Add-ons Reflect Designer's Full-Speed-Ahead Attitude HOME DESIGN 1992

THE LITTLE HOUSE THAT GREW

April 26, 1992

One story told about interior designer Eleanor Weller relates the time she floated in a hot-air balloon over rooftops in her Monkton neighborhood and released dollar bills for the sheer pleasure of it. Another, told by friends, recalls a young Eleanor taking every dollar she had to buy a single small painting. Both stories reflect Ms. Weller's indomitable and engaging spirit, as well as her philosophy of life: an opportunity not taken is a sin of omission.

This philosophy makes each moment an opportunity, and Ms. Weller uses her time well. The principal partner of Charlotte's Web Interiors & Associates, she also is a passionate gardener, tireless researcher, lecturer and author. Her recently published "The Golden Age of American Gardens" sold out of its first edition within three months, and was Most Recommended on the New York Times' best-seller's list.

Her design signature reflects her interest in and knowledge of historic periods, which she expertly combines for an eclectic, comfortable, lived-in look. Her own home, which she shares with her husband, Frank H. Weller Jr., an attorney, consultant and dedicated gardener, reflects her full-speed-ahead attitude as well as her tastes. Nothing more than a three-room tenant house built for a pittance during the 1940s, it has been added to four times since its purchase by the Wellers in 1965. Today the house, dubbed Foxgloves by its owners, is almost five times its original size and gives the appearance of gracious age.

"Neither of us inherited any money," says Ms. Weller. "We had children and responsibilities, so we had to be creative, to invent ways of making the house what we wanted it to be."

There are four libraries in the house containing an extraordinary collection of materials. The latest is a reference library designed by restoration architect Mike Trostel in a Thomas Jefferson-inspired style. It is Ms. Weller's main workroom. Because her spring lecture series consists of 15 engagements, she requires materials at her fingertips. Here drawers discreetly store a burgeoning collection of historic prints of gardens as well as important color slides on American gardens.

Materials on architecture, art and the decorative arts are to be found in another library, this one painted green and glowing with a hand-applied finish by artist Janet Pope. Wooden bookcases here have a rich look thanks to several colors of paint.

An elaborately decorated side entrance that leads from the green library to the new research library/workroom is at once a lesson in design history and a fantasy. Artist Peggy Kurtz had to unlearn lessons in perspective while re-creating a fanciful landscape. The task involved blocking a single color at a time before beginning another color. It took seven months of research and a color technique identical to wood-block painting to create the authentic reproduction of historic scenic wallpaper in the manner of the 19th century French manufacturer Zuber.

The design of the painted floor was copied from an English country house, then scaled down to fit the space. In the formal dining room, soft peach walls and sea-foam-green trim echo the colors of historical English china collected by the Wellers over the years. Even the colors of the Italian chandelier, custom-made near Venice, reflect the room's colors.

Red, royal blue and apple green are the colors of choice in the sun porch, a room original to the house. Improved by Ms. Weller three times, the room now is a greenhouse that doubles as a dining porch. The floor, painted by Ms. Weller to copy a Stark carpet that she admired, features nine coats of paint.

"I try to bring clients to my house, to show that not a lot of money has to be spent to achieve a very warm, lived-in, pleasing effect," she says.

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