Heeding the Call of the Home

Louise DuArt and SQuire Rushnell’s Katama home is a tribute to love and God.

In 1974, a television producer gave a young actress her first job on TV, and for twenty years, the two didn’t cross paths again. But when they did, something unexpected happened – they fell head over heels for each other. She had become an acclaimed comedic impressionist, and he was a television executive contemplating a career change, but the two divorcés did not know how much they had in common until she saw his Washington, D.C., home for the first time.

 “When I walked in, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I could have decorated this,’” says Louise DuArt, co-host of ABC Family’s morning talk show Living the Life, and since 2000, wife of SQuire Rushnell, now a best-selling author and motivational speaker (who does indeed capitalize the Q in his name).
“Our tastes were exactly the same.”

Louise had spent summers on the Island, where her family goes back four generations, and in 2001, the couple finished reconstructing a house on Katama Point. With its four bedrooms and 3,800 square feet, the home has living areas on the second floor to take advantage of the wide-angle views of Katama Bay. Louise had been keeping a “secret file” of would-be dream house images since 1991. Now, she can flip through the folder with a sense of accomplishment and awe, pointing out the many images that have been realized: a romantic blue-and-white bedroom, an impressive stone fireplace modeled after John Travolta’s, a cherry-wood bookshelf with small paintings hanging between sets of books and illuminated with tiny lights.

With their shared appreciation for beautiful things, a passion for family and friends, and a strong sense of spirit-uality – in addition to an uncanny love of antique clocks – every detail in the house carries their signature. They call the style “English-cottage beach house,” because the pieces are tasteful and classic, but comfortable furniture and an open floor plan also make it conducive to relaxing or socializing. Between the walls and ceiling are flat angles detailed with beadboard, also a reminder that the beach can’t be far away – in this case only a stone’s throw.

The room that takes most advantage of the home’s locale is the third-floor “writer’s nest,” with windows on three sides and sweeping views of the bay and surrounding area. The room exceeds the height limit in town, but since it was grandfathered as part of the original structure, the town allowed them to rebuild it – as long as they used the original two-by-fours to ensure it would stay the same size.

The staircase leading up to the nest seems to grow out of the kitchen counter and disappear. SQuire wanted the staircases to complement the room, like furniture, he said. He can also sit on the stairs and chat with his wife while she’s cooking, for a bird’s-eye perspective of the kitchen.

The nest is where SQuire works on his book series, When God Winks. When the weather is warm, he opens the French doors to let the ocean breeze come through. “It is absolutely the most exquisite place to work,” he says.

SQuire coined the term “godwink” in 2001 when he published his first book, When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life. A godwink is a coincidence or answered prayer that happens at just the right time, SQuire says – and the story of how he and Louise managed to finish building their dream house despite financial problems is an example of one.

In 2000, the couple reached the point when they weren’t sure they could afford to keep building. The costs had escalated to twice what had been projected when they started construction.

“We were literally hemorrhaging money,” Louise says. She remembers thinking, “‘Should we sell the house as is, a work in progress?’ But it was our dream house!”

As a former television producer, SQuire designed lighting for the house with the precision and care that he would a movie set, and the electrical outlets corresponded perfectly. “We knew where every electrical plug was,” he says. But they had to admit they didn’t have the money to continue. So they prayed.

“In the mail, shortly after that, came something we hadn’t seen before,” SQuire says. It was the mortgage inspection plan – the engineer’s report that is filed with town records, including a basic architectural footprint of the building structure on the lot. The outline of the house was precisely and unmistakably the sign of a cross.

Riveted, they felt it was a sign they should keep building – even if they weren’t sure where the money would come from. Days later, Louise got a phone call from a casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, asking her to do a six-month show. It was exactly the money they needed, so she moved to Gulfport and lived in the casino for six months.

At the center of the cross is the middle of the great room, where a chandelier hangs over a large, round table, which always manages at holidays to fit the whole family – SQuire’s three children and Louise’s two children with their spouses and significant others.

“Whenever we gather at that table, there is a nice warm feeling in the house,” SQuire says. The chandelier casts an intimate glow over the table, with its mix of light bulbs that look like long candle flames and real candles. They will never forget using the chandelier for the first time.

“We didn’t realize that we needed dripless [candles],” Louise says. She and SQuire promptly dissolve into laughter recounting how something kept dripping on one guest’s meat before they realized what had happened. SQuire considers the chandelier a small triumph because its design makes a statement without obstructing the water view from the other end of the room. The round table is made from antique floorboards, rich in color and full of imperfections.

“You’re literally eating off the floor when you’re eating on the table,” Louise quips with characteristic humor. And there’s no need to use coasters or trivets, she says, since “it looks better the more you wreck it.”

The house was completed in the spring of 2001, and both Louise and SQuire liken it to a member of the family. They feel similarly toward the seven-hundred-square-foot “writer’s cottage” beside the house, which they completed earlier this year.

“They’re less expensive than the children,” Louise teases. The house even has its own website so prospective renters can take a virtual tour. Work keeps the couple away from the Vineyard for much of the year, so they rent out the house – although they still consider it their primary residence.

The house is filled with items that Louise and SQuire have collected from around the world: old books, a nineteenth-century ship’s desk from England, a lamp made from a Russian teapot, a painting of an old church in Maine that reminds them of the church in New York in which they were married. “When we travel, we try to find things that have stories,” Louise says.

“There is a story to everything,” SQuire agrees – and he remembers them all too. “Every little item became part of the landscape of this house.”
Louise and SQuire aren’t sure how many clocks are in the house. A pre-Revolution grandfather clock they bought in England stands in the great room. Adorned with images of Scotland, Wales, England, and Ireland, the clock is probably worth more than a Mercedes, an expert once told them – “and it works like a charm,” SQuire says.

Another clock, to the left of the fireplace in the great room, used to hang in the train station depot where SQuire grew up in northern New York. He would stop at the depot every day on his paper route and check the time on that clock. Much later in life, he had the opportunity to buy it. He says it still smells like the train station did – like a coal-burning train.

Louise and SQuire employed an army of Island builders to put their house together, and they hired some renowned Island artists to leave their mark on the house as well. The tiles around the fireplace in the great room feature custom scrimshaw by Tom DeMont, owner of the Edgartown Scrimshaw Gallery. The finely detailed pieces depict each of the five Vineyard lighthouses.

“It’s really like using the fireplace as a canvas for this artist,” SQuire says.

Artist Margot Datz painted the stairs leading from the main entryway on the side of the house to the second floor living area. After Louise and SQuire couldn’t decide what they wanted painted, Margot decided that words would be appropriate – words from the Bible about love. Reading up from the bottom of the staircase are verses from the book of Corinthians.

The blue-and-white master bedroom on the second floor is also romantic. There is a fireplace and a terrace for eating breakfast. The bathroom has a tub for two and a steam shower, and the tile floor is heated. The sun rises through one set of windows and sets through another, and they can watch osprey outside from their bed as well.

The three guest bedrooms on the first floor are also charming – the “Pink Room” with water and garden views, the “Twin Room” with two twin beds, and the blue-and-yellow “Provence Room” with a private entrance onto a patio with wicker furniture and a rose arbor. But the house isn’t all romance and sensibility – there are some fun and quirky parts as well.

The game room on the first floor used to be a two-car garage, but now hosts a pool table, television, vibrating chair, “beer fridge,” and sink. There is also the fireplace modeled after John Travolta’s. Louise’s and SQuire’s children range in age from twenties to early forties, and the younger ones enjoy hanging out there.

Louise uses a temperature-controlled cedar room in the basement to store all of her costumes for her impersonations, as well as memorabilia from her performances on stage and television. There is a Madonna bustier, a Cher jacket, and her costume from the 1970s children’s variety show Kaptain Kool and the Kongs.

“Look at that waist!” she exclaims, holding it up. In her twenties then, she wore the outfit on the cover of Newsweek when the show became popular. There are also shoes, Broadway posters, and dozens of Styrofoam heads wearing wigs – even a Willy Nelson one, complete with bandana and braids.
“I don’t know what we would have done without a basement,” Louise muses. “It looks like a little morgue down there with all the wigs. It’s precious.”

Louise hopes now that her touring comedy show Together Again, with stars from The Carol Burnett Show, has ended after several years, she will be able to spend more time at home, enjoying the place that she and her husband have put so much thought into.

“There is a lot of love in this house,” she says.