A Cultivated Greek Revival
This well-traveled couple used their bicoastal sensibilities and collections to restore a historic home in Francestown with European flair.
Interior photography by John W. Hession
Exterior photography by Nancy Belluscio
For Patricia and Ortwin Krueger, years spent cultivating know-how, furniture, artwork and a well-defined aesthetic sense culminated in the spectacular renovation of their Greek Revival home in Francestown.
The couple met in Keene more than thirty years ago, when Ortwin was working for a local company and Patricia was director of career services at Keene State College. She was also a single mother of eight children who was facing some serious health issues. But Patricia also possessed (and continues to possess) boundless energy and determination. Since that time three decades ago, she has served as a New Hampshire state representative and senator, vice president of Crotched Mountain Foundation, vice president of a prominent Napa Valley winery, and a designer of homes and gardens. In addition, she and Ortwin operated a 130-acre bed and breakfast and event center, Arbutus Farm, in Dunbarton. Ortwin also operated an inn in the California wine country during their time there.
Six and a half years ago, while still living in California, the Kruegers began considering a spot in which to put down permanent roots and found themselves drawn to the Granite State. “We just kept coming back to New Hampshire, because of who the people are,” Patricia says. “We were homesick for New Hampshire.” In particular, they missed Francestown, where they had lived years earlier, right after they were married.
The Francestown house they discovered and eventually bought was built in the 1820s. It had very good bones, but needed cosmetic and structural work. Although the couple had renovated and redecorated more than a dozen homes, both for themselves and for clients—“Patricia walks into a job and knows exactly what must be done,” Ortwin says—this project had to be handled from three thousand miles away. But with help from a local team—including Eric Grenier, of Eric Grenier Carpentry in Francestown; Steve Blanchette, of Straight Edge Siding & Painting in Dublin; John Kendall, of Nichols Hill LLC in Antrim (who created the kitchen); upholsterer Tammy Atherton of Greenfield; and many others—the Kruegers were able to execute the project from California.
Three and a half years ago, the Kruegers moved into the eight-room home, from which Patricia now runs her business, Patricia Krueger Home & Garden Design. The stately Main Street house—lovingly and artfully restored, filled with furniture and artwork from both coasts (and several countries), and surrounded by exquisitely designed gardens—is a testament to the tastes and interests of its worldly owners.
A transformation outside and in
When the Kruegers bought the house, it was painted purple, cream and black on the outside. Blanchette transformed it, as well as the accompanying barn, with bright white paint. The shutters also came off the house, restoring its clean lines. Grenier completely reworked the front entry, created window pediments and, for the side-entrance porch, installed Ionic columns with Scamozzi capitals the Kruegers had acquired in Atlanta, Georgia.
The porch had a leaky roof and was supported by 2x4s. Now, this is a lovely outdoor living and dining area, furnished with vintage French caned pieces. A kitchen porch with plain columns that leads to a French garden was built by Kendall.
Inside, the makeovers were no less extensive. Sometimes as many as five layers of wallpaper had to be removed. Patricia had all the walls painted Benjamin Moore White, to form a neutral backdrop for paintings, fixtures and mirrors. The house has great natural light, and the white walls take on hues from curtains, furnishings and the outdoors. “I sometimes have to convince people that the walls are all the same color,” Patricia says.
Grenier’s work included re-creating and installing period-appropriate ceiling moldings throughout the home, and removing fireplace mantels (there are eight fireplaces in the house) inappropriate to the age and style of the structure (in some cases, replacing them with antique Greek Revival mantels).
For the kitchen
The kitchen, a hodge-podge of different elements built up over the years, received one of the most dramatic makeovers. It was, in Patricia’s words, “a room that had an ugly fireplace, a huge Victorian stairway, a laundry room, three different-height ceilings that were about to collapse and funky doors.”
Kendall—along with a crew of carpenters, electricians, tile installers and sheet-rockers—updated the kitchen with items the Kruegers shipped from California, including a pewter countertop; a copper farm sink and handcrafted faucet; huge wooden corbels that separate the kitchen workspace from its dining space; a chopping block; and light fixtures. Kendall also incorporated a French baker’s rack in front of one of the windows (see the sidebar on page 59), shelving from Restoration Hardware, French library shelves and a large Italian table.
The existing kitchen cabinets were transformed with paint as well as new handles and knobs before being reconfigured for the new layout. The open shelving, a marble countertop, a crema marble backsplash over the sixty-inch Viking range and a rack hung with gleaming copper pans help complete a kitchen that is gorgeous and practical for Patricia, who loves to cook. “John [Kendall] created a most extraordinary kitchen for us,” Patricia says. “His structural additions, both with insulation, and floor and ceiling supports, were brilliant.”
According to Kendall, opening up space in a period home is always challenging. “Everyone lives in the kitchen, so it’s important for it to be comfortable,” he says. He provided that comfort through extensive insulation, and by managing to work in the numerous items that Patricia wanted him to include. Sometimes he was daunted by the challenge of incorporating so many different elements, but: “It all worked out in the end,” he says. “Pat’s unique design is fun.”
Designing the interior
The great room was one of the biggest design challenges because it is a long, narrow space with two fireplaces, five doorways (one to a tiny powder room), a picture window and one standard window. This didn’t make for any large wall spaces, Patricia says, who used three mirrors to keep the light reflecting.
Patricia made liberal use of gold leaf in the great room and throughout the house. A graceful gold-leafed mirror sits atop one of the fireplaces and another gilt mirror, rescued from above a fireplace in Nob Hill, San Francisco, rests on a stone bench. One of the most striking features of the room are three Italian murals by Italian artist Fabio Sanzogni that Grenier attached to the ceiling. The floating murals provide warmth, three-dimensionality, and a touch of Old World elegance to the room. Egyptian-style chairs upholstered in Italian leather (of a type popular in the south of France in the 1800s) come from a Marin County, California, consignment store. A carpet in soft hues of blue, cream and rusty rose completes the feel of refinement and comfort.
The window treatments in the great room and other rooms represent one of Patricia’s design proclivities—curtains that go from ceiling to floor, the fabric tightly gathered on thick rods with large finials. Before they moved east, the Kruegers would send Atherton bolts of fabric they had accumulated, some of them rare and old, and she was able to create striking curtains (and in some cases Roman shades) for every room in the house.
Atherton made the Roman shades for Ortwin’s office, a small but cheerful room with a fireplace and desk that has been positioned diagonally to face the door. The wide floorboards are partially covered with a hide rug.
In the living room, the focal piece is a couch from Florence, Italy, that Atherton upholstered in a black and gold Napoleonic bee pattern. Other furniture includes a rimmed marquetry coffee table that is set with a Versace coffee service and an Italian chess set; angel statuary (Patricia is fond of angels); and a large, antique Parisian mirror on the floor that Patricia found in what she describes as a “quaint resale shop” in San Francisco. This mirror is one of her favorite pieces.
The dining room also features curtains created by Atherton, using 1943 bridal fabric from Chicago. The fireplace mantel and the chandelier over the table are from Paris by way of California and represent sentimental favorites of the Kruegers. Two tall, narrow paintings of angels, also by Sanzogni, flank the fireplace in the dining room. The background of these paintings is chartreuse, one of Patricia’s favorite shades. Gold-leafed chairs in the dining room surround a Biedermeier table obtained at Consignment Gallery in Bedford. “It’s a happy room,” Patricia says.
A former ballroom and more
Upstairs are two guest rooms, a master bedroom and a laundry room. One guest room features a metal bed from Italy (also via California) with a gilt frame and painted lozenges at the head and foot. The other room has a twin bed from France, a dollhouse, and a love seat and chair in Belgian linen. “I was tempted to put in two twin beds, but one is good for that space,” says Patricia, who notes that she particularly enjoys the natural light in that room.
The spacious master bedroom is actually a former ballroom that was added sometime in the late 1800s. A parquet floor hints at the room’s former use, and a connected laundry room/closet area is where the orchestra once played. The Kruegers discovered the rather massive Pulaski bed at Consignment Gallery. The bed works very well in the large space. In addition to the bed are bookcases, Patricia’s study area with a desk facing three windows, and a glass table surround by art deco chairs discovered in Petaluma, California.
The landscaping reflects Patricia’s skill as a garden designer and her philosophy of creating “outdoor rooms,” a partial carryover from time spent in California, where people tend to spend more time living outside. The overall plan incorporates different levels of garden—including the “Romeo and Juliet” main garden (featuring a statue of the legendary lovers), a pond level, a stone garden and a French garden, with different views and numerous areas in which to sit. The French garden off the kitchen offers a charming seating area from which you can see straight down the slope to the edge of Bixby Pond, where there is another seating area.
When the Kruegers bought the house, the entire property was covered in overgrowth, which was removed by Scott Carbee, of Carbee Field Renovation in Francestown, who also oversaw the contouring of the overall landscape. Kris Stewart, of Francestown Sand & Gravel in Bennington, assisted with soil enrichment, boulder relocation and the installation of a new driveway.
The south side of the barn was hidden by unwieldy fifty-foot-high shrubs, which were eventually removed by Andrew Grant’s Tree Service of Francestown. The couple then incorporated eucalyptus, Incrediball hydrangeas, shade-loving hostas and urns filled with Caliente geraniums into the barn garden area.
Other plantings throughout the property include boxwoods in rows on either side of a path, privet hedges in the front of the house, myrtle, salvia, Incrediball hydrangeas (one of Patricia’s favorites) and about forty Limelight hydrangeas. Patricia also deployed yews; additional hostas; pachysandra; Endless Summer hydrangeas; twenty-four white Knock Out roses; eighteen Eden climbing pink roses on an iron fence and on the three arbors leading to the Romeo and Juliet statue; Sweet Autumn clematis; Diana pure-white Rose of Sharon; and various rare lilacs. Trees (planted by Dana Jackson, of Mule Team Landscaping in Francestown) included Korean and Chinese dogwood, weeping cherry, Granny Smith apple, Sargent crabapple, pear and peach. The property’s trees and shrubs are from Noel’s Nursery in Orange, Massachusetts, a company Patricia has been doing business with since 1987.
In order to add vertical elements, Patricia incorporated arborvitae evergreens as a substitute for the cypress trees that thrive in California and Mediterranean climates. She is a fan of container gardening but acknowledges that the container plants need to be protected in New Hampshire winters. “You have to think things through,” she says, “but it’s worth it.”
An additional important contributor was Bob Hunsaker, a master metal craftsman now retired and living in Maine. Hunsaker created, among other items, an iron fence for the entrance to the Kruegers’ garden, using spindles the Kruegers had purchased at a salvage yard in Berkeley, California. Alex Pendlebury of Greenfield rebuilt stone walls that had fallen down, as well as created a terrace that is the support and focus for the French garden, and a stone foundation under the kitchen porch.
At home in a small town
The Kruegers are clearly grateful to the local partners who helped them renovate the house, but the project has been a hands-on one for them as well. Ortwin, for example, is now an avid gardener. He picked up skills more or less by “osmosis,” he says, from being around Patricia. “She created gardens for the winery [in Napa] that were stunning,” he says. He has also become skilled in many aspects of home repair and maintenance, particularly in laying brick and stone. “We’re a good team,” Patricia says.
Although the Kruegers have moved often throughout their busy lives, they plan to make their permanent home in Francestown. They relish aspects of small-town life, such as knowing your neighbors, local government and being able to watch the world pass by on Main Street. “We think we’re really lucky,” Ortwin says.