The Cross House

Two Old Guys. Decorating.

Today, I drove the 90 minutes to Dr. Doug’s huge 1904 house to deliver more period-correct lighting. He and I have been bartering. He gets lights. I get woodwork. Doug is soon to start on the lattice for my front porch!

After hanging a sweet 3-arm fixture in the white bedroom, I stood back and asked: “Have you thought about moving the bed to this wall?”

“No, why?”

“I’m wondering if it would look better?”

Doug shrugged. “Ok.”

We dragged the bed from the window bay to the only available wall.

We then stood back. At the same time we both said: “The room looks bigger. Wow.”

It did look bigger.

“But what should we put in the bay window?” Doug asked.

“It cries out for a settee. Do you have one you’re not using?”

Doug shrugged.

“Let’s go look!”

We wandered from room to room and from floor to floor. In the parlor were two sofas. One from the 1920s and the other 1930s. Neither seemed right of the parlor which cried out for a matching parlor suite.

“The 1920s sofa would look great in the white bedroom. Can we move it upstairs?”

Doug looked at me, like I was crazy. “How old are you?”

“62” I answered.

“I’m 67, and you think we should drag a sofa, a sofa!, up a staircase?”

I pondered. “Is it heavy?”

Doug shrugged. I went over and picked up one side. “It’s not that bad! Come on!”

Doug lifted the other edge. “Oh. It really isn’t that bad!”

We took off the cushions to save weight, and I even removed the protective covers on the arms. Every ounce reduced helps at our age!

As we hauled the sofa up, and struggled to get up the U-shaped stair, I said: “We are living a Friends episode!”



After much grunting, we got the sofa upstairs and into the bay of the white bedroom. We stepped back.

“Oh! That looks good!” we both exclaimed.

Emboldened and energized (me, at least), we then changed out the dresser with one from the small bedroom, and dragged a chair in from the round bedroom. The windows all had 30-year-old shades which no longer pulled up and I demanded that Doug take them down.

“Diana won’t be happy.”

Diana is Doug’s wife. “Blame it all on me!”

“Oh, I will!” (Note: The house has always been Doug’s passion/madness. Diana, who would much prefer a…sensible house, has been impressively patient for 35 years now.)

Moving into the small bedroom, we pushed the dresser from the white bedroom into place, and pulled the iron bed from the big window and to the wall opposite. I also installed a period-correct 2-arm chandelier.

“What do you have against beds in front of windows?” Doug asked.

“I don’t like not having access to a window. I also worry that it’s bad feng shui. And I worry about snipers. It seems so easy to get shot if one’s head is against a window.”

Doug had nodded a kinda approval with my first two statements but he looked startled by my last statement, giving me a look like: Are you serious?

I acted like I didn’t see this.

While on our knees reattaching a mirror to a dresser, we both found that we could not easily stand back up. We moaned as our bodies furiously protested any attempt at going vertical.

Of course, the parlor had been denuded of a sofa so it, too, needed some attention. I looked to the 1930s sofa. It just did not work in the room. But nearby was a lovely 1890s settee. “I wish you had more like that.”

Doug replied: “I do.” He then walked me around the house showing me three other pieces from the set: an armchair, rocker, and side chair.

“Doug! You have a matching 1890s parlor set! Why isn’t it in the parlor?”

Doug shrugged.

Geez, straight men. What are ya’ gonna do with them?

Soon, the 1930s sofa was hauled out, a large rug too big for the foyer (but perfectly scaled for the parlor) dragged in, and the parlor set was at long last IN the parlor. I stood back. “OMG! This looks fabulous!”

Doug was not sure. “It looks so empty.”

I dragged a sorta complementary table out from the music room and placed it along one wall, then gathered up a range of candle holders and placed them atop the table. Grabbing a ladder, several pictures were taken down and replaced with pictures better suited to the 1890s set.

We stood back, my clothing soaked with sweat.

Me: “Wow, it looks friggin’ incredible!”

Doug: “It looks so empty.”


The parlor before. The white sofa was moved to the white bedroom. Note the small rug. I installed the period gas/electric fixture a few months ago. The room, to me, looked more waiting room than period parlor.


The parlor after two old guys.


The parlor set predates the house but seems to work well in the room.

The new rug better fits.

Doug and Diana will need to find some period side tables and a tea table for the center.

I placed two vases on the extraordinary fretted screen. It was begging for such a touch.

I would love to see the room re-colored.


Drenched in sweat to my underwear, I departed. Doug said: “I’m worried what Diana will think when she gets home.”

Many miles later, I pulled off the highway to buy a refreshment. I opened the car door…and could not move. My body was locked into a recumbent position. Oh, it was painful working to vertical. Well, sorta vertical is all I could manage.

Back on the highway, my phone rang. It was Doug. And I knew that Diana had returned.

I hesitated. Dare I answer?

I did.

“Diana liked everything!” Doug said, kind of amazed.

“She did?”


“And, now that you’ve had a bit of time to take it all in, how do you feel?”

“I think I kinda like it, too!

And, with that, the world was just a tiny, tiny bit better.



26 Responses to Two Old Guys. Decorating.

  1. Hello Ross! I loved your line about straight men. Made me smile. Your after photo speaks volumes. How can Doug think the room looks empty? Have you ever been asked to numerate pet peeves? On my list would have to be rooms where all the furniture is pushed up against the walls. “Waiting room” is a perfect descriptor for the look. I enjoy reading about the repairs and watching the progress of work as you work on the bones of the Cross House, but I especially like seeing your decorators handiwork.

  2. Hi Ross. Happy Independence Day (belatedly!). The after looks so much better now. I did have to chuckle at your description of both of you attempting to get back to a standing position. It all sounds like a good few hours of work. Hope Doug & Diana are enjoying the new effect.

  3. Oh Ross, you have me laughing. My body doesn’t hesitate to let me know that something I did was objectionable. Problem is my body is 66 but I’m much younger in my head! Ibuprofen is a good friend.

  4. An absolute improvement. Thank you for putting something in those spaces in the fretted screen. They really had been looking lonely.

  5. If you want a house make-over, nonchalantly invite a gay man into your house and excuse yourself for a moment and leave the room. I’m visiting a friend who yesterday told me as he was off to run an errand..”Please don’t redecorate while I’m gone”. What a stunning house Doug & Diana have. Did you get a chance to hit their yard with that weed wacker?

  6. I was raised with the “furniture goes against the wall” style of decorating as illustrated in the parlor before photo and it’s a bear to unlearn. The after looks great!

  7. I’ve spent much of the last 3 days catching up on your blog… I am now thoroughly invested in your progress on the Cross House! It’s inspiring me to not gripe so much about my slightly bedraggled 1940 modern minimal cottage in Texas. Keep up the great work, Ross!

  8. I love it and welcome you to come help me with my house anytime. My only other comment is that it really doesn’t matter that the parlor set pre-dates the house. Rarely can people afford all new furniture every time they move, and we will assume the set was belovedly brought into the 1904 home from their previous home by the homeowners, right?

  9. Soooo much better. Why oh why did he have those couches in that room? Or any room of the house. They don’t belong. I love the platform rocker. Thanks for sharing!

  10. You turned a room which was furnished to maximize seating into one that really appeals to the eye. These large rooms were designed to be full of beautiful things with objet’s d’art as focal points cunningly placed. The seating was obscuring the beautiful architectural details, and there appeared to be little eye candy. Now everywhere you turn there is something to look at, the furniture, the architectural detail, the flower arrangements in large vases, the fern on the overmantel, and of course a sensational light fixture.
    Of course Diana liked it. If they regularly entertain large groups of people, it might not work, but even then, one can always pull other chairs in for such occasions.
    High five!

  11. Wow! I just love it. What a difference and yes it needs color between the ceiling and picture rail. What do you call that.

  12. Oh my. The parlour looks ever so much better after your redecorating of it. I wish I could have seen before and afters of the bedrooms as well. But good job on making things look so much better. It will be wonderful when you get the Cross House to that stage as well

  13. I must confess that I agree that the redecorated parlor looks a wee bit empty. But it’s those two vases that make the whole thing just absolutely perfect!

  14. First of all, I love “Dr. Doug’s” house, especially all that woodwork in the parlor. And….the “two old guys” did a really good job making improvements. Well, in the parlor anyway since you didn’t share pics of the bedroom with us. You should know how we old house lovers are always hungry for this sort of thing! I hope you weren’t sore the next day. I too am 67 and know all too well what a challenge it us to carry more than myself up a flight of stairs.

  15. “That is no country for old men…An aged man is but a paltry thing…unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing…” Yeats–“Sailing to Byzantium.”

    We (older) folks clap our hands with you, and for you, Ross!

  16. The fretted screen is gorgeous and I love the inlaid wood pattern on the bases. Your passion for beauty and decorating skills are wonderful to behold. Dr. Doug’s house is lovely.

  17. It looks SOOOOOOO good! I would love a post that features the rest of Dr. Doug’s house – that fretwork is astounding!

  18. I call going vertical : unfolding. At our age it don’t take much. The new room definitely needs recoloring and some tables, but what wonderful fretwork!

  19. This was such fun to read. So thank you Dr. Doug for your waiting room aesthetic enabling it!

    I hope both of you are able to move today…

    It admittedly does look a little bare now, but Doug no doubt has other perfect pieces under his roof that can solve that (with Ross Placement Approval OFC!). The ENORMOUS difference now is it looks supremely elegant. I can almost SEE a lady in a beautiful long gown swanning through the doorway, in the first image she’s slouching in in jeans and sneaks…

  20. The “after” looks so much better with the parlor set. And after a couple of well placed tables, it will be perfect. Love the fretwork and those built shelves with the vases. I would like to see pics of the bedroom which started the decorating frenzy. Bet it looks great.

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