When I first met Karen and Don Kihlsstrom, it was in their impeccably curated antique store, Bogwater Jim in Lafayette, New Jersey. The couple opened the shop some 30 years ago, focusing on French, English, and American antiques with age and character. Since the early 90s Karen has traveled to England twice a year to find antiques and decorative arts for her shop. “My UK experience has yielded more than 50 containers of wonderful antique merchandise from undiscovered sources,” Karen says, “I’ve made lifelong friends, met the most interesting dealers and characters and have discovered how durable I am.”
It was Karen’s spirit and eye that resonated with me. Over the past three years I have become a loyal customer and have her to thank for many of my favorite pieces in my apartment. I finally got up the courage to ask to feature her home, knowing that if it felt anything like the shop, it would be something special. It was then that I learned that Karen and Don’s love for old houses has resulted in seven home restoration projects over the past three decades, all of which they have bought, restored, and sold. The home they have now shared for 25 years is one they built themselves on a two-acre parcel of land, once home to an orchard. “Although we truly love old buildings best, we just wanted to try our hand at building from scratch. Building to suit ourselves gave us the opportunity to create a pretty large workshop/studio where we can work on antiques without leaving home,” Karen says.
The end result is a stunning American Saltbox a stone’s throw from their shop. It is as unique as it is simple, giving Karen and Don the clarity they need after busy days at the store. “When you build a home yourself it really is never done. But that can be a plus, as ideas change and what you thought you might want evolves into something that really works,” Karen says. It is this flexibility and Karen’s ever-evolving eye that gives the home its character. A black and white color scheme carries throughout the house, offering a clean backdrop for their growing collection of antiques and oil paintings. From old nantucket baskets, to floral oil paintings, to uniformed mannequins, the longer you let your eye linger on the space the more details you discover. Every object has a story attached and after three decades of collecting antiques, this home has many to tell. —Emma
Photography by Emma Tuccillo