Harrisburg Symphony Society Showhouse & Gardens 2015
Photography by Haley Harned
Afountain inside a stone fireplace. A dining room arrayed in framed cameo brooches. A gleaming 21st- century chandelier dangling over a 19th-century Steinway.
Past, meet present – 1860, meet 2015. This is Lindenwood: A Country Destination. It’s the Harrisburg Symphony Society Showhouse & Gardens 2015 – the society’s seventh showhouse, where the region’s noted interior and outdoor designers decorate in their own unique flair, space by space.
As showhouse co-chair Debra Yates puts it, “You walk in and feel that it’s taking you back in time, but then you come up to the 20th century, too.”
The setting is Lindenwood Farm, a sylvan hideaway outside of Mechanicsburg with history dating back to Pennsylvania’s native Shawnee and Delaware tribes. The house was built around 1860 from limestone quarried from the property. Since 1962, it has been in the Simpson family, purchased by newlyweds Jerry and Hilary Simpson and the home where they raised children (plus dogs and ponies), hosted weddings and welcomed grandchildren.
As showhouses go, this one’s got all the goods. Linden-lined drive leading to sprawling stone home. Bank barn for café, boutique and events. Placid gazebo by a spring-fed pond. Blissful setting amid nature’s finest greenery.
“It’s a country destination where people can come and relax from the city,” says co-chair Phyllis Mooney. “There are artists and musicians, and it becomes a kind of enriching, sophisticated country estate.”
Maybe it’s the verdant setting. Maybe it’s the tasteful Essis & Sons carpeting guiding visitors from room to room. Maybe it’s the family feel and the property’s long history as a working farm. Whatever the cause, the signature of this showhouse is its cohesion. Though each of the spaces reflects the taste of the designer who got the assignment, it all flows together as if coordinated.
Step into the foyer, decorated with paintings and artifacts provided through a special collaboration between the Cumberland County Historical Society and Cordier Auctions & Appraisals. From there, the dramatic sunken salon from David’s Furniture & Interiors, adorned in black and gold with that focal-point Steinway, leads to a breathtaking dining room. Here, the dinner party, as envisioned by a.k. interiors, takes place amid linens and wallpaper – even on the ceiling – in tones of cream, green and gray. On one wall is the array of framed hangings that reveals, on close inspection, those cameos that were all the rage in a long-gone time.
Bill Gantt, of Gantt’s Decorating, designed the cozy library just inside the front door. He was inspired by the Georgian style of the home and this room, where bookshelves flank fireplace and doorway, but he “wasn’t a prisoner of it,” he says. “The room has the wonderful symmetry that’s typical of Georgian.” The fictional user of this space, as imagined by Gantt, is a clock collector. Letitia, goddess of the home, oversees the room from the mantelpiece clock, while other antique clocks tick-tock away on the shelves.
Mooney notes a frieze of a fruit basket over the dining room’s outside door. Then she points to similar concrete planters, seen through the dining room windows. Even before the decorators started, the home had “great bones,” she says. Throughout the home, designers drew inspiration from the natural elements spied through every window. Real, cut flowers blossom in vases. Botanical drawings adorn the walls. Chairs are upholstered in animal prints. Margie Stapf Interior & Floral Design decorated a bedroom in a dragonfly theme.
The Sandy Woods Home Furnishings turned a small den into a ladies’ sitting room, a respite in greens and purples.
“Our lives are so busy,” says designer Sandy Long. “We wanted a room that was quiet.”
In the master bedroom, Karen Viscito, of Karen Viscito Interiors, based the design on her “client” – a well-traveled gentleman living a life of glamour. She drew her cues from a wallpaper swirling in onyx and purple. The room glistens with sophistication and texture, from the shag rugs to the velvety faux-snakeskin bolster on the bed.
“What are you going to make it ‘wow’ with?” Viscito asked herself to get the project underway.
The travels of Viscito’s “client” continue on display in the attached sitting room, where books and a brass bar worthy of Mad Men share space with a chartreuse wingback chair and a set of bocce balls. This room also offers the home’s marquee view, its picture windows framing a breathtaking vista of fields, woods and mountains in full springtime bloom.
In the attic, the compact servants’ quarters are converted to a knitting nook, courtesy of Little Owls Knit Shop, and dreamy walk-in closets from Closettec. Even a tiny seat in a gable window becomes a display space for a tableau of clock, candle and oversized tassels.
“You’re going to see neat little things in every nook and cranny,” says Yates.
In one garret space, Julie Riker created a studio for her art. In adjoining rooms, Blooms by Vickrey staged an attic-exploration scenario, as if you’d stumbled onto the trunk holding Mom’s wedding dress while seeking ideas for your own wedding.
These rooms inspire dreams. They are fantasy suites for the glamorous, organized, accomplished person you were born to be, if only life wouldn’t get in the way. Diane Replogle, of Diane Replogle Interiors, was inspired by the recent publication of her daughter’s first book to turn a stone-walled maid’s room into a writer’s ideal of a studio. The space is neatly organized and sunny, with family photos, reference books and Hemingway novels on the shelves and glass-topped desk. An alcove was turned into a handy bar – one of several that designers added to rooms throughout the house.
“It’s a neat, simple little space to curl up in,” says Replogle.
To truly grasp the scope of the showhouse, imagine that a family has opened its doors for a party that the entire community can join and enjoy. Organizers strove to include a diverse range of arts and historical organizations, making the event about much more than the decorative arts. Showhouse organizers transformed the lower level of the barn into Bistro in the Barn, with food by Sophia’s, and Lady Thornton’s Luxury Emporium, named after a long-ago Lindenwood resident and stocked with jewelry and décor from local artisans.
The upper barn, corral and lawn by the stone fireplace hosts a constant stream of ticketed special events. On May 31, there was a fashion show with designs from The Plum and Ruby Ribbon (“The models changed in the horse stalls,” says co-chair Caren Schein.) The Harrisburg Shakespeare Company presented excerpts from the bard’s most famous works. A May 23 concert sponsored by Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz featured food and beer pairings from Sophia’s and Tröegs Brewing Company. On the final weekend, Fishing Creek Valley Orchids will host an orchid festival with a display never before seen in the area.
Weekend patrons can enjoy bonus goings-on. They can encounter members of Cumberland County Master Gardeners strolling the grounds “just to answer questions,” says Mooney. They’ll see Susquehanna Valley Plein Air Painters at work. On Sunday afternoons, they can enjoy the sights to the accompaniment of Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians.
“The house has just come alive,” says Mooney.
Adds Schein, “It’s just magical.”
Harrisburg Symphony Society Showhouse & Gardens 2015, 210 E. Lisburn Rd., Mechanicsburg. Open daily May 22 to June 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Last entry half an hour before closing. Tickets $20, available at the door, online at symphonyshowhouse.org and at Mountz Jewelers, Blooms by Vickrey, Essis & Sons, Highland Gardens, Boscov’s, Sophia’s at Walden and Sophia’s on Market. Group pricing is available. Some special events require additional tickets. For more information, call (717) 612-4970 or email email@example.com.