Feb. 17


NOW AND THEN: Country Life at Candace Wheeler’s Onteora Club

by Lynn Byrne

Porch at Candace Wheeler's Home, Pennyroyal

When most people hear of a club in the Catskills, the so-called Borscht Belt immortalized in the film Dirty Dancing comes to mind.  But back in 1887, interior designer Candace Wheeler (subject of yesterday’s post) established an artists’ colony she named Onteora, which seems more akin to Charleston, the country base for the Bloomsbury Group.

Early visitors to Onteora, in addition to Candace Wheeler and her family,  included Mark Twain, the conservationist John Burroughs,  painters  George Bellows and Caroll Beckwith and the writers of  Elizabeth Custer (General Custer’s widow) and Mary Mapes Dodge.


At Onteora, Candace Wheeler is said to have espoused the beauty in a simple country life with a focus on nature.  Apparently even indoor plumbing was too luxe for her.   She abandoned the club when other members demanded it.

It turns out that the Onteora Club  continues to exist today.  Some of the cottages are still standing, including Candace Wheeler’s own home,  Pennyroyal.

Although Pennyroyal is not a museum and some of its furnishings have changed over the years, certain features of the original home remain, and it continues to embody pure and  simple country life.

This is country decorating distilled down to its essence. 

The front parlor looks much like it did back in Candace Wheeler’s day with wicker furniture and a yellow painted grass cloth.  It has a hand painted frieze with one of her mottos, “Who Creates a Home, Creates a Potent Spirit.”  Ya, what she said.

Candace’s daughter Dora Wheeler Keith, a successful artist, painted the door in the next photo.  This image in particular looks like the Bloomsbury Group’s home Charleston.

In the foreground of the next shot of the dining room, you catch a glimpse of the bench Candace designed for her last major commission, the Women’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  

 Front view of the bench. 

Pretty painted decoration on the dresser, in the dining room and old stove.

 The kitchen at Pennyroyal is equally simple. 

This sweet bedroom with its homemade quilt and rug are true to the style that Candace maintained at Pennyroyal.  Following is a shot of the bathroom she found too fancy for her taste.  Funny how the two sinks are side by side  thus illustrating the path of renovations.  

Of course much of life at Onteora was spent outside.  This luscious porch swing at Pennyroyal makes you want to sit a spell.  Surely Candace drew much of the inspiration for her designs, which are so heavily influenced by native plants, from her time at Pennyroyal.


With a little digging, I unearthed a feature in Country Living on another home in Onteora, known as Witchwood.  Built in 1891, it has been lovingly restored.

This home is everything I love about an old house beginning with that  red trim on the exterior.

The original owners had guests sign the staircase instead of a guest book.  Architect and artist, George Reid also painted a small miniature.

The decorator, Iliana Moore, evoked the impression that the house was owned by the same family for 100 years by combining furnishings from several periods, including Art Nouveau, Victorian and Edwardian elements.  I used that strategy in my new, “old” house as well.

The rebuilt fireplace at Witchwood still bears it original painted musical notes, in tribute to its first owner Mary  Knight Wood, a composer.

The dining room is small, like most early homes at Onteora, because members often took their evening meal at a clubhouse.

Check out this charming country kitchen that has every modern convenience but continues to look old. 

The sunroom was once part of the open porch.  It has a nice outdoor feel.  Love the sweet “camp” style pillow.

Here are some exterior shots of a few other “cottages’ at Onteora.  Believe me, if I had found interior photographs, I would have posted them.

Like me, aren’t you dying to see  inside? 

Photo credits: Pennyroyal photos by Steve Gross and Sue Daley from their book Catskills Country Style or via Old House Interiors.  Witchwood via Country Living.  Heritage photos and exterior “cottage” photos via the Onteora Club website.

Feb. 03


NOW AND THEN: Jewelry by Tony Duquette

by Lynn Byrne

I don’t usually blog about fashion–you can head over to my tumblr to see some snaps of outfits that inspire me. But I simply can’t resist anything to do with creative genius, Tony Duquette.

By now you might have heard that Coach has launched a limited edition of jewelry in collaboration with his estate. The motifs in the collection are classic Duquette. It’s splashy, sparkly and fun, with a big style bang for the buck.

Let’s look at new and old, while I tell you how Duquette came to design jewelry in the first place. First some goodies from the Coach collection, seen above and below:

As a child, Tony made his first piece of jewelry, a necklace, out of clay, for his mother. In the 1930s, he began designing jewelry for friends and relatives, using old Victorian jewelry as a base to which he would add elements such as a citrine bumble bee or enameled flower.

His first commissioned piece was a tiara for Elsie de Wolfe in 1945. While I couldn’t find a picture of that piece, I did uncover this photo of the Duchess of Windsor wearing her favorite piece of Duquette jewelry. I think Coach’s bib necklace seen above echoes some of the same motifs as the Duchess’ piece.

In addition to the Duchess of Windsor, Tony had many other prominent clients including Mary Pickford and Liza Minnelli. According to the book More is More, by Hutton Wilkinson, he considered the necklace seen below worn by his wife Beegle, and created for Pilly Pillsbury, to be his most beautiful piece. The Pillsbury family ultimately sold it and now its owner is no longer known. How would you like to stumble upon that necklace at an antique fair?

In the late 1980′s, Tony created a collection of collar necklaces that he called the Talismans of Power. Wilkinson writes that Tony found the creation of these necklaces to be therapeutic after his beloved exhibition space, the Duquette Pavillion in San Francisco, burned to the ground. This therapy continued—-Tony Duquette went on to lose 3 other properties to fire. As someone who has lost only one home to fire, it is almost impossible for me to conceive of how it must feel to suffer 4 devastating ones.

After each fire, Tony embarked on a trip to an exotic location in the Far East, where he gathered the stones to create his jewelry. Here is a shot from More is More of Tony at his home, Dawnridge surrounded by his jewelry making supplies, c.1990.

Wilkinson says that Tony Duquette liked his jewelry to be versatile. For example, some items had removable pieces that could be used as brooches. In the fish below, the eye can be worn as a separate pin. This piece surely served as inspiration for the fish pendant and fish decoration on the evening bag shown in the Coach collection.

Many of the Coach pieces draw on a sunburst motif. This was a common element though out Duquette’s work. Perhaps the closest parallel is the Canticle of the Sun decoration that adorned the outside of the Duquette Pavilion. It is used in miniature in several pieces in the Coach collection.

The Coach spiky collar necklace also is based on the sun, as seen in these metallic sunbursts set on marble stands, and in the Duquette chandelier that I have in Montauk.

Of course I have my personal stash. Yes I rushed right out and bought my favorites from the Coach collection. The necklace I chose has the legendary Duquette versatililty—I also can wear it as a belt.

If you like something from the collection, don’t hesitate. My necklace is already sold out online. I went to 2 stores in Manhattan before I found it. The 57th street flagship told me I got one of the last 3 copies left in the city, adding that Coach was not making more of these designs. When they are gone, that’s it. Fingers crossed that some of Tony’s prodigious creativity will wear off on me when I wear these pieces. :-)

The Duquette Room in the Baker Showroom, High Point, NC

Photo credits: Coach product photos via: metrovelvet.com, Explored, latimesblog, glamazondiaries.com. Duchess of Windsor photo via thingsicovet tumblr. “Then” photos are scans from More is More by Hutton Wilkonson and Tony Duquette by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson. Last 3  photos by me.
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