Written by Amy Shuman, with Photography by John Shuman
On a peaceful secluded street lined with gigantic red oak trees at least 75 years old, across from Haystack Mountain, is the artful home of playwright Shane Riggs. Shane’s home was part of the Dressman Allotment, a series of red brick Cape Cod homes built in the 1950’s for people working for Kelly Springfield. Sitting in the yellow chair that was the focus of his story in Allegany Magazine’s 2008 holiday issue, this award winning writer relaxes as he answers all the questions he, himself, is used to asking, when, as editor of this four year old magazine, he interviews others for his fabulous stories. Shane found this home in early 2005, when he “put out the word by e-mail” that he wanted to move into town from Ellerslie. Terry Rephann, then Cumberland city councilman, responded. He had recently married and it turned out that his wife, Dina, was tickled that Shane was interested in her place. The Rephanns avoided two house payments, as Shane quickly moved into this two-bedroom, one and a half story treasure, with full basement.
Anyone who loved the movie “Gone With The Wind “ or remembers their grandparent’s parlor would feel right at home in Shane’s living room, also called the front room because it’s directly inside the front entrance. Parlors were outfitted and furnished for a special purpose--to entertain visitors. Shane’s is a perfect specimen. Features include a cozy taupe velveteen-covered Duncan Fife sofa purchased from the Emporium in downtown Cumberland, a Victorian china cabinet filled with Shane’s collection of leather bound books and several gorgeous lamps of antique glass. His grandmother’s leather photo albums stack neatly on the coffee table. Original framed photos of family ancestors, along with beautiful plates of the Shroyer Girls (Shane’s grandmother and aunts), which Shane handcrafted, hang on what is fondly called “The Dead Wall” above the sofa. A vintage-style phone is available for Shane to take quick calls and sits near an old time radio, antique trunk and assorted treasures that have been gifted from family and friends. In the “TV Room,” the TV is hidden in a cabinet. Shane’s leather easy chair and a hickory rocker make it welcoming to relax. A huge bronze hand provides the pedestal for a unique glass-topped coffee table.
The walls here and throughout the house abound with favorite works of local artists too numerous to mention, all Shane’s friends. “It’s not expensive art,” Shane muses, “I just love each one and they always remind me of a nice memory.” A framed 1930’s original “It’s a Wonderful Life” poster from a Loew’s Theatre, adds a colorful touch. In the kitchen, keeping watch from the top of the refrigerator is “Over Easy,” a chicken chef doll holding a whisk and an egg, commissioned from the late Shirley Carnahan. Large oak cabinets, a thick butcher block island and several crocks with every type of utensil make this area perfect for concocting gourmet meals and snacks. The dining room houses antique cabinets and a side board, filled with family heirloom china, a rose-brocaded Victorian chair and tiny ottoman to match and a beautiful white porcelain bowl and pitcher set that Shane salvaged from his family’s attic. “There isn’t a room or a chair or a dish that I don’t use,” smiles Shane. Shane admits that he likes to collect beautifully textured pillows and bolsters of various sizes and shapes, which are displayed on his bed. “I even sleep under a pillow, a feather bed comforter.” Shane could be termed a “nester,” designing cozy spaces throughout the house so that he and his friends and family feel all tucked in.
Descending the basement stairs, one might think they were suddenly beamed into June Cleaver’s kitchen, from “Leave It To Beaver” fame. Patterned after his grandmother’s kitchen in Corriganville, Shane’s “Fifties Kitchen,” with a sunny yellow theme, is so complete, it feels like it’s straight from a possible new set, “Paula Dean Cooks 50’s Style” on the Food Network. It started with original yellow cabinets and sink that had been moved downstairs when the main kitchen was remodeled. Then Shane’s friend, musician Dhruva, insisted, “My mother has a table in Georgia that will be perfect. I’ll bring it back for you.” After she did, the rest is history. “People would see this space and tell me what they had to contribute.” It’s now complete with matching yellow vinyl chairs, every vintage appliance, towels with rooster motifs and everything those 1950’s kitchens had for cooking, serving and eating, right down to the Fiesta ware.
The other side of the basement has been turned into a home office, with computer, old time movie memorabilia, collections of books, framed posters of his own produced plays, and a director’s chair, gifted to Shane by the cast from his second play “Confessions from the Ladies’ Room.” Shane’s first play, “The Lightbearer,” was staged twice in Cumberland to sell-out houses in 2004 and played to eight packed performances in 2006 at the North Canton Playhouse. Before Shane returned to Cumberland in 2003 and became gallery assistant at the Saville Gallery, he managed The Sun Journal in North Canton, capturing 30 awards by the Ohio Newspaper Association. The paper was tapped as the Most Excellent “non-daily” newspaper of its class nationwide. Shane’s outstanding photographs have been published widely and professionally exhibited throughout the area and beyond. Shane’s role as managing editor of Allegany Magazine, a full color lifestyle magazine that has captured the hearts of thousands of subscribers around the world, allows him to continue to mesmerize readers because his background as a news anchor, radio personality, and talk show host, all shine through on every page.
He is excited about the September 2009 special issue featuring articles on local homes of all types. Shane believes that the key to being happy at home is to “surround yourself with the stuff you love.” “I get things handed to me all the time. I’m the keeper of the old stuff, the photographs, books, furniture, the kitchen wares.” So how does Shane continue to keep it all together, amidst the myriad of antique and vintage items that friends and family expect him to integrate into his home? “The thing about decorating is that you know when you’re done, when you’re finished. When I get something to incorporate, I walk around and always find just the right spot where the item wants to be. Also, I move things around a lot. I think everyone’s home is a real extension of who they are. A house really says a lot about the person who lives there,” Shane said and then added with a laugh, ”I think mine probably says I hold on to things a lot longer than most people…..and that’s OK because it’s perfect for me right now.”