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For those who read or want to write for the magazine
On several levels, this issue speaks to
ways in which our forebears and those
who choose to emulate them today
have made the best of the means and
materials at hand to preserve and beautify
When Janice and John Elderkin
bought their 1950s cinder-block house in New York State,
they fully expected to fix it up well enough to make it
comfortable until they could afford to buy a larger and
more stylish home.
But as they settled into their neighborhood and began
to raise their children, they started looking beyond the
typical home interiors in their area to find the right look
for their home. As they learned about colonial and Federal
styles, they experimented with furnishings, paint colors,
and architectural changes to remake their home with a
cozy, well-worn atmosphere many call “primitive.”
After forty-plus years in that starter house, the Elderkins
have achieved the look of period house (with an occasional
refreshing of wall colors) and are content to work in their
gardens, attend the occasional auction or antiques show, and
share their remarkably aged home with friends and family.
In North Carolina, a single-room cabin built by Bill
Barker’s ancestors in about 1764 slowly grew to a hall-and-parlor
plan with small additions that housed five generations
of his family. In tribute to their late mother, Bill and
brothers, James and Robert, purchased what they call “the
old homestead”—a rare surviving example of the small
but sturdy vernacular homes built by successful farmers—
and restored it.
The homestead retains its original timber frame, flooring,
interior walls, two windows, and pieces of riven clapboard
siding. Modernized with a kitchen and bathroom,
it serves as a retreat for the actor also known as Thomas
Jefferson as well as family members who look forward to
gathering there again for post-pandemic reunions.
In the early 1700s, as women began attending female
academies to learn decorative techniques to beautify their
homes, several well-bred young women, particularly those
living in and around Boston, adopted the early European
decorative craft of quilling, or paper filigree work.
In much the same manner as seamstresses collecting
scraps of fabric to make quilts, these women saved
pieces of sturdy, expensive colored paper, particularly the
gilded edges of book pages, to adorn family crests, sconces,
shadow box pictures, and smaller objects like as tea caddies.
These talented women often combined quilling with
painting, embroidery, and other skills to create decorative
accessories that were cherished and often passed down
through generations. Rare surviving examples reside mostly
in museums, though they occasionally come up at auctions.
The challenge for every owner of a period home is adding
“the necessary,” a bathroom, when actual homes of the
time had no space for such modern luxuries. We consulted
decorators and searched our archives for ideas on how to
tackle the challenge—the ultimate make-do project.
We hope you find inspiration in these pages to give
your home a fresh look and channel your creativity using
the materials at hand.