This week we’ll explore the ways to personalize your home & celebrations with monograms. Today I thought I’d share with you something I did in my own home when we renovated. We needed to add a new staircase (since years ago the interior staircase had been removed to make two separate apartments) and while on a frequent trip to Nantucket I came upon these “mortgage buttons” made of ivory in the Nina Hellman antiques store. I had just read about these and was ecstatic to have found them! The legend is when a mortgage was paid off there was a mortgage burning party. The proud owners of the house would burn the mortgage papers and put the ashes under a button, usually made of ivory, on the top of their newel post. It’s said that parents of young daughters would know what family might be a good suitor for their daughter by seeing whether or not they had a mortgage button on their staircase banister. If it was a wooden button it meant the family was still paying for their home, if they saw an ivory mortgage button it meant the family was financially stable and owned their house free and clear of a bank or lender- a more suitable family to with whom to align themselves.
The button seemed rather plain, and in the shop was scrimshaw artist Charles Manghis. He sold many ivory tusks etc. with gorgeous scrimshaw boats and icons. So I asked him- could he monogram the button for me? So he monogrammed our initial “B” on the mortgage button for our brand new banister. I love it. It’s just that little extra personalization for our home and it reminds me of all the wonderful times we’ve spent on Nantucket Island every time I go up or down our stairs.
Nina Hellman now offers appointments only to view her collections and she has a website: ninahellmanantiques.com. Charles Manghis also is available to scrimshaw these buttons which you can find on nauticalnantucket.com. So you don’t have to travel all the way to the island to get a button (but it might be more fun to visit the island!). Our staircase was crafted out of Walnut by Deerfield Millwork, Inc.
*Paint color suggestions above are all from Benjamin Moore.
*If you’ve never been to Nantucket – it’s a wonderful small island east of Long Island and south of Cape Cod in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of my absolute favorite places in the world. I usually stay with friends, but when I do stay in a hotel it’s usually the The Wauwinet (where we got engaged) or the Union Street Inn which is right in town. Black Eyed Susans is a little diner type restaurant great for breakfast, The Brotherhood of Thieves is a good place for a casual beer, cocktail and comfort food and dinner- well there are so many amazing restaurants but one of my favorites is the Company of the Cauldron. Nantucket is very relaxing and slow in pace. There are bike paths around the entire island and not one stop light or franchise hotel or fast food restaurant. It is very quaint and special with a rich whaling history. Of course the beaches, sailing and fishing are abundant. You can fly to the island usually connecting through Boston or New York or travel by ferry from Hyannis Port.