about me

I’m fascinated by American homes.   I want to know what’s in your house, and how everything is arranged, and how it relates to what’s outside the windows.  Every house has a vibe – the sum of all its parts.  Everyone who makes a home creates a vibe, consciously or subconsciously or inadvertently.  I want to explore how that vibe happens  and what it means to the homemaker, to the neighbors and to the culture at large.


I was trained as an academic art historian, specializing in American fine and decorative arts.  I’ve been a curator and consultant to historic house museums.   I’ve also been a teacher.   Mostly I’m a writer who communicates with text and images.    I always start with real-life things: chairs, tables, paintings, rugs, dining rooms, back yards etc etc.   I try to explain why these things matter, especially in combination.


This website is another opportunity to put pictures and words together.  I hope to provoke some deep thinking about the everyday world of the home.


My publications / lectures / courses

“Shocking Scenes of Dissipation: Artists’ Studios and Cultural Backlash in the Gilded Age.” Nineteenth Century  32 #1 (Spring 2012).

“Sweetness and Light: Sentimental Things in the Late 19th Century,” for the symposium Experimentation and Exploration: The Arts and Crafts Movement in New York City, organized by Initiatives in Arts and Culture, New York City, September 24, 2010.

“Revealing the Divine: The Art and Collections of Frederic Edwin Church,” for the symposium The American Artist as Collector, from the Enlightenment to the Post-War Era, Center for the History of Collecting in America, Frick Collection and Art Reference Library, New York City, March 7, 2009.

Corcoran College of Art + Design/The Smithsonian Associates Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts, Washington, DC.  Course taught: “Design Reform” (2009)

“The Artistic Hearth: The Fireplace in the American Aesthetic Movement,” The Magazine Antiques, March, 2008.

“Sparkle and Glow: Light in the Aesthetic Movement Interior,” Old House Journal, January-February, 2008.

Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement in America. Gibbs Smith, Publisher.  September, 2006.

“’Aesthetic Evangelists’ – American Women and the Artistic Home,” in “Domesticity and Design in the Gilded Age,” the 9th Annual Conference on Cultural and Historic Preservation, Salve Regina University, October 1, 2005; Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society, May 8, 2007.

“Creating and Recreating Old World Atmosphere – The Dining Room at Olana,” in “Authentic Décor,” at College Art Association annual meeting, Seattle, February 19, 2004.

Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts, New York, Courses taught: “Designing Domesticity: Objects at Home” (2008)  and “Decorative Arts in the Restored Interior”  (2001, 2003)

“The Importance of Context” in Wendy Claire Jessup, ed., Conservation in Context: Finding a Balance for the Historic House Museum (Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1995) 4-19.

As a volunteer:  selected board work

Victorian Society in America, board member.  Chair of the book award committee and book review editor for Nineteenth Century

The Olana Partnership, board member and chair of the Impressions Committee

National Trust for Historic Preservation, advisory council member for the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios Affiliated Sites program

Manitoga, Garrison, NY, the home and studio of Russel Wright, designer.  Member, Modern Design Committee.


PhD, City University of New York

Membership in: American Association of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, ArtTable.

contact infokarenzuk@aol.com, or leave a post on my blog page




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