Beauty inside and out

Diane DeMeo likes to help people feel better about themselves, and one way to start is to get them t

Diane DeMeo likes to help people feel better about themselves, and one way to start is to get them to just walk through the front door of her business at Studio 232 on Union Street in Schenectady.

“We’ve been here for 10 years, and we do hair, makeup and reiki,” said DeMeo, who lives with her husband, Ron, on the second and third floors of the three-story brownstone townhouse in the Stockade section of the city. “It’s a beautiful building, and I’ve added a lot of antiques over the years to help decorate it. People love just walking through the place.”

DeMeo’s home will be one of the featured sites on this year’s 51st Stockade Walkabout on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only the first floor and her backyard, a frequent stop on the Stockade Secret Garden Tour held earlier in the summer, will be open to the public. As in past years, DeMeo will have a theme for Walkabout visitors, “Beauty Through the Ages.”

Decorating on a theme

“We weren’t on last year, but we do the Walkabout quite a bit and we like to have a theme,” said DeMeo, who is a big Marilyn Monroe fan and has all kind of memorabilia about the former movie star scattered throughout the house.

“This year we’re just going to look at fashion and beauty from 1900 to the present day. I know some antique dealers who loan me a few more items to set up and we’ll also have our Marilyn posters. There’ll be a lot for people to see.”

You have to wonder what David Engleman would have thought of the poster-sized photos of the scantily clothed Miss Monroe hanging about the place. Engleman was the senior partner in the firm of Engleman and Bellinger, a Schenectady company that manufactured painting supplies, and it was Engleman who built the house and moved in around 1898.

“Engleman lived in a house at 224 Union Street that had been built sometime after the Civil War, and then moved to 232,” said Rob Petito, an architectural historian who also lives on Union Street not too far from Studio 232. “It’s the kind of house that a very prominent businessman would have owned at the time.”

Beautiful woodwork

There are three rooms and a bath on every floor, as well as four fireplaces on the first two floors. Visitors are greeted with plenty of interesting decor as soon as they walk up the three steps and pass through the front door.

“The entry vestibule is dark-stained paneled oak on both the walls and the ceiling, and there’s a very ornate carved newel at the bottom of the stairway,” said Petito. “Just looking up the stairway is a great picture, and the wood floors, made of different colored woods, have a beautiful inlay pattern.”

The building was a single-family home according to Petito, and the floor at ground level, kind of a raised basement, was probably the original kitchen and a workroom for the servants. It also might have been rented out as an apartment at one time, and DeMeo, who bought the building about 10 years ago, said there had been a chiropractor who ran his business there a few years before.

“The place had been vacant for a few years before we bought it,” said DeMeo, who runs Studio 232 with her two assistants, Ashleigh Scorsone and Megan Petersen.

Love at first sight

“But when I first walked in through the front door, I said to myself, ‘This is it.’ I love the history of the place, the woodworking and the design of the front door. I had always pictured my studio being in some place like Boston and New York, so when we bought the place I couldn’t blame my husband for keeping me in Schenectady. I feel like when I’m in here I’m in Boston.”

DeMeo’s building is actually one of four similar townhouses strung together from 230 to 236 Union Street. They were all built in the Romanesque Revival style often used by noted 19th century architect Henry Hobson Richardson. All four homes have alternating arched and linteled entry door openings separated by two-story bay windows, and all are unified by brick facades and a continuous cornice. The buildings are right across Union Street from two bigger homes built by Schenectady Locomotive founder John Ellis for his sons Edward and Charles in 1884.

Categories: Life and Arts

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