Sunday, November 9, 2008

Elements of Style

I am trying to visualize our house, painted and furnished and decorated. It's a little hard to wrap my brain around, or to briefly sum up. Instead I will offer you a bit of a brainstorming session.

Our house was built in 1936. As we've been digging through layers of plasters and lathe I conjure up images of the people who built this house. What was life like for them, right in the middle of the Great Depression? How did they live? How can we honor the spirit of this house while bringing our own aesthetics and energies?

In recent years many people have "flipped" or restored old houses like ours. Craftsman style has been very much in fashion in recent years. There is also a company, Live Historic, that renovates old churches and schools, etc. into condos. I've shot one of their places - a school in Queen Anne. The exterior is mostly untouched and still gorgeous. The stairwells and halls still echo and totally remind me of my junior high experience. However, the condo units are all slick and modern and barely hold onto the slightest bit of schoolhouse charm. While I am very happy to see people continuing to use these old buildings, I wish they would not spiff them up to the point of obscuring the original essence. So many of these "Craftsman" houses all look the same: brand new dark wood floors, big blocky posts and lintels, new fixtures, everything smelling super shiny and new.... kind of cool, but I think some of the soul has been lost.

Here are a few words to describe the style I am visualizing in our house: Utilitarian. Industrial Revolution. Farmhouse. Kind of old-fashioned but not "country" per se: no pink hearts stenciled around the borders, no needlepoint. Wrought iron chandelier in the dining room, my aunt's cool bobbin and spindle lamp, a couch made from old knobby wood bedposts. Lots of medium toned wood. Neat antique furniture. A secretary like my Mom has with the cool jointed cover thing that rolls up. Neat old tools hanging on the walls: maybe a pair of old wooden skis crossed over each other on the wall or a pitchfork and a shovel crossed over one another. My Mom's got a really cool collection of bobbins that she uses as candleholders. these are the last remnants of East Coast textile mills from the turn of the century. I love this kind of stuff! Nathan's got this great wrought iron pot-holder that hangs from our ceiling which I *love*, he's also got a halberd (the namesake of this blog!) that totally fits this style: So in short: Vermont farmhouse/antique barn crossed with turn of the century factory chic, with a little bit of mediaeval weaponry thrown in. We want bright colors (up to a point! I am concerned about us going overboard). Both of us have lots of art and lots of neat things we want to display in our house: N's miniatures, my Grandma's little glass animals and things, the flying skeleton, etc. I don't think we could pull off a slick, sparse modern look if we tried!! Anywhere we live will be brimming with lots of neat things to look at: like a curiosity shop but hopefully more organized. ;) Fortunately, Nathan and I have similar aesthetic tastes.... there will be some compromise needed (I will not paint an entire room lavender, for instance!) but I think we can create an awesome house together.

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