Piece by piece decorating

Being bitten by the antiquing bug means bringing things home, one by one, year after year. You need moderation, an eye for mixing, and a knack for display to keep a home’s accumulation from looking like an overstuffed antiques shop. Patty and Bob Laufer have pulled it off. Though they’ve spent years of weekends and vacations rooting out country collectibles, they show off their much-loved quilts and other finds with restraint. "I’m very turned off by too much," says Patty, who avoids abundant displays of any one type. "I want my house to look like a house, not a museum." Enter the Laufers’ clapboardstyle home and learn to weave together a tasteful display-one thing at a time. atty, an educational consultant, and Bob, a lawyer, bought their quirky home nine years ago. Like the Laufers’ style, the home’s structure is a delightful patchwork of individual pieces. It began as two 19th century barns on separate plots of land in Connecticut’s Fairfield County. In the 1930s, the barns were moved together and joined.

Bright sunlight floods through high windows in the barn’s former loft space, now used as the main living and dining room (right). In this great-room, cathedral ceilings and white walls provide an airy backdrop. When combined with subdued furniture, the background nudges colorful collectibles to center stage. To bring the spacious room into human scale, tall display shelves build a bridge between the high ceiling and the furnishings. At the sofa’s shoulder, a triple quilt stand makes the sitting area feel cozier.

The Laufers are down-to-earth collectors, which means they buy only what they love and know they will use. Textiles are a particular passion. And though this is a collectible that is often tucked away, even antique quilts and rugs see the light of day in the Laufer home.

On the dining side of the great-room, a hutch (left) with a true opendoor policy displays folded quilts. Elsewhere, says-Patty, "I have them hung, laid on beds, folded in cabinets, and I change them around a lot." For protection, the quilts are positioned away from direct sunlight. Patty also periodically refolds them so they don’t develop permanent fold marks.

The Laufers’ pieceby-piece home (above has topfloor bedrooms, a living space at ground level, a kitchen in the walkout basement, and o great location on Ihe Stuck River (top) Treasured photographs (left) of the original barns sho how they made their evolutionary journey to their present site.

Graphic quills and homey rugs help ground a tickingstripe sofa, a newly made wicker chair, and a Windsor-style chair. The classic, clean-lined furniture sets a simple stage where the real stars are whimsical folk art, baskets, and books.

Extra quilts are folded and stacked for display in hutches and on open

shelving. Patty pulls out seasonal quilts at Christmas or during summer and throws them over beds, the sofa, and even the dining table when it’s not in use.

Old rugs join the artful quilts to create a soft and colorful decorating basis for each room. To avoid visual clutter caused by too much pattern, large rugs, such as the one that anchors the dining table (right), are chosen for their simplicity and neutral color. Bright color is left to smaller rugs, which can be found scattered patchwork style on the floor or hung on the walls. Patty looks for clean wool rugs with intact or nicely bound edges. She’ll occasionally buy a flawed rug and have it fixed if the price is right. For care, she merely airs and sweeps them.

For a quiet scheme in the guest bedroom, Patty shows off only blue-and-white quilts, layering different textures on the same bed for interest. During forays to flea markets and antiques shows, the Laufers look for softly timeworn pastel-color quilts from the 1920s and ’30s that still have a lot of body. "A little rip or stain doesn’t bother me," says Patty, who pays an average of $250 for her finds, "as long as the quilt is in good condition and can be mended or folded to protect the flaw." Even when quilts around the house become worn from use, their patterns live on. Patty has the unblemished sections sewn into throw pillows, such as the pillows on the guest bed (left).

In the great-room’s dining area, mix-andmatch chairs surround an old pine drop-leaf table. The two chairs with "pillow-back" top rails (see the head of the table) are Hitchcock chairs. Other chairs are pointed black to mix in.

One challenge she faces is accommodating her changing tastes. When she first started collecting, Patty zeroed in on primary-color quilts. Instead of getting rid of the bolder quilts, she simply rotates them onto display shelves, reserving her now-preferred soft pastels for the living areas.

As the Laufers’ house and tastes evolve, the collecting continues but never overwhelms. "I have lots of focal points," says Patty. With their things always on the move, the Laufers’ patchwork style resists appearing staged and offers a fresh view wherever you look.

Caring for Quilts

Quilts are key to the Laufers’ style. These cleaning tips will extend the life and beauty of your fabric finds.

An intriguing passageway leads from one former barn into what is now the guest bedroom of the other. When the barns were joined, most of Ihe original rustic plank doors were kept. Some were stripped and refinished; others were painted.

Pieces of dishware are within easy reach, especially in the breakfast room (above) and the kitchen. A treasured collection of ironstone-a white semipporcelain-is used daily.

The Laufers’ approachable philosophy means leaving cupboard doors wide open or off (left) to display their things.

Remove dust from quilts by gently shaking them or dusting them with a vacuum set on light suction. For extra protection, put a nylon stocking over the attachment.

Launder only when absolutely necessary. For most cotton quilts made after 1910, clean in a washing machine set on the gentle cycle using a mild detergent and tepid water. Rinse the quilt a few times.

Handwash older cotton and linen quilts. To wash, place the quilt in 3 to 4 inches of tepid water in a clean bathtub. Use a mild cold-water detergent, a mild dishwashing detergent, or a laundry product formulated for quilts. Gently knead the quilt in water for a few minutes, being careful not to pull or wring it Rinse until the water runs clear.

Dry wet quilts by laying them flat on the floor or outside (wrong side up) on clean mattress pads or towels. A wet quilt is very heavy, so don’t hang it or lift it in a way that puts stress on the fabric or stitching.

Professionally clean antique quilts at cleaners that specialize in them. However, a valuable quilt that is in poor condition should not be cleaned at all.

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