A drive down Locust Street in Lockport is a lovely reminder of the area’s proud history, with its beautiful large homes from various and historical periods in accompanying architectural styles, set back from the street on expansive lawns with marvelous, tall, mature trees. One such home, owned by Julie and George Muscato, was built around 1834, and was previously home to the Rice family (the patriarch a prominent local doctor in the mid-1800s) and Ralph Keep (a stockholder in the Lockport Exchange and Farmers and Mechanics Banks and owner of a local paper mill), who owned it from 1910 to approximately 1940 and performed the first major renovation in the 1920s. Julie, an interior decorator and business owner, has lovingly restored the blueprints of that renovation, which now hang in a bedroom wing hallway upstairs.
Ted Darling, the very "Voice of the Buffalo Sabres," for twenty-two seasons, lived here from the 1970s, and famously called the Blizzard of ’77 game between the Sabres and the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum over the telephone while watching it on television in this home. Julie Muscato grew up with the Darling children and was in and out of this house all of the time, she says. "They were really easygoing folks, and it was a big hangout for all of the Sabres throughout the 1970s and 80s. There was a Zamboni out in front and the kids played hockey on the front lawn."
Previous owners, the Kenyon-Rosati family, started the second renovation in the late 1990s, and the Muscatos completed it, moving the kitchen to the back of the home and installing such modern luxuries as a Sub-Zero refrigerator hidden behind Heritage cabinetry and hardware that honors the period when the home was built. The off-white cabinets are offset by a black island in the same style, with black toleware tin trays painted with bright flowers, fruits, and farm animals, and a clever corner wall adorned top to bottom with wine corks. The dining room is large and bright, the walls covered with a wealth of paintings in a variety of sizes and frame styles. "I love collecting antique oils, landscapes," says Muscato. "I really wanted the home to reflect the period, and I was honored to be a part of its history."
The renovation in the early 1900s removed pocket doors (they’re stored in the attic) and put in arches, giving the home an open flow that was somewhat unusual for the period but allows light to flow through the poured glass windows and up to the soaring twelve-foot ceilings. "We have two nice living rooms to enjoy—two parlors—created in the twenties and thirties," says Muscato, who loves the carved limestone fireplace in one of them. "It’s such a fun piece, and this is original to the house, with the goddess of hospitality and the griffins."
The large conservatory is completely encompassed by windows that provide bright, natural light. "A lot of the panes have had to be replaced because children have lived here, obviously, but you can see that they’re poured glass, and we love that," Muscato says. "When we do have to replace a pane, we used poured glass."
Muscato considers herself only a caretaker of this historic gem, but she is nonetheless a thoughtful interior designer; it’s not difficult to see her hand in the home, especially when one visits Julie Muscato Home or Julie Muscato Gift, the two businesses she conducts on Lockport’s Main Street. The Julie Muscato Home storefront houses only a small portion of Muscato’s offerings of window treatments, upholstery, vast fabric and wallpaper books, and unique tabletop decorative items that pull a home together. "The ability to focus on the big picture and not get lost in the small details is key to creating a beautiful space that works," it says on her website.
The gift shop storefront is an exclusive collection of items from local artisans, Buffalo-themed gifts and décor, books from local authors, and distinctive items you won’t find anywhere else. Stop in on your way to a birthday party or baby shower (the new kids’ corner is completely adorable), find a lovely gift, and have it beautifully wrapped from a collection of gift wrapping, including offerings from Scalamandre, and other colorful, high-quality paper wrapping, gift bags, ribbons and bows.
Muscato’s home, her interior design business, and her gift shop are a natural outgrowth of her interest in décor, history, and combining what’s pleasing to the eye with what feels comfortable, and what is practical for the day-to-day management of a life. Her historic home is clearly one of her finest projects.