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Decorators’ Show House 2019

The Palmer Centennial House


Palmer Centennial House

Location: 288 Lincoln Parkway

Architect: Ulysses G. Orr

Year designed: 1910

Style: Arts and Crafts


It’s calm, comfortable, and confident. In the Show House program’s early years, results could be somewhat frantic where spaces seemed to compete for the limelight. But this twentieth Show House is exceptional in its serenity and spirit, as if teamwork and unity were as important as room selection and individual designer excellence.


It could be that the bones of the Palmer Centennial House are especially suited to the task. This Arts and Crafts beauty at the corner of Lincoln Parkway and Chatham Avenues resonates “home,” “Buffalo”, and “unpretentious craftsmanship.”  The interior’s clean lines and design unity are reflected in its tall, dark, and handsome oak carpentry.


The first floor is a series of spaces that open into each other. It has benefited greatly from the fact that, over the years, multiple outdoor porches were enclosed and winterized by various owners and now are year-round permanent rooms that grace the home’s perimeter. The resultant wide-windowed, light-filled spaces have been used to maximum advantage by talented decorators shepherded by Junior League volunteers. The individual rooms have become an expansive and gracious whole.


“Alluring Entry” was created by L2K Design (who now have a showroom on Niagara Street). Simple custom-designed upholstered pieces are punctuated with a large statement mirror. This blends to a lovely living room, designed by Laura Fulciniti & Edie Burke, where wallpapers and metallic paints take inspiration from the original blue tile fireplace surround.


A formerly-dark parlor is totally transformed by Karen Bialkowski (Interiors of WNY) into a wonderful multi-faceted room inspired by travel. Her consistent attention to detail makes the room special. Peter Fowler was commissioned to create a painting meaningful to the family; it hangs above the fireplace mantel.


Once again, Mark Taylor Interiors has created a show-stopper space. What could have been an awkward irregular sunroom is handsomely outfitted with vintage Palecek stick-wicker furniture. The pieces were inspired by FDR’s USS Potomac, popularly dubbed The Floating White House. Taylor has added upholstered cushions in a bold indigo and white striped fabric (from Stout). Other touches include trellis wallpaper and a uniquely crafted Tramp Art coffee table. Taylor’s thirteenth Show House participation once again incorporates his tradition of including a goldfish. (In past years, they’ve swum in a fireplaces, sinks, and bathtubs, but here they contently gliding in a traditional bowl.)


Another special space is the home’s magnificent dining room. Ray Bialkowski of Kittinger Furniture has anchored the room with a beefy, handcrafted American walnut dining table. Its diamond book-matched surface complements the room’s existing paneling. Reflected in the room’s mirrored coffered ceiling, the furniture seems to defer to a gorgeous leaded glass window. It sits in what was originally an exterior wall, but now that the porch is enclosed, the lucky result is that the window’s prisms grace the kitchen as well.


That kitchen was a former atrium. Empire Custom Kitchen has installed a feature-packed contemporary kitchen that respects the historic space. The shaker cabinets are in a beautiful blue finish, topped with marble. Empire incorporated built-in bench seating with clever readily-accessible storage. One can’t miss the enormous commercial stainless-steel gas range in this sun-kissed dream kitchen.


The adjacent prep kitchen is a dog-friendly space by Ann X White. Handsome accents include the wrought iron custom details on the cabinetry. Nearby, a very special sitting nook/conservatory has been created by a team of veteran Interior Design Association decorators. Clearly inspired by the arched brick walls and Palladian windows, they’ve enhanced these features with custom upholstery, cushions, and wallpaper. Folks who are decorating with today’s neutral grey/beige themes should remember the effective color pop and pleasing pallet of warm persimmon. A hand-forged table by Andy Chambers helps make this an especially inviting space.


William Palmer, for whom this house was built, emigrated from England in 1854 and took up gardening in Buffalo, eventually building an empire of thriving greenhouses for his floriculture business. Palmer also opened exceptionally beautiful flower shops in the city; it’s said that he was one of the best-known florists in the country when he died. His life’s work of growing and selling houseplants and cut flowers is beautifully reflected by today’s decorators both inside and outside the Show House property. This is a fitting tribute to the family who introduced the growing of orchids in Western New York and who would become one of the founders of the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery, FTD.


If converted porches are what make the first floor of the Palmer House so special, a similar phenomenon occurs on the second floor. Sleeping porches, typically attached to second-floor bedrooms, had become a popular feature in new home construction in the early 1900s. Prior to air-conditioning and with a new awareness of germs (at the turn of the twentieth century, tuberculosis was the number one cause of death in the United States), residents could escape from stuffy bedrooms to sleep in healthy, ventilated, fresh air. Over years at this Lincoln Parkway home, the three sleeping porches were enclosed and winterized. As a result, they now are bright extensions of the bedrooms. Erin Kent extends nature with her lovely “Office in the Trees” while Michael P Design and Room have created “Potting Studio,” effectively building a grid inspired by architectural elements from atriums and greenhouses.


Central space on the third floor references Buffalo’s rich aeronautical history in a design by Robin Reback Janiak. The room is centered by an unusual two pocket gray felt billiard table, and surrounded by aviation artifacts and memorabilia. Another three bedrooms feed off that space.


Flowers, plants, and greenery extend from indoors to the lavishly enhanced grounds. Cortese has constructed the Show House’s first outdoor kitchen. A “Backyard Retreat for a Busy Woman” by Barbara Fitzpatrick is the Show’s first She Shed. John Higgins of Elmwood Pet Supplies has designed the perfect thoughtful eco-friendly shady retreat for the family pooch.


Arthur’s Furnishings has again handsomely furnished the pool area, using a rainforest theme.


The most fitting tribute to spring and to Palmer’s legacy is the lavish collections of perennials, annuals, herbs, and plants that grace the grounds. Trillium’s Courtyard display of exuberant greenery on the stairs is dazzling. There is also the exciting “Living Wall” created by Sue Napier of Napier Nursery: a cedar frame echoing a vintage florist cooler holding florist buckets of flowers and plants reminiscent of those in the Palmers’ shops.


The Decorators’ Show House is cosponsored by the Junior League of Buffalo and the Buffalo News. Show House proceeds are used to support community projects. The Show House was open to the public April 27–May 19.


Barry Muskat is Spree’s longstanding architecture writer. An architectural historian and design/developer, he is a licensed real estate professional.  




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