With regard to decorating in Victorian times, no other room in the house was the focus of such concentrated efforts as the parlor.
The proper parlor spoke volumes about the Victorian mistress and her family.
The smallest object, proudly displayed, could send strong messages in an era marked by symbolic gestures and a strict code of etiquette.
Liberties could be taken in decorating the parlor; self-expression was evident.
The Victorian parlor conveyed social standing and an appreciation of culture.
When paying a call, visitors were greeted at the front door by a domestic servant who accepted a calling card to present to the mistress of the house, and if she was not 'engaged', the caller was shown to the parlor.
It was considered improper behavior for the caller to wander around the room while waiting, or to touch anything. They could and would, however, conduct a visual inspection of their surroundings.
"The parlor should be the room of all others in which good taste should be every-where apparent. The walls should be pleasant objects to look upon--not dreary blanks of white plaster--and all the arrangements of the room would be home-like, with ornaments, books and flowers, not arranged for show merely, but for pleasant study, recreation or conversation."
Richard A. Wells, A.M.
"Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society", 1891
Depending upon the size of the parlor, furniture was arranged in several intimate groupings. Until the early 1870's experts suggested that furniture be of a similar style, but before the end of the decade they were calling for a harmonious mixture where no two pieces matched.
"When a room is properly papered, curtained, and carpeted, it may be said to be three-quarters furnished."
"The Cottage Kitchen", 1883
**All of the above descriptions and quotes are taken from the book, The Victorian Home, by Ellen M. Plante, 1995.
I don't think I have ever shown this room in detail except maybe for one Christmas photo and an occasional seasonal mantle display. For many months, if not years, it has been used as a dumping ground for items put aside while working on another room. It was just easier to close off the doors and ignore it. But now, its time has come, and I am anxious to show it off.
To be honest, I never imagined wanting a parlor. Just another space to dust and clean. My vision of a perfect space is a large 'gathering room' with kitchen, dining and living/family all in one. A comfortable, liveable configuration of relaxation. But, on the other hand, I had always wanted an 'old' house and when we were lucky enough to find the Cottage, we stuck with how it was originally intended to be. We did not want to lose the charm of the era.
Along with all the painting, polishing and cleaning that is involved in an update, here are a few of the projects...
This little commode belonged to my great-grandmother. When I was about 6 years old, I remember her house burning to the ground, and this was one of the few pieces saved. My mom ended up with it and painted it a coral color and then green. I had it for awhile and the Captain stripped it back to the original wood finish. My sister had it after that and used it for a few years. Now it is back in my possession and as the wood was nicked and stained, I decided to paint it. I used ASCP in Louis Blue and Old White. I put clear and dark wax over it and although I am not entirely happy with the way it turned out, I am learning and may repaint it sometime in the future.
This charming parlor stove also belonged to my great-grandmother and survived the same house fire, and although it is unuseable, it is a valuable piece of my family's history.
I picked this little table up at a garage sale for three dollars. I painted it with ASCP Louis Blue and rubbed General Furnishings Burnt Umber glaze over the top and also used it as an antique glaze over all.
I changed the lace panels from two to one on each side of the bay and from four to two on the middle window. It makes for a much lighter, softer, look and lets in more light. We also hung them inside the window casings instead of outside so that the pretty, original millwork would show.
We have collected a few mirrors over the years and I love the gilded look when the room is all put together.
I have lace panels to add to the french doors which really don't block out any light or sight lines, but just add a little finishing touch, in my opinion, and we are also looking for an appropriate area rug. Pictures will follow when that happens. The french doors are very pretty and add a lot to the cottage look.
I hope you enjoyed a peek at our proper parlor, and if you should happen to visit, you certainly won't be met at the door by a domestic servant (although sometimes I feel like one. Oh, no, that's what the Captain says), and I won't mind, at all, if you move
around and touch things!
Sharing today with: