With a treasure-trove of fine antiques surrounding them in their Garden District home, what four daughters and one son once considered merely old furniture has taken on a new meaning. Now there’s a list of what each one has earmarked for his or her wish list for later years. Meredith, 12; Ashley, 16; Anne, 18; Michael, 20; and Margaret, 21, have indeed learned to appreciate fine antiques, many from their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ homes, as well as those collected by their parents – Linda and Dr. Peter Tufton. “It has been interesting to watch each child acquire an appreciation for antiques,” Peter says with a smile as he conducts a tour of his chock-a-block filled home. “The process has been delightful to note.”
A portrait of Anita Pons Tufton (Peter’s mother) by Robert Bruce Williams graces the wall over the chest that was made by Baltimore furniture maker Joseph Barry in 1815; a 1790 English Sheraton settee provides seating in front of the fireplace.
When Peter and Linda were getting married his mother wondered why he wanted a house with so many bedrooms. “Why do you want such a big house?” she questioned. “Little did she know that once we began having children we wouldn’t stop until we had five,” Peter remarks. “My mother finally said, ‘Thank goodness you have a big house.’”
As a child, Peter lived on Gov. Nicholls in the French Quarter with his parents, Anita and Peter Tufton, and his mother’s parents, Camilla and Michael Pons. “I grew up with antiques and just took for granted that someday I would inherit family heirlooms,” the busy dentist says.
Located on a quiet Garden District street, the home is furnished with important antiques that fill every room and hallway. Yet this house has a warm feeling of hominess, rather than the museum-like stuffiness you find in some antique-filled homes. “We don’t have untouchables in our home,” Peter explains. “Everything gets plenty of use in a family of seven.”
Three patterns of family silver flatware, sterling goblets, sterling silver chargers and butter plates complement the place settings on the dining room’s Duncan Phyfe table. Coalport plates flank the Dutch 18th century painting of flowers over the 1820 American Federal sideboard. The paintings on the left are [upper] an 1891 silver medal Paris Salon by A. Beekmans, and [lower] a river scene painted in 1850 by George C. Mason. An 1870 French bronze chandelier illuminates the room.
A pair of matching tables flank an 1815 Federal-style sofa, Austrian porcelain lamps add interest to the tables and unique 1825 watercolor and needlework pictures, depicting the Bible story of Joseph, are displayed over the couch; the couple found the 1830 mahogany Sheraton secretary in New York.
It’s the unexpected in the Tuftons’ house that adds excitement. For example, an antique carved teakwood Chinese display cabinet (inherited from his grandparents), inlaid with tiger-eye, ivory and mother of pearl on gold lacquer depicting ancient philosophers in different poses, adorns the top of the stairway. The wall-to-wall 1820 Georgian breakfront in the library (inherited from his parents) isn’t filled with books, instead it holds a magnificent collection of treasured silver.
Peter is the third generation of his family to collect silver. “A passion for collecting the late 18th century English silver crafted by Hester Bateman has followed me most of my adult life,” he says as he points to the teapot with ivory handles resting on the small table in front of the leather couch in the library. He purchased it when he was 26-years-old.
A marble-topped dressing table by Prudence Mallard features a dogwood design and graces a corner of the master bedroom, while Blizzard, the family’s dog, rests atop the 1820 New England high-post bed.
Nothing is ordinary in the Tuftons’ manse. For example, the famous New Orleans furniture maker, Prudence Mallard, crafted the dressing table in the master bedroom, and noted Baltimore craftsman Joseph Barry made the mahogany chest in 1815 that now rests in the living room. Other important antiques include Peter and Linda’s 1820 high-post bed made in New England, and the 1790 Sheraton settee in the living room.
Interior designer Mary Ferry Bigelow has been working with the Tuftons for 15 years. “It has been an exciting project,” she says. “They have different tastes; Linda loves the eclectic look, vibrant colored wallpaper and things unusual, while Peter is really into craftsmanship and things with historical significance. I like the fact that although things seem to always be changing, actually, some things (such as the clock on the mantel in the dining room) have been there forever.”
the mid-19th century treasure has a place of honor at the head of the stairway.
Peter is quick to point out that his wife has definitely left her mark in each room. “Linda has definite tastes,” Peter says. “She is very daring and likes color. She doesn’t want anything boring.” Peter sees himself as more of collector. “I am always looking for something of lasting value and things that won’t go out of style – like a car. I marvel at a chest that was made 200 years ago and is still as serviceable and beautiful as the day it was made. Some furniture changes with fashion, but a fine antique will never be out of style.”
The lived-in quality is in evidence everywhere – including the couple’s use of fine silver when the family gathers around the dining room table. Even Blizzard, the family’s Samoyed, sleeps on the antique rugs on the living room floor or atop the couple’s New England high-post bed, and don’t be surprised if you see a jacket draped on the back of antique chair. “This is our home,” Peter says warmly. “It isn’t a museum.”
A small 1800 American Hepplewhite chest with a serpentine front is the focal point in the entry while handsome Scalamadre toile wallpaper adds character to the space; decorative objects include a Chinese export lamp and bowl – the jade pieces on the chest were purchased in Vietnam.
The Tufton family (seated left to right): Meredith, Linda, Peter, Anne, (standing) Ashley, Margaret and Michael.