Down-Home Hol­i­day

Fond mem­o­ries of Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try and nos­tal­gia for the past in­spire a Delaware cou­ple to in­fuse their mod­ern home with prim­i­tive style.

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

In­spired by child­hood mem­o­ries of Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try, a Delaware home­owner in­fuses her newly con­structed home with char­ac­ter-rich de­tails.

Nos­tal­gia for Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try tugs at Re­nee Cul­ver’s heart­strings, as she lived in Ken­nett Square, Penn­syl­va­nia, as a child. Mem­o­ries of the farm­ing com­mu­nity’s his­toric houses and vis­its to her grand­par­ents’ river­front cot­tage con­tinue to in­spire her life to­day. “I love to recre­ate happy mem­o­ries from my child­hood. I wish I could be trans­ported back to a sim­pler time,” Re­nee ex­plains.

With those heart­warm­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in mind, when Re­nee and her hus­band, Mel, pur­chased a newly con­structed home in Bear, Delaware, their vi­sion was clear: cre­ate a home rich with his­toric de­tail and filled with ves­tiges of the coun­try idyll. Through the years, they re­fash­ioned the mod­ern in­te­rior with a prim­i­tive coun­try aes­thetic that takes vis­i­tors back in time. “Peo­ple are shocked when they see [the in­te­rior of] our home for the first time. The out­side does not match the in­side,” Re­nee ob­serves.

To cre­ate the past-per­fect sen­si­bil­ity and sim­ple am­bi­ence that was lack­ing in the res­i­dence, the Cul­vers tack­led many home im­prove­ment projects them­selves. For­tu­nately, Mel is a con­trac­tor, and his skills came in handy when they in­stalled mold­ings, re­placed wall-to-wall car­pet­ing with wide-planked hard­wood floor­ing, added barn-board pan­el­ing, ren­o­vated bath­rooms, cre­ated a new coun­try kitchen and de­signed unique light­ing fix­tures that uti­lize found ob­jects.

To make the liv­ing room and din­ing room ap­pear co­zier, the cou­ple painted the end walls barn red and the other walls a rich cof­fee color. To build char­ac­ter, they in­cor­po­rated ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage, such as a pair of shut­ters res­cued from the wed­ding chapel where they were mar­ried.

The home’s decor has evolved grace­fully over time. Each room fea­tures an art­ful blend of new fur­nish­ings, heirlooms, an­tiques and col­lectibles. Sim­ple valances dress win­dows, and braided rugs and run­ners adorn floors. Re­nee, who started go­ing to craft shows as a newlywed, says, “I’ve moved away from mass-pro­duced items and I now pre­fer unique pieces.”

Re­nee not only ap­pre­ci­ates bar­gains, but also the new friend­ships she has formed with the sell­ers of some of her ac­qui­si­tions. She re­cently found some trea­sures through sev­eral lo­cal on­line buy­ing-and-sell­ing sites. These vir­tual clas­si­fieds have yielded a cast-iron stove, the top half of an an­tique cup­board, and an an­tique pie safe.

When she is not surf­ing the web for items to add to her col­lec­tion, Re­nee nav­i­gates the roads that gently wind through the Delaware and Penn­syl­va­nia coun­try­side, seek­ing out Amish-made fur­ni­ture, crocks, pot­tery, tools and wooden signs. She is drawn to older items with rich his­tory. “I love to fill my home with pieces that are sen­ti­men­tal,

and I love to repur­pose them,” Re­nee says. “I like when I can pick up a piece and say, ‘Where have you been?’ ”

Dur­ing the hol­i­days, Re­nee en­joys com­bin­ing dec­o­ra­tions, an­tiques and sim­ple artis­tic touches to achieve a fes­tively prim­i­tive look. Through­out her home, you’ll find mul­ti­ple spindly twig trees dec­o­rated with spin­ner gourds and dried or­ange slices. Live and ar­ti­fi­cial green­ery spills from china cab­i­nets, cup­boards, shelves and small dis­plays. “Greens re­ally bring the Christ­mas and win­ter look in­doors,” Re­nee notes. “I leave my ar­ti­fi­cial greens out all win­ter—even af­ter the San­tas and trees are put away.”

Dur­ing the hol­i­days and through­out the year, Re­nee hopes her en­thu­si­asm for dec­o­rat­ing and fill­ing her sur­round­ings with sen­ti­men­tal trea­sures trans­lates into a warm wel­come for guests. “My home is my happy place,” she says. “I dec­o­rate with items that have been pre­served from the past so they can be cher­ished by many for years into the fu­ture. I re­ally do cher­ish all of my an­tiques and the story that each piece tells.”

To make the for­mal fire­place in her fam­ily room feel a bit more ca­sual, Re­nee Cul­ver mounted an old win­dow, shut­ters and signs above the man­tel and com­pleted the Christ­mas scene with glow­ing can­dles, a home­spun Santa and stock­ings, and a gar­land that co­or­di­nates with the tow­er­ing tree.

Left: The ex­te­rior of the Cul­ver home boasts a wel­com­ing farmer’s porch and his­tor­i­cal clay and hunter green color palette.Be­low: Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing is a fam­ily af­fair for Re­nee and Mel, sons Kyle and Sam, and Bingo the Bi­chon Frise; they use wreaths to adorn win­dows and red and green lights to make shrub­bery merry.Op­po­site: This an­tique cup­board is slen­der enough to make room for the Wind­sor chairs in front of it, but its vivid red color en­sures its sta­tus as a fo­cal point in the liv­ing room. Never one to leave things un­adorned, Re­nee takes ad­van­tage of the sifter and to­bacco bas­ket on the wall and the an­tique rake nearby to show­case fes­tive flour­ishes. Use for type place­ment only

Left: In a liv­ing room cor­ner, Re­nee cre­ates an eye-catch­ing vi­gnette, from the open wall cabi­net that co­or­di­nates with the wall col­ors to the space be­low the small side ta­ble, which com­bines var­i­ous shapes and sizes of crates and tin con­tain­ers with sea­sonal fare.Right: Ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage and an­tiques dis­tin­guish the liv­ing room. Re­nee hung a door be­hind the sofa to re­call the look of rus­tic pan­el­ing and re­pur­posed a straw­berry crate as an end ta­ble and a blan­ket chest as a cof­fee ta­ble.

Right: Re­nee couldn’t re­sist this an­tique stone grinder’s rugged sim­plic­ity and re­pur­posed the relic as a con­ver­sa­tion piece for her liv­ing room. Dur­ing the hol­i­days, she fills it with mag­no­lia leaves and greens. A Shaker box mounted on the wall be­hind it dis­plays a rus­tic wood can­dle­holder.

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