January 24th, 2012

Braehead is a special place. You sense it as you approach the house.

The exterior is still undergoing restoration, but please step inside…

The armoire and round center table in the grand hall were found inside Braehead.

Of special note are the wide heart of pine floorboards throughout the house. Here in the grand hall, single boards run the length of the space, well over 30 feet, without a joint.
The blue wall color in the grand hall, (as well as the vivid pumpkin in the dining parlor you will see tomorrow), was taken from an original wallpaper fragment found in Braehead.

I designed the light fixtures and window treatments throughout the formal rooms based on styles in vogue in the 19th century when Braehead was built. These were meticulously handmade by skilled local artisans.

We used a modern lighted curio to display a collection of artifacts found in and around Braehead. Workmen, many of them history buffs and preservationists, carefully salvaged bits of broken china and pottery as they excavated the original kitchen floor. The owners also found stirrups, horseshoes, buckles and more on the property. Some dishes survived intact and others show signs of being crudely glued back together… powerful symbolism of the South after the War.

View down the hyphen hallway.

This hallway is one of my favorite spaces in the house. The huge windows bathe the area in warm light. Along the hall are three children’s bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a gallery of Civil War art. At the end of the hall is a large laundry room with a sitting area for the children’s daily story time.

The hall bath, below, was cleverly designed by architect, Sabina Weitzman, with pocket doors to enclose the bathing area from the powder room for visitors. The bathing area also has a large double closet for linen storage. Wallpaper is a 19th century design.

Please come back tomorrow as we tour the Formal Parlors.

Resources in Friday’s post.

Photographs by Kimberly Long, Life Long Memories Photography – see link at left.

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January 23rd, 2012

Surely Braehead’s new owners must have thought this many times in the past two years. These pictures illustrate the sad conditions as I was introduced to Braehead.  It was pretty bad. Over 6,000 square feet of broken windows, rotting wood, mold, and standing water were just a few of the minor challenges. No bathrooms or heat, inadequate wiring and plumbing, and adhering to the strict building codes of the Department of Historical Resources were the bigger issues.

Fortunately for me, these were not my areas of responsibility!

But amidst the decay and garbage was a treasure trove of period antiques, many original to Braehead. Furniture, art, books, even a Victorian wedding dress were still inside the main dwelling and adjacent outbuildings.

I was overjoyed to have so much to work with! We inventoried as best we could to determine what we could use, and what was too precious or too far gone.

The owners generously donated many pieces to the Fredericksburg museum, but others you see in these photos were resurrected along with the house. You will see them again, refinished, repaired and reupholstered…continuing in their service to the present day stewards of Braehead.

Thus began the collaborative effort between the owners; architect, Sabina Weitzman;          builder, Jay Holloway and myself.

Our goal: to preserve the past and the future of Braehead.

But things would get worse before they got better…

The large plastic covered table in this photo is actually an antique piano forte’. It was too large to move!

Andy (in the window) and Petty, of Habalis Construction – two of the highly skilled craftsmen responsible for the restoration of Braehead.

Special thanks to Sabina Weitzman for these photographs

Tomorrow: Welcome! We’re ready for company!

January 20th, 2012

Braehead mansion occupies a prominent place in the beautiful Fredericksburg Battlefield. The home was completed in 1859 by Scottish immigrant, John Howison, for his family of nine. During the War Between the States, Braehead provided shelter to both Confederate and Union troops. General Robert E. Lee established his headquarters and “took breakfast” at Braehead on the morning of December 13, 1862, the date of the first battle of Fredericksburg.

He tied his horse, Traveler, to a black walnut tree that still thrives on the property.

In May 1864, Braehead was occupied by Union troops. A Howison family member wrote that the troops “killed the cows, ate the chickens, smashed the china, tore up dress goods, destroyed or stole the family Bible which had in it…three generations [and] threw the dining room chairs through the window glass.”

period sketch of Braehead depicting scene from the War Between the States

For nearly 150 years, Braehead remained the property of the Howisons and their descendants. In 2006, Braehead went on the market for the first time in its history. Since there had never been any easements or protections of any kind placed on the property, the old house, then in a sad state of disrepair, was in danger of being lost forever. The Central Virginia Battlefield Trust quickly stepped in and purchased the house and surrounding 18 acres. Based on the historical significance of the property, the CVBT promptly registered it with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and put into place easements to protect the property forever. The CVBT then searched diligently for a proper buyer to rescue the house and restore it to its former glory. A perfect match was found in a Fredericksburg family who fell in love with Braehead and has now made it their home.

I have been honored to be part of a team who has worked on Braehead for the past two years. Only phase I, the interior, has been completed. Some landscaping has been done, but the exterior work on the structure will begin sometime in mid 2012. Beginning on Monday, I will present “Braehead Revisited”, a series of posts giving you an insider’s tour of this wonderful old house. I hope you will join me.

Special thanks to Sabina Weitzman for these photographs

January 19th, 2012

Pet rescue and adoption is near and dear to my heart, as are the beloved faces in these pictures.

All of these precious animals were once lost, abandoned, abused or no longer wanted by their owners. Each of them found love with an adopted family. But it’s not all about the animals. The humans in these situations all found love, too – the unconditional, boundless kind that comes from a rescued pet. This is the happy part of the story. The sad part is that tens of thousands of healthy, homeless animals are put to death each year in this country because shelters and foster homes cannot accommodate all of them.

Please consider adopting a homeless pet. If you need help finding the right pet for you, or if you have questions about the adoption process, what to expect after you adopt or anything related to pet adoption, please contact me. I will be happy to help or will refer you to someone who can. For rescue organizations I support, see the links on the left side of this page.

If one of these sweet animals is part of your family, or if you have comments about what your adopted pet means to you, please share, below.

January 18th, 2012

Niermann Weeks Vivaldi chandelier available through Merry Powell Interiors

A chandelier is the focal point of most dining rooms. Choosing the right one is critical to the overall success of the room. A well-made chandelier will also be a substantial investment, so make sure to select a style that you truly love and one that fits the room and the table. The formula for determining the diameter of a round chandelier is as follows: add the width and length of the room. For example, a 14′ x 16′ room would = 30. Therefore, 30″ is the size of the chandelier that would work best in this room.

Niermann Weeks Danieli chandelier available through Merry Powell Interiors

Of course, this is only a guideline. The size and shape of the table should also be considered. If the table is narrow, go with a smaller diameter fixture. If the table is very long, perhaps a rectangular or oval fixture would work better. You might also consider using two or more small chandeliers instead of a single large one. Generally speaking, the bottom of the chandelier should be about 30″ above the table top or approx. 5′ from the floor. Again, there are other considerations. If the ceiling is especially tall, you may want to hang the fixture a little higher. It’s all about balance, proportion and what feels right to you. But please don’t settle for a generic brass, six-arm builder special. Buy something wonderful and make every dinner a special occasion.