Close to Home: The paintings make the difference

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Close to Home: The paintings make the difference
The living room fireplace with 'Two Sisters,' painted by Jim Giampaoli. (Photo/Marty DeVine)
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By Caitlyn Meisner | cmeisner@alextimes.com

South Royal Street holds many residences, but this quaint home stands among the hustle and bustle of the Old Town neighborhood. Especially in the autumn season nearing Halloween, the dwelling is a bystander to spooky antics and family fun. 

Tony and Elizabeth – known by all close family and friends as “Beecie” or “B” – Kupersmith own the quiet home on South Royal, and have resided there since 2007. Beecie spotted the house when it was put on the market by Herbert and Patricia Beckington, who had lived in the home since 1967. 

The Kupersmith family has lived in Alexandria – either in the city proper or in Fairfax County – since September 1980. They changed neighborhoods as their family grew. Their first home in the city was at 208 Wilkes St., then they moved to Belle Haven as their three children matured, but later moved back to Old Town in this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house. 

Tony, an engineer, worked in Old Town since the family moved to the city for his job and always loved the neighborhood. Beecie and Tony said they could not pass up an opportunity to return to the spots they once resided in as a growing family. 

The 1800 original, red-brick home blends in with the typical Old Town crowd, but upon stepping inside, the home is unlike any other. Tony and Beecie said they have done almost no major renovations since moving in, meaning much of the hardware is decades or centuries old.

The greenery-filled back patio at night. (Photo/ Tony Kupersmith)

“It is a perpetual sort of thing to keep stuff running, but other than a few changes to air conditioning, [it’s] the same old, same old,” Tony said. “We’ve done this and that, but we just live here.” 

The stairs immediately face visitors as they walk in, but the eyes are met with paintings adorned across the walls. Beecie is a lifetime artist and has made it her life’s work to paint the sights she sees, whether that’s in San Miguel, Mexico; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Galveston, Texas; or her family in any capacity. 

To the left is the main living room with a comfortable couch and antique loveseats. Again, the room is filled with colorful paintings – both Beecie’s and one of her family’s favorite artists, Jim Giampaoli. Above the fireplace is Giampaoli’s “Two Sisters,” which centers the room and truly showcases the couple’s decor style. 

The living room has built-in bookcases next to the fireplace, which hold hundreds of books tightly shelved against one another. Underneath the tiers of books are hidden cabinets of Beecie’s sketchbooks. Lucy, one of their daughters, said there must be dozens of sketchbooks stacked in the cabinet. 

“The idea about the sketchbook is that I don’t take anything out, I don’t take any of my paintings out,” Beecie said. “I’ve only done it once for a friend and I’ve regretted it ever since.” 

Beecie said she often painted or drew in the sketchbook before painting the final product, almost as a “rough draft.” She detailed the story and place that inspired the piece and could speak to the difficulty or ease that came with each page. 

“You see how kind of random it is sometimes?” Beecie said to the room. “It’s good, and sometimes it’s not so good.” 

Moving into the dining room is an antique, dark wooden table with matching chairs. The dark color of the table is offset by the bright paintings around the room, many inspired by the summer trips on boats and family activities. 

Around a large, vertical mirror behind the table are four paintings: two by a dock, one of two large black family dogs and Beecie’s father handing a treat to his dog. Below the paintings are long-wicked candles and various blue floral vases atop a similarly dark sideboard. 

Along the adjacent wall of the room is a dark fireplace with Cape Cod-esque decorations sprucing up the space. Two golden scallops sit next to a painting of a boat on the water with three identical spiky seashells below.

Two of Beecie’s paintings of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (Photo/Caitlyn Meisner)

“[Our home] is pretty eclectic. Here’s the eclectic,” Tony said, pointing to Beecie. “I think being a painter – or having a painter – is a huge deal because all the decorative or artistic features are coming from within rather than being purchased.” 

The original dining room – which now serves as an office and sitting area – is home to even more antique blue floral vases tucked behind various Beecie originals on built-in bookshelves. In one corner is a pink-and-blue-striped loveseat with two paintings of San Miguel, Mexico. 

Above a desk on the right side of the room are two paintings of men playing polo, an activity Beecie said her father loved dearly. On the opposite wall are two more prints of polo players above a lived-in sofa. 

Straight into the kitchen is a decades-old brick floor with dark wooden cabinets and modern appliances. A bay window faces the stovetop with comfortable pillows and a bench, along with a large table and multiple chairs. Next to the table is a large red-brick fireplace with a Mesopotamian outpost sign on one side and antique pans on the other. A large dog bed sits at the bottom, big enough for their seven-year-old Portuguese Water dog, Finny. 

The kitchen then leads into the back yard, a brick-laid sitting area with multiple chairs sprawled along the space for hosting summer evenings. Beecie spoke of the plants the couple has kept for years, which shows in the expansive greenery they have in the quaint space. 

Returning back to the front of the house, the small details of each painting speak to their life with three children and five grandchildren as travelers. Tony said it’s amazing to see their children grow through the years via Beecie’s paintings. 

“You can go upstairs and wander around this place and find paintings of our son, Anthony, at age three, at age six or it just goes on and on,” Tony said. 

On a random wall sits a piece depicting Lucy on a couch reading or writing; another wall is adorned by a Cape Cod beach and the couple’s children running toward homes; still another holds a lifelike painting of Beecie’s mother with two small dogs. 

The eclectic home mixes every century it’s survived: the 1800s with its original Old Town feel, the 1900s thanks to the Beckingtons’ preservation and the 2000s, as Tony and Beecie’s family grows with the next generation of Kupersmiths. 

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