An historic Rhode Island home becomes a vibrant canvas for a painter and his wife, an antiques collector.
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 10/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
For their Greek Revival house in Providence, RI, owners Robert and Sidney Knisel avoided period-appropriate decoration in favor of piquant hues and eclectic styling—a treatment that befitted the home's modest scale and simple historic details. "This was not a grand house—it was built around 1850 by a seaman, probably in his spare time after working on his merchant vessel. He had put just enough lumber into it to keep it standing over the years," says Robert.
The couple—he is a specialist painter, she has a background in antiques and retailing—tackled the project room by room, beginning with the dining parlor. Inspired by historic houses nearby with façades painted in a single color—walls, trim, and all—they emblazoned the entire room in an insistent fuschia. Robert then added delicate, tiny cherries in a haphazard fashion, a detail borrowed from a plaster wall they had happened upon in an old Florence museum. He also deployed faux-painting in the entrance hall, featuring a black-and-white checkerboard floor; the grooving of the wide wooden planks enhances the trompe l'oeil effect of stone.
The monochromatic scheme, which is repeated in the tobacco-toned sitting room, keeps the small, knick-knack filled spaces from looking too busy. Vignettes of artifacts collected during the couple's travels—a still-life canvas of a hare, tarnished urns, a shell-encrusted box—populate almost every available surface. Even an étagère becomes an impromptu stand for an errant globe, a quirky symbol of the couple's worldly sensibility.