I think many of us are hesitantly optimistic as we peer into a new decade still treading in thick, murky waters of economic uncertainty and personal wonder. Some of us, perhaps, are feeling a little rundown and tattered. One thing, as a few fellow bloggers have addressed, is we have a blogging community. An amazing thing, really. A platform where we can exchange ideas and knowledge, it gives us a place to grow and get to know one another. People who we otherwise would never have known. This, I believe, is quite a boon. It can shake us from the feelings of isolation when we've encountered an upset or disappointment sitting quietly behind our computer screens. While we mull over when that pendulum will begin to swing the other way bracing ourselves for yet another hard knock, we have this blogging community to believe in and nurture. As hokey as it sounds, our blogging community -- in many ways -- is like the racehorse, Seabiscuit.
A hopeless long shot, Seabiscuit was small with awkward crooked legs and a sad tail. He wasn't an aristocrat. He was a proletarian, a plain regular working horse. He came along in a time when
So many millions of people have talent and beauty, but have not drifted into an area to be appreciated. Blogging allows talent to be read and beauty to be felt. No one really knows when all this economic hullabaloo will calm down. We are an angst ridden, somewhat depressed nation, with many of us grinding our teeth wondering when that next big project will come in, and how far that last pay check will stretch. But one thing for sure is when I read many posts and comments from other readers; I see that we again can believe in triumph over hardship. Many of us are simply true honest voices who believe in the power of beauty -- and that is the dream this country was built upon.
“I opened the doors and windows of
But was she really the first to brighten the Victorian interior?
Philip Connard (1875-1958), May Morning, late 19th century, Musee d'Orsay
Félix Vallotton, The Sick Girl, 1892 (Private collection)
Catherine Beecher, an important advocate of the systematization of housework and the education of women, suggested the need for light and bright kitchens, and whenever possible to wash the walls with white paint.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the attraction and influence of the Arts and Crafts movement was powerful. The British influence reached almost every Western nation, especially in
William Morris’ summer home in Kelmscott Manor.
Though Elsie de Wolfe detested her dark childhood bedroom with walls clad in a William Morris design, I wonder if she would have disapproved of the Kelmscott Manor drawing room Morris redecorated with his wife, Jane, in 1871. They painted the walls white and chose simple white wool drapes. They also upholstered the furniture with a pattern on a calm blue ground he created for Morris & Company.
First floor drawing room, Red House
Prior to designing the interiors of their country get-a-way, Morris commissioned friend and architect Philip Webb to design their first home when he was newly married. Red House was completed in 1860. Although the style of Red House was based on a medieval theme and wrought with subtle medieval details, it is comparatively light and airy with an open floor plan and many white painted walls.
Drawing room in Standen. (image from The National Trust.)
Philip Webb designed a number of English country houses. Many of his interiors had simple white-painted paneling -- much in contrast to the Victorian obsession of dark color palettes and rooms filled with clutter. A Wilshire house, Clouds (1881-1891), also designed by Webb included white walls and white painted plaster and woodwork with just a simple fireplace.
English architect CFA Voysey designed his own living room in The Orchard (1900) completely clutter-free. The interior space is very simple: he covered the walls with a violet fabric just to eye level then painted everything above white. The tiles around the fireplace hearth are a pale green. Though he did not align himself with modernists of his time, to our eyes this room is fresh, light and very modern.
Arguably, two designers who really let the air and sunshine in are Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.
The Mackintoshes married in 1900 and moved into a flat in
The Mackintosh’s bedroom: walls, ceiling and furniture were all painted white with white drapes surrounding the white bed – designs stenciled on the frieze of the bed were repeated in embroidery on the bedcover and the valance (not shown). This all-white room was a radical departure of the time not only in color, but form and style.
The bedroom of The Hill House, expanded view.
Top image: Elsie de Wolfe's dining room on Irving Place second remodel c. 1900; Last five images: CFA Voysey from John Pile’s History of Interior Design, Mackintoshes Blake, Essential Charles Renie Mackintosh and Swinglehurst, CRM.
On the late, late evening of Christmas Eve, after much to eat and much more to drink, my husband and I were traveling home in the midst of one of Kansas City’s worst blizzards since (1979? or 1826? I'm not sure). There were a few stranded travelers along the roads, and we needed to help. After all, moments before my husband was proudly chirping about his “animal” of a car. How his American made car trumped my “fancy” German type that I’m so fond of. Cars were abandoned as we loaded passengers up in his Jeep and safely drove them home.
The wind was violent. It pelted snow into our eyes and forced icy snow crystals down our throats as we got out pushing cars to the side of the roads and escorting our fellow travelers into the car. I was without a hat and my hair was coated with bricks of snowy ice. I didn’t notice at the time -- my stomach full, my veins pumping warm red wine and we were doing a good deed.
Earlier in the evening as I kissed Billy good-bye and darted out the door, I paused for a moment to glance over at my hat and mittens. I left them on the chair. I was going to a Christmas Eve dinner, there was no reason I needed to dress appropriately for a winter blizzard -- my skirt, tights, high-heeled boots and Christmas brooch neatly pinned to my sweater would do me just fine.
Today, I can barely sit erect as my head splits in two, my body aches, my sinus passages throb, my eyeballs heavy as lead cannon balls, and my lungs burn like a raging inferno... I dream of a warm place in the French West Indies.
I vow in my next Midwestern home to create it as a Martinique retreat.
So the next time I have to look outside at this:
I will be inside seeing this:
Three images above from French Island Elegance by Michael Connors.
Living room of unidentified French Plantation home; Dining area of La Réunion, Grand Case, Martinique; Maison du Mauduit, a nineteenth-century home, in Guadeloupe.
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