The Cross House

Should I????????

In planning an Airbnb suite for the Cross House I have, naturally, been thinking about the decor and furniture.

As I did with the parlor, I have no intention of doing everything as if time stopped in 1894. I want a mix of period-correct antiques and contemporary.

The Sewing Room will act as a parlor. My plan is:

  • Modern-style sofa which will covert to a bed.
  • Modern coffee table or tea table.
  • Two period-correct chairs.
  • Modern desk.

The Octagon Room will be the bedroom. Here I yearn for a period-correct bedroom set. Finding this is not easy as I have been looking at bedroom sets for several years without much luck.

The set has to be, yes, period-correct. Meaning, I have no interest in an 1870s set or 1880s set or 1920s set. I want something from the early 1890s.

The set, too, has to be, ummm, budget-correct for the house. Meaning, neither Sears & Roebuck nor mansion-grade magnificence. Rather, something in between.

The mantel in the Octagon Room is rather plain. I do not want to overwhelm it.

Well, I did find a set recently that I am pondering. Wanna see?


I am soooooooo in love with this. But, it’s on the east coast. So very far away. The piece to the left is a washstand. Towels would hang from the upper rod. Cool.


The set is a grade above Sears & Roebuck, but not super fancy mansion grade. I am uncertain as to its age but am pretty confident it is post-1890. I am guessing it is between 1894 and 1904. I love the finials on each side.


If the shipping quote come in, and is affordable, should I buy the set? I fret over the overall cost, of course, but mostly I fret that the set, while rather simple, will nonetheless overtake the mantel in the room which is rather plain:


See? The finish is dark now but will be much lighter once the original finish is restored.


In the parlor downstairs I have but a single antique: a chair. The chair is exactly period-correct and it perfectly complements the mantel in the room. And thus my worry over this bedroom set. I love love love it but it seems a bit too grand for the mantel.

Oh, the struggle! The struggle!

So, what do you think?



62 Responses to Should I????????

  1. Do it, you will not regret it even if you use it elsewhere. If you don’t buy it tou will always have that nagging “if only…”

    In life we more often regret what we did not do, than what we did

  2. Well Ross, in do love that mantle. And I find it quite dainty and feminine. So I kept scrolling between the bedroom set and mantle, bedroom set and mantle…. and I think it will look fine. I LIKE the bedroom set but don’t love it as much as you do. It is in beautiful shape. I wish you could find a set as nice but closer to Emporia. One that you could pick up on a trailer or something. I don’t love oak sets but I get why it will look nice with the mantle once it has been refinished. I was thinking that set would be between 1900-1910. Wish the dates were stamped on the bottom! I would wait and see what else crops up in the next couple of months unless of course this set is a great deal and you do love, love, love it.

  3. One big caveat:
    How wide is the headboard ?
    It might not be a match for modern sizes.

    Which leads to:
    Does it come with a frame- side rails and foot board? If so, will a standard mattress fit? Are the rails long enough?
    If it checks out for size and the budget as well then go ahead.

    • David, that caveat is important.

      All Victorian-era beds are smaller than modern bed sizes. This one is 4-inches shorter and 4-inches narrower. Meaning, I would likely need a custom-made mattress set. Ugh.

      What I might do, instead, is order a new mattress set with a modern-style headboard, but buy a period-correct dresser and night stands.

      • Ross darling, there are many mattress firms willing to custom your box springs and mattress. I know of one, Royal Bedding, in Pelham, Al. who does precisely this kind of work. Look around and you might find one in the Kansas location. I know that Royal will give a quote, given the dimensions, without a firm commitment. It might be worth your time to get a couple of quotes before you decide definitively.

      • Hi, Ross. I know my Dad bought a kit at a hardware store in Emporia that converted their full-size bed sets to queen sets. I can ask him what he bought and see if he remembers (he doesn’t always because of his memory problems). Or you could search Google to see what comes up.

    • Ross- now that you have the info about mattresses, check with the vendor.
      I have been through similar situations. If you need to, high density foam cut to size and a fabric cover with a zipper so it can be washed is not very expensive. I slept on one for years.

  4. I really don’t think the bedroom set would overtake the mantel. Wouldn’t the details in the mantel stand out more once you refinish it? I’m sure that will make a huge difference.

    After reading the comments, it sounds like you may or may not be having second thoughts about this set. Have you looked on ebay lately? I was curious as to what exactly an 1894 bedroom set looks like so I searched “1890s bedroom sets” and there were a few available. There was one for $800/OBO and it didn’t look too fancy, but it’s in SC and is for the bed only. There was another in MD for $775 for a three piece set. There were a few others as well. Anyway, I thought I would mention this in case you hadn’t checked on ebay lately.

  5. Could you get a set custom-made to look 1894 and match the room by Dr…Doug, is it? The fellow who fixes the doors? Or a queen size bed made to match a period- correct dresser/night stands? A queen is not only much more desirable than a full to travelers, but would match the scale of the house a lot better, too.

  6. Hey Ross!

    I know that wall space is at a premium with windows, doors and fireplace, so, instead of getting a three piece set, you could maybe just get a bed and an armoire (sp.?) so that people would have somewhere to hang up their clothes. There is one on ebay that you could rescue. Some idiot decided to “shabby chic” the outside. They were even bragging about it. I’m sure you could undo it. The inside hasn’t been messed with and has little pegs to hang up clothes. It looks like it still has the original hardware on the outside. It’s $300 and in NYC. It doesn’t seem too fancy. It has that “beading” detail that you always see and a little detail on each door.

    • I think the room is a bit small for a queen size. The slightly smaller size is historically correct. Long ago, my then husband and I on two occasions spent several nights sleeping in a bed that size in his parent’s old house. It was similar to the Ross House in scale and age. We slept well and did not feel crowded by slightly smaller mattress.

      We also stayed in many B&Bs over the years, some more historically detailed than others. It was always a modern queen size bed with antique style furniture. Ross will have to work the balance between authenticity and guest expectations.

      • David, a queen size would be fine in the room. I put blue tape on the floor (see previous post) to show the size of a queen bed.

      • Hi Ross.

        I don’t want you to think that I don’t pay attention to what
        you write. In fact, you just wrote about the sewing room

        I know you’ve written about your philosophy on antiques for
        the house and it makes perfect sense. You should be super
        selective! I also like the way you combine antiques with
        modern furniture. I personally wouldn’t want to feel like I
        was living in a museum. I think it’s a great idea to have a
        sofa bed. Were you still going to reinstall that 1929 pull
        down bed? That would give you even more places for people
        to sleep. I have no idea what 1929 furniture looks like, but
        it might be fun to go 1894 in the bedroom and 1929 in the
        sewing room. Miriam made a good point about expectations.
        You don’t want guests walking into the room, expecting
        antiques, only to be surprised by something fabulous, but
        super modern. Maybe, walking into 1929 would be less jarring
        and also is part of the story and history of the house.

        • Thank you, Kerri.

          It will be hard for anybody booking the suite to be surprised upon arrival as they will book through Airbnb. I will have a floor plan posted, and plenty of images.

          I might, might, bend my rules and go with, say, a 1920s bedroom set. They are way more common than early 1890s sets.

          I removed the Murphy bed in the Sewing Room (which I reinstalled last year) as it could only fit a single. And, I need that wall for a desk.

  7. Though the details on the furniture are themselves a little fancier than those on the mantel, the density of detail on the mantel is about the same as on the bedroom set. However, the construction of the mantel is more complex than the furniture’s. Further, the things you place on the mantel will give it more presence.

  8. I think it is perfect for the mantel. The mantel will not appear so plain once the beauty of the wood is again revealed.Both have similar limited details.

    I do want to voice a concern over your decor choices for the living room area. My girls and I have a favorite B&B in Dubuque, Iowa. The reason we enjoy it so much is because it is entirely decorated in period pieces. Are they precisely correct for the period the house was built? Who knows since none of us are architectural historians. But the luxuriant, historical feel is real. This is the only place my girls have begged to go back to. The sights of Dubuque are not the reason, it is the beauty of the Victorian house interior. Would we feel the same about the place if there were modern pieces interspersed? Probably not.

    • Hi, Miriam!

      While 99.9% of my guests would not know the difference between a 1890s bedroom set, or one from the 1870s, or one from the 1920s, I would know!

      And Ross needs to be happy!

  9. Ross, I think you should get it. It does not overwhelm the mantel. And Miriam made a good point, travelers most likely will not know 1894 furniture from 1905 furniture. They want that historical “feel”.

    It is a beautiful set, but don’t overspend either.

  10. I think that set is gorgeous – and it’s pretty similar to a set we bought at a NY flea market in the mid-’80s. It was our guestroom furniture for years, and people would tell us they felt like they were staying in a B&B when they slept over. Now our 17 year old has it in her bedroom, or I would take a picture. The bed holds a standard double mattress, which is great for one adult… or two fairly thin adults, but probably less comfortable for two on the bigger side. These types of sets come up fairly frequently at the flea markets around here, though I’m sure they’ve gone up in price since we bought this one – HGTV does their flea market show here every once in a while, so there’s that factor!

  11. I think any bed must be a queen size in order to best rent out the room. That’s your biggest constraint in finding an appropriate set. Looking at the set in question I think it would go with the mantle very well. There’s just enough scroll work on the mantle to make it work. However the bed looks to be full size not queen which would be a show stopper for me.

  12. You know, my husband and I have bought a bed frame from our local furniture store that is a queen size but adapts for a full size headboard. So we do not use the rails the came with the antique bed but with a quilt/comforter and a bed skirt (on top of the box springs). You don’t see the metal bed frame anyway and we get to enjoy the beautiful headboard. Just another idea as I cannot sleep well with someone else on a full size mattress. Maybe my cat…

    • Linda, that’s an excellent idea! I would just skip using the rails, and place a queen-size bed between the head and footboards! You are brilliant!

      • This seems to me to be the best solution. From Linda’s post I note that she didn’t mention whether there is a way to connect the footboard. I would expect it but of course I don’t know. So, one more detail to check but you seem to be on a roll !

  13. On eBay, I just found a burled walnut, 3-piece set with marble top wash stand (close to the marble of your bathroom sink), circa 1890’s in Alabama for $3650. But I don’t know how to add it to this post to show you darn it! That would be too much for MY budget but it is a beautiful set (states it is the original finish). This is where good haggling skills come into play!

  14. I think the set is just right, not too fancy at all. If you have been searching this long and this is a set that speaks to you, I think you should do it.

    • Linda, have you seen how long it has taken Ross to paint his house. None of us will probably be around by the time it is finished. Book a room for your great grandchildren. ( in time for grandchildren would be optimistic.)

  15. People rarely moved into a home and bought all new furniture. Just like now, they likely owned things from other relatives and pieces bought at different times during their lives.

    This means “correct” furniture could easily be 20, 50 or 100+ years older than the date your house was built. I own furniture that ranges from my lifetime to my great grandparents lives. It all mingles together without complaint.

    Odd sized mattresses, besides being costly, do not fit any sheets, a definite thing to avoid.

    One other thing about mattresses and old frames, is the height. You will need to measure carefully to be sure you don’t cover too much of the frame as modern mattresses are many inches thicker than old ones. Your recourse is to get them with one of the lower base units..what used to be the box spring but now is not. Those come in more than one depth.

    • Agreed, Ann.

      It is likely that Susan and Harrison Cross moved into their new home with their old bedroom furniture.

      I though want the bedroom furniture to complement the style of the mantel and stained-glass, and the best way to accomplish this would be to get a set from the same period and same budget (meaning, not too simple nor too elaborate).

  16. I just helped my parents get rid of 16 pieces of my grandmother’s furniture, about half of which were making their finished basement look like a storage unit and completely blocking a great stone fireplace from view. The obvious solution is to buy the set and have me fill up the space again until you can get it to Kansas

  17. As it is a matching set, I would not be so concerned about the fireplace. The focus would be turned more toward the furniture set, and the secondary lookat the fireplace. Love this set. Your choice ….

  18. Lovely, I honestly cannot see that purchase being regretted. Its worth mentioning though that it was typical of the time for older furniture to be used in the bedrooms, especially in secondary bedrooms. It was standard practice for old parlor sets to be moved to the bedrooms when a new, more up to date set was purchased. I understand you yearn for the CORRECT era of furniture in these rooms, but it isn’t necessarily INCORRECT for furniture from varying eras to be present in the bedroom. I live fairly hear a mansion grade 1890s house museum, 25,000 sqf or so, which retains most of its original furnishings in situ and though the downstairs is pure 1890s, you get to the bedrooms and theres bits and pieces from the 80s, 70s, even 1860s.

  19. I endorse Nathan’s comment, among others. Just as our lives are not frozen in time, neither are our acquired possessions in, our houses…or history. All is a continuum. So although I try to meld furnishings in a pleasing juxtaposition, I don’t worry about matching eras much…..seems more real life.
    AND…I think the set is lovely and completes the mantle nicely.

  20. Such wisdom in the comments above from your consultants! I agree that the set complements the mantle well and would not overwhelm it at all. I see similarities in the leaf pattern of both set and mantle. In addition, what is placed on the mantle immediately distracts the eye so there is little time for the mind to demand an exact match with the rest of the room. The first effect of the bedroom set is the overall restraint and simplicity. My eye was drawn first to the headboard panels, then I examined the carvings. And the washstand is simplicity itself. Keep in mind that the furniture is just part of the overall effect of the room. The bedclothes, window treatments, possible wallpaper, pictures and accent pieces (I strongly suspect a pitcher and washbowl goes too far) will occupy the eye and add to the overall ambiance of a 1890s room.

    As a B n B consumer I agree that a queen size mattress is much more appealing and comfortable than a full sized mattress and can be on a separate queen frame attached to the antique head/footboards. (the 4 inch overlap is a small price to be paid for the additional comfort). Few of your clients will be as small as they once were, but they likely have a higher budget for B n B accommodation than they once had, too 😉 and will be focused on a queen sized bed.
    Of course, your clients will be quality folk who will treat the contents of the room well, but keep in mind that frequent use of the room is also wearing on the room. Don’t overthink getting just the perfect contents, then find you’re prone to worry about the contents when “the public” stay there. When you no longer Air BnB then you can make everything perfect for friends alone to enjoy.

  21. Another vote for buying the bedroom set—and figure out a way to secure it to a queen size bed frame. Mattresses and box springs have become much taller even in the past 15 years, so either look for a lower profile set, or consider adjusting the height of the headboard and footboard so not so much is hidden from view.

    And then invest in a set of lovely steps, so your guests of more diminutive stature can comfortably ascend to their rest!


  22. Ross, I think the bedroom set will go with the mantel just fine. I really don’t think the mantel is plain with the shelves and spindles on each side of the mirror. It is quite beautiful. It looks like there may have been small mirrors in back of the shelves. If the set with shipping charges is within your budget, go for it. It will all look great when the mantel is refinished.

  23. It’s too bad you can’t find (or make) a Murphy bed. Personally, I wouldn’t want to pay for a room and find out I’m sleeping on a hide-a-bed. Those aren’t very comfortable usually, and a Murphy bed would be a novelty. You could actually make it so you have a nice period headboard at the top of the bed, since that part wouldn’t fold down. Might be possible to have a foot board form the top of the box.

  24. I have a suggestion for you. Ross, buy the bedroom set. Put the bed and the dresser in the bedroom and the washing stand by the bathroom entry way, if there is enough room. If you feel the light wood will not be attractive with the hue of the fireplace, add a little stain on the embellishment to accent and match with the fireplace mantel better. Also, would you consider the door that enters the porch from the sitting room of the suite to have a large glass so the light will come into the porch and also the room? I am thinking of an outside door with maybe a large Oval glass in it. Add a screen door with the elaborate trim in the corners so the fresh air can come into the room when it is good comforting weather. How do feel about these ideas?

    • Thanks, Robin!

      Excellent price! Lordy!

      The Eastlake style was highly popular in the period before the Cross House was built.

      While the style was still being made and sold all through the 1890s and after, it had become a bit passé. As the Cross House was highly stylish when new, I have thus avoided anything in the Eastlake style. Although, who knows, Susan and Harrison Cross could certainly have purchased an Eastlake-style bedroom set!

      • As you have mentioned, it is very likely that the Cross family brought a lot of their existing furniture with them to their new house, so I would think it very likely that there was at lease some Eastlake and earlier styles there…

      • The price is what really caught my attention. Thanks for the info on the Eastlake, I love that style and was amazed that it could be considered passe at that point but fashion does become quite fickle in any decade. I hope you get the one that speaks to your heart. How about an Octogon bed specially made? Now THAT would rock that decor!!! 🙂

  25. I’m curious why you believe this is an 1890s bedroom set.

    I’ve inherited a washstand that was my great-grandmother’s, and it’s nearly identical to the one in that set. Mine is faux-finished in a dark tiger maple style. The harp for hanging towels is identical. I was surprised to see its non-faux finished identical twin at a local Philadelphia junk store. And now, here’s a third one for sale.

    Minimally, this set might be more mass-produced than you’re thinking (a la Sears), and likely newer. Because my great-grandmother was most certainly not well-off, and certainly bought the wash stand more recently than the 1890s.

    My wife uses the wash stand in our bedroom. It’s a nice, useful piece, regardless. One of a couple pieces I’m lucky enough to have that has been in the family for generations now.

    Regards from Philly

      • Ahh, OK, my mistake. It’s just you’re so insistent on ensuring the furniture is from the correct decade (or obviously drastically different), that since you were considering buying this set, I assumed that meant you know *this* bedroom set is from the 1890s. Gotcha.

        It’s possible my great grandmother bought it used, so maybe it’s older than I originally figured. I’ve never noticed any marks indicating the manufacturer on mine, so I’ve never been able to learn anything more about it.

        It’s a nice looking bedroom set. Good luck, whatever you decide!

  26. A lot of opinions about a bed…here is mine, LOL. You really like the bed, and like Linda said, you can buy a larger frame to attach to the headboard and foot. There is no way to know if it will look right until it is sitting in the room, so in you shoes, I would make my decision on cost and whether or not it would work in one of the other rooms if it does not look right in the octagon room. With a guest room and eventually a 3rd floor and carriage house rentals, there will surely be a place you can use it. And I don’t think it would overwhelm the mantle; by the time you get it refinished, it will look awesome.

  27. We put our very similar set at around 1905 or thereabouts – can’t remember if that’s what the seller (at the flea market) told us back in the ’80s, or we just found a similar set in one of our Sears reproduction catalogs.

    It’s a gorgeous set, and I think the ‘leaf’ motif on the furniture would be fine with the trim at the top of the mantle. To me, they look pretty similar.

    Are you positive that the bed would not fit a standard double mattress? Ours does, although lengthwise, it IS a tight fit. Tucking a comforter in at the end of the bed is pretty difficult, though I manage it. (My daughter never bothers… wish I could take a picture of the set for you, but you’d be horrified at the way that gorgeous set is being treated. One more year of high school and she’s off to college – and I’ll be apologizing to that bedroom set for years to come!)

    I also agree that a queen is pretty much what I look for when booking a room, but to stay in Cross House, I’d put up with the full! And a little set of steps will definitely be necessary unless you put the mattress and foundation on a lower frame rather than the bed’s side boards and supports. My daughter’s bed is almost high hip height on me, and I really can’t get up on it without a step stool (I’m old and short).

  28. With all the speculation on trying to date this set, I asked myself, when
    did washstands stop being a part of three piece bedroom sets?

    So, for what it’s worth according to the website “Antique Appraiser”…

    Eastlake furniture was fairly inexpensive.

    “Oak pieces… with serpentine tops, came in about 1880 to 1910…”

    “Mission pieces, dating from about 1900 to 1930 are straight-lined and
    boxy with no surface decorations.” Because washstands were beginning to
    be phased out, they were fewer in number and are harder to find.

    • I believe that washstands were designed to have a pitcher and bowl set on them in bedrooms. When indoor plumbing came in, washstands went out of fashion. For a while, a lot of bedrooms had wall hung sinks installed in them, but that became unpopular too.

  29. *If you were to let us all know where this set is located on the East coast, I think that you might find that there is one of us who follow you, that live in the area, has a truck and would love an excuse to see the Cross House. They would be likely to pick it up and bring it to you the way Celeste and Cindy brought your marble vanity.
    *As a furniture lover and auction goer, I know that the oak bedroom sets from this era are fairly commonly available at low prices because they were manufactured in large quantities. I would suggest that you could find a similar set near to you before you will have the room ready for use. *The set in this post has been refinished. If you were to get a set that has not been refinished, you can use the same stain and finish on it as you do on the mantel. If the mantel is quarter sawn oak, I would think that the wood for the set in the octagonal bedroom, like the one in this post should be too. It is my personal preference to have a little more stain on the wood so it accentuates the spectacular grain of quarter sawn oak.

  30. I don’t feel like these are a stylistic match for this particular room even if the stains matched. However, if you love this set then definitely buy it, but maybe use it elsewhere? (If I were anywhere near NC I’d happily help you for the excitement of the road trip and opportunity to see the Cross house.) Your mantle has this beautiful ribbon motif on both the wood carvings and in the tile relief. I feel like I have seen that motif on many beds in the past and would be thrilled to see it carried throughout the octagon suite. As long as the motifs and stain colors work together I wouldn’t worry about going a little fancier for the furniture style. Maybe the Cross house didn’t seem super fancy when it was surrounded by other Victorian homes, but today it’s the rising crown jewel of your town, and maybe your state! I’d love a half tester with silk drapes in that room, and I would pay $$$ to sleep in it. I still remember that you want to go Hollywood glam in your bedroom. You painted an incredibly bold oculus mural downstairs. You’re actually quite glamorous, and that’s just fine with me.

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