Many buyers purchase homes to suit their lifestyles, seeking a requisite number of rooms and sufficient outdoor space. But when Noel Garingan and Joe Riley were home shopping, they had another requirement: The house had to accommodate Garingan’s collection of mid-19th-century primitive portraits.
The 1895 Queen Anne that the men purchased two years ago in Overbrook Farms has high ceilings and plenty of wall space for paintings. “What sold us was the original layout,” Riley said. “It hadn’t been chopped up.” Instead, each room — foyer, living room, den, and dining room — opens into the other.
Garingan and Riley also were attracted to the stone home’s fine 19th-century features and craftsmanship, including four working fireplaces; several leaded-glass windows; pine, oak, and maple flooring; mahogany pocket doors; a mahogany-and-oak staircase; maple door and window trim; and richly carved oak wainscoting.
The full bath on the first floor was a later addition, as was the charming solarium off the foyer where Riley and Garingan often have breakfast. This time of year, they can view their flourishing vegetable garden. The kitchen was remodeled in the 1970s and awaits a future do-over. Garingan envisions an updated Downton Abbey scullery with a slate floor.
Furnishings for the house came mostly from auctions and flea markets. The original homeowners would have approved of quirky items such as a deer head adorned with tassels on the second-floor landing, from the Creeper Gallery in New Hope, and the male and female goat-headed figures in 19th-century garb on the dining room table. The goats were fashioned by William Bezek, a Manhattan artist and theater designer. Victorians were fond of such “curiosities,” as were present-day visitors who toured the home in May when it was part of the Overbrook Farms House Tour and Tea.
Other foot-high human figures in early-American garb are displayed on mantles and elsewhere in the house. Crafting the figures is a hobby for Garingan, who works in marketing for a pharmaceutical and medical company.
A gilt-and-glass credenza in the second-floor foyer stores more than a dozen hats. “Once you have no hair, you have to have hats,” Garingan explained, tapping his head.
He’s hung several of his primitive portraits, a form of American folk art, above the wainscoting in the living areas.
Downstairs, the couple retained the previous owner’s cream color scheme. Upstairs, they painted an avocado green bedroom white and converted it into a dressing room. In the master bedroom, painted gray and white, walls are hung with landscapes instead of portraits.
“I didn’t want to sleep with dead people,” Riley said.
A porcelain figure with tiny birds perched on her outstretched arms is positioned above the four-poster bed. The “guardian angel,” Garingan says, was purchased at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.
He and Riley kept the deep coral paint in the guest bedroom, which became the children’s portrait room. The paint matches the dress on a girl holding a cat in a portrait over a chest. A painting of two young sisters in blue and white hangs above the bed.
When the three bathrooms on the second floor are updated, Garingan and Riley will preserve the leaded-glass window and enormous claw-footed tub in the master bathroom.
The third floor, once a separate apartment, awaits remodeling. Outside, renovation of the carriage house is underway with second-floor sky lights installed in Garingan’s future art studio. Riley, an engineer, appreciates the mechanism of the gears on the hand-operated elevator. It was once used for hay, or possibly to lower carriages to the first floor.
Garingan, 55, grew up in the Philippines and Canada. Riley, 53, grew up in Broomall. They have been together since 2011 and married in 2014. In their wedding photo, above the foyer fireplace, Riley and Garingan wear straw boaters, bow ties and red vests, evoking the era when the house was brand new.
Lately, the couple have shared an interest in acquiring “society portraits” from the early 20th century. Unlike the stern-faced subjects in the primitive portraits, these stylish men and women appear ready to step from their frames to revel with Garingan and Riley. With its flow of rooms, wide front porch, and half-acre of gardens, Riley says their house is a perfect place to entertain.