I grew up in a small Cape Cod house with my mom and dad and two older sisters in Long Island, New York. We lived a modest existence, but our home was always filled with love. We would spend summer days at the beach with aunts, uncles and cousins while mom would can the sweet peaches from our tree and grill each night on a small, round BBQ filled with charcoal briquettes.
By the time I was three, my oldest sister had married and moved out and when I was seven, my middle sister did the same. Often times, with my middle sister on the search for a new home, my mom, sister and I, from this young age, would spend afternoons visiting homes for sale, and later, once she had moved in, browsing home décor stores. I'd watch as they would stroll excitedly through the stores each Thursday, examining the merchandise, checking the prices, looking for just the right piece to bring home and place in its perfect spot, transforming a house into a home. Gradually, my love for anything old began to grow and take shape. In high school, I focused on and excelled in the arts and spent my afternoons collecting Ethan Allen catalogs as other kids were busy looking at fashion magazines.
When I met Rich, he didn't know much about antiques, but his mother was a collector of china and other treasures she would find at garage, rummage and bazaar sales - pieces that spoke to her soul. Often after work, we would meet up in NYC and stroll through the West Village, in search of something inexpensive that we could put in our trunk for when we got married. We were married young, at 21 and 25 years old. We moved into an apartment in Queens and immediately had grand ideas for how our new home would take shape. We had been waiting for just this opportunity. Looking back, we laugh at how we put so much effort into transforming that little rented apartment, adding mouldings, hanging lighting fixtures, taking down all the kitchen cabinets caked with years of paint from previous owners so my poor dad could strip, sand and re-stain them for me, all in the hope of having my farmhouse kitchen. If I couldn't change the outside of our apartment building, I was sure going to make the inside fit the ideas I had in my head. A few years later, with a young toddler and our second baby on the way, we realized we had outgrown our little apartment and, like all young families, began our search for the perfect house.
We found a little ranch out east that was far from my dream of owning a farmhouse with a wrap-around porch, but it sat on a pretty piece of country land beside a lake and so Rich was sold. Rich imagined a life of lying in the grass by the lake, fishing and canoeing, and told me that if I gave into him on this house, he would do whatever I asked of him to transform it into what I had envisioned ever since I was a little girl. Over the years, Rich would regret that promise, but my how that little place grew and grew. I'd often lay in bed wondering what walls we could remove or additions we could build to make it ours. I'd scribble revised floor plans late at night on a little piece of paper napkin I kept close in the drawer of the nightstand on my side of the bed. Our careers changed multiple times, but they were always something creative and always in the arts. Then, 16 years almost to the month after we purchased the little ranch, with our three kids now teenagers, we undertook a major renovation.
By now, my dream house had changed from a little farmhouse, white with a wrap-around porch, to a reproduction of a two-story Connecticut River Valley home. We decided to add 2,000 square feet onto our already existing 2,000 square foot home. It took three years, and many trials and tribulations along the way, but when all was said and done, it was our "dream house." People who came to see it often asked for a tour, never once thinking it was a reproduction. We tried to make it as authentic as we could, reading whatever we could get our hands on concerning corner boards, flooring, lighting, clapboards, walk-in fireplaces and millstones. Often our trips lead us all over New England in search of just the right detail. I remember ordering a piece of wood from the 1700's, part of a barn that had been taken down in Vermont which would eventually become our mantel, delivered by UPS! Our delivery man laughed as he hauled it over his shoulder and brought it inside, demanding to know what on earth I had ordered that was so heavy. Auctions were standard for us on a Saturday night and as our kids grew older, we began traveling throughout Europe, always bringing home some piece of history for mama to display.
Then in 2012, with our kids out of the house and moving in their own directions, we decided to sell our little dream home to some other deserving family who would love it as much as we did. We ventured west and made a new home in Arizona. Our new dream is to build that reproduction, light-filled French farmhouse we had loved so much when we traveled throughout the French countryside. I envision white-washed walls filled with light and a mix of all things greige, tan and white. The Grey Antler is a life-long dream of mine - to be able to scour the country, handpicking collections to make your home an inviting haven of warmth and inspiration. Won't you join us?