Spaulding Farm

Anyone who has driven through the quintessential New England town of Norfolk, Connecticut knows that it is truly marked by the dreamy Victorian architecture. This month we got together with British born real estate agent Rebecca Ward and took a look at her beautiful Victorian home, Spaulding Farm. 

Many people are familiar with the saying that people look like their dogs, but in this case, Rebecca looks like her house! The tall thin effortlessly graceful and elegant Brit, who’s eclectic style is perfectly mirrored in her home, gives off the same vibes as the bright, high-ceilinged rooms, punctuated with jewel like artwork and extra long taffeta draperies. “In Rebecca’s family home the creamy and floriferous exterior enfolds a gracious, rambling house with grand and formal rooms. One might anticipate the heavy handed decorating of the Victorians, but instead she has created an almost dreamlike quality, which scintillates with flashes of saturated color, against a backdrop of softness.” Commented Dana Rohn upon visiting and photographing the house. 

  Rebecca and her late husband Bruce moved into the house 21 years ago, after it had been briefly abandoned. “When we bought the house it felt really quite haunted, and we had to deal with all the unromantic repairs like burst radiators and replacing the roof!” 

Rebecca grew up in a house of the same period and similar style in Compton, Surrey, in England. That house was a massive early Victorian home built in 1891 for renowned English painter George Frederic Watts.  Having grown up in that house, which she describes as “haunted” , Rebecca was originally not thrilled to dive into another such project, but Bruce was enamored with the romantic elegance of the Victorian architecture. 

The couple was in agreement that they did not want to make drastic changes, and that they really wanted to only do things that were true to the house, i.e. no mod marble kitchens! They even went to the extent of finding vintage radiators to install, which would be in keeping with the house as it was. It had been originally built as a two family home, with the back balcony offering an outdoor space to the family living above. However, this was badly damaged when the Ward/Hanke family took over the property. “Bruce was an incredible craftsman. I was always amazed that he knew how to do such things, and he perfectly restored all of the woodwork by hand.” 

When Rebecca talks about her own style she says “It’s all very eclectic, but not by choice. I just see what wonderful things come along.” She is a great curator of everything vintage and antique who loves to shop at flea markets, estate sales and thrift shops, and who loves to take inspiration from Cornwall, CT based antique dealer Michael Trapp. “After 21 years in the house there are still things that I haven’t found yet.” she comments, as we go through photos and notice that she is still missing a certain special end table. 

When asked about her favorite item in her house, Rebecca forgoes all of the fabulous art and immediately mentions an English Regency armchair which she purchased many years ago at the Brimfield Antiques Fair in Massachusetts. “I love it because while it’s quite an old thing, someone just sprayed it pink in the 50’s!” Rebecca has also collected elegant long drapes from estate sales over the years, and has chosen to let the decadent taffeta hang long, and pool on the floor, “too long is always better than too short and ungainly.” 

The interiors of Spaulding Farm are defined by the most magical light that pours in through the enormous windows at all hours of the day and during all seasons of the year, light which her sons, when they were young, dubbed “the magic light”. “The house holds the sunlight and even seems able to breathe. It is it’s own kind of paradise.” observed Dana. 

The living room at Spaulding Farm is defined by a disco ball placed in the middle of the coffee table, which gives off the most spectacular pattern when the “magic light” hits it. Originally the ball was hung, the way one typically uses such an item, but Rebecca was disappointed to find that the light never hit it when it was on the ceiling, so she fixed it! “I know I’m crazy, but I move it from room to room, all around the house. Those little balls of light act like the most lively wallpaper.” Laughed Rebecca. Then, she went on to say that she is actually in search of an even larger one! 

Rebecca has a large collection of her late husband Bruce”s work. He was a well renowned realist portrait painter, whose works were shown in notable galleries around the world including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the National Arts Club, and the Salmagundi Club, both located in New York City. This being said, she has chosen not to hang a large amount of the art she owns. “I just hate to hammer nails into the beautiful walls!” The main stairway in the house sweeps through the main hall, punctuated by a gallery hang of diverse works by Bruce as well as family photos. Then, this wall elegantly sweeps into a rounded wall to turn the corner, which she could never imagine breaking up by banging nails, and hanging rectangular art onto.

Rebecca relates that “The house was such a creative environment for both of us.” Both Rebecca and Bruce’s art, though very different, is defined by a great attention to detail and realism that is seldom seen in modern art. When asked about how this came to be, Rebecca spoke of the time that Bruce’s background in graphic design and how much time he spent on each painting, and on everything that he did. ”His painting was like cooking dinner. He was a wonderful cook. I was always starving, and everything just took so long for him to get done perfectly, but once everything was finished, it was very much worth the wait.”