Respecting the Historical Narrative. PART II
In a previous post I wrote about my efforts to protect the historical narrative of the 1894 Cross House.
If X feature is missing, like a bathroom sink/vanity, I will do research to learn what sink/vanities looked like in 1894, and will then go on the hunt for such an item.
All the lighting was long gone from the house when I purchased it. So, I spent the first year acquiring early electric lighting. Then I learned that the house originally had gas/electric combination lighting. Oh. So, I sold off all the electric lighting (which was all later than the house, and not combination fixtures), and spent the second year acquiring gas/electric combination lighting. The house has been enhanced by this lighting which “fits” the house perfectly.
And so on.
Sadly though very few people work to protect what their house is.
Today, I found a small example of this, and this post will begin a regular series.
To me, paying attention to the historical narrative — what a house is — is kinda like buying a house with an instruction manual. HERE is what to do and HERE is what not to do.
The dining room of this house is currently…yawn. But imagine it with 1940s colors on the walls, a 1940s dining room set, a glittering 1940s chandelier, and delicious 1940s draperies. The room would come alive and everybody who walked in it would exclaim: I LOVE THIS ROOM!!!!!!!!
Then imagine ALL the rooms in the house done as such.
But successful owners of this home, like countless homeowners across the country, paid no attention to the language their house was speaking, and these owners came in and imposed new languages. In the process cool bits were thrown away and over time a unique language specific to a period and aesthetic was muffled or destroyed.
These millions of homeowners are not bad. It just never occurred to them that their house was communicating with them because the many TV shows about old house and glossy magazines NEVER address protecting and enhancing the historical narrative of a house. Indeed, they do rather the opposite.
In my own 1894 house I have already installed a 1960s Hollywood Regency-styled crystal chandelier in my bedroom, and will be installing 1970s Hollywood-Regency-styled lights in the library. In the parlor will be a marble-topped Tulip Table designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957.
None of these items would have been in the house in 1894. But I am making a conscious decision to have the interior decor reflect 123-years of history.
Consciousness. To me, this is the operative word. I am all for a homeowner doing whatever the hell they want with their home. Go for it, baby! But, I would love it if homeowners were conscious of what they owned. When was the house built? Each era has a specific aesthetic and today it is effortless to search via Google.
The house in this post would, in my opinion, look so vastly better if its 1940s charm was enhanced. This does not mean that every item and every choice be rigorously 1940s. Hey, I would not give up my huge flat panel TV! I am not living without a dishwasher!
The point is that I doubt that the successive owners of this home ever thought about respecting the era when the house was built. Had they, I suspect the results would be very different today and what is now kinda a YAWN house could so easily be a WOW house.
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