COTE DE TEXAS: Antiquarian Michael Trapp Grows Up

Antiquarian Michael Trapp Grows Up



Do you have concrete statuary or rusty iron urns inside of your house? You know the kind - the kind that up until this past decade would only be found outside in the garden.  Do you have that kind in your house?  Have you ever wondered why?  Ever wonder why you bring weathered urns inside your house, or a statue, or shells, or an architectural fragments?  Ever wonder why we are so enamored  these days with having patina indoors instead of out?  Who started that trend -- the decaying, peeling painted urns and statues and fragments inside the house? Do you know?   




The man attributed to starting the trend is Michael Trapp.  Michael who?  Michael Trapp started out as a gardener many years ago.  He had a quirky aesthetic - he coveted the architectural fragments that no one wanted at the time.  The peeling, crusty, rotted French doors and windows from buildings being demolished were all his for the taking - no one else wanted those fragments back then.  He saw beauty in old garden urns and concrete statues and fountains when others wanted only new elements for their gardens.  To develop his business and indulge his style, Trapp bought a piece of wild property in West Cornwall, Connecticut back in 1989.  He bought the property for the landscape, but there just happened to be a Greek Revival home built in 1820 included in the deal.  The house was a mess, with ill advised and falling down additions - just exactly what Trapp liked.  On his property, he plotted to create a mysterious landscape, overgrown and lush, with the atmosphere of an Italian garden or an English one - he couldn't decide.  The house would become not only his home, but also his shop which he set up on the ground level.  Trapp moved his private living quarters upstairs.  He spent time getting the house just right - he opened it up by tearing down almost all of its interior walls.  He ripped off the bad additions and dug a basement.  His house became his laboratory, an experiment in baroque design using antiques from the garden and parts of demolished buildings.  His vision was certainly like nothing that had been seen before.  In a short amount of time, Trapp became quite celebrated.  His gardening business grew, as did his interior design business and his antique business.  He has added on to his property over the years - a swimming pool or two, terraces, follies and a "Garden House."    Bunny Williams, the celebrated interior designer is a neighbor, friend, and client of Trapp's.  Of his garden, Williams says "When you step into Michael's garden, you can't believe you are in Connecticut.  It's not Italy exactly, not England exactly, nor Northern France exactly.  But you know Michael has kept his eyes open in all those places."




As Trapp's reputation grew, so did his following.  He received much laudatory press and devotees started  emulating his look.  Suddenly Trapp's unique vision became quite common.  As his popularity grew, he acquired many fans.  People would come to his store, his house, at all hours of the day and night, even though opening hours were limited to the weekends.  No one, it seemed, paid heed to the posted "Closed" sign.  Trapp says he would find strangers roaming his property, making themselves quite at home, even coming upstairs, uninvited, to his private living quarters.   Finally, it all became too much for the privacy-loving Trapp and he plotted a move.   It took a few years to find a suitable place to relocate to.  But,  he finally found Paradise II, a large spread in the Berkshires, not far from his previous place.  The property was on a cliff, overlooking the vast, gorgeous mountain range.  He was hooked.  The only problem was again, the house.  This time the house was much newer.  A relic from the 80's - it was a ranchburger.  Trapp's friends and fans were horrified that he would give up his Baroque lifestyle for a common ranch house.   But he forged ahead with his plans.




Trapp spent a few years completely remodeling his new house and landscaping the property.  Today, the former ranch style house  is barely to be found, instead, it has been renovated into an eclectic house, with Asian and Arts & Crafts Movement influences.  The house is 3,000 sq. ft., as is the outdoor living spaces - crowned by a large deck on which the Berkshires can be seen in all their glory.   Stone terraces surround the house and the deck.  While the interiors are quite tame by his old standards, they are still quirky, but in a more sophisticated way.  Dead birch trees fill his living room - a Trapp touch that can only be called wholly original.   Outside, unlike West Cornwall, there are no flowers, only greenery and succulents, another extreme change for Trapp.  While the country and the world are still embracing the crusty, peeling urns and columns that he introduced us to, Trapp has moved on.  The store in West Cornwall is still open, but Trapp's aesthetic has changed, he has grown up.


Where it all began:  The gardens and house at West Cornwall, Connecticut:



The 1820 Greek Revival house.    Originally Michael Trapp painted the house cream with a Prussian blue trim.  The store, Michael Trapp Antiques, is located on the ground floor.  His living  quarters are on the second floor.



Reclaimed cobblestones taken from freshly re-paved streets make up the garden paths that wind through the property.  Urns, pots,  and columns are everywhere.



Large Chinese junipers guard over the reflecting pond, placed between the cobblestone paths.  Finials and fountains are found throughout the property.



The view of the pond and the house - notice how high the same junipers have grown in this photo compared with the photograph above!



Looking from the house, past the pond, is the Garden House, formerly the garage.  Inside the Garden House, Trapp lowered the floor three feet to accommodate French windows taken from the Rhode Island State Capitol building during a refurbishing.  The Garden House is used as an extra dining room and the upper floor is used for guest quarters.



The house also has windows taken from the Rhode Island Capitol building.  In the photo above, where the arched windows are, is Trapp's private dining room/kitchen.  Cobblestone pathways lead from the house on the right back  to the Garden House. 



In an attempt to control the crowds of wandering customers and uninvited guests, Trapp installed old shutters between the shop/house and the private Garden House. 



Besides bringing outdoor furniture inside, Trapp brings inside furniture outside! Here an antique eastern bed becomes a garden bench.  Shown here is the patio between the stop/house and Garden House.



A view of the terrace with a dining table.  The terrace is  bordered with reclaimed balustrades.



The property which overlooks a river, is divided into two areas - the upper garden and the lower garden.  Here, you can see the Garden House on the upper level and the stairs leading down to the lower level garden.  Old, discarded balustrades and columns were used for the staircase.



This vine covered arch leads you down the stairs to the lower garden area.  



This views looks past the lower garden's reflecting pool back up to the stairs that lead to the upper garden.



Large Spanish pots mark the reflecting pool in the lower garden.   Trapp used stacked stones for the pool and the retaining walls found on the property.



With a quote from Trapp:  "I wanted to make the house and the garden seem as though they were 500 years old," this photograph of the reflecting pool and the garden shed seems to confirm he achieved his goal.



Today, a new pool house and swimming pool sit in the lower garden.  The stairs lead back to the upper garden.



The pool, looking back the other way with the stone wall fountain on the right.



Inside the pool house  with it's old French doors and columns and non-electrified chandelier.



The back wall of the romantic pool house with a console and chandelier, giant clam shell, garden seats and mirror.



A site plan of the property.

The Shop inside the House:



The shop's entrance decorated for Christmas. 



The shop - inside the house, this area was set up as a dining room.  I adore this chandelier and the large urn in the background.



Decorated for Christmas, Trapp was the first to feature beautiful, gold antique frames  without the paintings inside.  Today, this is a common trend.



In the shop,  Trapp added on a conservatory and filled it with plants, old pots and urns.  Everything is for sale, Trapp says, downstairs in the shop and upstairs in his private living quarters.



Pure theatrics, pure Trapp!



The conservatory - an antique armoire holds shells, another trend Trapp is credited with starting.  Trapp especially loves ferns and large leafed plants.



Inside the house, past the shop is the romantic entry hall to the private living quarters.  Stairs lead to the living quarters on the upper level.  The dining room/kitchen is behind the mirrored door on the right.  In the corner, atop a tall column, Trapp rests an oil painting.



The stair hall in the house sets the tone for the romantic, Baroque style of decorating Trapp uses:  statuary, urns, columns, pedestals, mirrors, balustrades, and loose linens - all add to the look.  A huge tapestry takes up the wall space on the left of the stairs.



Upstairs, off the stair hall, is Trapp's living area and office.  Urns, sconces, old rugs, statues, finials, branches, and velvet - all  hallmarks of his "Baroque styled look."



Trapp sells fine antiques as shown here and not-so fine antiques, also shown here.  Together the mix of the high and low combines to create Trapp’s vision of his romantic Baroque style.



His bathroom - this  floor is his take on a Versailles patterned parquet floor.  The old zinc tub is shielded by linen sheets.   The large bathroom was once actually a bedroom.   On the right of the tub is a daybed.



Styled differently with wintery fabrics, the daybed in the bathroom was made from French paneling.  Notice the urn filled with shells.  The base was taken from a Civil War monument.



Inside the dining room/kitchen, looking out back towards the reflecting pool and the Garden House.   At dinner parties, guest will have drinks and appetizers in the Garden House then walk across the patio to the dining room for the main course.



The dining room/kitchen.   Trapp never electrifies his chandeliers.  The large windows here also came from the Rhode Island Capitol building.    On the right is a picture of Michael Trapp, the antiquarian.



The table set in the dining room with various antiques.



Again - the dining/room kitchen, Trapp was at the forefront of the shell craze years ago.  Large clam shells mix with small clams, statues, pedestals and capitals.



In a guest room,  Trapp uses linens to drape off the bed and to cover windows.  On the right, a bed from France is placed inside the wall.

The Garden House:



The Garden House:  built in what was once a garage, the Garden House is used for dinner parties, cocktail parties and overnight guests, who sleep upstairs.  Notice the charming marble topped table with French chairs around it. 



The Garden House - a charming window seat is built in. 



The Garden House:  a large capital takes the place of a table, again, a trend today.



The table set in the Garden House – look at the huge napkins and plates he uses!




The Garden House:  Close up of the window seat made out of reclaimed wood.

Besides gardening and selling antiques, Trapp does interior design for clients.  Here is a project of his:



I love, love love this room - it's just a perfect blend of old and older!  Love the chandelier, the fireplace, the tapestry, the blue and white porcelains and lamps.  The best thing, though,  is the floor - hard to see in this picture, but it looks like large, old flags from England.  Gorgeous.



The bedroom, using an architectural  fragment for the headboard, old flooring, tapestries.



Another wonderful space - the dining room.  Mismatched chairs, antiques, great chandelier.



And finally, the kitchen and keeping room, again with the old flag floor.



He still specializes in garden design and landscaping, mixing his love of statuary with plants.



And now for something completely different:  Trapp Moves On:   A few years ago, the very private Trapp tired of living above the shop and having strangers wondering through his house and his gardens, even when the shop was closed!  He bought this spread below, with a view of the Berkshires.  Here is the ranch house before it was remodeled.


The Berkshires property.  The ranch house before it was renovated.  Nothing special and totally unlike the famous West Cornwall property.



The same view with the remodeled house and terraces.  There is also a large deck off one side of the house.



The living room - totally different in feel from his previous house, but still quirky enough to be Trapp.  Large birch trees that had died were brought inside the house for their sculptural quality.  Empty frames hanging on the wall look like part of the molding.  Notice how the bottom part of the wall is painted black.



Another view of the living area with a view towards the deck outside.



The dining room.   Again, such a stark contrast the old house.   Beautiful chandelier.



Another view of the dining room- I love the table with urns for its base!



The bedroom design says:  Michael Trapp - all grown up.   With matching contemporary styled lamps, this space is as far removed from the Baroque inspired West Cornwall house as possible.  I think I prefer this look to the other more bohemian look. Which house do you prefer?  The old house or the new one?



The deck with the view that sold Trapp on the house - the Berkshires are in the background.

The Merchandise:



Michael Trapp has a wonderful, extensive web site with all his press available to read online.  He also sells select items from his store.  I love these cane and wood chairs.  Beautiful, and so cheap!



The back of the chair.



This sofa is for sale, pictured here in Trapp's living room.  Notice the dinosaur skeleton in the background. 


Besides furniture, Trapp sells tile floors, stone, and other goodies.  Be sure to visit his web site here and see what else he has for sale.  I hope you've enjoyed this look into Michael Trapp and you have come away with a better understanding of the trends he created.


  1. So interesting to see the man behind such an influential style. I prefer the new look as well although I also love the old, too. Thanks for the post.

  2. Very cool now knowing the man behind trends that I still enjoy: shells, crusty urns, etc. I am in love with the Conn. home!!!!! Thanks Joni for such detailed eye candy!

  3. I love old gardens with crumbling statues - so Miss Havisham. We have one down the street - the old mansion is falling apart but the gardens have been restored. Interesting dichotomy.

    I like his new house better, too. But that old pool house and conservatory and the view from the old house into the gardens? Wow.

  4. I like both of the houses. The garden of the first property is wonderful, but the house of the Birkshire property is gorgeous. I love the dried (or preserved?) trees in the living room. I also like the black painted lower walls that you pointed out. I hope he did not take the Civil War monument illegally, though!

  5. I have fallen hard for this post. I have gone over it several times and I will be doing it again...and again. 30 years ago (sh_t), my 'then' husband collected cobblestones from Queen St. in downtown Toronto, load by small load; lugging it in his trunk... and he created the most lovely patio in our backyard. (according to my little '19' year old design sketches) Your post rekindled my garden design side. Big Hug.

  6. I have to admit I like the new house better. I always found his Baroque taste a bit oppressive. I like stuff but that house seemed suffocating at times. I think gardeners will recognize where Trapp got many of his ideas — shells, statuary, large urns — it is all very 18th century English and continental garden style.

  7. So he is our author of "shabby chic" in a way? The Aussies have nothing on us! :)

    One of the things the English used to do so well (maybe still do but they are leaning hard on the cold contemporary look) were interiors that either WERE or LOOKED centuries old. It was gauche to have "crisp and new" - things needed to look as if they'd had a life - an elegant life but a life none the less. I've always like this as it give an aura of history and permanence in a society where things seem so disposable.

  8. Joni
    Thanks for the stunning post!
    Marion from Kentucky!

  9. Cotedetexas is my favorite blog! Michael Trapp and Rose Tarlow are my favorite designers! I couldn't believe it when I saw your post today. Thank you so much! I love both of the houses as they are such eye candy but the first house will always be special to me. Instead of 18th century English, it is the new 18th century French style in the matter of Michele Lalande - Rediscovering A French Decor. Cote De Texas thank you for this wonderful gift today!
    G in CT

  10. Michael has a fantastic eye and he is an amazing designer! We're lucky to have him here at Privet House as a neighbour and friend! :-)

    Joni, did you ever check Elle Decor October for Richard Lambertson's and John Truex's house? :-)

    Fab post, as always!

  11. Love everything! I didn't know he had a website - I must rush over! Great post Joni.


  12. Fab post! I have a love for all things in the garden. I did not realize some of the trends Trapp started. The shell craze..I still love the look of a huge clam shell used as a vessel.. Although the first house is AMAZING..or are we supposed to be saying "BANANAS" these days? Blleechh! I think I prefer the second house, it still has many beautiful things, but I like that it is a little more restrained. Cleaner lines..but still rustic and cozy..and the view from the deck! WOW!

    Thanks Joni for another fun, educational post!! Have a wonderful weekend! :)

  13. I like the old house...I could wander in there forever. This was sooo enjoyable..thank you.

  14. this is soooooo gorgeous. i recently started painting again, and ooooh, more subjects for me to paint !!!!
    ps- his merchandise is great.

  15. this is soooooo gorgeous. i recently started painting again, and ooooh, more subjects for me to paint !!!!
    ps- his merchandise is great.

  16. LOVE his style -- both homes are amazing! So many wonderful things with GREAT stories -- one of the true signs of a welcoming home!

    Another brillant posting! Thanks!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage who is rushing over to his site too!

  17. Oh my goodness I am in love with the new house- the fallen birch trees brought inside are completely amazing, as is the view. I just love everything about it! Thanks for sharing this.

  18. Consider me TRAPPed!!! What wonderful surroundings!!! Thanks Joni for enlightening me to this wonderful creator!

  19. Wow, what amazing creativity! His view of the Berkshires is killer and I really like the way he brought the beautiful birch branches inside. Have a great weekend, Joni!

  20. This is my second visit and I don't think it will be my last. The images are amazing.

    Thanks Joni!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  21. He is quite a talent. I am swooning over all those old windows. How beautiful! Although,I have to say that I love the new property best. Thank you for a wonderful post that I will reread several times.

  22. Joni, I think this is one of my favorite posts you've done! What wonderful style this man has. Some people are just born with it! Thanks for another fantastic and informative read.

  23. Joni--great post, as usual. Loved it. Please consider linking up to my Hooked on House Tours blog party today (Mr Linky is on my site). I think my readers would love to come over here and see it. Thanks! -Julia :-)

    P.S. Just opened the Oct BHG and saw you & your beautiful home! How exciting!

  24. Great timing! I loved this post. Last weekend I told my hubby I wanted some dead trees for our cabin and he looked at me like I was I'll just show him this post and he'll "get it". I'll be looking at your post over and over again. Beeutiful! Oh, and I could move right into the second house, I think I would always be trying to tidy up the first house...even though I love the look.

  25. I loved reading about his 'transformation'. I think I appreciate his old house more, it's more interesting -but would prefer to live in the new house myself! It's a combination of the new and the old, as opposed to JUST the old!

  26. Wow! Those are just lovely - I want to use some of those old garden statues in my home - gotta find some :) Bonnie

  27. My soul. He lives in Eden.

    Joni, this is my favorite post of yours so far. And that's saying something. I am enthralled with the complete and total resolution of his vision.

  28. Joni... dare we say we love this man? We love, love, love bringing urns and other architectural garden 'junk' into our homes!
    We love the first house, with all of the statuary, gardens, urns... a feast for the eyes!
    However, it is too museum like to be called 'home'. We like house #2 in that retrospect. It is much more pratical. (if you can call putting dead trees in your home pratical!)
    Both are great and packed full with decorating ideas!
    Happy weekend!
    Karla & Karrie

  29. I love your blog, but your posts are so long and picture-filled that it literally freezes my Reader and I have to re-start completely. Just wanted to let you know as I'm sure that others are having the same problem. Could you possibly do a cut? Otherwise I am going to have to take you off my Reader :(

  30. I really love his outdoor spaces as well. And those olive urns. I covet them!

  31. I love the fact that you are exposing all of us in blog land to such wonderful design. I find it eye candy and informative. I love to see and hear how designers come up with their creations. Thankyou , you are one of my new favorites. What a talent you are and thankyou for sharing. smiles Kathysue

  32. So many interesting elements in his designs. I thought the daybed in the bathroom was humorous. I guess if you've had a few too many margaritas... LOL

    Thanks for a great post, Joni.

  33. i thoroughly enjoyed this view of Michael Trapp's design esthetic and property

  34. Some gorgeous places and homes you show us, Joni! Just wanted to pop over for a comment to let you know I always enjoy seeing what you share!

    Hope you are well and out of storms and dangers by now!

    Happy day,

  35. Wonderful, wonderful post, Joni!

    Michael Trapp, my new FAVE!!

  36. I loved the gardens, the interior of the old house, but the contrast blue trim of the window frames: not so much. The gardens are way better than the house exterior. The interior shots are great. I could EASILY soak in that tub of warm water, dry off and curl up in the daybed. Color me there!

    LOVE the new house. What a view! I like to see the changing tastes over the years. As always a great post. Your research is impressive.

    Don't think I didn't see that hateful remark on my blog, little miss voice of a generation!

  37. Ah Joni,
    You take me back to the day!
    A friend was his neighbor, so when I started my business she insisted we meet, and for me to see what he was up to.
    Needless to say, it was one of the most pivotal moments in my formation as a visual vamp ha ha.
    Many people think Martha Stewart started the whole rusty moss covered trend, but Michael was ahead of us all, including Martha.
    I realy appreciate how you dig around for your stories. They need to be printed and bound into a large anthology of 20th and 21st century decor. Get busy!
    Really Joni, you have a great book-in-waiting...
    xo xo xo xo

  38. Thank you for sharing him with us. I love the old house best. I like the way he makes elegance feel so comfortable. My favorites are the shutters used for doors, the arched windows, and the outside pathways. He's given me some new ideas.

  39. EXTRAORDINARY post! LOVE it! The houses and the grounds are UNBELIEVABLE! I could paint volumes with just the photos alone!
    Thanks for sharing! ENJOY your weekend! Fifi

  40. Joni, I'm dying to know who's house I posted. LOL If I could get a private tour, or if you could come up to Austin, and we could tour the home together... I would love that!

  41. We can't thank you enough for the gorgeous post. A breathtaking sense of whimsy with an edge of surrealism… What a true inspiration!!!THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU...

  42. He is a gret designer and source of inspiration!. That house is everything - misterious, charming, creepy(little), gorgeous, devine...
    Have a wonderful weekend

  43. This is the most amazing post I have every seen!
    I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of MIchael Trapp before this, but my style has obviously been influenced by him for years.
    Thank you, Thank you for exposing us all to such beauty!

  44. Joni, You are amazing, I have to agree with some of the others that this is a favorite of your posts I have read. I love so much about the old and the new. Absolutely fabulous!

  45. Staggeringly good. The ability to create atmosphere~that's what separates the sheep from the goats,in my estimation. Both houses and both gardens have got that indefinable something that gives every gesture authenticity, be it bold or subtle. If ever there was a celebration of "pleasing decay", this is it. And all done with a naturalness that is so damned enviable!

  46. I do love Halloween! But I love to scare not be scared! :) When we go to Haunted Houses Im always in the middle! You would think the opposite! I had such a great childhood...filled with a lot of imagination...Halloween was a time where I could really be anything I wanted! It was magical....I saw you in think BH this weekend!!! Im so excited for you! It was like I knew you or something! :) Congrads! meme

  47. Sigh....I could live in either of these fabulous homes, but I think I prefer the first. He is just an amazing talent, and this style works so well in California. Every picture is just wonderful and doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is: imperfect and all the more precious becuase of it. (the one room I could not live with is the moss strewn bathroom. How would one keep it clean? My use of hairspray would ruin everything in a week!)

    Thanks Joni for one of my favorite posts ever!!!!!!

  48. Joni - such a great and comprehensive post. Trapp should shop at Christopher Filley's! They are soul mates.

  49. Joni - such a great and comprehensive post. Trapp should shop at Christopher Filley's! They are soul mates.

  50. OMG... can't wait to show you the pix of Petersham Nurseries outside of London... very similar to this place.

  51. Ohh - if ever I have wanted to stick my foot through my computer screen and into a setting it was in one of the garden sceens! Amazing!

    Hey - have you been a Houstonian long enough to remember the Joan Hill Robinson murder? If so - you might be interested in a post I did... a connection of sorts that my family has (or had) to theirs.

  52. I love the old one the best!

    Imagine getting snow bound there!

    Beautiful in its decay and very New Orleans-y...

  53. Applause for a great article and a wealth of information! I loved the cherub column and the birch trees indoors! I was trying to see what was holding up the trees.

  54. Loved the tour! I like both looks. I could move into either of them tomorrow. Love the view of the second house. However, I could easily live with the pool at the first house!

  55. Joni~
    This was such a wonderful post! I love his bathroom with the beautiful (Versailles) parquet floor and the zinc tub. love love love the linen sheets. I would love to take a bath in this beautiful space.

    Your post is so informative~are you a teacher of period design??? If not you teach me with every post! Thank you!!! ^_^

  56. Ye Gods! What delicious eye candy. Must digest and go round for seconds. Were your ears burning yesterday? P-D and I were singing your praises on our jaunt through London's King's Road.

  57. I have been to his shop ,its a wonderful adventure.... so glad you wrote this , nice to see this
    again. I like both..

  58. oh wow. WOW WOW WOW. i'm speechless. his style is incredibly inspiring! i'm going to have to file away every image from this post! so surreal with the way he uses the plants indoors. and that poolhouse! i'm going to re-read the whole thing again RIGHT NOW!

  59. For my part one and all have to go through this.