Tuesday, June 13, 2017

‘Politician in recovery’ invents ‘crap-whisperer’ boho in NH attic

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Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Self-described “crap whisperer” Arnie Arnesen occupies an eclectic 900-square-foot attic apartment in her 5,000-square-foot Concord, NH, Queen Anne Victorian, then rents out the lower floors to law students and Airbnb travelers from around the world.

“As a young girl I always wanted to live in an old attic in a historic home or a Manhattan loft,” she says. Her husband, who passed away in 2013, insisted she fulfill that dream after he was gone.

“You need to live in a space that will reflect your crazy love of color and space, where you’ll be able to look out the windows and see the Concord you love,” she recalls him saying. So she redid the attic, and the rest is history.

Literally.


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Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

The house itself sits within walking distance of the statehouse and has hosted presidential candidates Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and, most recently, Bernie Sanders. 

Arnesen calls herself a “politician in recovery” because In 1992 she was the first women to run for governor of New Hampshire as the candidate of a major political party. She remains active in local and national politics and also hosts a political radio talk show. So while she may be in recovery, she’s not retired. At least not yet.


But why ‘crap-whisperer’ boho?


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

“I take inherited pieces from my French aunt (think Diana Vreeland meets Jackie O), mix it with treasured memories from my Italian grandparents (who ran an upholstery shop in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn), and I thread in my finds from thrift stores, yard sales, dumpsters, and neighbor's attics,” Arnesen explains. “I look at my space like I am designing a quilt—different materials, colors, textures, periods, but when sewed together a work of art that tells a story, my story.”

She says her biggest challenge is “giving things the space they need to be seen and valued. I love the whole picture but I adore the separate parts.” So even if this home is a little “out there” for your tastes, it's full of great ideas that in ones or twos or threes will inject a little funk and quirk into a staid and all-too-stable decor environment.

And what about her best advice? “If you’re attracted to the shape, the color, the texture of anything, grab it—whether it’s on the side of the road, at a thrift store or yard sale—bring it home and let it sit—in a closet, under the bed, in your basement. In a week, a month or a year you’ll find the perfect place for it to land. Success is not a switch, it’s an evolution.”

Those are words to live by.


So let’s look around, beginning with the living area...


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Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Doors Arnesen found in the attic now open to storage closets on the opposite wall. She added mirrors to the two on the outside edges as faux windows to reflect more light into the space.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Plywood and metal wheels turned an old paper cutter she bought for $30 at a church yard sale into this one-of-a-kind coffee table. I wonder if she keeps that blade sharp, and for which politician?


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

The painting of Arnesen's stepdaughter as a teenager was done by artist MJ Koza. She says it was one of her husband’s best friends. My eye, however, is on the boffo midcentury modern lamp that sits beneath it. Wowza!!


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

A second seating area snugs up against the front dormer window


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

All things French is another of Arnesen’s loves, thanks to a French aunt and benefactor.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Believe it or not, there’s a full-size trundle bed stowed beneath that bookcase. And with a little rearranging, it pulls out for guests.


Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Greens in the form of many, many plants work with the oranges, reds, yellows and pinks that dominate the space.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Styles don’t always match, but the palette ties everything together. “Everything is an excuse for color,” Arnesen says.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

An apple ladder hangs over the table, with lights suspended from it.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Arnesen inherited the table from an aunt. It has extra leaves and seats up to 16.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

She bought the banquette for $50 from a local restaurant going out of business, and reupholstered it in fabric she found in New York’s Chinatown.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

“I like umbrellas,” Arnesen adds. “They have shape, color, and in my case, history.” They’re also a great way to diffuse light.


On to the kitchen...


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

The kitchen is just off the main living space, with a colorful breakfast nook in between.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Love those orange counter-height stools! I have an identical chair in a standard height that is my favorite seat in the house. (At least when I'm in the laundry room, folding, where a girl needs a cheerful chair to keep things lively.)


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

The kitchen proper is tucked inside the gable at the side of the house.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

The entire apartment is a lesson in how to make use of limited space, but this is particularly the case in the galley kitchen.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Every possible space has been utilized to function for storage and efficiency.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Many of the kitchen storage components came from IKEA.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

“I love my kitchen,” Arnesen says. “Plenty of room, lots of storage, great working triangle, and I can chat with guests all night.”


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Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

Even if one of them is relaxing in the chaise lounge by the door. “Who says old outdoor chaise lounges only belong outside?” Arnesen asks.

Exactly! I’ve always said good patio furniture works great indoors, too.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

Arnesen’s Aunt Johanna, who’s responsible for her love of France, shares pride of place with an Eiffel Tower lamp on this piano-stool side table.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

The bedroom can be seen off to the right.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise photo / Apartment Therapy

But before we step in there, take a gander at this cupboard Arnesen made from old shutters and floorboards.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

And I love her idea of using Chinese coins (holes original) as backplates to dress up simple cupboard pulls! I want to try that; it would work with plain knobs too, I think.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

Arnesen loves paper clips AND is a radio talk show host, so this wall on the other side of the bedroom doorway, over the chaise, with its paper-clip sculpture and sign from an old radio studio, is a double décor win for her.


Sweet dreams and sleep tight...


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

The transom over the bedroom door is original to the house's first floor kitchen. "I found it nailed to the ceiling when we first started working on the space,” she says. The painting on the door was done by a friend from India.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

The Chinese writing over the bed reads, "When you work hard God notices" and was a gift from a student in Shanghai.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

The bottom wooden box in front of the bed is an old handmade rifle box, which Arnesen uses for storing linens.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

Arnesen found the marble sink in the attic before she started renovating and attached the base off an old Singer sewing machine to create a pedestal for the bathroom. She attached glass shelves to pieces of an old apple crate to hold her tchotchkes.


www.bohohome.com @bohosusan
Samara Vise / Apartment Therapy

The washboard at right is Chinese, and the yellow lamp reflects Arnesen's favorite color of the moment.


A bird's-eye view...


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This floorplan gives you a better idea of how the attic space functions.


Want more?


  • Read more about Arnesen and her home in Samara Vise’s article on Apartment Therapy.
  • Learn about the home’s rich political history in this 2016 Boston Globe article.
  • Check out Arnie’s Airbnb listing, the Majority Leader’s House, with photos of the space for rent (from $81 per night!), as well as common areas and grounds.
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