Victorian secrets

How one couple put their own fresh spin on old-fashioned style

Victorian kitchen

All-white kitchen: Calacatta marble gives the kitchen island and counters a lustrous look. "We were okay with the idea that it was going to wear with age" Fauveau says.

Thomas J. Story

It may be traditional, but it certainly isn't stuffy. "I always loved Victorians ― they reminded me of real-life dollhouses," says Sophie Fauveau of the 1890 Portland home she renovated with her husband, Mark Williams. "But I also knew I wanted light colors, no clutter, and a sense that everything belonged together." Their remodel stayed true to the home's period details and old-fashioned charm while infusing it with youthful, contemporary sophistication.

A French native with a keen sense of style, Fauveau took on the bulk of the design work (with help from an architect), which included a second-floor addition that doubled the home's square footage. Her palette stayed consistent: white marble (honed in the kitchen, polished to a sheen in the master bath), soft pastels, and a luxe assortment of vintage finds at bargain prices.

 

Nostalgia plays a major role in Fauveau's decorating choices. In the living room, the pair of white leather sofas (which she scored at an online auction site for $500) brought back happy associations from childhood. "My parents had the same ones in brown when I was growing up ― these are like albino versions," she says. In the kitchen, the island is a nod to her memories of the "gigantic marble table for pastries" at her grandparents' hotel and restaurant in the south of France. And in the dining room, Fauveau covered the chartreuse walls with row upon row of family photos in mismatched gold frames. "Mark and I both live far away from our families, so it's important to us to have pictures of them all around the house," she explains.

For the couple, the house is much more than a mere dwelling; to hear Fauveau tell it, the chemistry was instantaneous. "We are ridiculously, crazily, emotionally attached to our house," she says. "Mark and I even got married in the living room. Ten minutes after we saw it, we knew we would live here no matter what it took." All love affairs should have an ending this good.

 

IDEAS TO TAKE HOME

Building on the bones of an archetypal American dwelling required decisions about what to keep (an antique bathtub in need of TLC), what to add (eclectic art with wit and personality), and when to find a new take on tradition.

Here are five elements that give this Victorian a contemporary glow.

 

SOPHIE'S DESIGN SMARTS

Q: There are six crystal chandeliers in your house. What about them appeals to you?

A: I always loved them, even as a little girl. They glitter and sparkle, just like jewelry; they immediately add personality, a sort of daintiness, to a room.

Q: What went into creating your dream closet?

A: I designed it myself in Excel after researching closet fabricators and realizing a big part of their fee came in helping you plan the space. So I looked at our current closets and measured the rods, counted our clothes and pairs of shoes ― then made sure we could fit all that and more.

Q: Did you and Mark have any stylistic differences?

A: Our styles are pretty much in line. Eventually he'd like to have a room in the basement that's more cozy and loungey, with a big stuffed couch. But the only thing he won't let me do is display my huge vintage Barbie collection. They're all boxed and organized in the basement; every now and then, I'll have Barbie parties with my girlfriends, and I'll set them up all around the living room.

Q: What's the secret to buying vintage?

A: You need to take risks, be a little impulsive. If you can't handle getting it wrong, you probably shouldn't go for it. I'm not normally a gambler, but I'll take a risk when it comes to buying items like those white leather couches online, especially if it's a bargain. You can always resell it if it doesn't work.

Design:  Sophie Fauveau, French Touch Styling, Portland.

Resources: Kitchen Island and cabinetry custom-made by Thurman Cabinets NW, Portland (503/224-0210). Calacatta marble counters fabricated by Denali Stoneworks, Portland (503/244-4471). Brightwood pendants ($126 each) with 10-inch white shade ($35 each, as shown) from Rejuvenation (888/401-1900). Bertazzoni range and other appliances from BASCO, Portland (503/226-9235). Portrait wall Similar paint color is The Goods (item 0794) from Miller Paint Co. (503/255-0190). Chandelier, table, chairs, lamp, and cabinets are vintage. Chandelier Crystals are vintage. Similar crystal strands available from Cristalier (888/977-4767). Art and table Koi ($1,400), oil on wood, by Eli Halpin (410/419-9859). Table and basket are vintage. Bathroom Clear Day paint (item 7081W) from Miller Paint Co. (503/255-0190). White pedestal sink and fixtures from George Morlan Plumbing, Portland (503/224-7000). Doorknob Edwards interior doorknob and backplate in Burnished Antique ($123, as shown) from Rejuvenation (888/401-1900).

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