TALK ABOUT THE STUFF OF DREAMS. Garden and interior designer
and antiques dealer Michael Trapp finally found a property where he could have a
home, a shop, and lots of outdoor space for his gardens. Since he bought his now
magical lair in West Cornwall, Connecticut, more than 20 years ago, he has been
hard at work sculpting his own fractured fairy tale. The steep hills and tangled
woods are the quintessence of crumbled, cracked, and faded, and his demesne is
proof positive that it can be bright to be gloomy.
“I do have a dark side,” says Trapp. Nobody who has seen this refuge would
take issue with that. The shop is a riddle of animal skulls, cloudy Viennese glass,
tarnished chandeliers, and vintage upholstered furniture with stuffing unplugged.
The floors are massive mausoleum-like stone blocks. The walls are plastered with
the tracery of faded tiles. Incoming sunbeams fall on remnants of butterflies that
haven’t fluttered in decades.
It’s deliciously melancholy, and the fin de siècle propensity only intensifies
outdoors, where massive chipped urns totter on monolithic cracked pedestals and
rickety arbors support menacing vines. Crooked balusters lining narrow walkways
hide heaven knows what around the bend, while ghoulish stone lions sneer from
secretive niches. And there, amid the busts of long-gone scholars conspicuously
missing noses, appendages, and other essentials, is the fashionably disheveled
Trapp, presiding unapologetically over his kingdom of crumbling architectural
salvage and stone.
Ruins become him. If someone were to offer him a piece of terra cotta in pristine condition, Trapp wouldn’t be interested. New holds no romance for the man
who dotes on decay and all the accumulated moss that comes with it. His garden
is a wrinkle in time, made so by expertly employing smoke and mirrors to create