The garden, designed by eminent Portland landscape architect Wallace Huntington (and augmented in recent years by groundskeeper Jay W. Miner) featured a gracious stone-and-brick front courtyard and a matching back terrace. It also housed many of Helen’s beloved specimen trees, including a dawn redwood and a Japanese maple said to have grown from seeds that a Portland Garden Club compatriot gathered at a Japanese emperor’s palace.
Waldman is right: it all seems so Rose Tarlow. But the house is also very Ann Waldman. A former artist and tile designer for Ann Sacks, Waldman launched her twenty-two-year decorating career out of a floral delivery business she started ("I’d come and do the flowers, and they’d want me to push the furniture around"). She acquired her main design skills—manipulating color, texture, light, and form—not through any formal education, but through the practices of painting and ceramic sculpture, which she studied at Reed College.
Waldman’s brand of good taste is conservative at its core, a sensibility evident in her sensitive remodel of Hawkins’s design. She elected to keep the floor plan intact, except for removing a couple of fussy-seeming anterooms along with a hexagonal-roofed front porch. With architect Geno Salimeno she also reconfigured the L-shaped kitchen, putting the eating nook next to Huntington’s courtyard and installing French doors to connect the indoor and outdoor spaces. The home’s two bathrooms were likewise remodeled, and the master bath was clipped to add closet space. Beyond that, there was a lot of painting to do.
To create a sense of flow from room to room, Waldman alternated warm and cool colors—creams, taupes, and pale greens and blues. As usual, she simplified the process of choosing colors by referring exclusively to the sample book of British paint company Farrow & Ball, whose pared-down palette consists of 132 historical hues. "Color is huge for me," she says. "It probably would be insignificant for an architect, but as an interior designer, I care about surfaces."
So did her predecessor, Helen Thompson. Hawkins recalls Thompson matching the living-room paint to a Pompeian-red napkin she’d brought home from a reception at a Dupont mansion. As if not to be outdone, Waldman repainted the living room a particular pale quince-green that she recalls from a trip to Venice. The color is warm and vibrant, but quiet, like spring leaves—and somehow it works alongside the room’s standout artwork, a red-and-kelly-green painting by Elizabeth Murray, one of Waldman’s favorite artists. The effect is, of course, perfect. One imagines Rose Tarlow would approve.