Saturday, August 29, 2009

Iced tea for the end of summer

Summer is almost over, and this summer we enjoyed our iced tea out on the gazebo. We bought the Ball jar dispenser earlier this summer from Victorian Trading Company. It holds a gallon of lemonade or iced tea, and since the lid fits nice and tight, it's great for keeping our cold beverages safely in the fridge.

Next weekend is Labor Day already. As much as I love my garden, it's good to have a winter break from it all. Mowing grass and pulling weeds will give way to shoveling snow. Winters here can be brutal. So when the leaves start to fall, we'll gather them up to use as a bed of protective mulch for the flowers.

But for now, I'll enjoy my iced tea while I can!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Topsy Turvy — A great Victorian film

I love to watch any film or documentary that deals with the Victorian era. The more historically accurate the details, the better.

One of my favorite films is "Topsy-Turvy." It tells the story of Gilbert & Sullivan during the time they were writing "The Mikado." Gilbert & Sullivan were masters of Victorian theatre. I really enjoy Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. They are so brilliantly witty, and I can just imagine the Victorians laughing at the same lines!

It's been ten years since this film was released, but a great story never gets old. The costumes and sets are amazing in their historical accuracy. The Japanese culture was something new and exciting for Great Britain, and it influenced almost all the Victorian arts beginning in the 1860s. The Americanized versions of Eastlake and Aesthetic furniture, hardware, and the decorative arts certainly have an Asian influence.

This movie lets us understand how those influences were introduced into Western society, and how intrigued the Victorians were with all things exotic. I recommend this movie for all lovers of Victoriana!

Related links:


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Cats, Penny and Phoebe

Meet our two cats, Penny & Phoebe. I think all proper Victorian houses should have a cat or two! I think they know how pretty they look, especially when they sit on the golden oak sideboard...

the Eastlake chair...

or as the center of attention on the center table!

They are really sweet to each other. I collect photographs, drawings, and other Victorian cat related items too. Maybe I'll round some of them up and post them soon!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sandwich Antiques Market

Today I went to the Sandwich Antiques Market in Sandwich, Illinois to look at the antiques. I didn't have anything in mind to buy. I was sad to see that there were considerably fewer dealers there than ever before. I talked to one dealer, who told me she thought a variety of factors were the cause of the antiques fairs getting smaller. One was, of course, eBay. Another factor was the economy. And then she said that she's noticed that the younger generation is just not as interested in these kinds of antiques.

I remember antiquing back in the 80's. It was really popular back then! There were antique stores everywhere, and the fairs were really crowded.

I didn't buy any antiques today, but I saw some great things. I have bought many things in recent years on eBay, when I knew exactly what I was looking for, and searched until I found it. It's easy to browse through thousands of things in a few hours at an antiques fair. It's not as easy on the internet. When you're at the fairs, you'll see things you would never have thought to look for while on the internet. And you can stop for an ice cream cone or a fresh-squeezed lemonade!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Purple Coneflowers & Black-eyed Susans

Just thought I'd share some pictures from my garden today. My Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and my Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' (Black-eyed Susans) are in full bloom! They do really well in my yard, so I have let them spread. Both plants do best without too much water, which is good, since we've been having very hot, dry weather all week. The purple plant in the background is Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop). I got that one free at a local nursery last year, never thinking it would do so well. And when you rub the leaves between your fingers, it smells like licorice!


Broken Leaf Design & Victorian Hardware

Look at the new outlet covers I got on eBay! One of my favorite designs for door hardware is called "Broken Leaf." You can see the pattern on the antique doorknobs in the background of my blog.

Since there were no outlet covers or switch plates back when this pattern was originally produced in the 1880's, I've been looking for years for some kind of appropriate substitute that would have the same Eastlake/Aesthetic/Victorian feel. When I saw these on eBay, I just had to buy them! Although they are made of cast resin and not brass or bronze, they were very affordable, so I can replace all my existing plates on the main floor of my house!

I think they look just fine the way they are, but I can always give them a quick brush of metallic finish in certain rooms if necessary. For now, I just got the outlet covers. Switch plates are next! The site that sells these and other period-appropriate hardware is American Antique Hardware.

For original Victorian hardware, nothing beats eBay for the best deals. Original complete door hardware sets that have been cleaned and restored are very costly, but can be found on many reputable sites. Here are some of my favorites, selling both antique and reproduction hardware:

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dressing the Victorian Woman

I came across this fascinating series on YouTube explaining the daily dressing rituals and garments of a typical fashionable 1860's lady. It is presented by the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs and features fashion-history expert Jan Loverin of the Nevada State Museums Marjorie Russell Clothing and Textile Research Center in Carson City, Nevada.

There are 4 segments posted on YouTube by NevadaCulture, so be sure to watch all 4!

Click on the link below to view these videos. It is a great reminder as to how far we have come as women. Although there was much beauty in the Victorian era, sometimes it came at great expense to our health and well-being.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More about Victorian Wallpaper

from Adventures in Processing

One really interesting thing I remember reading about the Victorian era was that some of their wallpaper contained arsenic. In particular, a vivid shade of green called "Sheele's Green" was especially high in arsenic content. It is thought that many people living with these wallpapers became ill and some died from arsenic poisoning. Arsenic was also used as a dye for some fabrics.

I would love to see a Victorian house with its original wallpaper intact and in great shape, as this is a rare occurrence. Wallpaper was so ephemeral. But maybe that's a good thing. While we love to think of the Victorian era as a gentler time, there were a lot of things they did that were harmful, to the environment and to themselves. I like to recreate the Victorian feel in the safest, most modern way possible. The Victorians would approve, as they were all about the latest technology.

Some good references on arsenic in wallpaper:


Monday, August 3, 2009

Victorian Walls and Wallpaper

Fenway Iris Frieze from Bradbury & Bradbury

There are so many styles encompassing the Victorian era, and many overlap. My favorite styles would have to be Eastlake and Aesthetic for furniture and interior decoration, and Queen Anne and Stick Style for exterior. Although Italianate is nice, too!

I really just collect what I like, and when choosing furniture, woodwork and wallpaper, I gravitate toward Eastlake. I like the incised carvings, the dark woods, and the clean lines on the furniture and other household items.

from Aesthetic Interiors

When it comes to wallpaper, I've found Bradbury & Bradbury papers most suit my taste. I love their Fenway Iris Frieze, which I really want to use as the dado in the room that will someday become our library. I want my walls to follow the tripartate system, breaking them visually into three distinct sections. This way, my walls will consist of (from top to bottom) a cove molding, a frieze, a picture rail, a fill wallpaper, a chair rail, a dado (either wallpaper, beadboard, or Lincrusta, depending on the room), and a baseboard with cap and quarter round.

Unfortunately for me, wallpapering is the last thing on my long list of things to do when restoring my house. More than anything else, it will be what brings the rooms alive with that Victorian feel.

Here's my list of favorite sites that sell Victorian reproduction wallpapers:

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