The Cross House
When I began painting the parlor, my friend Patricia advised that I do the walls in a multi-layered finish using translucent paints. “This will give the walls depth, texture, and richness.”
But I blanched at how much work this would require. My goal was maximum effect for minimal effort. So, what I went ahead with was quite simple. This decision was a reflection of my age at the time, sixty, and a deep awareness of how little time I had available.
The results though…showed my lack of effort, and in slow increments I realized the truth in what Patrica had advised. The parlor is so rich and detailed and elegant, but my wall treatment was simplistic. It just didn’t mesh with the room. If I owned instead, say, a house from the 1970s, what I did would have been fine. But not, as it proved, in the 1894 Cross House.
Patricia also advised that I should do the damask pattern wall-to-wall, like…
But I was adamant about NOT going wall-to-wall. For this is a TON of work and doing inside corners with a stencil is a nightmare. And inside corners also mean every time the walls meets with the base, picture rail, or window or door trim. The thought of all this work made me nauseous.
So, my mind percolated.
Then one day i had an idea of how to transform the walls without much effort. I was breathless with excitement and raced to the house to begin this dramatic transformation!
About two hours later I stepped back to admire my brilliance.
And burst out laughing. OMG! What I did was awful! Laughably awful! I could not stop laughing!
I snapped a picture and sent it to Patricia. Then I called her.
“I just sent you a picture. Are you at your computer?”
She was, and opened the email.
“Patricia, are you there?
“Ahhhhh, yea. Ahhhhh, wow. This is, ahhhhh…interesting.”
I burst out laughing again. “Patricia! It’s awful!”
Then Patricia burst out laughing. “It is! it is! It’s soooooooo bad! But I assumed you liked it, and I didn’t know what to say!”
We both just kept laughing.
Wanna see what I sent Patricia? Scroll way down…
However, I did like the blue stripes.
OK, so I had to re-percolate.
One morning I woke with an image in my mind:
Look! A damask pattern that did NOT touch the inside corners!
Gadzooks! That was it!
In addition, I had come to terms with what Patricia had suggested at the very beginning: the walls needed to be rich, layered, and textured.
So Ross went to work on the walls, yet again.
The four corners of the parlor are now painted but it will be a few weeks until a box of border leaf trim arrives to finish the room.
The new walls have a richness which was previously lacking.
WHY ALL THE WORK?
Even when parlor 1.0 was done, I knew it was not quite working. So I changed out pillows (which helped), and even ordered a new rug (which proved a disaster). But something was still not right. It took until December to recognize that the wall treatment was the issue.
A powerful motivator was the uneasy awareness that if I did not get the parlor right, I would get all the others rooms wrong. And this terrified me.
In 2017, I had “enhanced” the exterior paint job. This was a lot of work but I am THRILLED with the results. I had been very happy with the exterior, but the more I painted, the more I recognized that I had been playing it too safe. And, after looking carefully at an 1895 image of the house, I could see more variation than what I had done.
I have been decorating for four decades and have never experienced so much trouble getting things right. Normally, this is an effortless process. But I have never before worked on anything like the 1894 Cross House. Each room has a strong personality and is rich with detail: stained-glass, trim, elaborate mantels, and gorgeous doors.
What I now know, but did not know last spring, is that to make the Cross House come fully alive there can be no shortcuts; no quick & easy decorating solutions. ALL the walls in the house will need to be rich with colors and layers and texture and patterns.
Today, I feel like I have been through a steep learning curve, and am excited about doing another room. I also suspect that this learning curve ain’t over, baby.