After Jane and Steve Miller moved last year to Doylestown, Bucks County, friends were surprised how quickly the couple’s house became a home. At fast-forward speed, paintings were hung and family pieces positioned, including Steve’s great-great-uncle’s dining table and sideboard, as well as a corner cupboard, desk, and several small tables that had been lacquered and painted with Japanese scenes by Steve’s father, Charles, an interior designer.
Steve drew upon his 50 years’ experience as a museum curator and administrator to display his possessions. Even when he was searching online for houses for sale, he said, “I was mentally determining what art and furniture would fit where.”
The Millers, both 71, shopped for a move-in condition, three-bedroom home in Bucks for their retirement.
After working in a half-dozen states, Steve yearned to return to the county where he began his career. As a teenager living in Newtown, he had a summer job at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown.
Jane, who grew up in upstate New York, also loved Bucks County. Her house requirements were more practical then aesthetic: “I wanted a bedroom and full bath on the first floor and no steep steps.”
The couple compromised. Their house on a half-acre lot started out as a one-room stone structure built in the mid-1700s as a summer kitchen for a nearby farmhouse. The Millers use that space as a dining room and den.
A stucco two-story wing was added in the mid-19th century. The front door and entryway are in this wing, as well as a formal living room. At the top of a steep staircase is a bath and two guest rooms for the Millers’ grown son and daughter.
In the 1970s, another two-story wing was added. Its layout and amenities convinced Jane that she and Steve could age in place here. The wing features a sunny enclosed porch and an updated kitchen with glass-doored, antiqued cabinets, butcher block countertops, a farmhouse sink, and a Sub-Zero refrigerator enclosed in handsome pine paneling. There are a pantry, laundry, and powder room with space for a future full-size bathroom. The stairs to the master suite above are navigable.
The previous owners’ choice of cream and pale green walls provides a pleasing backdrop for the Millers' contemporary and traditional art. A bucolic landscape from Northern Europe hangs over the stone fireplace in the dining room/den. Nearby is a portrait of an 18th-century Englishwoman. Bucks County artist Katharine Steele Renninger’s rendering of Steve’s former home in Newtown hangs above an arts-and-crafts-style lamp with a retro-Gothic cast metal base. By a staircase is a lovely portrait of Steve’s mother, Ann, by Paul Burns. A large reproduction of a map of Rome in 1748 extends across a wall in the enclosed porch.
The crimson-and-cream striped living room sofa complements the colors in an abstract print by Robert Motherwell. Ann purchased the Chinese living room rug at a shop in New Hope.
According to family lore, Jane’s grandfather won the smaller Chinese rug in a craps game. Jane picked up the armoire in the entry hall off the street in New York when she was single. She and Steve met in the city and married in 1980.
Steve, an amateur artist, consigned his watercolors and an oil seascape to the powder room.
The print of a great egret in the enclosed porch was a gift to Jane from the National Audubon Society, where she once worked. She is now a fund-raiser for the Nature Conservancy in Morris County, N.J., where she and Steve previously lived. She plans to retire this summer.
Some furnishings in the house came from the Cape May home that Steve’s parents, now deceased, owned. The Jersey Shore has its charms, Steve said, but he wanted to be closer to museums in Bucks County and Philadelphia, and to his musician friends.
Steve joined the Philadelphia Jug Band as a teenager and continues to play washboard with the group, which has performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Before moving, the Millers had to prune their collection. “I’m an accumulator,” Steve admitted, but said he chose the best items to “curate our retirement.”
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