The Cross House

A Decorative Update

Every winter I hibernate and, so, plan X number of inside projects. At the end of November I even did a post about my Winter Plans.

But winter, as least in Kansas this year, did not really happen and I spent more time outside than in. Of my Winter Plans, only 1.5 items got done. I did straighten one crooked door frame on the upper stair landing, and the huge kitchen window did get re-installed.

While my plans basically went to hell, other things did move forward. In particular, plans to complete the decor of the parlor and library.

A huge concern was something which I never would have thought about when I purchased the house. In getting to know the Cross House these past three years, and learning a great deal more about houses of the period, my “eye” changed, and I now understand that for the rooms of the house to look, well, right, they need a wall pattern, a frieze pattern, and a ceiling pattern. This is what the house had in 1894, and this three-part look was common to the era.

I do not feel restricted to using period-correct patterns. Rather, I think any pattern will do, be it 1894 or 1974. The point is just that the three-part effect be recreated.



At the end of November I still had little idea of how to decorate the parlor.

Today, this has all been settled.

In February I did an update post on the decoration plans, and things have been moving ahead since:

  • The floors in the parlor and library have been sanded, stained, and varnished.
  • The stencils for the walls and frieze are on site. As are the stencil brushes and stencil powdered paints.
  • The paint for the walls is on site.
  • The round center table has been ordered.
  • The curtains have been hemmed and pillows made for the curved sofa.
  • The picture rail is on site.
  • One period-correct chair on little wheels is on site!

During all this I found it difficult to find a stencil for the ceiling. A priority was something that could be applied without any measuring. The idea of standing on a ladder and carefully measuring a million times to apply some geometrically precise stencil was SO not something I intended to do. So, the stencil had to be something which could be applied randomly and still look good.

Medallions seemed the answer. I could cluster some together, some could stand alone, and no measurements were required.


I saw this pattern at the Stencil Library. The large size, and the small size, were in stock. I had the middle size custom-made. The company was a delight to work with, and highly responsive. The three stencils arrived last week!


The walls will be flat chartreuse, with a stencil applied with three metallic powders. The frieze and ceiling will be flat white. The frieze will have a stencil pattern applied with three metallic powders. And the ceiling will have the above medallions applied with three metallic powders.

However, before I stencil the flat white ceiling, I am going to do something which I think will be stunning. On top of the flat white I will apply a gloss pearl color with a tool sorta kinda somewhat like this:


The effect, I hope, will be to create a shimmering but IRREGULAR effect which will change as you walk through the parlor. Like sunlight on a lake.


On top of the shimmer will be the medallion stencils.

After the room is painted and stenciled, i will apply the picture rail, which will be done in a burnished gold. Then curtains can be hung! And pictures!



The library is also ready to go:

  • Curtains hemmed (thanks, Krystal!), and hung!
  • Crazy 1970s wallpaper on site.
  • Frieze stencil on site.
  • I will be using the same ceiling medallions from the parlor in the library. They will either prove too much of a disconnect with the 1970s paper, or they will prove a brilliant solution.
  • Five 1970s Hollywood-Regency pendants hanging from ceiling.


For the frieze, Megan suggested this wild & crazy pattern, also from the Stencil Library. This arrived last week, too, and I have NO idea what it is going to look like!


I have to finish installing the base under the shelves, and trim out the doors.

In the center of the room will be a large shelving island. This will be — are you sitting down? — a deep orange. The top will be, when I can afford it, Calacatta marble. The five pendant lights will hang low over it.




It is now April. And April is the month I resume painting the exterior.


This three-story section of the Great North Wall needs to be painted. The cornice on the porch has been painted since this picture was taken.


I can spend the next few months getting the parlor and library done.

Or I can finish painting the Great North Wall.

I want to do both.




I am going to focus on the parlor and library for the rest of April.

Then, resume painting the Great North Wall on May 1.

But…but…I will then also spend at least a half-hour a day doing something in the parlor and library. This means that every week there will be progress, albeit with a turtle-like momentum.

But slow progress is better than no progress, right?




18 Responses to A Decorative Update

  1. Hello Ross,

    This is my first time commenting and I want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I have a circa 1863 Victorian Italianate farm house and am restoring it…not to your standards but with the spirit of protecting the historical narrative (to coin your phrase).

    We’ve recently removed a non original wall to rejoin 2 rooms and the results are startling. We want to make it into a “library” or “parlour” type room. So, my question is, try as I might I see no pictures of your library…I really searched…and no lovely explanation of how you have sleuthed it’s original components.

    Could we possibly enjoy some pictures and your explanations? I want to get inspired!

    Thanks and keep blogging.

  2. Love your stencils and the combo!

    I’ve never seen the diminishing dot pattern before and I thought I knew every stencil out there!

    Ross, you may want to try the flat woolie with the handle – it can also give you a modulating effect. I’ve had very good luck with it creating different textures.

    Can hardly wait for the deep orange Library Island. Orange is my favorite color – it’s a breath of fresh air!

    • Hi Patricia!

      I am nervous about using a flat woollie. The pattern it will create is way more dense than I want, I think.

  3. Oh- ok. I just finished a wall and everyone thinks it is fabric because of the textural quality. It may be too subtle for you since it is far from the eye on the ceiling ….but I have created many a ceiling with a nice watery effect using the flat woolly. I mix the paint with glaze and tone it down in areas or if you want flat, just add in some flattening agent. You can layer it and vary it that way.

  4. Golly, I understand. Nothing’s worse than the tension between “I have so many things I want to work on” and “I desperately need to see some progress” and “If I don’t get at least one thing off my list, I’m just going to stop trying.”

    Thank goodness you’re the kind of person who can set goals, set priorities, and be focused, flexible and positive.

  5. In other news: If you would trust me to paint even a little tiny bit, I would help with the Great North Wall. I cannot WAIT to see that odd red detail paint disappear. I know what they were going for, but it didn’t work. AT ALL.

    • Nobody can paint the exterior without first going through a State lead paint course.

      And getting paint on the walls is not difficult. As you will agree, it’s all the prep work and grinding and replacing rotted bits and repairing flashing and…

      • …and shimmying up and down scaffolding like a fiddler’s elbow as we say in Scotland! Happy painting Ross.
        I like everyone else, am looking forward to seeing this exposure finished. As for the colour scheme: it sounds great. I love the dotted stencil and hope it turns out well.

  6. slow progress is still faster than the progress of those still sitting on the couch. This has become my ‘mantra’. It is true!

  7. Your April schedule will work perfectly with mother nature. Once the weather truly changes you will have several months to get back outside. I’ve never heard of Woolie ! We have a new toy thanks to your reference. Your ceiling will shimmer.

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