In design, the “rule of thirds” posits that objects grouped in twos or fours render an ungainly sight—that three is the magic number in creating eye-pleasing arrays.
In Scott Shoemaker’s Victorian home, a few doors north of Hanscom Park, the design principle is amplified exponentially. Minimalist, his residence is not.
Things sit on top of things that, in turn, sit on top of other things. A cacophony of curios dominates the 1891 home built by noted architect John McDonald, the man behind such local treasures as Joslyn Castle and—along with his son, Alan—the Joslyn Art Museum.
Shoemaker’s love for all things Victorian began quite by accident almost 30 years ago.
“I was in an antique store,” the longtime Omaha Symphony violinist explains, “and I found a wax cylinder record. I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but I knew that it was how people once listened to music. That led to the need to find a period Edison cylinder player, which led to an antique piano, which led to…well, all of this,” he says with a panoramic sweep of a hand. “It all stems from my love for music.”
Unlike the “less is more” aesthetic of the Bauhaus-inspired midcentury modern movement, where line and form are reduced to bare essentials, Shoemaker’s sitting room hosts a densely packed, dizzying collection of tchotchkes and furniture in such materials as oak, mahogany, ebonized wood, glass, porcelain, silk, metals, and velvet.
Upon entering, one’s eye is immediately drawn to a stout, beefy, Empire desk anchoring one corner of the room. In the other corner, a 19th-century portrait of an Austrian soldier stands guard above a silk Empire sofa upholstered in a traditional Napoleonic bee pattern. In yet another corner, a bust of Shakespeare fixes its gaze on the homeowner’s extensive library of century-old books on music and music theory.
“It’s been years and years of moving this object here and that object there to get everything just right,” Shoemaker says of the intricate symphony he has composed in the once-dilapidated fixer-upper bought for a pittance in the early ’90s. “But I’m finally to the point where I can sit back and enjoy it all,” he says, before quickly adding a wry qualifier of “at least for now.”
While the color palette is decidedly dark, the space is anything but foreboding as no fewer than 15 light sources—including electrical wall sconce lamp fixtures converted from the original gas—bathe the space in a cozy, inviting glow.
Shoemaker has had the opportunity to visit many of the city’s historic homes. At a little under 2,000 square feet, the footprint of his residence is dwarfed by the comparatively cavernous edifices lining 38th Street’s Gold Coast neighborhood and elsewhere. But size is not everything.
“Those places are great,” Shoemaker explains, “But they can have an almost museum-like quality to them where I’m afraid to even breathe, let alone touch anything. I don’t want to live in a museum, and I’m happy that my friends describe my place as warm, intimate, and charming.”
This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of OmahaHome.