The Grand Tour
An eclectic mix of furnishings from around the world comes together for easy informality in a 1920s townhouse
“Basically ready to move into” is how Bronxville designer Cheryl Skoog Tague describes her 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival upon seeing it for the first time. But such words could only come from someone as experienced as she is, for the renovations required were “extensive,” to say the least.
Cheryl had been in London with her family for eight years, enjoying life and growing her business, when her husband was promoted to a new position in New York. Their plan was to build from the ground up in Bronxville, so an interim home would be necessary. The townhouse she found was in bad shape, but “I knew I could turn it into the little gem I envisioned,” says the designer. “Besides the nine-foot
ceilings and a balcony off the dining room, there were new windows and central air conditioning. We could relocate in time for my son’s first day of school.”
Cheryl immediately got to work finding resources and preparing a detailed floor plan for, as she explains, “The house is 20 feet wide with 600 square feet per floor; there was no room for error.” After three months of preparation, she packed the family’s bags and shipped the furniture stateside, nearly all of it going into storage.
“It was still a complete mess,” Cheryl says. “We lived in the bedrooms and worked our way down.” The biggest challenge was the lack of storage space. She built closets, revamped bathrooms and changed nearly everything in the kitchen, from switching out garden-variety cupboards for custom, floor-to-ceiling cabinets, to installing a deep, stainless-steel sink. Moldings were created, plank-panel doors replaced standard-issue ones, and the living and dining areas were more clearly defined by extending their common wall and centering the opening with a subtle arch. The latter done not only because Tague believes separation gives rooms purpose and allows for better furniture placement, but also because the increased wall space made much-needed bookcases possible.
The renovations uncovered a delightful surprise: “We tore the marble and wood off the fireplace surrounds and discovered the original clay tiles from the ’20s,” says Cheryl. They beautifully complement the earth tones she chose, which are appropriate to the era and a serene background for her eclectic furnishings.
“Our last home in London was a small mews house,” Cheryl says, “so I knew I could use most of the pieces.” And, adds the eco-enthusiast, pointing out the living room’s burlap-upholstered, circa-1800s fauteuils from her English kitchen: “It’s the best type of recycling. I’m always amazed at how things you love, if they’re good quality, are so often perfect for different kinds of spaces.”
Layering textures is Cheryl’s favorite way to give rooms a unique visual and tactile feel. This is immediately apparent in the dining room with its Belgian linen draperies, horsehair-covered, ebonized-walnut chairs and the French, rock-crystal candlesticks converted from lamps. She loves the 18th-century Swedish chest they sit on because it’s “a bit beat-up, which gives it character.”
Tribal rugs and accessories picked up while traveling add more texture and personalize the house further. Her encyclopedic knowledge about each item makes for great conversation, such as how the chank shells on her husband’s desk—a copy she commissioned because the one she wanted had insufficient leg room—are woven by the Himalayas-dwelling Apatani into long necklaces to ward off evil spirits. Photographs of Pompeii—a popular stop among 19th-century Europeans making the Grand Tour—hang above her son’s trundle bed. An accomplished artist herself, Tague’s collection of contemporary paintings and ceramics is all the more special because she personally knows many of the creators.
Three years later, what was a diamond-in-the-rough is a multifaceted gem. “It’s simple, cozy and comfortable,” Tague says, “and friends love coming over.” The only problem she sees is that “I’m going to miss it when we move into the new house.”