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Townhouse transformed Amherst woman turns former bachelor pad into a place to call her own

For Barbara J. Campagna, the decorating began with the sofa.

After she purchased a townhouse in Amherst, two friends told her, "You don't need an interior decorator. You have us. Pick out your couch first, and that is your artist's palette."

The plaid sofa -- in soft tones of blue, pinky-salmon and ivory -- contrasts greatly to the decor of the previous resident: A bachelor. So, too, do the light walls and carpeting; custom window treatments; Laura Ashley floral wallcovering in the dining room, and the watercolor paintings found throughout.

But before the true decorating could begin, Campagna had some undoing to do.

For starters, there was a black laminate bar in one doorway, closing the living room off from the dining room. A matching entertainment center with desk and corkboard was positioned along one wall in the living room.

"The fireplace wall had rough wood, and the walls and window vertical blinds were covered with grass cloth," said Campagna, who took early retirement in 1994 from a banking career at the former Marine Midland. She now runs a small advertising company that markets promotional items.

The masculine decor was very well done, Campagna added. It just wasn't her taste.

The bar was removed, as was the entertainment center, reopening the living room to the dining room. The wood paneling also was taken out, a mantel added and the fireplace framed with wood molding.

A carpenter then built a new entertainment center cabinet with open shelves on one side of the fireplace. He built two additional storage cabinets on the other side, with mirrored-back shelves above them.
Goodbye black laminate. Hello soft white walls and carpeting -- and to Campagna's first real place of her own.

Campagna, the youngest of five, grew up in a big old house at 585 Prospect Ave. on the West Side. Her aunt lived downstairs; the Campagna family, upstairs.

"There were five kids and one bathroom," Campagna recalled.

Her father, Vincent -- a wholesale grocer -- and mother, Philomena, moved the family to Eggertsville in 1965 after D'Youville College purchased the house and others on the block. The house was torn down to make room for the Alt Health Science Building.

Campagna, who later graduated from D'Youville and is active as an alumna, also worked as director of corporate relations for 1 1/2 years after retiring from Marine Midland.

For 26 years, she stayed in the family home on Coniston Road -- until her mother moved into a nursing home.

"I thought about buying the house, but I decided it was never really going to be 'my' house," Campagna said. Plus, she would have had to redecorate the place and maintain the 75-by-150 lot.

"I wanted the ease of turning a key," she said.

So she and her aunt, who worked in real estate, looked at a half dozen condo/townhouse complexes in Amherst, and Campagna decided she wanted a three-bedroom townhouse. One became available the next week in the complex she liked, and she went for it -- paying $115,000 in 1991.

She was 50 years old.

While undoing what she calls "the bachelor pad," Campagna was able to stay in the Eggertsville house while it was on the market.

After moving into the townhouse, she continued the transformation.

Among the highlights:

Campagna bought some new furnishings but also brought along some pieces from her parents' home. These included a pair of wing chairs reupholstered in ivory for the living room and a Kittinger hallway table and mirror in the foyer dating back to 1928, the year her parents married.

The dining room and master bedroom furniture also belonged to her parents, and the furniture in the guest bedroom is what Campagna used as a child.

Campagna plucked a shade of blue from the plaid sofa for the new love seat. She also bought extra fabric for the dining room chairs.

This way, when the dining chairs are brought into the adjoining living room for extra seating for guests, everything is coordinated, she said.

When Campagna travels, she often brings home artwork or an accessory for her home, including walking sticks to add to her collection. She also bought a handwoven throw in Kennebunkport, Maine, for her love seat. Several watercolors came from South Carolina, where she likes to golf with friends.

Campagna, who is a volunteer driver for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, also attends fundraisers and events locally, where she discovers items she can't resist: a small mirror purchased at the Gallery Shop in conjunction with the Monet at Giverny exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 1999.

A watercolor from the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society's "Paint the Town" event, an auction of artwork by Buffalo artists.

And an autographed violin with the likeness of Marvin Hamlisch painted on it by a local artist, as part of the BPO Volunteer Foundation's "String Fever" auction.

Friends find her home a comfortable, fun place to visit.

"It's really warm, and I love the way she has some of the furniture from her family there, which is important to Barbara because she is very family-oriented. Family is everything to her. Then she filled in with new pieces she needed," said Barbara Elias, a longtime friend who helped with the initial decorating.

"The dining room is very cozy, and she makes pasta dishes when she has her friends over -- and all the Italian cookies at Christmas," she said.

Since the initial renovation, Campagna has made further improvements.

About four years ago, she had her kitchen cabinets refaced -- which cost about half what new cabinets would have been, she estimated.

New doors were added, but the exterior of the existing cabinets were refaced.

"The cabinets were basically in good shape, but the doors were beginning to deteriorate," said Campagna, who also added a chair rail, Corian countertops and tile backsplash.

At one point, Campagna heads over to a Chantilly Lane Musical bear wearing a vintage-style hat and sitting on a wing chair in the living room, its legs crossed at the ankles.

She pushes a button on its arm, and the song "Love Is All Around" starts to play, as the bear moves its head.

Campagna laughs. She truly is at home here.



>The blue print

Barbara J. Campagna has called her three-bedroom townhouse home for 16 years, but she continues to find ways to personalize it with family possessions, paintings and items she collects on her travels.

A peek inside:

Layout: The two-story, 1,550-square-foot townhouse features a living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen and half bath on the first floor. The second floor has a master bedroom with bath, guest room, second full bath and a third bedroom that functions as a home office/exercise room -- a room she calls "the hub of my house." There's also a full basement.

Colors: Whites, creams and pastels throughout downstairs. Soft yellow and blue in the master bedroom.

Floor: Light carpeting and ceramic tile. Hardwood in kitchen and dining room. Small Oriental rugs as accents.

Furniture: A combination of pieces purchased for the townhouse and those brought from the family home.

Accessories: A well-displayed array of watercolor paintings; family photos and memorabilia; walking sticks propped in jardiniere; teddy bears, and Byers' Choice dolls (including holiday-theme designs she brings out at Christmastime).

Among her framed keepsakes: A 1955 group photo from Holy Angels Grammar School, commemorating eighth-grade graduation.

-- Susan Martin

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