As frequent readers of House Enthusiast know, I define 10 small-house design strategies in my book The New Small House. But, as this photo taken at Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, RI will attest, there's no rule against applying many of the same strategies to smaller moments in larger houses.
This generous window seat off the landing in the grand front stair of this c. 1907 estate, designed in the English Country Manor style, is a great example of creating multipurpose spaces. Here, the landing is more than a place to catch your breath before continuing further up or down the stairs; it's also a destination, thanks to the window seat.
It's a place to curl up with a book or to have a word or two with a companion before heading down to enjoy tea, or up to the more private spaces. It's a pocket for privacy amidst an otherwise larger and more public setting.
It takes advantage of the volume and height a stair can provide, by providing a perch from which to both overlook the activity of the living space below and the scene outside as folks arrive or depart. It takes advantage of the third dimension.
It also borrows daylight and view from windows that would otherwise be dedicated to the stair, and shares that daylight and view with the floor below and the hall above.
Because the painted, raised paneling that lines the wall of the stair seamlessly sides the back of the window seat and then continues further up the stairs, the window seat is very much part of the overall succinct palette of the stair hall. The line between stair and window seat, blurs so that each benefits from the other and is in a way enlarged by the other.
My one wish is that the window seat cushion and pillows were not red/burgundy, and that the coordinating rug wasn't red/burgundy and navy blue. I would prefer colors drawn more from the vase to the left in the photo, or the vase on the window sill further down the stair. Something with more of a mid-green or mid-blue color story would be my choice. But I suppose the cushion, pillows, and rug are the colors they are for historic reasons. Can't help but want to update it some and give it a fresh look.
To see more of Blithewold as well as their impressive gardens, check out their calendar of events. I took the photo above when I was there for one of their afternoon teas. Just delightful.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast