The Cross House

A Continuing Niche…as Fabergé Egg?

Next week, I will be able to prime the walls/ceiling of the niche!!!!!!!! Squee!


But then what?

The niche is visually and spatially part of the foyer and 2-story stairhall. And these are years from being done. So, maybe just priming the niche will be OK?

But…but…I am hankering to finish off the niche like a Fabergé egg, something precious and exquisite no matter what is adjacent. And because the niche is so small, this should not be TOO much extra work.

To this wondrous end, I would need to:

  1. Re-install the lost picture rail, even though there ain’t much of it.
  2. Recreate the lost original wallpaper, or at least the look of the paper. Even though there ain’t much of it.
  3. Recreate the lost original frieze paper (above the picture rail), or at least the look of the frieze. Even though there ain’t much of it.
  4. Recreate the lost original ceiling paper, or at least the look of the paper. Even though there ain’t much of it.

The good news is that I know what the lost papers looked like.


The 1894 wallpaper. Green medallions on a silver background. The latter is VERY dirty.


The wallpaper. A pristine sample, found by Bo Sullivan, but with a green background. Courtesy Historic New England


The 1894 frieze paper. This DID have a green background.


An 1893 patent document of the wall paper and frieze paper. Courtesy Bo Sullivan.


The 1894 ceiling paper.


To recreate just the wallpaper will cost $6,000 for ten rolls (the minimum required order). Yea, ouch. And that is SO not gonna happen right now. Soooooooo not.

But what if I paint the niche walls a silvery sorta color, and then have a stencil created which sorta kinda somewhat mimics the medallions of the 1894 wall paper?

Ditto for the 1894 frieze?

And I can have stencils made which exactly match the 1894 ceiling paper.

I would do the walls in three layers of translucent paints, so the effect would be quite rich, and with the medallions then applied.

If all this works, I could much later recreate the effort on a vastly larger scale for the foyer and 2-story stairhall. Then, at some distant point when all the priority things are complete (like, for example, a kitchen and bathrooms), I might be able to splurge on ordering recreations of the 1894 wall paper and paper frieze.


Well…I am pondering all this.



20 Responses to A Continuing Niche…as Fabergé Egg?

  1. I have about 15 feet of gold picture rail and maybe 10 feet of gold egg and dart picture rail with some damage on the design. I REALLY want to contribute to the Ross house in some way. Maybe finagle a tour out of the exchange?
    (the picture rail has not been stripped from my house!)

    • Oh, Blair!

      You tease me so!

      YES! Bring your pictures rails to Kansas! STAT! And, yes, get the grand tour!


  2. Do it Ross! Would you consider having someone paint the wallpaper you need as a troupe l’oeil especially since you have such excellent reference to draw from? The layers of translucent paint sound extraordinary! Thanks for introducing me to Arcalus. You go Ross! Really enjoy your posts and watching your passion project. You are doing something I have always wanted to do, and maybe I will still get the chance.

  3. I am so amazed that there is paper so you know what was once there. Just floors me. I think then painting is the answer. However, what are the requirements for a house on the historic register? Does it have to be wallpaper or can you use the paint?

  4. I rather like the stains and mottled layers from the distressed vintage papers and stencils.
    Will you be incorporating that into your surface painting? Aged patinas always have a certain
    beauty to them.

  5. Hi Ross! I haven’t commented in awhile, but I’ve definitely been following along! I LOVE this idea. You did such a great job with the paint and stencils in the parlor that I know it’s going to look amazing!

    I can’t wait to see it, but I do remember last year when you weren’t able to make it outside until July and it was super humid. Maybe you might consider finishing up the niche this summer while enjoying your AC. I worry about you out in the heat while up on scaffolding in the summer!

    • Hi, Kerri!

      I am OK with the summer heat.

      I make sure I am in shade, always have a high-powered fan, and I drink a lot of water!

      I love how quickly paint dries in the heat. I can do two coats in a single afternoon. And paint stripper works REALLY well in high heat!

  6. Great idea with the stencils!

    I have been thinking of making a series of print blocks to create a design that is similar to a fabric that I found. I would take those peel and stick linoleum tiles and stick them to plywood squares or whatever shape was required. I was thinking of making copies of the pattern on label paper, the kind with glue backing, choosing which colors each part of the design requires, sticking the copies to my lino/ply squares, and carving out all but the surface area where I want each color to appear. I would roll the paint on each block and apply them to predetermined points on the wall, layering them like it is done in making a silk silk screen print. The pattern that I have chosen has squares surrounded by a cross hatched border. My thought is that I could make a series of wheels with the carved lino surfaces for each color for that part.

    I think that it would be a fun project to experiment with different colors on different parts of the pattern that coordinate with the fabrics used in the room.

  7. I’m sure that you’ve already looked into this, and I’ve never seen it in person, but what about something like Spoonflower. They do custom wallpaper and fabric. I’ve designed and ordered fabric before.
    It could be a fairly in-expensive way to add wallpaper. They have a removable option even, so you could do something reasonable as a placeholder until the adjoining spaces are ready and you have a full plan.
    I’m not thinking about reproducing the original papers, but I’m sure you could come up with something fun that would be complimentary.

    Good Luck!

  8. There’s one thing I’ve been thinking about for ten years… printing. Architects and other folks who do large-format prints usually have LFPs (large-format inkjet printers) these days that can churn out rolls of paper up to 3 feet wide and 300 feet long. And these things can print in near-photo quality. Back in 08 I worked for an electrical planning company and in order to test the new HP LFP the admin ran a Disney movie poster for his kids. Nothing short of stunning!

    So I’ve been thinking about getting a decently skilled graphic artist to recreate the pattern in a computer file and print that on an LFP. Granted, the quality wouldn’t match high-quality wallpapers but the cost should be a lot lower than the 6k you were quoted. And no minimum amount either. My worst guess (just shooting from the hip) would be something like $100 per roll including the artist’s work. I’m not quite sure how expensive the ink is though and a wallpaper would need more ink than plans with white background.

    • Hey Ragnar, I love your idea because just this morning I was thinking about the possibility of creating wallpaper on a printer without knowing that such printers already exist. Suppose you printed on a roll of quality wallpaper? Would that give you the quality that one needs? I am no techie, but I would think that a computer program could be written that would allow one to take an interesting pattern, such as a photo,logo or other design and space it in a repeat pattern like most wallpapers. I could see someone having there entire photo album scanned and then printing paper with a different picture for every square area with no repeats. I suppose one could see what a variety of color combinations looked like for different parts of a pattern. My biggest problem would be with the inks that would run if they got wet, but it seems like a workable concept. The possibilities seem to be endless!

      • Well, the rolls have to be the right size and shape to fit the printer (particularly the cardboard core the paper sits on) so I think you’re limited to paper designed for the purpose. I suppose there are different qualities available though (I only printed on the stuff, never had to buy it). The paper quality we used wasn’t too bad I guess, nice and smooth.

        You already spotted the biggest issue, it is an inkjet printing process so the result will never be quite as good as properly printed wallpaper, both because it isn’t water-resistant and because it won’t ever be as rich and shiny.

        Another thing I’m not sure about is whether you can actually get and use narrower paper – 3 feet is a bit wide for wallpaper but it’s the de-facto standard for plans, at least in Europe.

        • Ragnar, Thank you for your reply. Some of my crazy ideas do work out, especially when someone like you responds to them explaining the parameters of a process.

  9. I like the idea of creating the wallpaper through painting. It will endure longer and like you I belueve it will look rich.

  10. It’s such a small area. So to me, it’s the best reason to splurge. That ceiling is begging for a life of it’s own. If it turns out to be a bit much, you can always pull back – paint is fle.

    There is a lot to contend with in enhancing the Stained glass windows, the wood, the arch, the interesting lines of the radiator, etc.,. What little wall/ceiling space there is, might need to be extravagant, just to hold it’s own! I say, give it what you can – Fabergé it to the nines. 😊

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