A personal touch brightens up an antique
Photo by Jeff McNamara
On the corner of Barry and High Ridge Avenues, tucked snugly behind a stonewall impressive enough to barricade a fortress, there’s an inviting little enclave belonging to the very welcoming Murdock family.
As the story was told to the Murdocks, former owner Sereno T. Jacob contracted master mason Joseph John Knoche to build the wall after the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped because he wanted his children to have a safe place to play. As much as the wall once served as a protector and is now an insulator from a busy corner, it also serves as a conversation piece for curious passersby.
Certainly that was true for Bari and Paul Murdock, who were definitely not looking to purchase an antique home when they drove by the house in 2006. “This house found us,” says Bari.
At the time, the Murdocks had just returned from living in Chile, and their taste leaned very much toward bright colors and lively prints. Bari knew the South American artwork and curios they collected would be a true juxtaposition to the 1700s New England colonial. And she found that idea almost as intriguing as the stone wall that first caught her attention.
When it comes to décor, Bari is no stranger to thinking out of the box. Her business, Bari Murdock Design Solutions, helps people create living spaces that reflect their taste at affordable prices.
She offers advice on everything from staging furniture for realtors to giving a facelift to a tired room.
She helps customers repurpose their belongings and doesn’t hesitate to paint a piece of furniture to give it an entirely different look.
As for shopping, you can often find Bari perusing Ridgefield Open Tag Sale on Facebook or hunting around for quality pieces of fabrics at bargain prices. She believes a house should be a mixture of high-end furnishings like her family’s coveted antique English dining table, but can be made affordable by hunting for bargains.
Dining chairs found at a tag sale and recovered flank the beautiful dining table. Bari equates her decorating philosophy as spending a lot on that must-have black dress, but then jazzing it up with more affordable accessories. “I think you should spend money where it counts,” she says.
So, an antique home with compact spaces, tons of nooks and crannies, and an outdated galley kitchen presented more of an opportunity than a challenge to Bari.
The original home was built more than 250 years ago and various owners have added on a first-floor master suite, a large mudroom, and a family room with original windows from the house found in the unattached garage.
One of those quirky design features that the Murdocks have come to love is a window that was never removed when the mudroom was added.
It has a cozy window seat that allows a peek from the mudroom into the family room beyond.
Bari, who prefers an unpredictable blend of things, says, “I don’t like things to look staged.” Bold-colored patterns adorn furniture and pillows creating an interesting yet comfortable mix.
Because Bari believes it is important that a house reflects who lives there, the Murdocks surround themselves with meaningful things. A key focal point of the home is the blend of artwork. Three still-life paintings done by Bari’s great aunt depict a different view from the same window of her apartment and hang front and center in the sitting room. Beautiful Mexican artwork reflecting the couple’s penchant for the country where Paul’s parents live is a focal point of the house.
Upstairs there are two generous-sized bedrooms, one that offers ample space for 14-year-old Lane’s impressive vinyl-record collection. The second is a peacefully decorated getaway for guests. A third, very small room was turned into an efficient office. Finished attic space has become the ideal spot for 16-year-old March’s bedroom.
If there was one thing that gave the Murdocks pause it was the small galley-style kitchen that seemed like a dark cave in an otherwise cheerful home. Paul brightened it along with the rest of the house with better lighting. Bari painted the kitchen cabinets a pale blue that immediately brightened the dark space. Oversized glass knobs and contemporary hanging globes create visual interest, while new countertops finish the look.
“If it’s going to be small, it might as well be fun,” says Bari. As an unexpected benefit, Bari and Paul say they have no trouble keeping their frequent guests out of the kitchen because there just isn’t room for them. A small pass-through opening allows guests to converse with the cooks without getting in the way.
One of the first things the Murdocks did when they moved into their house was to string colorful lights around the outside garden where they spend all their good-weather time. And when the Murdocks turn on the lights, friends know they are welcome to stop by to sit around the fire pit or share a meal.
Part of the appeal of the home is its colorful history. One story the family heard was that one of the owners won it in a poker game, but they have found no records to verify that.
Last summer, Bari met a former resident, Tracie Deane Mitchell, on Facebook. Her family lived in the house for over 30 years, and during what Paul called an emotional visit and tour, family members, including Mitchell’s mom, shared stories.
Apparently the house was once part of a farm up on West Mountain. When one of the farmer’s daughters married, her father had the house moved for her to the corner where it now sits.
The house, known as The Bedford because it sat on a street designated as the gateway to Bedford, New York, is recorded as built in 1765. The Murdocks now wonder if it is even older than that.
“I just keep thinking about how many families have lived here and how many children were raised here and now we’re raising our family here,” says Paul.
Sitting outside under their colorful lights in their protected garden, the Murdocks reflect on the good fortune of finding their home. Says Bari, “I love our house. It’s where we were meant to be.”