Fortunately, Darlene Ingraldi is a good sport who doesn't interfere with her husband's penchant for bringing home stray books, typewriters, newspapers, and old posters . . . for starters.
"This is his world, not mine, but I understand it," she says. "The only thing I insist upon is some semblance of order."
And their home achieves that, despite thousands of individual objects and collections largely in its expansive lower-level "man cave," as Bart wryly calls it.
Visitors to the first and second levels have no way of knowing what lies beneath. And that's the way the couple prefers it. Case in point: the first-floor family room, a large, light-filled space attractively furnished in neutral tones. Not every such room boasts a vintage rocking horse, an antique wooden icebox, and a sturdy trunk that accompanied Darlene's mother on her adventures as a World War II WAC, but here comfortable upholstered furniture also beckons, and interesting art hangs on the walls.
The adjacent kitchen has gleaming appliances and abundant work area. The dining room is sleek and elegant, with a light-wood table surrounded by high-back chairs. The formal living room is set off by dramatic deep-blue walls.
The Ingraldis met while working for a catering company in North Jersey, fell in love quickly, and married in less than two years. They moved south, to Washington Township, when they changed careers to better balance the work-life-parent equation. An opportunity to own the Mount Laurel franchise of the Great Frame Up brought them to Burlington County.
"We've been asked to frame everything from traditional paintings to the 30-pound propeller of a yacht and a pair of lederhosen," Bart says.
So, yes, their house has lively walls throughout, and not all adornments are as traditional as the beautiful photos of the lush gardens of the Vanderbilt Estate taken by Bart, whose work was recently exhibited in a juried Perkins Art Center show in Moorestown.
A second-floor balcony/sitting area features two sets of ancestor photos, artfully framed and arranged, providing a tour through generations past.
But head downstairs and that lower level is nothing short of astonishing. That's where most of Bart's finds have settled in, and he can narrate the vintage and significance of nearly every one. Also astonishing: the pristine order in which so many bits of culture and history reside.
"I do try to keep things straight," says Bart. From toys and sewing machines to vintage cameras to framed yardsticks from old hardware stores, he can locate anything in his inventory.
Bart has a fondness for old posters, especially of 1940s film stars, and for old newspapers from dramatic dates in history. Throw in telegraph keys, Edison cylinders, and a Folding Poco camera from about 1910, and you begin to understand how eclectic this collection is. Rare old books coexist with just plain offbeat items like the skull of a calf, which, surprisingly, has a certain beauty.
Darlene and Bart are especially moved by a family history of complete strangers someone handed over to him, knowing he would preserve and protect it. Hundreds of pages trace the American family from the 1700s to 1948.
"I sat down and read the entire thing," says Darlene, who wonders how they could part with something so personal.
The Ingraldis have two daughters, one of whom has just made them grandparents. In their house, they have strategically placed framed photos of the tiny boy.
"This has given a new meaning to the word home," says Darlene. "When the baby is in it, this place is more precious than words can describe."