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Ask Stephen L. and Pauline Dyson what first sold them on their Williamsville home, and they don’t hesitate: the bookcases. Once you tour the place, you know why.

Two home libraries are filled with books, including an entire wall in the upstairs study. Other books are found on bookcases in the living room. An accent pillow on a side chair near the front door quotes Thomas Jefferson: “I cannot live without books.”

And while being photographed by a News photographer earlier this week, Pauline Dyson took a timeout and said, “I should be holding a book. We’re always reading.”

So it is in the home of these former New Englanders. Steve Dyson is a historian, archaeologist of ancient Rome and Park professor of classics at the University at Buffalo. Pauline is a former public high school history and social studies teacher. Steve’s job offer from UB is what brought them to Western New York from Middlefield, Conn., where they raised three children and he taught for 28 years at Wesleyan University in nearby Middletown.

Not surprisingly, the Dysons delved into the history of their Williamsville home soon after buying it in 1999. They discovered it was built by a carpenter for his family in the 1840s in the late Federal period style. Beautifully maintained by previous homeowners, the house sits on a peaceful, deep narrow lot near Ellicott Creek. Most of the trees and perennials on the property were there when they moved in, including a tree peony. Gardening is something they both enjoy. To enhance his wife’s cooking, Steve plants herbs in pots and lines them up on a brick wall near the back porch.

The Dysons also learned that at one point a Victorian-style porch was added and later removed. Years later, an attached garage and a room above were added, a former master suite that Steve now uses as his study. A pullout sofa comes in handy when family members visit from out of town; the Dysons have three adult children and six grandchildren.

The couple enjoy eating lunch and dinner in the sun room, where on a recent day Pauline had floated pansies in a glass bowl centerpiece. An 8-by-12-foot screened-in porch at the back of the house is a favorite spot during the warm months.

“We’ll have breakfast out there in the morning, and I’ll read out there until I go to bed in the evening,” said Steve, whose vast book collection includes classic literature and Civil War books that belonged to his grandfather.

“He was a great reader all of his life,” Steve said.

This house has many interesting nooks, crannies and quirks. The light switch in the step-down bath on the second floor is on the sloped ceiling. A nifty flip-down counter in the kitchen is attached to the cellar door. Pauline uses it when she makes pasta, pie dough and bread. Close at hand are wooden long-handled spoons and other cooking implements crafted by her father.

Interesting artwork, accents and treasures can be found throughout, reflecting their interests, hobbies and travels. Among them: framed prints of ships, Tuscan scenes and ancient ruins; ship models made by Steve; paintings and prints of Maine, where they vacation with their family; Buffalo architectural posters; and framed maps of mid-19th century Williamsville and Middlefield, Conn.

The two maps, which hang in the dining room, were housewarming gifts from their children.

Blue-and-white plates that date back to the time the house was built are among the collectibles displayed in the dining room. Also found here: a tablecloth that was custom-made by artisanal housewives in Fornelli, Pauline’s ancestral village in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy – where her parents were born and raised.

“The women share the work. One makes the linen cloth; another does this very fancy lacework,” said Pauline, who still has relatives living in this isolated mountain village, which the Dysons have visited while traveling to Rome for Steve’s archaeological research.

In the bedroom, Pauline has framed her mother’s hand-crocheted and tatted pieces of table scarfs and handkerchiefs – which were part of Pauline’s wedding trousseau.

At about 3,000 square feet, the house is much larger than the modest ranch house they came from in Connecticut. The couple paid just over $200,000 for the house in 1999.

“We discovered that the real estate market in Western New York offers quality homes that are so much less expensive than equivalent homes in New England,” Pauline said.

The house’s location allows them to walk to village shops, restaurants, parks and the farmers’ market, and its layout suits their lifestyle.

The house “is large enough for ‘two old-timers’ as my husband describes us, to pursue our interest and hobbies, together or apart. While most folks our age were downsizing, we were upsizing,” Pauline said.
The blueprint
Former New Englanders Steve and Pauline Dyson found a new home in an old house in Williamsville nearly 14 years ago, embracing the village lifestyle and pursuing their many interests and hobbies – as is reflected in their decor.
Here’s an overview of their 1840s home:
The layout: Living room, dining room, bath, kitchen, library/computer room (hers), sun room and screened-in porch on first floor. Former master suite now used as study (his), quirky bathroom with planked walls and ceiling, and three other rooms on the second floor. One is now used as their master bedroom; another as a craft/reading room.
Colors: Blue-and-white wallpaper in hallway, above, and kitchen; sand-colored painted walls in sun room. Burgundy Ralph Lauren paisley wallpaper in master bedroom. Neutral walls elsewhere.
Floors: Wood floors with area rugs, including one oval rug in the sun room hand-braided by Pauline’s mother. Some carpeting.
Furniture: A mix including pieces brought along from Connecticut, wicker in sun room, Pier 1 finds, comfortable reading chairs and a dining room table big enough for large gatherings.
Window treatments. Mini-blinds, valances and sheers that allow light to come through windows.
Collections: Framed posters and prints; interesting accents and treasures; many, many books.
 – Susan Martin