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An Artist’s Dwelling (13) – Seymour Joseph Guy

My husband and I recently purchased a home in Brooklyn that was built in 1860. It is technically a “pre-pre-war” building, meaning it’s lived through the Civil War, and all of the World Wars. The Brooklyn Historical Society keeps amazing records on the evolution of city blocks, parks, and skylines.

Perusing the digital collection, I was able to see what part of our new neighborhood looked like at almost every decade – the outdoor marketplaces, the children in backyards, the evolution of the subway system. This virtual timewarp essentially showed me that although my new home is almost 154 years old, its bones, original architecture, and facade have not changed so much. There is something fascinating about the fact that in 154 years, New York City and its boroughs can change so swiftly and yet, in many ways remain stagnant.

Seymour Joseph Guy - The Contest for the Bouquet - The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining Room 1866Seymour Joseph Guy – The Contest for the Bouquet – The Family of Robert Gordon in Their New York Dining Room 1866

The trim in our home is so similar to Guy’s that it is uncanny. We’ve also recently become obsessed with Victorian gilded frames, and the keeping of cloches and terrariums. Everything old is new again! Look at those nail-heads on the mahogany chairs – are those not on trend for 2014? Even the chandelier with its cantilevers and pulleys can be found in stores ranging from Pottery Barn to Arhaus. The retro-futuristic Victorian fixtures are replete with decorative harnesses and pulleys echoing maritime mechanics It seems simple machines will always remain a basic of human existence.

Guy, who was born and trained in England, settled in 1854 in New York. Typical of the time period, this highly-detailed “conversation piece” (a portrait with narrative elements) was commissioned by Robert Gordon in 1866. Three of the Gordon children have finished breakfast and appear to vie for a small corsage before setting off for school. Gordon, a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, collected American paintings, some of which he displayed in the dining room of his home at 7 West 33rd Street, depicted here. The room was decorated in the up-to-date Renaissance Revival style.

Victorian Revival from The Walkup

“I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.” ― Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog

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Fort Greene

I am having a love affair with Brownstones. This isn’t the first time inanimate objects have caught my eye.  The building materials used in such homes are a brown Triassic or Jurassic era sandstone which was once an extremely popular building material. The term. “brownstone”, is also used on the East Coast (particularly Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland) of the United States to refer to a terraced house or rowhouse clad in this material. The stone is extremely durable, it also carries with it years of history and the connotations of another, quainter time period.

Fort Green Brownstone

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An office filing cabinet plays double duty as an entry table.
Fort Green Brownstone

Natural light in spades.
Fort Green Brownstone
Fort Green Brownstone

Fort Green Brownstone

Fort Green Brownstone

The low, stainless steel industrial table allows the space to feel historic yet contemporary. The mantlepiece is filled with vases ala Italian artist Morandi.

Fort Green Brownstone

Tonight’s cultural activeities in the salon include a rendition of the Metropolitan Opera’s version of Elektra, Op. 58, a one-act opera by Richard Strauss.

Fort Green Brownstone

According to color theory, an alizarin crimson red room gives the room sophistication and warmth. Red raises a room’s energy level. It’s affect is usually stimulating – raising heart rate or stimulating conversation. Fort Green Brownstone

As the esteemed author, poet, philosopher and muse, Jorge Luis Borges, once quipped, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

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