When a Millenial goes Colonial: Apartment Living in a 300 Year old Newport Home

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This past summer, in between working on stories about people and places in Newport for Puddingstone Post, I had the chance to photograph my own apartment for an article written by editor Meg O’Neill. Although my attempt to remain an objective photographer for this one failed spectacularly, the project evolved into a loving documentation of the place that has been at the center of my life for most of my 20s, so I thought I’d share some photos if you’d like to see.

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Aesthetically, my apartment, which occupies the upper floors of a 300 year old colonial house in the Point neighborhood of Newport, is a steady experiment that will never really be finished. Every corner has fallen together slowly – many a morning coffee was had while contemplating the light and the feel of each room. Over many years, I got to know the house and my own routine within it, buying or changing things only when I felt I knew what the house truly needed. I mixed family heirlooms with pieces gleaned from travels abroad, or my neighbor’s trash pile dressed with a fresh coat of paint. Ever conscious that I was working in a very traditional space, I opted for white on the walls, and a few choice modern pieces, to keep things from looking too frozen in time. 

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Psychologically, my relationship to this space is not so easy to describe. In all seriousness, I’m turning 3o next week and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the last decade of my life. I don’t think I would have grown into the person I am without the steadfast, welcoming walls of this dwelling place. It has been my anchor and my creative bubble, it has been light-filled and cheerful even when I have not, it has stood by patiently when I have left it to explore the world, and it has held me through raging hurricanes, tearful breakups and the mind-boggling pain of chronic illness. Yet, despite the years that I have filled the house with friends, roommates, lovers and pets, our time together is no more than a blip on its long history. 

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I recently heard something intriguing on NPR (I wish I could remember what story it was a part of, please tell me if you know!):  we frequently talk of the ephemerality of objects. Yet, if you consider that good design and well-made structures have the tendency to persist beyond our lifetimes, then in a sense, we are the ephemeral ones. We barrel into the quiet lives of these houses and these things, and then one day we leave them sitting and waiting for their next occupants or possessors. I rather love this idea. Here I’ve been thinking that this space was mine these past 7 years, when really, I have been its guest all along.

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If I can share one piece of homemaking advice, which I read somewhere once, to anyone kind enough to have made it this far, it is to take the time to truly know your space before you do anything. There is a bottomless rabbit hole in space-making today: pinterest, home decor stores, magazines, and blogs (this one included), offer a limitless blue sky for the imagination to ponder, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the space that you actually have. For example, drooling over sparely furnished Swedish apartments with soaring, 20-foot ceilings is something of a pastime for me, but what works in those spaces does not necessarily translate to the more intimate proportions of a New England colonial. Embrace  your reality and its inherent parameters, such as budget, regional history, sustainability, and the quirks of your home: they will help you wade through endless possibility and hone in on a design that makes sense for your life, while honoring the space in which you are, for a time, a guest.

A Homespun Christmas

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Celebrating Christmas in mindful simplicity this year. Handmade cards, dried herbs and teas from the garden packaged in old mustard and jam jars, an altar of favorite ornaments and foraged greens in lieu of a tree, and one pine garland from Sweet Berry Farm to climb the stairs. Wishing you all peace and a very Merry Christmas eve.

Love,

Caroline

Tiny villages made of birch

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Working on a series of New Years notecards inspired by friendly neighbors, winters in the north, and the myriad of colors that exist within the layers of birch bark. Since each one is unique, I figured I better document them before they make their way to friends across the globe.

 

Ms. Duke Will Not Be Home for Christmas: December at Rough Point

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2016 has been a year of many exciting projects and collaborations, most of which I am very behind in sharing, but among my favorite images are the ones I was able to take for the Newport Restoration Foundation this Christmas. Rough Point, the seaside estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, has been curated for the holidays the way it would have actually looked during Ms. Duke’s lifetime: shuttered for the winter, as Doris spent Christmas at Shangri La, her house in Hawaii. Rough Point’s sole occupants would have been her staff, thus the staff wing has been decorated to reflect their own holiday celebration. I found the interior spaces, draped with white sheets, rather eerily inspiring, and thought I’d share.

There’s still time to check out this exhibit, entitled “Undecked Halls,” which will be open for the last viewing on December 27th, 2016.

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Family Sail on an Old Friend: The Classic Alden Yawl “Hope San”

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Photos from a sail on Narragansett Bay aboard the classic Alden yawl “Hope San” for my dad’s birthday. It may have taken us several decades, but we finally figured out what to give him each year. Hope San was actually once my grandparents’ boat (one of the two Hopes that inspired this blog title, the other being my maternal grandmother), and has since been lovingly restored by IYRS grad Patrick Abrecht and his wife Monika. It made me smile to see my dad reconnecting with a boat on which he spent so much time with his parents (see cutely boyish pensive shots on the bow). Hope San can now be chartered in and around Newport RI for up to six guests. You can find out more at sailonhopesan.com

All images were shot with Portra 160 35mm film on a Pentax K-1000. Thank you to my family for being my models and guinea pigs, I wasn’t sure how I would like Portra in intense sunlight, but it turns out the blue-green tones suited my needs in this aqueous environ just fine.  And thanks mom for the shot of me, it’s nice to have my presence in situations confirmed every now and again. (that’s me decked in a double denim jorts + chambray top combo. My earrings are from my new jewelry obsession, Rackk + Ruin in Burlington, VT.)

Weekend 35’s: to the border and back

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Recently, I ventured to the farthest reaches of the American side of Lake Champlain with two dear friends. World traveler and food aficionado Erica found that the waitlist for Global Entry interviews was far shorter for those willing to drive to the Canadian border than in most any other city, so we made a mini road trip out of her appointment in Champlain, NY. Along the way, we ate a lot of delicious food in Burlington, took a car ferry across the lake, and received directions to the best local swimming spot from Erica’s kindly DHS officer and interviewer, who provided his geographical insight once he had determined that she had never been arrested. I had forgotten how dry the north country feels compared to the heavy sea air of home. Everywhere smelled of pines.

 

Thanks to Erica for the rare shot of me and my chicken legs!

Coquelicots

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I can only surmise that a flower arrangement given to me by friends went rogue after being discarded in the compost heap last summer, because here I am, waiting for poppy seed heads that I did not plant to dry. They arrived this June in the vicinity of their earthly grave, a series of renewed and glorious blots of watermelon set on comically long, skinny necks. I thought about the women in Modigliani’s life when I looked at them. Did you know the seeds sprinkle out of those little arches at the top, like a salt and pepper shaker? I think I’ll sow them by the light of the next full moon, just because the earth in the meadow smells nice then, and I’ve been seeing some fireflies there lately.