles and a pitched roof, as well as original window glass and doors. Other notable features include two enclosed sun porches, a mudroom, an entry hall, a formal front parlor, and loads of unique architectural details. “The French doors and arched window between the front parlor and the living room are what sold us on the house in the first place,” Judy relates.
While the building’s footprint was perfect from the outset, the timeworn interior left much to be desired. “When we bought the house, there were five layers of carpeting that had been laid one on top of the other,” Judy says. “Every time a new layer was added, the previous owners cut off the bottoms of all the doors just so they could open and close.” The Neumanns leveled the flooring throughout the house and were able to salvage and refinish original fir hardwood in three of the rooms. They also stripped away layers of old wallpaper, installed new plumbing, and rewired the entire home. Fresh paint brought new shine to the interior and exterior, while new landscaping added curb appeal.
Judy originally planned to decorate the home in traditional Victorian style, but she soon settled on a more laid-back aesthetic. “I think, after 30-some-odd years, I have evolved into a more comfortable place between country farmhouse and country primitive,” she shares. To that end, distressed wood furnishings, vintage signage, and a variety of homespun collectibles add country charm while blending seamlessly with more refined pieces, such as an upholstered settee with matching chairs in the front parlor and an antique converted gas chandelier in the dining room. “I love old things that have a history,” Judy adds.
Today, even after more than two decades in her dream house, Judy still loves to change things up when the mood strikes. “My mother loved to decorate—she was always painting a room or a piece of furniture,” she says. “I must have picked that up from her. My husband’s favorite joke is that our homes always lose square footage because the walls have been papered and painted over many times.”
What gives Judy the most pleasure, however, is watching how guests react to her cozy abode. “Making a comfortable and pretty place for guests is a fun thing for me,” Judy says. “I get a big kick when a guest tells me that they feel like they are staying in a bed-and-breakfast.”
Opposite: In Judy and Jerry Neumann’s dining room, black-and-white checked window valances and matching chair-back covers complement warm red walls. Black and natural-wood dining chairs surround a distressed farm table recovered from an old miner’s...
Above: In the dining room, a rusty tricycle and a doll on a miniature chair provide a lighthearted touch beneath a hanging shelf filled with mismatched crocks and vases. An old-fashioned countertop pie safe is a perfect showcase for vintage wares. The...
Left: Festive garland and a flower bouquet adorned with a pair of decorative flags set a patriotic tone in the front hall.