It’s like stepping back in time at the Wright family’s Highview Drive home, which is exactly how Mary Wright felt when she first stepped through its doors 15 years ago.
Although the decor at the time was mostly 1950s, Wright and her husband Lundy were immediately drawn to the then-owner Bernard Hillmann’s antique pewter collection and a few 18th Century elements.
“He was one of the country’s most important pewter collectors,” said Mary Wright. “When we came into the house, my husband kept saying the house doesn’t come with the furniture.”
Hillmann actually dismantled a New England tavern room and added it to the house. A small phone booth-sized area where the alcohol was traditionally kept, called a “cage bar,” has a gate that swings down and locks. This was created to keep patrons out of the spirits while the innkeeper slept, said Wright. The mortise and tenon ceiling and wide wood floor boards were also added to recreate the tavern.
The Wrights were immediately sold. They too were collectors of colonial items such as early American redware pottery like Hillmann, as well as Towleware tin items, folk art, and many other antiques and furniture from 1750 to 1810.
“We had been so inspired by the tavern room that we did each room in period detail,” said Wright. “We were inspired by his love of the home.”
The details are endless and authentic, from the Philadelphia paneling in the “keeping room,” “Indian” door in the kitchen, grain-painted hutches and cabinets, replicas of antique pulls and latches, quilt-inspired tiles in one bathroom, antique brick floor in another bathroom, reclaimed floor boards throughout the house, and stenciling in the master bedroom based on the 1793 historic Temperance Tavern in New Hampshire. Kitchen appliances were hidden behind hand-crafted wood pocket doors by artist David T. Smith.
The Wrights had a lot of help from architectural books, magazines, classes at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and visits to Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts. Wright said the decorating wasn’t too difficult.
“We just follow the guidelines of 18th Century designs,” she said. “It’s easier than you think. There’s not as much choice.”
The Wrights even hired renowned artists Wiggins & Paulson to create a mural on the dining room walls, which sits below reclaimed wood beams. The artists are Itinerant New England-style painters, meaning they live where they work for a short time and travel across the country. The mural is called “The Confluence of the Passaic and Hudson.”
The home, which is approximately 5,020 square feet, is currently for sale exclusively through Tarvin Realtors. When it hits the market on March 2, owners expect its list price to come in somewhere around $1.895 million.
“Our hope is someone would see the integrity of the house and continue with it,” said Wright. She noted that the home is large, but small rooms keep it cozy.
Wright gets nostalgic as she walks through the house. Their children are grown and they are downsizing to a condo. Every time the light catches wall paneling where you can see the wood was hand-planed, Wright smiles.
“I just love the details, it makes me happy,” she said.
Great attention was also given to the acreage outdoors, which was designed by award winning landscape architect Michael Knapp of Convent Station. It includes an in-ground pool and limestone patios. And the house has a hand-tooled, copper standing seam roof.
Three years after the Wrights purchased the house on Highview Drive, Hillmann came to look at it. This was the first time they met. Although Hillmann had added an ell to the original cape-styled house, their renovations were going to be drastic and would soon include a new three-car garage with a mudroom and overhead playroom. The Wrights had only completed the first phase when Hillmann visited.
“He approved, which we were happy about,” Wright said.
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