Home Decor

Equestrian look blends old and new, traditional and whimsical

August 30, 2008|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,

In the dining room of Dulany and Jimmie Noble's farmhouse, traditional white damask table linens are the backdrop for hunter-green-rimmed china settings that depict fox-hunting scenes. Silver stirrup cups, the traditional vessels used for a toast before the hunt, are brimming with mixed zinnias from the garden.

Rings with figures of foxes hold the napkins, and by each setting stands whimsical stemware decorated with a sly fox's face. A silver salt-and-pepper set features foxes. A faux-fruit-filled rose medallion bowl adorns the table center.

The sky-blue walls lend an outdoorsy air to the room and are decorated with horse-themed artwork, from a small, gilt-framed painting by a local artist of Dulany Noble's horse, Custer Road, to an old hunt-scene print in a nondescript wood frame. On close inspection, the scarlet-on-ivory toile draperies show farm vignettes.

Equestrian-style decor, with a fox-hunting theme, permeates the couple's Upperco farm in Maryland's horse country. The look includes favorite family heirlooms punctuated by Dulany Noble's quirky collection of fox figurines and art focused on horses. Drawing everything together are the traditional colors of the equestrian landscape: woodsy greens, hunt reds, outdoor blues and dark woods - hues picked up in the Persian rug on the oak floor.

"The plates were my mother's, and I've added to the collection. Each plate is different," said Noble, who owns Gala Cloths by Dulany, a table-linen rental company.

A descendant of early Marylander Daniel Dulany and a joint master of the hounds and huntsman for the Carrollton Hounds, Noble can't remember a life without horses. A photo on the wall of the powder room by the kitchen shows her as an adolescent riding with her mother.

The look at Noble's Berry Patch Farm home is a mix of formal and informal, traditional yet relaxed, a blend of family heirlooms and more recent purchases, all of which are there to put a smile on one's face, especially in the dining room.

"It is very unpredictable, and it has whimsy in it," said Betsy Sheehan of Decor & More Ltd., who helped Noble pull together a look that she calls conservative but not stodgy. "You sit down and you look around - your eyes always land on something that is interesting. Even though it is an equestrian theme in there, it is not predictable."

The color palette holds for the living room, where low-key wallpaper and upholstery are backdrops for horse, hunting and hound prints.

The former berry farm is now the site of a riding school operated by the couple's daughter, Deloise Noble-Strong.

Equestrian style draws from horse country on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as from cities born in eras dependent on horses. The style is recognizable from London to Los Angeles, said Vicky Moon, author of the just-published book Equestrian Style (Clarkson Potter), a look at horse motifs in everything from clothing to home decor. Noble is among the people featured in the book.

It speaks to the history of Maryland, a state known for its horse country and its legacy of horse breeding, racing, hunting and pleasure riding, although Moon said, "You can love horses from anywhere."

Equestrian decor reflects "not so much a fashion statement but a matter of living," said Baltimore interior designer Stiles T. Colwill, who has a horse farm. "Rooms are very finished and polished, but they are very relaxed. There is a certain sophistication to [them]." Yet, he said, the family dogs are allowed in the sitting room.

Equestrian style has long endured as a timeless blend of old and new, often punctuated by the personal and whimsical, Moon said. Sometimes, the combinations tend toward the eclectic. "I have a lamp that was made from an old boot," she said.

Some homeowners put trophies on display, others add polo mallets or riding crops to their decor, and others hang coats on tack hooks - all in reflection of their pastimes.

"I think that one reason why some people like the equestrian look is because it has the British roots, a touch of aristocracy," Moon said. "But you don't have to spend a lot of money ... to have it."

"The equestrian look is classic," said retired interior designer Susie Reichhart.

Her home, River Run Farm in Glencoe, reflects her family's equestrian interests and lifestyle, down to the horse-style lamp, the framed art of the hunt and the metal relief of a horse head that a boyfriend gave Reichhart's mother when she was a teenager.

Reichhart lives on the farm with her husband, Chip, and their daughter, Kendell, who trains jumpers. Reichhart is a member of the Elkridge Harford Hunt Club, though she has stopped riding.

"In the Baltimore County and Howard County areas, there's a lot of history with horses and hunt clubs," she said. "And Harford and Cecil and elsewhere."

Many a homeowner's leisure pursuits or vocations are evidenced in their decor choices; for others, inspiration for furnishings comes from where they live or simply what they like, Reichhart added.

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