I love old houses, but sometimes they can be a little creepy. Especially Victorians. All that lace and doilies. They can feel dusty and repressive to me. So once again, I have to find that balance between historic and frumpy.
The first thing we did was get rid of all the lace window treatments. That was easy.
Adding more light and updating the light fixtures helped a lot as well ( for more:Let There Be Light. Of course, we had a few “discussions” about which fixtures were charming and which needed to go, none more emotional than the battle over the original Tiffany chandelier.
Dave thought it was cool. Susan Scheer, our good friend and designer, didn’t like the yellow cast it gave and felt it made the room seem stale. She wanted to replace it with a fixture with more life (and more light). I was stuck in the middle. I knew it was historic and valuable, but it kind of reminded me of a bad kitchen table fixture from the 70’s. So we moved it.
And the chandelier reinvented itself. In this well lit foyer stairwell it looks stately and confident. No longer carrying the weight of being the central focal point of a room, it’s free to be a cool accent. People catch glimpse of it above when they enter the foyer and they can admire it, or they can ignore it. It makes me smile when I walk up the stairs and when I pass it on the second floor hall, I really notice the heavy chain and detailed brass work.
Then there’s whatever that painting is on the ceiling. I get it, it mimics the colors and patterns on the chandelier. But really? This is a masculine, geometric house. Howard Van Doren Shaw did not do frilly (in fact, he didn’t really do Victorian, but that’s another post). Those gorgeous quarter sawn white oak beams need no company. That ceiling paint can’t go fast enough. No argument there.
With the movement of the chandelier, Susan got to install the light fixture she envisioned. Because some of the walls will be destroyed by the construction, we left the paint color alone for the time being. Still, what a difference!
There were other light fixtures and decorating mishaps on our hit list.
We aren’t formal people. We have little use for a formal living room. So we decided to use the foyer with the adorable fireplace and inglenook as our “parlor” and the livingroom/ library area, which in Howard Van Doren Shaw style is one large open area, as our family room. We wanted the parlor to feel fresh and sophisticated , but still historical. We imagined ourselves sipping old fashions there. Susan insisted on this killer Phillip Jefferies grass cloth wallpaper and the Stark antelope rug. Love it!
Susan insisted on this killer Phillip Jefferies grass cloth wallpaper.
The red wallpaper is history. The mantel? That’s another post. My first instinct was to paint the walls a light color to brighten up the room. Susan insisted the rich woods needed to be complemented with rich tones. A light color would look washed out and actually make the wood feel heavier. We lived with many samples on the wall for days. Pulling colors from the rug and the trim, she finally chose Farrow and Ball Charleston Gray.
I was secretly pleased when I saw the beams in the family room had been painted at some point (fauxed, actually Ugh!) and were not original. With the dark walls and northern exposure, we could use a little brightness in this room, and knowing they were fake allows me to paint over them guilt free! Ample new lighting will also help.
If the light fixtures and furniture seem familiar, it’s because they’ve been transplanted from our previous Colonial Revival. We bought the pieces 10 years ago specifically for that newly built home. They were a big investment, so we resisted the urge to go trendy and prefered timeless. Because of that,they look as good in this 124 year old Victorian now as the did in the new Colonial Rival 10 years ago. I’m betting nobody will be tossing out that light fixture tens years from now. We freshened thing up with new pillows and accosories. The couch was originally tan, but the movers ripped it, giving us the opportunity to has a little fun and reupholster it a trendy blue on their dime. By the time I’m sick of blue, that couch will be headed for one of my kid’s apartments.