Friday, August 31, 2012

Historic Stauber Farm Bethania North Carolina

My friends Lamar and Charles Taft are the current residents of the historic Stauber Farm in Bethania, North Carolina.

Although the protestant Moravians settled Bethania in the 18th century, this farm was established in the 1830's about a mile outside of the compact outpost of the original settlement, designed  for protection from Indians and the various military conflicts of their eras. General Cornwallis billeted in Bethania during the revolution.  The French and Indian war compelled the outlying population to seek the protection of their stockade, and later residents avoided the burning of General Sherman, thus preserving this historic and magic sliver of history. Unusually, the Taft family is only the fourth family to hold deed to this property.

This carefully restored plantation house was built in 1852 replacing the previous more modest structures on the property. Charles, a retired orthopedic surgeon, tends his flock of St. Croix sheep, breeding them with great care as they are in danger of extinction.

The St. Croix sheep are considered heritage livestock, in the same way we cherish heirloom flowers and vegetables. In fact, the entire place is an heirloom tribute to the past, although I cannot say sweeter and gentler times. As previously noted, three different armies have marched down this old plank road. The Moravian ancestors were stern religious pioneers.

This would be Anna Vogler, nee Stauber. While I think Charles and Lamar have gone the extra mile in the preservation department, Anna wove and sewed and worked harder than any of us can even imagine. She doesn't look very happy about it either. We were met by some very modern hospitable guides as we rolled into the driveway.

                                        We began our tour through Lamar's magical gardens.

                                        My youngest guide informed me the bell is just for fun.

The Tafts rent their farm out for weddings, photo shoots and vacation rentals. Despite the fact that we are only 15 miles from town, we feel miles and years removed from the world. Charles's domain is the farm and the animals. My opinion is that if the Moravians settled this land in the mid 1700's it must be prime. There are ancient Indian artifacts in Bethania as well, so they thought so too.

In addition to the St. Croix sheep, Charles raises Delaware chickens, honey bees and supporting crops. When we arrived, Charles was hurrying to get the alfalfa out of the rain. He has meticulously restored the historically significant barns, sheds and dependencies on the  place.

I really don't know how they do it, but the donkey protects the sheep and lambs from coyotes. He's quite friendly and greets us at the fence for a nuzzle.

I often make a detour to Bethania to buy Dr. Taft's delicious eggs. He has developed mobile chicken houses on the property to fertilize the fields for the livestock and flower beds. The chickens eat the insects and move along to create greener pastures for the sheep.

 We just open the door to the traveling chicken house and pick our eggs for breakfast--no foraging around here! I must say they are delicious.

Here is where the Tafts can find a little honey for their toast and tea. Lamar and Charles are inspirational in their love of preservation and commitment to sustainable farming. They walk the walk and share their passion for our roots with all their friends. Next week, we will go into the house and get a glimpse of Moravian life. Ironically, our best selling chandelier is a Moravian star. 

                                                              Moravian Star Chandelier
Dovecote Decor
In Winston-Salem, we hang them outside our front doors during advent so for us, they fall into the category of Christmas decorations. I was surprised to see what a hit they are for daily use as chandeliers! 

More later!!
Photography via Stauber Farms website and Rosalie Horton

Monday, August 6, 2012

Elements of Style-- The Ultimate Downsize

I was invited for a summer visit to see my friend Mrs. L.  Mrs. L. has the same taste as my ODFM--oldest and dearest friend's Mother. I have always adored her house and I feel like I am back home, basking in a place that perfectly combines happiness, comfort and beauty. Mrs. L. has a well edited eclectic collection of antiques and objets. With the help of Happy Martin's interior design studio, Mrs. L. pulled together favorite multigenerational pieces.

I covet this antique (French?) wallpaper screen, and beautiful 5 legged Queen Anne bench. Something in me sings over benches and this is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. Mrs. L. did not know the provenance on the piece so I did my usual amateur sleuthing down the internet rabbit hole.

"Queen Anne (1702 - 1714) was the last monarch of the House of Stuarts. The Queen Anne style is a refinement of the William and Mary style with lighter, graceful, more comfortable furniture. The single most important decoration of Queen Anne furniture was the carved cockle or scallop shell. Cabinetmakers replaced the straight, turned furniturelegs with more graceful cabriole leg.  It could also be the latter Georgian period which incorporated elements from the previous era. If anyone wants to chime in, please do.  I looked at images of both periods, but I am swayed to Queen Anne--gun to my head guess. 

I know repairs lower the value of furniture, as far as collectors and museums are concerned. What I see is loving preservation. You know the book Blink? It is about rapid cognition. I am not an academic, but with good furniture,  I know it when I see it.  I've shopped the planet for so many years, my senses tingle when I am in the presence of the authentic and beautiful. Every thing in this house is authentic and beautiful, but it is not unapproachable.

The architecture of the space is lovely. In a perfect small house with living and dining combined, a den/office, and the desired  kitchen family area, all elements conspire for efficient living--without compromise.  You can have your cake and eat it too. Under the eclectic mix of good things, purchased slowly over time, the humble, neutral sisal rugs  allow you to balance your vision. You see an entire room slowly revealing the history of the individual pieces as they form a cohesive whole setting.

Nothing in the room is screaming: "Look at me." There is harmony and scale--key. 

I am neither a minimalist nor a clutters, and Mrs. L.'s table tops are interesting without being jumbled.   In Winston Salem were still smoking!  On this table is an ashtray, snuffer, cigarette and match/lighter accessories.

I have an inside joke with the Flair guys in New York. They have been somewhat amused by my passion for miniature ceramic vegetables and fruits--irresistible actually. If any one sees them for sale, immediately notify me!

 I just wanted you to see the entirely perfect, small antique chandelier with complementary candlearbras.

A little glass house for a Staffordshire boy and his goat

I love this pretty powder room with reverse painted antique mirror and lantern sconces

Jewel tones strike a more masculine counterpoint for this office/den, but it is completely out of the man cave category.

You know I am a proponent of a feminine master bedroom for couples. The master belongs to the mistress if you ask me!

This is one of the most handsome burl chests I have ever laid eyes on. The erratic graining in this piece almost resembles tortoise shell. Burl is difficult to work with due of the uneven nature of the grain. It splits easily and is very expensive and rare, requiring a master carpenter.

On our way out,  this tidy and entirely simple courtyard is holding up brilliantly. It is blazing hot and I have never seen Rose of Sharon done as an espalier. It is a wonderful plant, and reseeds at an alarming rate, but its blooms through August and September are welcome after our hydrangeas burn up.

Last but not least, this is a close up of a painting Mrs. L. has by a mutual friend. She has put down her paint brushes and I wish she would start up again!

More Later!!

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