The Cross House
It was common for rooms in a Victorian-era home to have:
- A wall paper
- A frieze paper, normally 20-inches high. [A Bo Sullivan update: “common friezes were 18″, and only the better ones were 20”. Thanks, Bo!]
- A ceiling paper.
In the 1894 Cross House, the 2-story stair-hall has fragments of all three such papers, and I assume each room in the house was similarly papered.
I have been very interested in recreating this 3-part visual scheme. But not…
What I wanted was the 1894 idea recreated, but in a contemporary manner. I wanted a wall pattern, frieze pattern, and ceiling pattern, but I wanted the finished effect to be very modern looking.
This has taken some fussing and adjusting but I think I have one corner finished.
And prepare to be…startled.
And I think I am delighted.
There is NO mistaking this craziness for an 1894 decorative scheme. Yet, the 3-part Victorian-era look was resurrected. On LSD.
A THIRD APPROACH
I have never seen anybody do what I am doing.
It seems that people take one of two approaches when doing over a Victorian-era house.
But why not an Approach #3?
To my eyes, the finished corner respects the Victorian-era three-part scheme but in a decidedly contemporary manner.
Part of the decision-making process was financial. To do a Bradbury & Bradbury treatment would cost a ton of money as the papers shown above are like $200 a roll. Ouch.
Also, fragments of the 1894 damask-pattern wall paper exist and Bo Sullivan thinks this paper can be recreated. Thus, I wanted to do something inexpensive with the idea that later down the road I might recreate the 1894 paper and install it.
A significant part of the decision-making process was my age, sixty. I needed to do something I could do. I could not, for example, do a meticulous pattern on the ceiling required dozens of colors and minute measurements. No way, man! The ceiling had to look fabulous for a minute amount of time expended. Ditto for the walls.
I hope that the finished parlor looks really fresh, inviting, and contemporary. I am also hoping that people will then realize that one can have a modern look in an old house without painting everything white, without knocking down walls, and without installing hundreds of ceiling can lights. In the 1894 parlor of the Cross House, all the original trim is being restored. The missing picture rail is being resurrected. No can lights are being punched in the ceiling. Thus, the original architecture of the room is being respected. But, by having fun with the decor, the end effect should be the best of both worlds: vintage and contemporary, but with the latter respectful of the former.
THE ROAD TRAVELED
The finished results are, yes, really insane.
But I smile at the effect. The metallic colors on the wall medallions shimmer and change as one moves around the room. The fanciful frieze dancing above the picture rail makes the room seem alive.
The whole while all this is being done the stained-glass windows are kept in mind, as are the architectural elements of the room, the furnishings, and the delicious and very blue curtains.
Decoration is like 3-dimensional chess. Every move matters. And until all the parts are installed it is not possible to truly know the effect.
So, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the insanity works in the end.
The ceiling is actually kinda period-correct, although the cracked-ice is scaled much larger. The wall medallions are, to my eyes, a modern take on the original damask wallpaper. The frieze is, well, just nuts!
I had planned on keeping the frieze and ceiling white but several readers thought this would be too harsh a contrast. These concerns were pondered, and then I became curious what a not-quite-white would look like. I ran down to Sherwin-Williams and purchased a quart of Antique White and painted that on.
Oh. MUCH better!
Just before leaving the house today I sent an image of the finished corner to Patrica, in New Jersey, and then called her. As I sat in the parlor, we spoke for a while and then Patrica suddenly burst out laughing .
“What?”, I asked.
“Oh! Sorry! I just thought that nobody who knows you could mistake the results for anything but your house! It’s so you! It’s unorthodox, kinda silly, and bold!”
I think this was a compliment.