Saturday, March 7, 2015

Indoor Garden Stairs

I inherited my parents' friends. I got to make friends and spend time with some amazing characters from my folks' Bohemian artsy younger days. One of my favorites among this older generation was an architect called Eduard Henri Bullerjahn. He is hard to find even with Google, and was never famous. But his designs were elegant, simple, and practical, and they found their way into the dwellings and workplaces of the rich and the intelligentsia of New  England. One building I knew well as a visitor was his house on Sakonnet Point in Rhode Island, which he designed after his retirement as a refuge for himself and his equally lovable wife "Timmy." 

This house was part old coastal New England and part Mediterranean modern. Bullerjahn created an entirely new house and melded it with the older place. The new house was built as an enclosed "winter garden," with the rooms set around an inner courtyard under a glass conservatory roof. Within this climate-controlled space you could have flowers and trees and vines even in the middle of winter. There was even a mini-swimming-pool where you could frolic in an artificial current. The inner courtyard had one side with two stories. The master bedroom and the second story, made bright by multiple windows, was accessed by a stairway of stucco and stone which looked like it had been transplanted from a Greek island. Ivy grew up the wall, and the stairs, which you see here, were accented by terra-cotta plant pots and odd little sculptures. Even though there was no railing, the architect assured me that it was safe to go up and down the stairs. After all, Mediterranean folks had been walking stairs like these for thousands of years.

Naturally, I wanted this house. I wanted Bullerjahn to leave this wonderful little palace to me for my own refuge. The next best thing I could do is depict it, which I did here in on-site watercolor. I wanted to live in this white stucco box of goodness and watch the sunbeams travel across the tile floor. Instead, the Mediterranean home was sold to strangers after Bullerjahn's passing, and who knows whether it is even still extant. I still remember staying there, where on quiet nights you could hear the ocean waves splashing on a nearby beach.
It'll be spring someday.

Watercolor on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 8", mid-1990s.

No comments: