Historical Inspiration

We spend a lot of time looking at magazines and what designer are doing right this very minute for inspiration, when sometimes it’s just as fantastic to look back in history for ideas. Case in point, the home of America’s first male decorator Henry Davis Sleeper (also called “Beauport”) in my neck of the woods- Gloucester, MA. One of my favorite decorators, Steven Gambrel, has said it’s the most inspiration house he’s ever seen. Currently it operates as a museum and it’s a total joke that I’ve never been there! As soon as it re-opens in the springtime I will be there!

You can spot some “current” trends in these rooms- like the black walls with gilt frames.


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The aqua and emerald green combination is crisp and fun (and unexpected for this time period!)


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Scenic wallpaper! I installed one in a bedroom recently that looks a lot like this!


The guy loved wallpapering ceilings- just like I do! :)

Looking into Belfrey Tower Room from Strawberry Hill Room,Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, Gloucester, Mass.

(and p.s. how about that great green wall color on all the paneling?)


Even the cook’s kitchen is on trend with grey cabinets and a black and white floor! (Love that sink)


This round library room is AMAZING.


This killer collection of violet glass bottles could be recreated with some quality time on eBay.

Amethystglass window

This. window. slays. me.  I could sit there all day looking out.


What a crappy site, right? :) Sleeper experimented with lots of different styles of architecture too which makes the exterior a bit of a mish mash.

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Historic New England's Beauport - landscape

Any historical homes you find inspiration in?



  1. Wow, wow, wow! Gorgeous.
    My husband and I walked around the grounds of Castle Hill yesterday near Crane’s Beach in Ipswich. I resolved to tour the house as soon as it opens for the season. I felt like I was in Downton Abbey as I walked across the driveway to the front doors. The Grand Allee behind the house (a sweeping grassy strip that runs from the house to the cliff overlooking the ocean)is a sight to behold!
    LOVE historical homes.

  2. Love the wallpapered ceilings! We’re going to be wallpapering the ceiling of our nursery this weekend in Ralph Lauren’s constellation wallpaper. For a moment the other day I looked at the ceiling and thought, wait, are we crazy?! But this post just made me once again confident in our choice! Our ceiling slopes down to meet a half wall just like many of the photos you shared here. This whole house is amazing btw!

  3. Hard to believe those rooms weren’t recently done – they’re so, so timeless! In my neck of the woods, I’d have to say homes designed by John Staub offer up some of the same kind of classic goodness that do a great job of making us evaluate trend versus good ‘ol lovely design.

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and historic home. It is a departure from your normal content but very welcome. I love the Chinoiserie wallpaper which is once again very chic, as well. The view of the water has me planning a trip to MA.

  5. Well shucks, where did I go wrong in life to NOT deserve that library & that beautiful view/window? I just want to be there… right this instant.

  6. Any and every historical house, I’m afraid! All the historic house museums of Historic New England (http://www.historicnewengland.org/), which owns Beauport, are inspirational in different ways, although I think Beauport is the most “decorated”. I feel extremely fortunate to live on Chestnut Street in Salem, where each and every Federal mansion inspires me every day.

  7. GLENSHEEN MANSION, in Duluth MN (2.5 hours north of Minneapolis – my hometown) Been on the guided extended roped off tour and it is killer! The Congdens (owners/builders) were very into hospitality so you will find engraved hand carved pinneapples throughput the ornate word workings – and the green tiled 4season porch is very nouveau… the buttlers pantry has a COPPER sink (i die) and the family room has some sort of imported from africa stone fireplace surround, that when lit, lights up blaze orang and red…. I suggest google images for that place!

  8. If I could live in the past I totally would…in a fanciful sort of way. Everything is so exact and intentional. I love the effort that was put into living!

  9. Hi Erin, a wonderful historical interior! Your comments about the green in the dining room being unexpected for the era because so bright brings to mind Victoria Finlay’s book “Colour”. In the GREEN chapter she mentions George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon in Virginia and the large dining room painted (1787) in a pistachio colour which he liked so much he also painted the small drawing room the same colour. I quote “And nearly two hundred years later it was the outrageously bright colours of this dining room after they had been restored with authentically hand-ground paints which prompted a radical reassessment of thinking about how people in America decorated their houses in the eighteenth century”.

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