For designer Ann Henderson, a single oil painting—Winslow Homer’s 1876 Breezing Up—was the origin of her design for the estate’s great room. The painting’s oceanic blues and greens, in particular, captured Henderson’s imagination. “I wanted the room to have the same sense of power, light, and breeze as that painting,” she says. But with one exception: she didn’t want to go with an overtly nautical theme. Rather, Henderson wanted to respect the classical integrity of the elegant 80-year-old home and yet still make the great room feel casual and welcoming.
With iridescent blue walls and white woodwork, the great room has an immediate seaside quality. Henderson—who has been working in interior design for 25 years and has spent the past 15 running Ann Henderson Interiors in Keene, New Hampshire—brought in painter Jane Considine from Newburyport, Massachusetts to execute the multi-layered faux-finish walls, as well as several tasteful morsels of trompe l’oeil painting.
To play down the great room’s elongated shape, Henderson did not go with a traditional couch-facing-fireplace arrangement, but instead grouped a pair of chairs with a modest-sized sofa. She created another intimate sitting area in the room’s large bay window, which she bordered with thickly layered window treatments. “I wanted these curtains to feel heavy, almost like columns,” says Henderson.
Surrounding these central elements are “rustic yet refined” details such as end tables made from salvaged antique heating grates, sconces from East End Brass & Design Company that are reminiscent of hurricane lamps, and a Chinese alter table with a lustrous patina.
No novice when it comes to showhouses, Henderson says she enjoys the occasional challenge of creating a space on a strict deadline that hundreds of people will see. “For an interior designer to take part in a showhouse,” she says, “is equivalent to a movie actor going to Broadway.”