The Cross House
When the Cross House was finished in 1894 it was common for rooms to have:
- A pattern on the floor (either elaborate wood designs, wall-to-wall carpeting, or area rugs),
- Patterned wallpaper.
- A frieze paper with a pattern
- A ceiling paper with a pattern
In addition, curtains and sofas and chairs and pillows would also have patterns.
In short, pattern mania.
All the above images show how a Victorian-era house was, and can be still, decorated.
And I have no desire to recreate such an look.
Another approach, quite common, is to create a modern look in a Victorian-era house by painting everything white/taupe, knocking down walls to create the seemingly VITAL open plan seemingly VITAL for modern living, and punching 4,876 can lights into all the ceilings.
And I have no desire to have this look, either.
Instead, I have been determined to be respectful of my 1894 house but somehow make it nonetheless modern. Fresh.
To this aim — respectful yet modern — I have been adamant that the parlor walls have a pattern. And that the lost picture rail be reinstated. And that a frieze pattern be created. And a ceiling pattern. All these would have existed in 1894.
Respectful: I wanted all these elements back in 2017.
Yet Modern: But…in a fresh way. An obviously modern way.
My approach though is not meeting with universal approval. Well, how could it? No matter what I do there will be people who don’t like it. And not only do I expect this response but I am OK with with. I love diversity. Even diversity of opinion.
In previous posts on the parlor updates, Katie and Gabi wrote in, expressing their concern that my decorative paint effects were, well, too much. Gabi thought white walls and ceilings would look better, and Katie felt a more neutral approach would be better. I disagree, of course, but very much appreciate when readers express their views. So, thank you, Katie and Gabi!
I actually love white. My current house has a mostly white living room, an all white dining room, and my office is all white.
For several years the parlor of the Cross House has also been white:
When the Cross House was designed, its architect, Charles Squires, fully expected that his beautiful stained-glass windows would NOT stand in gorgeous isolation but would rather be complemented by a lot of patterns and colors. Squires would be, no doubt, horrified at white walls, a white ceiling, and a plain floor. His stunning windows and luscious wood trim were INTENDED as part of an ensemble.
Ensemble: “a group of items viewed as a whole rather than individually.”
In living with a white parlor these past few years I became increasingly are of how, well, isolated the stained-glass appeared, and how the wood trim seemed detached from everything.
And I ever more yearned for an ensemble:
The rooms in my current house are mostly white because:
- I like white
- The rooms lacked personality.
But the rooms in the Cross House are visually intense. Even empty. Even with white primer. To me, these rooms, as with all rooms, have a voice. All rooms call out to be treated a certain way. So, should I impose my long-term default color of white on them? Or should I listen to these voices? Should I learn about the era and norms when the house was built? Should I try and understand what the architect intended? Should I change my aesthetic approach, rather than try and change the personality of the house?
These questions have profoundly absorbed me since buying the house over three years ago. I have greatly enjoyed the challenge these questions have imposed and after a huge amount of thought and worry and damn hard work this…
I have never done anything like this before. I have never used this much color in a room, and NEVER so much pattern. But learning about what the room was intended to be — an ensemble — combined with my desire to have a comtemporay approach, has resulted in this marriage of intention and desire.
The result is unique in my four decades of interior design work.
CAVEAT: In about two weeks the room will be done and fully furnished. It will look very different than it does now.