Good Morning America’s Home Improvement Editor Ron Hazelton went to Gloucester, Mass., for a visit to Stillington Hall, a Tudor-style historic site built in the early 1920s but only recently restored into an inviting and cozy home.
The house was built for Leslie and Mary Buswell. Mr. Buswell, an actor, added a large theater to the house, where notable thespians such as Helen Hayes and the Barrymores performed for such celebrated guests as the Roosevelts. Stillington Hall remained in the Buswell family for nearly 75 years, often being rented out for weddings and other events. But the beautiful old house began to deteriorate during the last decade.
Man Behind the House Three years ago, John Cottrell, a well-known American designer, bought the place and began a painstaking restoration.
Cottrell took the theater, a large room with high vaulted ceilings, and transformed it into a living room with abundant overstuffed furniture and large pillows. The stage and curtain are still in place, although Cottrell has converted the stage itself into an upper-level sitting area.
Stillington Hall looks much older than it actually is. The original designer incorporated antique touches such as a cook-in fireplace more typical of a home from the1700s, and Cottrell enthusiastically respected the Buswells’ original style and intentions. He’s taken full advantage of the old-fashioned details and furnishings. He even went to great lengths to add more.
Putting It Together Much of the window glass in the house is blown and spun bottle glass. Double-paned windows were designed to serve as display cases, permitting light to shine through decorative glass collections. The home’s original designer looked through other old New England houses to find period pieces, wood paneling and shutters. And Cottrell lovingly restored early American antiques from the Buswells’ original collection after years of neglect and abuse.
Cottrell reinterpreted the “raw material” of Stillington Hall, making this historic home a reflection of his personal taste. The Buswells evidently preferred a more formal, Spartan look but Cottrell has turned Stillington Hall into something warmer, cozier, more intimate — and very hard to resist on a chilly autumn morning.