If you can’t tell a book by its cover, chances are you can’t tell a house just by looking at it from the sidewalk.
The case in point here is an expansive, traditional two-story stone home. Built in 1937 at the height of development in fashionable Hampden Heights, the home is perched above street level and set back from the curb on a one-third-acre lot. A curving slate walkway delivers visitors to the small but elegant front porch, its pediment adorned with wooden fretwork — perhaps the one clue to what’s inside.
The imposing greyness of the stone and walkway suggests a certain seriousness. But when the front door is opened, the inside is quite the different story. Pastel shades of pinks and greens and yellows play against a décor that’s anything but minimal. It’s a sort of confection, a setting sure to appeal to a romantic’s sweet tooth.
Indeed, in this month of all things love, the visitor may just feel he or she has walked into a Valentine’s card. That feeling of coziness is augmented by a veritable treasure trove of collectibles, exactly what owner Cheryl Lamothe had in mind from the start.
She is a familiar face to many as the longtime owner of the former Garden Angel Tea Room (now New Purpose Consignment) at Routes 222 and 73 in Blandon. The décor there offers hints of her home in Reading.
The correlation began when the Lamothes moved here from upstate New York more than 20 years ago for her husband Fred’s job. Ultimately, the couple and their young daughter Krissie moved in above the store, which Krissie christened the Garden Angel Tea Room.
But as a decade or so passed, the family, especially Cheryl, tired of living above the business. By 2005, the hunt was on for a new place to call home.
The Lamothes loved Hampden Heights. One house they toured didn’t evoke much interest, but just a glance away was what was to become their dream home.
“I was looking across the street and said: ‘If this one goes up for sale, it’s ours,’” Cheryl recalls. As luck would have it, a week later it was on the market.
The architecture of the stunning 3,100-plus-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bath residence is a twist on the Colonial Revival style so popular in evolving suburbs between 1880 and 1955, according to Amy Johnson, historic preservation specialist for the City of Reading.
“The basic framing and design is there with the six-over-six window panes and even the original asymmetrical style,” she says. The random-coursed stone façade, rather than the usual wood, was more popular regionally.
“I just thought it was really charming,” Cheryl says. “It just looked like the right place to call home.”
The Lamothes purchased the home in 2005 and spent about two years renovating the residence.
Most of the work involved minor cosmetics, painting and wall treatments, and some infrastructure modernization. But the couple did eliminate part of the attic crawlspace to create a vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom.
Formal and frothy
The front door opens to a central hallway and a stairway. To the right is the formal dining room, and to the left is the living room.
If a visitor feels a certain rosy glow when stepping into the living room, there’s a tangible reason: the space is dominated by roses, pinks and a mélange of flattering lamps of various vintages and styles – 15 to be exact.
“I love lighting,” she says. “I find it hard not to buy an unusual lamp if I see it.”
Pink is what one might consider Cheryl’s signature color, but that wasn’t always the case.
“When I was growing up, I had red hair and my mom thought I shouldn’t wear pink – that the colors clashed,” she remembers. “My younger sister got the pink and I got blue. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
There’s no shortage of pink in Cheryl’s life these days. A chintz sofa and chair, the starting points for the room’s décor, boast bunches of pink roses against a cream background. On the floor, a darker pink rug with roses highlighted in a trellis design offsets the hardwood floors. The walls are a pale pink.
A vintage whitewashed wooden bedframe repurposed into a bench was acquired in nearby Adamstown, Lancaster County, the antiques Mecca. Flowery pillows and throws beckon one to sit and enjoy the fireplace opposite it.
Angel images, from plaster cherubs to paintings, share space in the visually stimulating setting. Many items were acquired through her business buying forays and are reflective of the Garden Angel Tearoom moniker.
Where to look?
It’s challenging to focus on just one item in the large room. A tall, iron-based lamp is topped by a unique fabric shade with textured inset panels and tassels lining the bottom. A Victorian-inspired globe lamp looks right at home in this eclectic English country (sort of!) setting.
Nearby a trio of white century-old plates with a sprinkling of pink roses hovers over a rectangular wall hanging that declares “God Bless Our Home.” A Victorian-era doll from her mother’s extensive collection rests comfortably in a little rocker.
And not all the visuals are at eye level. There is a floral motif in the original plaster ceiling, a testimony, Cheryl says, to the master Italian craftsmen who were part of the home’s construction crew. The plaster ceiling designs are repeated in other rooms as well.
The room is brightened by the light reflected in the mirror above the fireplace mantel. Chief reflectors here are matching antique candelabras flanking the looking glass. The bronze fixtures are highlighted by original prisms (more light dispersion!) and accented by inlaid stone, most likely a form of agate.
“I splurged on those,” Cheryl says. “They are just beautiful at night.”
Just off the living room is a wood-paneled den. It is by far the most masculine looking of the first-floor rooms, filled with books and cozy furnishings that invite a long read. Among the room’s treasures is a Mission-style table clock made by Cheryl’s great grandfather.
Berks County Living visited the Lamothes during the early part of the holiday season. There were several highly ornamented Christmas trees throughout the home. The dining room table was set luxuriously, ready for a family feast. Cheryl says it takes her two full weeks to complete the decorating.
The large, comfortably furnished master bedroom is a haven for the couple and features some interesting furnishings and artwork. Among them is a floor-length pier mirror salvaged from an old dairy in Muhlenberg Township and an illuminated stained glass window that marks the point where the attic crawl space gave way to the vaulted ceiling.
There are several cozy guest rooms that are commandeered by Krissie’s children Lena, 8, and Adrien, 5, when her Pittsburgh-based family visits.
A larger bedroom has a clearly dated feel. A wicker carriage from the late 19th century holds two dolls from Cheryl’s childhood. The bedroom suite is what is known as a “cottage set” and includes a vintage dresser, bed and dry sink. A quilt sporting pink roses covers the bed and a wicker chair occupies one corner. The unified appearance of the room is clear despite the eclectic elements.
“It just kind of happens,” she says.
One room has a canopied daybed and pink gingham and floral curtains.
In another, Krissie’s cotton eyelet christening gown is on display. Cheryl created the gown for her daughter from her circa-1970s wedding dress.
Cheryl has pretty much made all the curtains throughout the home. She has her own designated sewing room off one of the bedrooms near the back stairs leading down to the kitchen.
The kitchen itself remains true to its original character and form. The original farmhouse sink may be the envy of those who own newer incarnations. The Lamothes painted the dark wood cabinet doors white and swapped out the two that are leaded glass to showcase some glassware. New hardwood floors replaced some unusual blue, orange and white tiles. White metal and crystal lighting fixtures supplement the exterior light that beams through the home’s original leaded glass exterior windows.
“This kitchen was so dark; we needed to bring in the light,” she says.
The formal dining room is a study in darker pinks, burgundies and greens, played out in curtains crafted by Cheryl. It also boasts finds from Adamstown antique shops, including the sideboard, china cabinet, fireplace mantel and table. The dining room chairs are from Cheryl’s shop and were painted a distressed white to match the other furnishings.
A large illuminated – and fully accessorized – doll house dominates a corner. Krissie also has one. The duo went on buying trips for the tea room, as well as to a big Philadelphia doll house show, where they would purchase the tiny furnishings.
Illuminating the dining room are 1920s-era lamps at either end of the mantle and a large chandelier original to the house positioned over the table.
“It’s the only one I didn’t change,” says Cheryl.
The sage green of the hallway walls serves as a nice transition from the pastel confection of the living room décor to the semi-serious formality of the dining room. Fittingly, a sign stating “Tea Room” hangs above the kitchen door.
Cheryl admits she is at a time in life when her avid collecting is slowing down a bit, something that makes both her dad and her husband happy.
“My dad says: ‘Oh, my God, do you need all this stuff?! If it doesn’t serve a purpose, you don’t need it,’” she says.
But for Cheryl, the “stuff” does have purpose. She enjoys and appreciates her collectibles. Gathered tastefully together, they create a home with a special ambience, a special warmth to be particularly appreciated in the midst of winter’s bitter chill.
Her take on collecting is simple.
“If I like it, I buy it, and I’m going to make it work,” she says. “I put it where it looks good to me – and it stays there.”