The Cross House

Ross Did WHAT????????

When the Cross House was built in 1894 it had wall-to-wall carpeting on the first- and second-floors, 22-inch-wide strips hand-sewn together. The very acme of luxury.

However, I will forever curse this decision.

For, under the carpet was just cheap random-width pine.

In 1929, I surmise, plain oak floors were laid on the second floor, and the same in 1950 on the first floor. And this is what I inherited.

Yawn.

This meant that a significant design element, patterned carpeting, had become an insignificant design element. And the floor plane, meant to be a visual anchor for the riot of stained-glass and carved mantels and elaborate trim on the walls, was now just a visual void. And the riot of stuff looked like it was just floating, untethered to anything.

Oh, the horror.

For three years I have pondered many solutions to this issue:

  • Install period-correct wall-to-wall carpeting. I only gave this a minute of thought as I intensely dislike wall-to-wall carpeting. When one has animals this is a very poor decision.
  • Install hip wall-to-wall carpeting. See above.
  • Tear out all the oak and install period-correct parquet with inlay borders. This is what the house would likely have had if not for the poor decision to install wall-to-wall carpeting. I actually costed this out…and after recovering from the resulting heart-attack never gave this further consideration.
  • Stencil inlay borders. This would be cheap, but would do something I am always loath to do: fudge the historical narrative. This would make the boring oak floors sorta kinda vaguely OK, and people would think they were original.
  • Stencil an overall pattern across the floors. See above.
  • Do something unexpected. Hummm.

 

non
In 1894 the Cross House floors would have had wall-to-wall carpeting.

 

ry
So, they did not have fabulous wood floors. Sigh.

 

ou
So, they did not have fabulous wood floors. Sigh.

 

;y9;
So, they did not have fabulous wood floors. Sigh.

 

56jw5
I could stencil patterns on the boring oak. The stencils could be sedate or…

 

l8
…less than, ah, sedate. But at least the boring oak floors would once again READ as a visual statement and help anchor the rooms.

 

kr7k
Another idea kept floating around in my brain. What about stripes? This was somewhat common in houses a generation prior to the Cross House and I have always loved the look. Stripes also had a HUGE advantage of allowing a stopping point. This is of vital importance in that I would not be doing each floor at once. No, the first floor would be done in two stages with the parlor and library in one phase, and the rest of the floor later. This was wholly determined by how the oak was laid. I could make a break between the parlor and entry, and a striped floor was ideal for this.

 

u,6
And…my boring 1950s oak floors. Handsome Justin installed the library floor a year ago, custom-milled to match the parlor floor. And then I spent a year trying to get him to finish. Then a few weeks ago, because a big job got canceled at the last minute, he was available. Did I want him back? Oh, yes, please. Very please, sir.

 

So…with all the above floating around in my mind like a stew, I am pleased to present the not-quite-finished results.

Are you sitting down? Is your seatbelt fastened?

Do you have smelling salts nearby?

If so, scroll way down…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

j6j
I chose unexpected. The floors AT LAST anchor the rooms as there were intended to do. They read as VISUALLY interesting. At the same time, the wide stripes are obviously a modern idea, and thus the narrative timeline has not been screwed with.

 

/78
The pale color is oak with one coat of varnish. The darker stripe is walnut stain. I was unconcerned about the PERFECT stain as each room in the house has a different faux wood finish. So, while X stain might be the ideal complement to one room, it would not be for any other room.

 

8'8
I am thrilled with the results. And look forward to the additional coats of varnish (there is just one now).

 

'80
Zippy!

 

I wish to stress:

My floors are not original! The first floor oak is circa-1950.

While I am highly respectful of original features of the house, and am willing to undergo some financial hardship and suffering to restore/replicate 1894 features, I feel no such curatorial approach to non-original features.

So, while being dedicated to restoring the house itself to its 1894 appearance, I have no desire for a period-correct decor. None. Zero. Rather, I look forward with enormous anticipation to having a decor reflect the last 122-years.

I cannot recall ever seeing this done. It seems there are but two camps:

  • Meticulously restore a old house, and create a period-correct decor.
  • “Update” an old house by knocking out walls, painting everything white, punching in a thousand can lights in the ceilings, and installing a hipster decor.

I have no interest in either camp.

When the rooms are fully furnished, with lush draperies upon the windows, area rugs on the floors, and beautiful patterns papered/painted on the walls and ceilings, the striped floors will become a background element. They will not disappear, but will recede.

Wide stripes on the floors is very modern. And the counter-play of 2016 and 1894 thrills me. To me, this will make the house feel alive and fresh.

I have long had a hope. When the house is finished, some young somethings will enter the house, look around, their eyes wide wth wonder, and exclaim: Awesome! I love this!

If, in the end, young somethings find the house appealing rather than off-putting, I will be very pleased, indeed.

 

31 Responses to Ross Did WHAT????????

  1. I am stunned. Completely and totally stunned at how much I LOVE this.

    I’m with you completely on decor and have always felt very alone on this. I love the architecture, particularly old architecture, but as a person with design education, I just love too many things to simply pick one camp on decor.

    • You be a kindred spirit!

      I cannot imagine living in the Cross House without some Deco rugs, a Sputnik chandelier in one room, some 1970s Hollywood Regency in another room, and so on.

      The architecture of the house is so powerful that no matter what I do it will ALWAYS read as an 1894 house.

  2. Oh Ross!! I love, Love, LOVE this on your floors! They are gorgeous! I know that you struggle with the balancing act of restoration vs. renovation in all of your decisions. But what you’ve done here is REFRESH perfectly decent oak floors and that’s perfect for the situation because in the end, it’s the LOVE you are restoring to the Cross House.

  3. When I first saw the wide stripes I shook my head and thought, “that’s insane”. After looking at the rest of the pictures only one word comes to mind……Genius!

  4. Oh yum! Yes, please! I’m soon faced with the option of refinishing my 1963 wood floors. I considered this for a brief moment- I love it! But the rooms are way too small with too little natural light (covered porch on one side and carport on the other) to get the same effect. Boo!

  5. Better than the ones that alternate every board. Those always looked amusement park to me. This is better. I still don’t like the white library shelves but it ain’t my house

    • I agree that the white library shelves don’t look right.

      Yet.

      I have been an interior designer for four decades and something I learned a long time ago is that the first 90% will not look right until the last 10% in completed. Then, as if by magic, everything comes together. This presupposes of course that you know what you are doing!

  6. Ross,

    Is it actual varnish, or polyurethane? Why? (Either way)

    I’m curious because I used Varathane on my hemlock kitchen floor and it’s showing considerable wear after 7 years. But the kitchen is the Center of the Universe here, subject to ALL traffic in and out of the house. I’m wondering if I should switch to something else when I re-finish the floor.

    • I don’t know! I will ask Handsome Justin!

      (There are two guys named Justin working on the house. Justin the contractor and Justin the floor guy. Over the years I somehow ended up differentiating between the two by calling the floor guy Handsome Justin. He IS handsome, but so is the other Justin. I know, it makes no sense, but do nicknames have to make sense?)

  7. Zippy indeed!! As said previously, genius! It is beautiful!

    I am addicted to your blog, living vicariously through you. Always wanted to restore a home and alas, it doesn’t look like it will happen. But, I’m totally enjoying this chronicle of your progress.

  8. If you happen to still want, the look of antique wall to wall carpet without the issues of pets or stains effecting it…look at Linoleum rugs. I haven’t dug around enough to locate a newer manufacturer of these but the old parsonage that came with the church here had them in every room and the hand printed ones go back to 1892. They were very very popular and looked like many of the expensive carpets of the day.

    Here.

  9. Oh, wow, Ross. The stripes are unexpected but totally enhance the feeling of those rooms! And I’m not even in them to experience the feeling. I love how the floors compliment the windows, too. The stripes make the eyes pull upwards and into the windows. I never thought something modern would compliment stained glass windows, but they oh so do! I can’t wait to see all of this come together.

  10. I also like the look of your floors. I am a seldom commenter, I guess more of a “lurker” than participant. But like NonaK says, I am addicted to your story. I check you everyday and this past few weeks you have been posting so often I’m loving every minute of it. Also like NonaK says, I too am realizing that this is as close to restoring a house I’ll ever get so I truly appreciate what and how you are doing for the Cross House. Sometimes I shake my head at some of the stuff I read, but since I am unable to finance a restoration, I’ll keep the few and far negative thoughts to myself. I think you are doing a “bang-up ” job and am blown away at the detail work you do. Keep up the fantastic job for us “couch lurkers”! We love it!

  11. Love it. I really like the way it looks next to the base boards and door frame. Want to see the walls finished. Getting impatient now with all this progress. Bright spot in the day.

  12. Hi everyone this is “the other handsome Justin” I love the floors Ross I peaked in yesterday and they certainly do look amazing.

    • Thank you!

      Normally I would concur that oak floors are not boring, but the circa-1929 and circa-1950 oak floors in the Cross House ARE boring! Everything from 1894 is so incredible and the non-original floors are just…dull.

      But no longer!

  13. Ross, I am spending my morning binging on your blog to catch up. I haven’t wanted to comment on an old post and distract you from your current project/blog post, but I MUST comment on this: I am a young-something and I not only look upon your house with awe and admiration, but it is because of you and your dedication to restoring this home that I now OBSESS over old homes. No longer do I care for perfectly-new rooms– I’m looking for alligatored trim, original porch railings, and falling-out stained glass. You’ve helped to train my eye to seek the original details and to uncover (and appreciate) their stories. I now get goosebumps when I see original hardware on doors. I have literally cried over original millwork. THIS IS BECAUSE OF YOU! My husband and I travel the country for work and now, instead of going out to eat or shop in the towns we visit, we drive through old neighborhoods, park in front of our favorite homes, and daydream about how the original owners lived and how we would restore the homes. You get all the credit. Your home is not only appealing, it is inspiring. ❤

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