Renowned craftsmen return to compete restoration projects
by Jonathan Postan, director of Hay House
For the third year, Chris Mills, owner of Christopher Mills Conservation Services, has brought his extraordinary skills to Hay House. Mills, who is based in New York and the Berkshires of Massachusetts, has worked as an architectural conservator for more than 15 years with emphasis on the conservation, the recovery and the re-installation of period finishes in museums, state capitols, churches and theaters throughout the United States.
Chief among his recent projects include three British period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tea Room at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the West Parlor at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and 40 other historic sites and museum spaces. Mills’ talents range from conservation of marble and plaster, to the authentic replication of original paint finishes through handmade paints and glazes, and the use of traditional brushes and other tools for paint applications.
Mills began work at Hay House two years ago when he carefully removed later layers of canvas and paint in the second–floor hallway to determine the original paint scheme. Last summer, along with paint conservator Andrew Compton and decorative painter Staszek Kotowski, he largely completed the restoration of this same hallway, which was evidently an upstairs sitting area as well.
Following the plan to return this space to the 1860s, the project has proceeded as directed by the Georgia Trust Master Plan Amendments of 2016. The new discoveries about the original wall treatment of panels and lower mahogany wainscot, the bright shades of the original painted floor, and the complex treatment of the trompe l’oeil mahogany and oak wainscot on the staircase, all were part of the stunning restoration of the hall. During last year’s project, however, Mills and crew were only able to complete half of the faux wainscot to the third floor.
This season, Mills and Kotowski have returned to complete the faux wainscot. A graduate and former professor of conservation at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in his native Poland, Kotowski has a legion of his own painting projects to his credit including the Rhode Island State Capitol, the Valentine Museum in Richmond, and numerous private residences in New York City and Florida.
Mills is currently focused on conserving surviving fragments of a circa 1880s decorative wall painting in the northeast bedchamber of Hay House. Next month, he will begin the restoration of Ruth’s room, a project described in the last issue of this column.
In addition to being conservators and restorers, both Mills and Kotowski are artists whose canvas paintings are occasionally shown in galleries in the northeast. With their artistic sensibilities, we are grateful that they are combining their individual talents to preserve the delicate historic fabric and re–create the finishes that reflect the early Johnston era of this Georgia Trust property.
An ongoing series about Hay House lore, traditions and history.
934 Georgia Ave.