Ellen Fiedler, widow of the late Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, has spent the last year making the transition from a gracious red brick Georgian mansion in Brookline to a modern, high-rise condominium apartment in Cambridge.
Like the most moves, this one has been marked by all kinds of adjustments -- logistical and emotional. Mrs. Fiedler has gained a spectacular view of the Charles River in exchange for the down-to-earth pleasures of her old garden. She has taken on the crisp definition of an apartment at the price of leaving behind all the miscellaneous accumulation that comes from living in one sprawling house for 36 years while raising three children.
She approached the transition in the spirit of a dedicated gardener: You uproot in order to grow something new. The moment Mrs. Fiedler decided to move to smaller quarters, she and her children began the long process of editing the family's possessions. She employed Elizabeth Matthews, a New York interior designer, to help settle final choices and determine how best to reassemble them in the new condominium.
Since the furnishings had endured hard family wear and much entertaining, it was obviously time for some renewing. The 18th-century English style dining set , a wedding present from her mother, was professionally cleaned and polished. The old grandfather clock that was a gift from Arthur Fiedler's uncle was put back in working condition. And favorite auctionhouse antiques, nicked and scarred by constant use, were repaired and restored. The Italian bombe desk and the Louis XV French desk were made pristine.
For fabrics, Miss Matthews and Mrs. Fiedler chose an ivory brocatelle for covering and unifying the French sofa, love seat, and assorted chairs that were going into the new living room. They selected mauve and soft plum as pillow accent colors, and for the seats of the dining chairs.
Since Mrs. Fiedler's favorite colors are blue and yellow, her decorator determined that living and dining room walls would be soft blue, reserving yellow for her bedroom. It was decided that no strong color or bold pattern would distract from the stunning outside views. Living room colors were taken from the blues, pinks, and ivories in the Aubusson rug that centers the conversation grouping of seating.
In the old house Arthur Fiedler had his own retreat, an upstairs wing where he collected everything from musical scores to firemen's hats and toy fire engines, representing an infatuation with fire stations that lasted all his life. The memorabilia that Mrs. Fiedler decided to keep is now attractively displayed in her music room, with its grand piano and wall arrangements of gold records, photographs, awards, and the like. The collage gives the Fiedler memorabilia more focus than scattering it without plan around the apartment.
The new apartment has three bedrooms, so there is room for Cecelia, her companion-housekeeper who came initially as a baby's nurse and stayed on to assist the family, and for the Fiedler children when they come to visit.
Mrs. Fiedler's move took place on schedule and as painlessly as possible. She let go of many possessions without tears. And she watched what was left come together in unusual ways in her present home. She proved herself open to many new ideas and arrangement, and the apartment appears to suit her and to conform to her current needs. But like thousands of other women learning to live alone, she is still searching out her own mode. "I love it here, but I still don't feel at home," she confesses.
Before too long, Ellen Fiedler plans to start entertaining friends at lunch, and perhaps have a few "at-homes." After the holidays she will begin to use her new tape recorder for dictating her memories of life with Mr. Fiedler.
In such intangible as well as tangible ways, anyone who moves can furnish the present with the past.