Geoffrey Emerson Webster
I knew Geoffrey was different when I saw him on the school bus with his Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper ®, spouting trivia about ancient Egyptian civilization… in elementary school. And that was perhaps my only encounter with him until high school, by which time he was a loud and proud young gay man. Although he was two years my junior, we soon connected in the Art Department over our mutual obsession with historical costume. Again, his encyclopedic knowledge of anything that might remotely be connected to his topics of interest was his claim to fame: royal portraits, palace architecture, the royal families of Europe, styles of dress and coiffure… We remained close for the remainder of high school and for a few years after I graduated. Geoffrey even graciously organized and hosted my “debut” (in the 19th century literary sense) for my 18th birthday, complete with formal wear and punch.
By the time I looked him up on Facebook a few weeks ago, we had not had any contact in about 5 years. Needless to say, it will take us a few sessions to thoroughly catch up… I traveled to his house (!) in central Connecticut for tea and reminiscing and geeking out over fabric and antiques.
The house, which he is caretaking for his mother since his grandmother’s passing, is an unassuming mid-century ranch typical of Connecticut suburbia. Inside, Geoff has transformed the 1960’s time capsule into a real accomplishment of prop styling and interior decorating. Gone are the teal shag carpets—wood floors have been revealed and adorned with area rugs. The living room, Geoff’s masterpiece, is a vaguely Federal themed room with Chinoiserie accents. The sofa alone is to die for, but the artful combination of furniture styles and periods, all punctuated with Geoff’s collection of china, silver objets, antique prints and photos, is interesting and surprising but not overwhelming. I loved the grouping of Buddha statuettes.
The master bedroom is light-filled but rich with red fabrics, gorgeous dresser accessories, and several different vignettes throughout, including one featuring antique ladies’ muffs.
The guestroom is feminine and restful, with lovely draperies at the headboard.
The bathroom, while not yet salvaged from its original color scheme and plywood cabinetry, features Geoff’s fascinating collection of antique razors and shaving accoutrements.
The dining room doubles as Geoff’s study for interior design coursework, evidenced by the pencil sharpener on the windowsill. But beneath the crystal chandelier, the room is edged with more prints, photos, Wedgewood and other porcelain objets.
The kitchen features what is perhaps my favorite object, Grandma Jean’s Flair stove, purchased at the 1964 World’s Fair, with a slide-out range top and optional rotisserie. Downstairs, the finished basement has been restyled as a library, with some of Grandma’s country-cute furniture, more prints and antiques, including 2 antique artillery (?) shell casings.
We made a brief thrifting excursion to a nearby Goodwill and a Salvation Army Store. I watched Geoff and his friend Joey make their practiced rounds through Bric-a-Brac, shoes, menswear and the display cases at the cash wrap. We saw an amazing black and cream lamp, and Geoff found a Dior belt at the Goodwill. The Salvation Army was less fruitful, although we did see an example of how not to reconstruct a woman’s blazer, a prime candidate for Thrift Shop Horrors.
Back home, I was given the closet tour: one full of suits, possibly hundreds of ties, a separate closet of preppy oxford shirts, and a mere fraction of the shoe collection. Geoff’s daily style runs to “preppy suburban metrosexual,” but he’s been known to dabble in historical drag, and at the same time is adorable in a tux.
It was really good to reconnect with an old friend, especially one with whom I can talk about panniers and corsetry. But moreso I felt proud and happy for Geoff, that he has a place where he can express his style and practice his craft.