Sometimes, even a classic space needs an update.
Such was the case for the historic Bolling Haxall House at the corner of East Franklin and North Third Streets. Home to The Woman’s Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educational opportunities for women, the 1858 Italianate mansion serves as the base for the club’s monthly gatherings as well as numerous other special events, including wedding receptions, Junior Assembly Cotillion dances, and even a recent episode of the ABC series “The Bachelorette.”
The house itself is managed by the Bolling Haxall House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that oversees all necessary repairs and maintenance. In recent years, much attention had to be paid to the first-floor wallpaper, damaged through repeated leaks from a faulty roof, since replaced. Additionally, a recent member survey yielded feedback that indicated it was time to update the nearly three-decades-old wallpaper – fashionable at the time, but showing its age.
Enter H.J. Holtz & Son.
“The company has an excellent community reputation, and we had several personal recommendations from members involved with the project,” says Diane Beirne, executive director of The Woman’s Club. “We were wowed by Rick’s expertise and the level of projects he spoke about in detail.”
The undertaking was made possible financially by an estate gift from the family of the late Jane Martin Roberts, a longtime and devoted member who served as the first long-range planning chair for the Bolling Haxall House Foundation. Thanks to that bequest, Holtz was able to repaper three parlors on the first floor as well as remove the wallpaper from the walls and ceiling of the Fleet Foyer. This space, which connects the house to the ballroom addition, was fully repainted in five complementary neutrals, from an off-white to a patinated bronze, which draws attention to the dentil crown molding and coffered ceiling.
As with projects in many older homes, there were surprises. The removal of some sections of wallpaper revealed plaster damage that had simply been covered, not repaired. Previously undiscovered water damage was found in the foyer. Blue painter’s tape, used to hold a plastic floor covering in place against the baseboard, dislodged some of the faux bois finish when it was removed.
Holtz employees didn’t blink an eye. “We knew that Holtz would fix the issues that they found,” she says. Kyle Poulin, who manages the house and rental activity, adds that the team was “super-responsive and attentive” to whatever came their way, noting that once it was clear Holtz decorative painters had the skill to replicate the baseboard’s faux bois grain, they were tasked with updating “large swaths” of the trim.
The new wallpaper, Farrow & Ball’s Lotus pattern, is a neutral selected specifically to complement – not compete – with existing room decor. As a pattern itself, however, the paper required special care when it was hung. “I was concerned at one point that the paper was being hung upside-down,” Beirne says. “One of the men took the time to show me how the paper was on the roll, to reassure me that it was right.”
Poulin, who oversees roughly 50 rental events yearly, most of them wedding receptions, says the change is a modern update that looks luxurious and expensive while honoring the home’s history. “One recent client was happy with the house itself, but didn’t care for the wallpaper,” he says. “She just came in for another meeting, and now, she’s a happy bride.”
Another challenge for the Holtz team was the timing. The work had to be completed in a three-week period in the summer, so as to not interfere with The Woman’s Club regular October-April program season as well as other events, many scheduled more than a year in advance. Beirne and Poulin said the company’s attention to detail makes all the difference.
“Rick is really invested and smart,” Beirne says. “And the team was thoroughly professional and tidy, leaving our club in a beautiful and updated condition.”
Care that a classic deserves.