Although usually found in storybook landscapes, especially in classic stories meant for children and set in some romantic and far-away place, the trope of the kindhearted and magnanimous uncle seems like just that, a fairytale character—not someone you might actually meet in real life.
But this was not the case for homemaker Jamie Druke, who turned her late great-uncle’s New England house into a home for her family, which includes two young girls, ages four and two.
Understated elegance reigns supreme here, with white surfaces offset by darker hues of wood and gorgeous rafters. Jamie relies on ottomans instead of coffee tables, and her girls do enjoy a good scamper now and again.
“It’s easier than you might think keeping the white couches white,” says Jamie, who explains that keeping furniture covered with white sectional slipcovers from Ikea makes the look attainable even with her busy brood.
The girls’ room is especially immaculate. Jamie, who loves baskets, keeps plenty on hand for the children’s toys. “The girls know which toy goes in which basket,” she says. These receptacles help combat the clutter that frequently arises in many children’s spaces. The three make a game of it in the room peppered in pink with a whimsical tent, where the girls had announced, “No boys are allowed.”
Jamie insists her daughters got this idea from a story they read. Her uncle had installed many built-in bookshelves; he was an avid collector and reader too.
Her uncle’s favorite color was blue, and to remember him, Jamie ensures that hints of blue complete each room. When she and her husband first moved in, she painted the family room a shade that was more gray than blue, but seeing it again after talking to a friend about her uncle, she realized it was all wrong and repainted it a lighter blue, “Pale Smoke.”
Jamie’s first house, she says, had been “basic, beige and safe” in terms of its décor, but living in her uncle’s house, Jamie embraced the blues she now finds “vibrant and cheerful.” Blue is also featured in the hardcover books Jamie unearths in bargain bins and antiques shops. They line all the bookcases. “Having the bookshelves has been huge for us for reducing clutter.”
However, they fit the scene in other ways too. Her uncle “loved literature, art, and design,” and so perhaps it makes sense he would draw inspiration for his home’s garden paths from visits to author Edith Wharton’s estate and gardens.
An author of literary classics was a fitting inspiration indeed for this formal English garden, where you could easily imagine another niece—Mary of The Secret Garden—discovering her uncle’s padlocked flowers and vegetation described by another literary giant. “We think of it as Uncle Bob’s garden,” Jamie says. “He’s such a huge part of this house still.”