I remember the first time I saw the work of Frances Palmer. I still lived at home, in Arkansas, and was flipping through one of my mom’s magazines when I saw a feature on beautiful white ceramics made in faraway Connecticut. I thought they were the most elegant and beautiful ceramics I had ever seen – all in white. I was so taken with them that I remember that magazine feature to this day. So fast-forward a few years to last week, and you can understand why I had to pinch myself in the car with Max and Grace on the way to visit Frances’ Connecticut home. I wasn’t at all surprised to find the beautiful home, like her pottery, elegant in its simplicity, but I wasn’t expecting a full Frances Palmer compound. There’s the beautiful old barn built with interior beams dating from the 1790s, which she and her husband bought in pieces and moved from Bethel, Connecticut and now houses her ceramic studio. Then there’s the small rustic shed that houses her kiln. And in addition to potted plants all over the house and property, she has two beautiful flower gardens. A tennis-court-turned-flower-garden has raised beds and flowers potted in the cracks of the court. And there’s yet another garden, with a rustic wooden fence situated near her barn studio. Frances has lived in this 1850s Connecticut Colonial for twenty years, and when she and her husband first bought the property they recognized that even though it was in need of repair and restoration – horrible shag carpeting was everywhere, radiators blocked the window mouldings and leaked onto the floors, and there were holes in the plaster where people had banged doors into the walls – it had great bones. They took out the radiators and put in central heating, took up the carpets to sand and refinish the beautiful old floors and opened the doorway between rooms. They pushed out the back wall of the kitchen and put in windows across to bring in light. The goal was to reveal the beauty of the house. Once the house was well underway, they sent about working on the grounds. Frances has spent the last two decades molding every aspect of the home into the perfect vessel for her creative outlets: her work in pottery, her gardens and her cooking. This is certainly not something that happens overnight. –Amy
If you’re local to Connecticut (or up for driving), Frances’ gardens will be part of the Garden Conservancy Open Day program and you can see the magic for yourself. They will be open to the public on September 14th. Info at the gardenconservancy.org.
Photography by Maxwell Tielman (except for garden photographs by Frances Palmer)
Image above: “In the dining room, we have a table that can seat twelve and an old hutch,” Frances says. “I like to run vases down the table filled with flowers from the garden.”
See more of Frances’ house after the jump!
Image above: “Continuing into the living room, two white couches sit in front of the fireplace. There are two Paul Frankl cork tables that we brought with us from the forties glass house that was our first home in Connecticut. We also have a couple of Stickley chairs, so the room is a melange of styles.”
Image above: “The flowers on the dining room table are my first cuttings of dahlias and zinnias for the season.”
Image above: “The dining room hutch that houses a group of my bisque porcelain vases. I love how the forms are highlighted against the dark wood.”
Image above: “Adjacent to the dining room is a pantry that was added in the 1930s. It has a great wooden counter and an Elkay sink.”
Image above: “The pantry then leads into the kitchen, which was the one room that we redesigned. We opened up the back wall with a line of large windows. A friend of ours who was a carpenter built us cherry cabinets inspired by Shaker design.”
Image above: “This is the stairway inside the front door looking towards the living room. Originally, the rooms were closed off from each other and a bit dark. My husband Wally had the idea to remove the doors and open up the stairwell. This allows light to flow through the house and makes it very peaceful.”
Image above: “The master bedroom is very much in keeping with the rooms downstairs. We don’t have curtains on the windows, as I love to see the light at all times and especially the moonlight.”
Image above: “On the first floor is a small powder room, which was devised at some point after the house was built. It is quite small, but ah, that is the case often with old houses. We found a small corner sink and then hung a mirror across the corner using a ribbon.”
Image above: The entrance to Frances’ 1850s Connecticut home.
Image above: “Through the kitchen and out the back door is where our dog Peter sits, watching his domain. So many dogs on Instagram are great posers, but he is not fond of the camera. Regardless, he is my best friend and he enjoyed the visit from Amy, Grace and Max.”
Image above: “Walking across the driveway about 100 feet will lead you to my studio. The interior beams in the barn were taken from a house built in the 1790s. The barn was built ten years ago and I am so lucky to have such a beautiful place to work every day. Last week you saw a sneak peak of my workspace on the first floor. My wheels and kilns are there and when the work is finished, I bring it upstairs for shipping and packing.”
Image above: “Next to the studio is a garden that I use primarily to grow cut flowers for photography. I am an avid dahlia collector and have been researching and championing them for almost twenty years.”
Image above: “Beyond the barn is a tennis court that was originally built in the 1930s. When we moved in, the fencing had collapsed and the court was unusable. We repaired it, however, not being tennis players, it ended up a great skateboarding and rollerblading court. Now it is filled with raised beds for a second flower and vegetable garden.”