The Cross House
Last spring, when finally decorating the parlor of the 1894 Cross House, a lot of readers came to the conclusion that I had no taste.
Some came around when the parlor was finished. “I love it!”
I am uncertain if everybody came around.
During the ensuing months and months, I developed an uneasy awareness that I was actually part of the latter group. I don’t love it.
At first, I thought new pillows would help. They did. But something was still not right.
I then purchased another rug. That did not help. At all. I put the first rug back.
Then I stopped thinking about the issue.
In December, I was sitting in the room, just staring. My mind was basically blank. Then a thought popped into my head: The walls are too cartoonish.
And I, at once, realized that this was true.
The ceiling thrilled me still. The frieze, too. But the walls? I suddenly knew: Too cartoonish.
The wall color, chartreuse, was just too radioactive for the room. And the stencils were too infrequent. Rather than enhance they distracted.
And I knew I would not be able to focus on anything else until the walls were redone.
The trick would be to minimize the work.
One goal was NOT to tediously tape off the miles of trim and picture rails and base. And even with taping, paint always seeps down anyway, thus marring my laboriously achieved perfect edges. Oh, the horror.
So, I had to come up with a way to repaint the walls without actually touching all the perimeter edges.
My mind percolated on this idea. Which seemed impossible.
Then the White House popped into my head.
The Cross House has a lot of rooms.
My concern, and a significant one, is that if I don’t get the parlor right, I will get every room wrong.
The thought freaks me out.
There are some readers who would suggest that until I decorate the parlor in a truly period-correct manner, it will never look right. But I reject this. Still. My aim is, and always has been, to create a decidedly contemporary decor while being respectful of the 1890s origin of the parlor. I have recreated the original pattern on pattern on pattern which the room would have had in 1894, but endevoured to do so with a fresh quality. The colors were chosen to complement the stained-glass.
My aim, moreover, is not to have a…serious room. I am seeking a youthful, bold, and slightly irreverent quality. I want a parlor which is relaxed rather than haughty.
I have been decorating rooms since I was a teenager. It is normally effortless for me. Indeed, I once had a career doing apartments for the rich & famous in New York City.
But the Cross House is unlike anything I have ever dealt with. I am used to essentially banal rooms where I can impose a vision. But, the Cross House is the polar opposite of banal. Each room radiates with personality. And the trick, as I am learning in fits & starts, is to enhance the rooms rather than dominate them.
I am much happier with Parlor 2.0. The cartoon quality is, I hope, vanquished. But is the parlor the most fabulous it can be?
I don’t know. My much vaunted confidence is shaken.
Who knows what it will look like in 2019.