Want to deck the halls like a captain of industry? Steer your one-horse open sleigh in the direction of the Bellevue Avenue Historic District in Newport, RI. Because as soon as Thanksgiving nears, the Newport Mansions — three historic (and absolutely humongous) preserved homes that originally served as the summer residences of the Vanderbilts and coal titan Julius Berwind — pile on the poinsettias and string lights for an annual Christmas open house that’s straight out of America’s Gilded Age.
But not every home within this preservation society–ruled district is a 19th-century time capsule. To wit: the internationally recognized Swanhurst Carriage House, an 1850s home whose playful convergence of historic charm and modern whimsy will deliver a different kind of holiday magic this season. Just imagine the conversations that could be had over a holiday meal in that magenta dining room! That is, if it remains in the company of other homes for sale in Newport, RI. It’s currently listed for $ 3.9 million.
Lucite in a 19th-century home? You bet. In the wallpapered formal dining room, armless ghost chairs are anchored by an oval rug in an unexpected shade of magenta. The chairs surround a Lucite dining table perched upon gold pedestals.
At 4,550 square feet, the Swanhurst Carriage House can’t compete with its famous neighbors in terms of size (The Breakers, for example, one of the Vanderbilt mansions, measures in at close to 140,000 square feet), but the home packs a serious punch in terms of style. In fact, it’s been featured in a number of international design publications.
The carriage house, which was built in 1851 and sits upon a 0.58-acre lot, is renowned for its unique blend of historic charm and cheeky, modern decor. As evidenced by the home’s entryway, this quirky, signature style wastes no time with introductions.
The home’s one-of-a-kind interior is defined by playful graphics (provided mostly via wallpaper), dramatic lighting fixtures, a profusion of velvet, and a hodgepodge of furnishing styles. The bold use of color — including white — factors prominently into the design scheme.
In the new-construction conservatory, a striking aqua chandelier mirrors the color of twin sofas below. Note the use of symmetry in the space, as well as within the adjacent living room.
Once again in the kitchen, unexpected pops of color and contemporary lighting fixtures create a look that’s both fresh and modern. Here, an all-white kitchen becomes chic and glamorous with the addition of two aqua decanters that point toward tulip-shaped pendant lights above.
In the den, which is sandwiched between the kitchen and the formal living room, coffering crawls from the ceiling all the way down to the marble floors. A Lucite coffee table prevents the cozy space from feeling crowded.
Against a backdrop of whimsical wallpaper, an antler-inspired chandelier drops from an ornate ceiling medallion to illuminate the Imperial staircase just below. The chandelier, as well as the lighted tray ceiling, mimics the decorative elements employed in the formal living room.
A brass Sputnik chandelier draws attention to the tall ceilings within the master bedroom. Subtle signs of an Asian design theme are perceptible here: the curvature of the upholstered velvet headboard, the ornamental room divider leaning against the wall, and the floral print of the armchair’s lumbar pillow.
A skylight allows the sun’s rays to flood the master bathroom, generously sized at 12 by 17 feet.
Crisp white sheets and unadorned walls allow the upholstered bed’s coral color to take center stage in the home’s second of three bedrooms (the property also offers a one-bedroom, detached guesthouse). The color’s only competition is a structural Mid-Century brass chandelier.
Silver pouf seating provides a posh perch when playing with the dollhouse in the third bedroom. As a whole, the youthful space — with its crystal chandelier, lily-pad wallpaper, and velvet-tufted bed — is decidedly girly, yet there’s not a hint of pink in sight.
The second and third bedrooms share access to this well-appointed bathroom, in which tulips sprout from a porcelain sink that interrupts a green marble countertop.
Rising from pebbled beds, trees line the walking path that leads straight from the kitchen to the detached, two-story guesthouse.
Winged creatures flutter about botanically inspired wallpaper in the guesthouse’s first-floor living area. A bathroom and sunroom are located on the same level.
Bold in terms of both pattern and color, graphic wallpaper decorates the guesthouse’s second-floor bedroom, which measures in at a roomy 23 by 23 feet. Antler-inspired candelabras — the same ones used in the living room — flank the four-post bed, while on the opposite side of the room, a plush window seat overlooks the grounds.
Three French doors open from the conservatory to a tiled outdoor patio. From there, three steps lead up to the home’s crowning jewel: its sparkling pool, which is bordered by landscaped gardens and a tiered fountain at one end.
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