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Heritage home meets Nordic chic

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Photo: Jane Brokenshire

Susan Drover’s carefully curated home bucks style trends

I’m not personally a trend follower, I’m more of an observer of things I love,” says Susan Drover from her heritage home in downtown St. John’s, N.L.

Drover has turned her historic 129-year-old house into what she calls a “Nordic chic” refuge, with design values she hopes will stand the test of time.

“I really feel if you’re following a trend, you’re not in love with your things,” says Drover. “You might be in love with what it looks like temporarily. For me, none of the things I put together here are super high budget items… They’re personal collections I’ve curated.”

Photo: Jane Brokenshire
Photo: Jane Brokenshire

She gestured to a tray with miniature glass vases, which she first encountered during a trip to Sweden. They’re called Anya vases and each glass bulb has a little bit of water in it, and she changes the sprig of greenery regularly. 

“They’re one of my personal obsessions… one of my most cherished design items,” she says, adding that they’re versatile and can go anywhere, from bathrooms to bedside tables. 

Drover bought her home, which was built in 1893, three years ago. It’s been a makeover in progress ever since. 

“The first thing I did was paint it all white, because that’s what I always do. Just go through it with white. It’s actually Snowfall White, which is kind of my signature white.”

Photo: Jane Brokenshire
Photo: Jane Brokenshire

Drover has put a lot of consideration into what she brings into her home, and it’s no wonder she spends the effort on it, as she’s the founder and lead designer at SAM Design, a local full-service design studio and retail showroom.

“My house is very curated with things I love, so it’s very eclectic. It’s a mix of all sorts of things.”

Photo: Jane Brokenshire
Photo: Jane Brokenshire

One of the first changes she brought to the home was swapping the dark hardwood floors for a light wood herringbone pattern. She adds that getting the pieces to line up was no small feat. It’s also one of her favourite features and drawn from her love of Nordic style.

Pieces of unique artwork, predominantly in black and white, are displayed throughout the home. Drover has a massive painting by Robert Moore hanging above the fireplace, titled “Properly Accessorized.” Another corner has smaller framed pictures that were done by her children’s grandfather.

Photo: Jane Brokenshire

She says the family hub is the dining room, which currently has a collage of soon-to-be-framed vintage posters and paintings that Drover brought back from a recent trip to France. A snowy painting by Mike Gough dominates the wall.

Contrasting with the white walls, the entry hallway features a forest of green wallpaper with pops of pink.

“The wallpaper was an opportunity to add drama, I think, because with the palette being very white and black, sometimes that can feel a little bit cold, depending on what the environment of the house is,” says Drover.

Photo: Jane Brokenshire

Since the home is sandwiched between two other houses, there are not many windows, so Drover says she needed to figure out what to do with a massive wall. She could have filled it with art, but thought wallpaper could be art too. She had been carrying around a few samples of the print for years but hadn’t had the chance to use it.

She pointed out that the light coming in from the windows at the back of the house plays off the wallpaper, lighting up certain greens. “Look at the light, how it just dances… It’s like it’s alive.”

The staircase leading up to the upper floors is original to the home. Drover painted it black, though she noted there was an undertone of green in the paint, which she called a happy accident.

“I do love touches of green. It just grounds things a little bit. I find it soothing,” she says.

On the second floor is a powder room she converted from a closet. Across the hallway is an adjoining living room and a master suite that she says she’s kept minimal, as it’s a place for rest.

Photo: Jane Brokenshire
Photo: Jane Brokenshire

She also has a number of George Nelson’s iconic bubble lights hanging throughout the home. She calls it a timeless piece. “I love the light because it really mixes with any environment…What I love about it is it’s not fussy, but it diffuses light beautifully.”

While she knows not everyone is in the position to spend a lot on décor, she encourages people to think about how they fill their homes. She suggests mixing different styles of items, rather than searching places like Pinterest and copying the rooms they see.

“That’s what I love the most. In a downtown home or super modern home or a condo, it just should be a collection of all the things you love… The design and how you live in that space should positively contribute to your life. It should make you happier. It should be bringing out the best. And that is what this house is for me.” 

Elizabeth Whitten

East Coast Living