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Bucks County Style. What is it?
by Kathryn Finegan Clark
Nick Bewsey and Nelson Zayas of Blue Raccoon, Lambertville
Nick Bewsey and Nelson Zayas of Blue Raccoon have been retailers of distinction in the Bucks area for 15 years. The Area Guide turned to them to have a discussion about Bucks County Style.
AG: Nelson, you’re an interiors maven. Let me ask you first: “Is there a Bucks County style?”
NZ: Yes, yes, sure. It’s a very personal thing. So maybe I would say there are Bucks County styles. Plural. That way everyone gets to be part of Bucks County, and to express their vision of it.
NB: Right. These are land-proud, house-proud people, and whether they are farmers or gentleman farmers or people who like the look of the area, Bucks County style is all about your home and how it makes living a sort of art.
NZ: It’s easier to say what Bucks County style isn’t. It isn’t a spinning wheel in the corner of the living room. Or three crocks on a shelf. Or dried wheat in sheaves that haven’t been dusted in 10 years. Those are old magazine clichés that we run into from time to time, but that’s not Bucks County style.
AG: So Bucks County style is evolving?
NB: Absolutely. The area is changing, and people from all over live here now, but many of them seek the best values of the traditional lifestyle here. They like their homes to reflect nature: wood and stone are used in a certain…(searching for a word) elemental way here. And people like their gardens to be part of their home living space.
NZ: Yes. And when they travel, they bring back things, often handcrafted things, unique things. And these collections are all about style. I have a collection of garden forks. You know, that you work in your garden beds with. They’re humble little objects but when you assemble a dozen of them and mount them on a wall and say, “look at these,” they’re interesting, and make you think about design and function. As Nick said, about living, how you live.
NB: Right. A lot of people here travel, yet when they are away, they might find a hay pitchfork made from a tree limb that is very like the things farmers here use so they bring it home because it feels right, makes them feel connected to the people who were here before them.
AG: Is there room for “modern” in the Bucks County style?
NZ: Absolutely. I love it—and I encourage it—when people have some old pine-floor room with deep windowsills and they center it with a sleek contemporary clean-line sofa. Ahh. Perfect. Helps you see the continuity of simple. People ask us all the time if we think it’s okay for them to mix modern things in their old houses. Yes.
NB: Yes. We don’t feel we have to listen to period music in our old houses. We shouldn’t have to sit in period furniture…
NZ: … right, or stay in one period. Family homes reflect all the people, all the generations that lived there. So it’s great looking to mix styles of various periods.
You just need to find a thread running through it, maybe color or the kind of leg, or the kind of wood … something continuous.
AG: Yes, it’s refreshing, isn’t it, not to be locked into one period?
NZ: We don’t live in museums! We’ve always said, “Your home is more than just furniture.” And we sell furniture. But it’s how you put it together that tells your story. That is what we’ve always tried to do is help people tell their stories with things we think work in homes in the Bucks County area.
AG: Well, we know what you think about spinning wheels but are antiques an essential part of the style?
NZ: Not necessarily. Maybe unique things are, though. Whether it’s old, as you’re saying, or a special thing from nature, some paper hornet’s nest with fantastic architecture to it. Something that makes you stop and think. Or a sense of wonder. And like we said before, maybe these are things you find when you travel. So they’re not even old, but unique because they call attention to themselves and how they were made.
NB: And, let’s not forget that this Bucks and Hunterdon area is great for antiquing and building your life’s collection, and those tucked away shops, stores, dealers and owners provide a wealth of finds to help you define your own Bucks County style.
NZ: Right. You could have inherited or found at auction some fabulous Philadelphia high style cherry desk. And you place this very formal thing that is all polished and has a great patina next to a chair that is a wing chair – which they had in 18th-century Philadelphia, but your wing chair is the latest design and new proportions that work for a family “cocooning” in front of their flat-screen TV. I think that’s part of this area, where so many of the houses have history
NB: … and part of the history is the history we’re making now.
NZ: Right. Bucks County lives on. And Bucks County style lives on. And every day someone draws upon it for inspiration. And then adds to it. We want to be part of that.