Historic homes, distinctly different
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Anthony and Cindy Majestro love historic homes. They have several, in fact. The Charleston lawyers moved from the older South Hills home in which they'd raised their family to a grand and meticulously restored home on the East End in 2011. Four years ago, they purchased a weekend home built in 1872 in Sutton for a relaxing and quiet retreat.
With their generous front porches and bracketed eaves, the houses bear some similarities on the outside, but the interiors are polar opposites. Traditional furnishings fill their Charleston home, a showpiece of 1910s construction with lavish woodwork and exquisite stained glass.
The rooms in the Sutton house are brightly dressed in an unexpected mid-century modern style. The atmosphere is fun and reflects the home's role as a relaxed place for the family to hang out.
Traditional residence in Charleston
As their children headed off to college, Anthony and Cindy Majestro began looking around for a house that was less isolated than the home in which they were living. They set their heart on the Quarrier Street house when they attended a party there in 2010 and met the friendly neighbors.
"It was lonely on the hill at the end of the street. Here, we sat on the porch and, before we knew it, people were coming over to meet us," she said.
The Majestros and their friend Sandy Kessell hosted a neighborhood potluck dinner this past December. It was so well attended that it's become a monthly event that rotates among hosting East End homes.
Previous owners Robert Greathouse and Michael Davis had restored the home to its original splendor during their 25 years in the house. It had become a little shabby and even functioned as a boarding house before the men took possession.
The house was built circa 1910 by Harry Eugene Shadle, who owned Morgan Lumber Co., in Charleston. Near Point Pleasant, Shadle also built a 14,000-square-foot Colonial house modeled on and named for Mount Vernon. He bred horses and his family operated a dairy on the extensive property.
Morgan Lumber produced such fine millwork that an architect was hired to oversee the work. Shadle's interest in excellent woods obviously influenced the construction of both houses.
The influence shows on the outside of the Charleston house in unusual details such as the vaselike wooden columns that support the front porch roof, ornate brackets and a carved railing that tops a rounded window bay on the second floor. Inside, Shadle ordered extravagant mahogany columns, built-in cabinets and cases, trim, frames and panels.
The wood frames enclose leaded stained-glass panels throughout the house, including four large stained-glass panels in the stairwell that depict peacocks and angels. The elaborate piece is rumored to have been created in Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio, but it is not signed. A professional stained-glass restorer who made some repairs told the Majestros that it was definitely made in the 1910s in a New York studio.
Cindy didn't have to look far afield for furnishings for their East End home. She relied on furniture and accessories from their previous home to fill the imposing rooms. The mix of sturdy antiques and comfortable sofas and chairs upholstered in floral, striped and checkered materials work well in the Quarrier Street home.
Bright artwork created largely by local artists such as Barrie Kaufman, Charly Hamilton, Mark Blumenstein, Kathy Boland and Jeff Fetty decorates walls and display areas.
An oversize built-in china cabinet in the dining room displays an impressive amount of their gold-rimmed white wedding china supplemented with pieces Cindy has salvaged at yard sales, including the annual East End Yard Sale.
The Majestros often relax in the sunroom that overlooks the backyard gardens, which they restored to include a pond, lighting and seating areas originally designed and installed by Greathouse and Davis.
They entertain frequently and host fundraising events for art and political causes. Cindy has taken a leave of absence from her position with the firm of Powell & Majestro, where Anthony is managing partner, to manage Tish Chafin's campaign for West Virginia Supreme Court.
As Cindy contemplates paint selections and looks for additional pieces like a pair of antique button-tufted Victorian sofas she found for a spacious second-floor hallway, she considers the house's history as well as her family's comfort.
"I feel like we're stewards of this house. It's our responsibility to preserve its history," she said.
Modern retreat in Sutton
SUTTON, W.Va. -- Anthony and Cindy Majestro settled on Sutton as the location for a second home based partially on its position about an hour from Charleston. Before they purchased the house, they frequently stayed at Café Cimino Country Inn during weekend getaways, where they enjoyed the owners' hospitality and Chef Tim Urbanic's delicious meals.
"Melody and Tim Urbanic made us feel so welcome, just like family. We still feel that way," Cindy said. "Sutton is a beautiful, historic town full of friendly people."
Sutton is also a convenient stop for their college-age children. Elder daughter Gina just graduated from WVU, where her younger sister Anna is still enrolled. Son Tony attends Virginia Tech.
"They can pop in whenever they want. It's not too far," Cindy said. They all enjoy outdoor activities on nearby Sutton Lake, the Elk River that borders their property, and local activities and arts.
It was during one of their stays at Café Cimino that they spotted a historic house for sale several doors down from the inn. "We're suckers for older homes," Cindy said.
At the time, they were considering adding a garage to their hillside home in Charleston, and knew its location on a steeply graded hill would necessitate expensive reinforcement to support a garage. They looked at the Sutton home and considered the price.
"I realized that we could buy that garage and get the house free in Sutton for less than it was going to cost to add a garage here," Anthony said.
The exterior of the Kelly House, named for the original owner who built the house as a hotel, had been restored by the previous owner, who was also a talented woodworker. He added the decorative brackets under the eaves and restored the exterior. A section of the original wrought-iron fence found in the backyard completed the front-yard fence that is shown in an 1880s photo.
The Majestros bought the house before the previous owner completed indoor restorations. One of their first projects was to remove vinyl paneling that covered some of the original plaster walls. The house was furnished in heavy Victorian pieces with walls painted dark navy and lighter neutrals or papered in busy floral prints.
When Cindy turned her attention toward furnishing the Sutton home, she decided to use secondhand furniture that would withstand the family's leisure-time activities.
"I didn't want anything new. I wanted it to be fun, durable, inexpensive and no fuss," Cindy said.
"I'd been in The Purple Moon and loved the stuff there. [Owners] Connie and Chuck Hamsher found about a third of the furnishings for us," Cindy said. The Purple Moon, on Quarrier Street, specializes in mid-century modern furnishings.
Connie photographed the house and selected the colors for each room based on the bright furnishings that would go in the rooms. She chose a red from a painting for the two-floor hallway walls, a lime green found in the sleeper sofa fabric for the den and turquoise for the master bedroom's sitting room.
To augment the pieces she obtained through the Hamshers, Cindy pored through eBay, attended auctions and frequented secondhand stores in Columbus and Cincinnati that specialized in mid-century modern pieces. "I started about four years ago, when it wasn't so popular. I paid much less than you'd have to pay now," she said.
One of her first purchases was a hard-to-find sleeper sofa with turquoise and lime upholstery from the 1950s. She wanted a sleeper sofa to accommodate guests. She'd found it online, then traveled to Cincinnati in a U-Haul truck to pick it up. It was one of many trips she made to track down and buy purchases. Sometimes the trips were a disappointment when a photo online didn't live up to an item's actual appearance, but often another item snagged her attention, like the time she spotted a sturdy 10 1/2-foot dining room table.
A skillful faux wood painting job disguised linoleum that covered the tabletop. The table had formerly been in a fraternal lodge in a little town in Ohio. "It was the centerpiece of the lodge meetings. Apparently, the guys would jump on the table as the evenings went on," she said. Cindy had the linoleum stripped and the wood under it refinished. The table easily seats 10 or 12 with chairs that were salvaged from an old restaurant.
Colorful pieces of art, largely from local artists, fill the walls and also inspire wall colors. The red hallway walls frame the steps upstairs, where bright turquoise, dramatic brown/gray and lime green color the bedroom walls.
Cindy stripped the yellow flowered wallpaper from the walls of the girls' bedrooms, but left the paper on the closet walls. When the closet door is opened, the wallpaper's busy pattern contrasts with the furnishings' clean lines and bold stripes on the bed linens.
Not every piece is vintage, but most fit in with the mid-century modern theme. The globes in a light fixture in the master bedroom sitting room are in the shape of martini glasses.
"It's all just fun. The bright colors are cheerful and appeal to me," she said.
Reach Julie Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1230.