Step Inside This Gorgeously Spooky Historic Home
Restoring this colonial home in Salem, Massachusetts, has been a three-year project for the homeowners. The rooms are filled with rich colors, unique accessories, and bold accents—peek inside for tips and tricks for creating a home that suits your distinct style and taste.
When Stacey Norkun and her husband, Chris, decided it was time to leave their home in Washington, D.C., the New England city of Salem, Massachusetts, was “the obvious choice,” Stacey says. The couple had visited Salem while they were dating and adored it; its setting and legacy of embracing the past while looking to the future made it feel like home, even before they actually had a home there.
When it came time to picking a home, Stacey loved that most for-sale houses had a historic exterior. The interiors, though, either had a traditional approach to décor, with antique-heavy spaces, or were gutted and turned into modern spaces that had little connection to the homes’ historic exteriors and settings.
“I was really inspired to make the interior of our home [have] that kitschiness that Salem evokes, and to really inject the fun and history of what that city offers into the home,” she says.
The home they finally chose—a 1756 build that sits across from the graveyard where its former residents rest—has been transformed. It’s eclectic, creative, and appropriately eerie, fitting for the home’s historic Salem setting. It pushes the boundaries of the couple’s personal style, and crafting it has become a hobby and a lifestyle for them over the last three and a half years.
“Some people like to have nice cars, or they go boating once a week, or whatever,” Stacey says. “This is where we like to spend time together. We love doing projects together.”
To help kickstart her own creative process for each room, Stacey—an artist herself, and a brand director for Hilton—worked with designers from Havenly, a budget-friendly platform that connects people with interior designers who can help them craft their ideal spaces. Stacey, who had a distinct vision for each room, worked with four different Havenly designers who helped her achieve curated looks and feels in each space.
“It feels cohesive, but at the same time, each room gives you a really different experience,” Stacey says. Scroll on to see inside:
In this casual living space, dark furnishings and décor are balanced by crisp white walls, and a circular chandelier draws the eyes up, giving the room a feeling of lightness and space. As in the other rooms of the home, surfaces and wall space are decorated with meaningful mementos of the couple’s lives, together and apart.
“What someone else might consider just a little funny knick knack actually has an insurmountable amount of meaning to us, or me, or Chris personally,” Stacey says. Take the baby head cast, displayed in the corner of this room. Stacey picked that up while on a business trip in Prague and says it will always remind her of that trip and time in her life.
It took two tries (and two designers) for Stacey, who works from home, to get the study right.
“With the first designer I used, I thought it was what I wanted,” she says. “But when I got everything together, it just still didn’t feel right.”
Stacey found the skull wallpaper later and used it to guide a re-do of the space, taking a completely different direction than the original look. It was all part of the process, though. Even while working with the designers, Stacey moved items around each room, editing, adding, and removing until it felt right.
“I have no problem getting rid of things,” she says. “A cluttered house is a cluttered mind.”
This decisive approach to the process made working with different designers a smooth, collaborative process, Stacey says. She already knew what kind of look she wanted in each room; for many, as in the study, she already owned items that she wanted to build off of when decorating the rest of the space.
Stacey used Havenly’s platform to scroll through different designers’ mood boards until she found designers that she thought matched the look she wanted for each space. Once the designer was chosen, they worked together to select pieces that filled the spaces out.
Stacey knew the color schemes, patterns, and palettes she was drawn to before she began the process, but the key to successful collaborations with the designers was her honesty and decisiveness.
“All the designers were actually really appreciative with how decisive I was,” she says. They encouraged her to be truthful about which of their suggestions she did and didn’t like, which allowed them to make better suggestions.
Having a clear vision for a space does help, though.
“The more inspiration you have, the better,” says Priscilla Weston, the Havenly design expert who worked with Stacey on the dining room.
It took four months to get the home ready to move in—the exterior needed a structural refresh, among other fixes—but Stacey says they never even considered doing a gut renovation.
“We would never gut a home of this age, a home that has this much character and architectural details in it,” she says.
In updating the centuries-old house, Stacey made sure the designers were willing and able to work around the quirks of each room, preserving and showcasing the home’s architectural details in the process.
When Stacey began working with Weston to finish this room, she already had an ornate rug, a paint color, and a few pieces of art she wanted to use to guide the space’s look.
“I just played with it, and went big with it,” Weston says. The designer picked oversized vintage-look leather chairs as an acknowledgement of the history of the space and highlighted the different colors of the rug with florals. Unique lighting helped tie it all together.
Dark, jewel tones and bold, saturated colors—Stacey calls them “deep, brooding colors”—are part of Stacey and Chris’s personal style, and they’re used throughout the house, balanced with warm neutrals like mauve, white, and black and lots of natural light.
“If you have a bold color, you want to make sure you pair that with light, bright windows, which Stacey had,” Weston says. “So her space was able to handle a dark wall color like this.”
Pieces like this Bill Murray portrait are on display around the house. They reflect Stacey and Chris’s sense of humor and are part of Stacey’s goal to keep the historic home from looking like an antique-filled museum.
In the dining room, to set off the unique artwork, Weston picked out unique light fixtures that help tie the whole space together while striking an updated tone.
“It’s a traditional look on the sconce, but it’s also very popular,” she says. “That brass look and those black shades have a very modern feel to them, so they don’t feel too vintage, but they’re incredibly creepy.”
Dark tones and emerald greens—Stacey’s favorite color—abound in the master bedroom. A punch of bold green tones is in every room, a thread that helps connect all the rooms in the home.
“We’re not pastel-y people,” Stacey says of the home’s color palette.
In another bedroom, the décor nods to Salem’s colonial past. The ceiling, painted in Stacey’s preferred jewel tone, is balanced by light walls and floors and crisp white trim.
Stacey and Chris have finished five rooms and two bathrooms thus far, but they’re not done yet. The kitchen (likely their next project) and the home’s third floor have yet to be updated, and they’re planning to construct a post-and-beam barn in the side yard. Even then, they may not be finished.
“I think that a home is never really done,” Stacey says.