Steward of the Manoir: How Boston designer Charles Spada rescued a 17th century Norman manse
Design New England
Design New England
Historic New England's Ogden Codman Design Group cordially invites you to a designer talk and reception with Charles Spada.
A French Affair: Restoring the 1652 Manoir de Berthouville
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
at six o' clock in the evening
84 Beacon Street
Boston-based designer Charles Spada was voted one of House Beautiful magazine's 101 Favorite Designers and received their Ten Most Beautiful Showhouse Rooms award. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including Elle Decor (American and German editions), Traditional Home, Architectural Digest Italy, and The New York Times. Mr Spada's restoration of his seventeenth-century country manor in Normandy was recently featured in Veranda magazine.
The secrets to a swoonworthy home restoration are easier than you think. Boston-based designer Charles Spada offers his tried-and-true lessons.
1. The most important element in home decor is natural light. It is an essential part of my design projects, and there are many ways to bring it inside. During renovations, I try to incorporate a bank of full-height French doors. They look smart and open up a small or large space. Traditional French doors work well with almost any architectural style. They add that extra bit of drama. SOCIÉTÉ CHESNEL FRÈRES (011-33-2-32-45-92-41)is my preferred source. You can also think about putting in skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows, or a bank of windows overlooking a garden.
2. Create a good electrical plan. To incorporate all your lighting and gadget needs, it’s best to do your analysis with an interior designer or a lighting designer. Check the plan twice to ensure nothing is overlooked—no nooks or corners left in the dark. There’s nothing worse than poking new holes in the ceiling after the workmen have gone! I like discreet lighting, so I use recessed fixtures—the smaller, the better. Light switches should be placed in several convenient locations, and always use dimmer switches. Wall lights are a wonderful way to create mood lighting. Choose good-quality wall fixtures with as much care as you would a ceiling fixture. Antique and antique-reproduction hanging fixtures, chandeliers, lanterns, and wall lights can work well in a modern or classic interior (as height and space allow). I offer antique lighting through Antiqueson5.com, and have a collection of lighting through TISSERANT ART AND STYLE.
3. Hardware should be of the best quality and unfussy. The key is always simplicity. Go with something you can be happy with 20 years down the road, and never use anything that’s trendy. For doors, I like hardware of forged iron, gold gilt, or lacquered brass, and egg-shaped knobs or plain, tapered levers. For pulls, consider a plain polished nickel knob. Hardware should be innocuous and part of the background. It shouldn’t stop your eye from admiring beautiful doors or cabinets—it should complement them. The best can be found at MARCHE AUX PUCES ST-OUEN DE CLIGNANCOURT, and PERIOD FURNITURE HARDWARE.
4. Choose flooring with great care. It sounds trite, but the floor is the foundation on which to build a room design. I prefer unfinished wood floors and avoid trendy exotic woods. Six-inch-wide, quarter-sawn white oak planks are my preference. This cut of wood has nice movement and works in almost any scheme. I also like, and live with, recycled pine floors. I love old wooden floors with interesting dings and dents. Scars add warmth and a sense of history. Beautiful antique wood flooring can always be found at EXQUISITE SURFACES. Existing antique floors or newly laid old plank floors should never be machine-sanded. They deserve to be hand-scraped, wax-sealed, or left bare (my preference).
5. Make interior stairs and railings interesting. Too often, new ones are boring. They function, but that’s about all. They lack grace and interest, and are often not in scale with the space. Nothing is more gracious or inviting than a pretty foyer with a handsome staircase, setting the tone for what’s to follow. Instead of going angular and awkward-looking with a design, be bold. Build yourself a curvaceous staircase—one that elicits oohs and aahs—coupled with a beautifully hand-wrought, classic, or contemporary iron railing. It will change your life. Gorgeous antique railings can be found through RESTORATION RESOURCES.
6. Always work with specialists on an antique house. It is important to have experienced professionals laboring over your antique treasure. The quality they deliver should be impeccable. While renovating my lodge in France, the talented electrician respectfully drilled the smallest holes possible (about the size of a wine cork) in the paneling. The best tradesmen—carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians, masons, and more—are sensitive to the age and architectural style of a home and nearby residences.
7. Add a few discreet, well-executed flaws. Create them here and there, even in a modern house. Throw some horsehair in the plaster! This added character and imperfection will only enhance the final results.
8. Add beams. If you can, use corner beams and keep them exposed. If you have the height, cross beams going across the ceiling can work beautifully in a contemporary structure or as an addition to an antique house. Try to find recycled materials, which show wear, nail holes, and ax marks where the tree was literally chopped down. Salvaged and antique architectural details can be found at RESTORATION RESOURCES. All of that adds history and warmth.
9 Add higher ceilings. If you wish the ceilings were higher, an addition to the house can be built a step or two down to lead into the new space—a simple solution that will give you taller ceilings and add drama when going from one level to the next. You can easily create a foot or two in height without having the addition look out of scale with the original structure.
10. Think of storage. We never seem to have enough storage, especially for all that stuff we never use. It's wise to create extra storage space during renovation rather than find out later that you don’t have enough. (During the renovation of a Cape Cod house, a dear client measured every mixing bowl, platter, dish, pot, pan, cover, cup, saucer, storage container, knife, fork, and utensil. The result was that everything had its place in her new, efficient kitchen.) Always build a cedar closet for seasonal storage. Mine is packed with clothes I will never wear, but I refuse to give them to the moths.
A Boston Designer Falls in Love with a Centuries-Old House in Normandy and Brings it Back to Glorious Life.
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