What street is your home?
Who lives in your home?
Our family! - Frank, Gabrielle, Sofia, Francesca, Enzo
How long have you lived in this house?
4 years - we worked on it for a solid year before we could move in!
What is unique about your house?
There’s so much history here! Our house was the first house on the hill that are now the neighborhoods of Regents Glen, Wyndham Hills & Brockie. York’s first “ Brockie Mansion” was a Victorian Home built in 1873 by former US Attorney General Jeremiah S. Black. The C. Elmer Smith family was the second family to live in that home. Smith; a prominent industrialist in York who with his father established what is now Johnson Controls. C. Elmer Smith’s company created the technology for the company’s turbines to convert water from rivers to electrify cities and run factories and power dams. Their company also held the first patent for the mechanical washing machine. C. Elmer Smith also helped established The Country Club of York. This first home was completely lost in a tragic fire in 1911. There’s so much tragedy intertwined here than what fits in this article, but more can be found here about the Smith family and Brockie.
The barn and stables of that property remain but Smith, had another mansion on the hill rebuilt. This time he implored the help of York architect Robert A Stair to build a mansion that could never entirely burn down. A structure built completely of brick; with columns that I’ve been told are taller than The White House. The walls are solid masonry covered in plaster, and the floors are solid concrete. The home was outfitted with a fire hose on every floor of the house; they’re still here and a fire hydrant is located just steps from the back door. It really is a fortress.
So much time, and artistry went into constructing these old homes. I think if you’re an old home lover, you know how passionate you can get about these small historical details. The architectural elements of the home; it’s elaborate plaster moldings, fireplace mantels, white oak pocket doors, and natural light from so many windows. They just don’t make things like this today. These are the bones of the house that we fell in love with. We could see past the mess we walked into when we first saw the house; amidst a very aggressive renovation. We knew how special this house was. These old houses have souls. So many memories are already held within its walls. I love that we get to be a part of its story. We can’t take credit for it, but my goal every day with this home is to breathe a bit of new life into it and to share it with as many people as I can.
What rooms did you decorate?
It’s been quite a journey, but there has been restoration of nearly every room in this house as well as the exterior. When we bought the house there was not a single bathroom or a kitchen in the house. It had sat on the market for some years and was under an aggressive renovation when we bought it. There were structural issues with the foundation so there was no landscape and the long lane that leads to the house was almost all gravel due to years of neglect. We spent years putting details that were stripped away back to the original or as close to the original as we could. We still have a primary bathroom to do. It’s the room that intimidates me most because a bedroom and the hall bathroom had been gutted and combined to make one very large bathroom before we got to the house, it’s just a very large room with 4 windows and a fireplace. These projects tax you creatively and financially so pacing ourselves and prioritizing each project was a must for us.
What is your favorite room in the house and why?
The Foyer is probably my absolute favorite. The details tell a story. When I need a quiet spot, I find myself sitting on the 3rd step, taking it all in. Wishing I knew more of all the lives that lived here before we ever did.
Did you design or decorate it yourself?
I designed it myself. I’m an interior designer. I spend my days making design decisions for others, making decisions for myself on the other hand can take some time, but that seems to be the nature of this project. Everything takes a lot longer to complete here. From the plumbing to the electrical to the selections of art.
Did you decorate the entire house at one time or was it a long-term project?
It’s an ongoing process. Things are always evolving and changing but that keeps my creative cup full.
What is your inspiration?
The home itself provides endless inspiration with its classic features and materials. I’ve always been drawn to the old world but I love how so many places in Europe blend old with new so seamlessly. It’s in that juxtaposition of new with old plus nature where I find the most inspiration. I am constantly inspired by my surroundings. I love York for that reason. Within 10 minutes I can be downtown admiring urban architecture from the early 20th century, eating at a favorite restaurant or if I go the opposite direction, 10 minutes brings me to winding country roads and open fields.
If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?
If I was putting in a new kitchen in 2023, I would have not put in white cabinets.
Do you have a favorite decorating store?
I’m quite minimal when it comes to decorating and prefer to collect beautiful things I can use every day. Antique stores and vintage shops, ZaZa’s in York New Salem is a really fun stop, Restore York is another. Anthropologie always has beautiful things…
What advice would you give to someone looking to spruce up their own living space?
I would say invest in things you love, don’t buy things just to fill a space in your home. Collected things over time are what tell your story. Usually, a budget comes into play, so I tend to tell my clients; especially those with kids: Splurge on things that can’t be mess up like plumbing fixtures or countertops, maybe lighting and save on things that can be like rugs and upholstery because accidents are part of life in a home that’s well loved and well lived in.
Thank you Gabrielle for sharing your breathtaking home with us!
If you would like to follow Gabrielle's design and home journey, you can find her on Instagram at @gabriellemessina.