Genue Inc.
August 23, 2018

Genue Perspectives: Sleeper-McCann House

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to tour the Beauport Sleeper-McCann house, a historic home perched on the rocky oceanside of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The home was the summer residence of Henry Davis Sleeper—an eccentric interior designer who loved to collect all sorts of objects that piqued his curiosity. This house became a place of self-expression for him, where he would test out his novel design ideas before recreating them for clients. The house has changed hands a few times over time, but Sleeper’s fantastical vision has been carefully preserved for others to enjoy for years to come.


Gloucester MA historic home

Sleeper-McCann Grounds, Photograph via

Sleeper’s taste was defined by neither trend nor price—he built his home around whatever interested him at the time. Whether that was turning his dining room into a space that resembled an English pub, or theming an octagonal room around the number eight. His collections ranged from wooden folk art, to colored glass, to anything and everything George Washington (seriously!) which he would artistically display around his home. The value of his objects didn’t matter to him—a piece could be worth a thousand dollars or absolutely nothing, but if he enjoyed it, it belonged in his collections. And how wonderfully he chose to display his things! This backlit cabinet filled with glassware is so gorgeous—you can tell from this display that Sleeper truly had an eye for pattern!


Gloucester MA historic home

Sleeper-McCann House, Photograph by Eric Roth/Courtesy of Historic New England


The house left a lasting impression on me. I was blown away by the beautiful use of color and meticulous eye for detail. Each room had a different aesthetic and feeling from the next. I found myself imagining what it must have been like to live in such a house—imagining the lavish parties that were thrown there, but also days of quiet reverie…trying to visualize what it might be like sitting alone on a rainy afternoon in such an exciting place was a difficult task!


My favorite room was the “China Trade room”—a living room dedicated to Chinese culture and art. The painted wallpaper shows scenes of Chinese ceramics being made, with each wall showing a step of the process…It felt as if you were standing in a giant storybook! The artistry was breathtaking—and we highly respect and celebrate fine wallpaper here at Genue!


Gloucester MA historic home

China Trade Room, Photograph by Hannah Grace


Sleeper was a designer who was always genuine about his vision—he created his spaces in a way that reflected his personal interests and aesthetic tastes. His entire home was (and is!) a celebration of expressing yourself, no matter what that entails. You should create for you…and that creating something truly authentic to yourself is one of the most rewarding things you can do! Seeing this beautiful house was a great lesson in that, and it’s something I hope to hold close to my heart in the future.


If you’ve ever toured one of New England’s several historic homes, tell us about your experience in a comment!

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