Sunday, August 18, 2013

Castle Tours - My Victorian Parlor

Hello, Viewers and Visitors!

Welcome, and thank you for joining me on this guided tour of one of our local landmarks. The tour will cover some of the best features of my castle, and I hope you will enjoy it! Let us begin with the Victorian Parlor. Watch your step!

When I moved into my (two-bedroom rental) apartment in the early weeks of 2003, I knew I wanted a living room inspired by the Victorian drawing room. It was never my intention to try to recreate an accurate period piece – even if I had had the patience or the money, I don’t have an interest for it. No, what fascinates me is to pick an idea, a concept, and then adapt it, a little tongue-in-cheek, according to my own taste and means, using it as an inspiration, rather than as a blueprint.

So let me show you what I did.
A view of my Victorian Parlor. Wicker chairs from Pier 1 Imports are gussied up with throws and pillows.
The lace tablecloth comes from an antique mall; with some small imperfections, it was a steal!

The starting point was red walls – a very Victorian choice, and one that I had long been hankering for – it creates such a warm, intimate ambiance, especially in a small room. (My living/dining room is only 11 x 12 feet, facing north-east.) I picked a color called Chinaberry by Benjamin Moore, which had the perfect balance – a fairly dark red, without yellow or brown tones – rather a pinkish, raspberry undertone. It morphs beautifully throughout the day, as the light of the room changes from sunshine to shade to artificial light. It is a wonderful background color for art or any other frills. Since the ceiling and the walls above the picture rail are white, the room remains surprisingly light. I also painted the picture rail in antique gold to add to the period glamour. Then I got carried away, and added a string of fairy lights, camouflaged with rose garlands, all around the room.

The draping of a picture is a typical Victorian trick. The peacock panels were a marvelous find
in the same dime store that yielded the rose print. The tole trays below are part of a collection
that will be explored later in this tour. 

No Victorian parlor could ever be complete without an enormous, heavy, gilt-edged mirror. A less expensive, and more playful, option was to gather some small mirrors of various shapes that I already owned – and later added to – all of them with gilt frames. I made a collage of them on one wall, and – voilĂ ! My Victorian mirror impersonation was in place.

The mirrored wall - a marvel to behold! The peacock lamp, left, looks like it might be
a priceless antique - but it comes from Lowe's!

Potted palm trees were another specialty of the era, which I dared not undertake (black thumbs!), but two artificial palms by the window easily recreated the Victorian fad – my own mini-orangerie.

The lamp base (including the rose finial), was a $25 flea market find, to which I added a very basic cream-colored shade, that I covered with an embroidered overlay, then tied a fringed scarf around it.

The rattan chest holds odds and ends.

Perhaps I should point out that when I say Victorian, I am referring to the English era – I am European, after all. Therefore, the style would also include references to the British Empire in the shape of oriental rugs and artifacts, the odd tiger skin, and other trophies from the Colonies, such as this little pagoda, from goodness knows where...
The tiger "skin" was a $30 find in an online toy store!

Heavy drapes, fringes and tassels abounded in the Victorian drawing room, as did peacock feathers, lace cloths, pillows, foot stools, what-nots, and, of course, endless amounts of knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, doodads and gimcracks, also known as “stuff”.

Peacock feathers, real and fake, are a necessity! The throw glimpsed at left is made from sari fabrics, the prettiest textiles I know! I bought it many years ago at Pier 1 Imports, and it brings in the colonial motif again - specifically India, "The Jewel in the Crown".
A corner vignette with an inherited rose painting and a few other useful objects.

An Indian pouf or a choice of foot stools - excellent when the grandbabies come to visit!
The floors were in a very poor condition (and I didn't feel like investing in repairs), so I layered rugs - one "real" but worn beauty that I have had for at least 20 years; a curb-side find (upper left) and various remnants.

Some additional stuff, like the tapestry that I found in Jerusalem, with three star-burst
mirrors hanging in front. The mask is from Venice - it was a crazy splurge, but I knew I would never have forgiven myself if I had not grabbed the opportunity! (Our visit to Venice in 2011 was unforgettable - a place I would love to see again.) Lanterns is another of my weaknesses - these are fromTJ Maxx.

A bit of extra stuff hanging out on a plant stand in front of the window...

The thingamajig with the stuff on top of it houses tablecloths, napkins and the like. It consists of a
cheap, simple, plastic storage shelf, 
with a slightly larger slice of plywood duct-taped onto it, then
draped with three different textiles. It was an emergency solution that became permanent, and it sort of works, but I can't help dreaming of a more functional piece - just try finding the right tablecloth in there!
I don’t think anybody but the most perfidious villain could accuse me of not having enough stuff in my parlor (should you ever hear rumors to that effect, know that it is vile slander!). The room is, indeed, a veritable Museum of Stuff. But if I am ever accosted by a niggling doubt that maybe, just MAYBE, I should pare down a little, perhaps remove two or three pieces of stuff, I am immediately validated and encouraged by Ms. Robin Brown, also known under her trade label Magnolia Pearl, who in her gorgeous, inspiring book “A Bit of Velvet & ADash of Lace” speaks rousingly of “layering beauty on top of other beauty”. That’s what it’s all about, see!

Well, enough for today! Good-bye! See you soon, in another room!

Regards from Rosebud!


  1. I don't know what I love more your creativity or you're your writing talent!

    1. Aw, shucks...! Happy you're enjoying it!