Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Period Rooms Inspire Feathering your Historic Nest

Jaffrey Room in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts
At this time of year, I usually glance around the house and think (alla Bette Davis) "What a dump!"  This leads me to CVS for some magazines to peruse.  But if I'm looking for some inspiration with a decidedly "historic home" flavor, I need to set my sites elsewhere.  This is where house museums come to the rescue.  In the spring, many Cape Cod house museums are dusting off the cobwebs around ye ol' doorway.  Since most are open seasonally, this is the perfect time to plan your visit.

For a list of historic house museums, click on the tab above, or to see upcoming events, click on the events tab.  Another resource to view period rooms online is the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in DC.  On their website, you can view virtual tours of period rooms from a wide range of time periods - Pilgrims to Victorians.  The rooms represent 31 different States. Many of the early american rooms are "colonial revival" style.  I like to challenge myself to identify the time period before I read the description below the virtual tour.

If you are heading into Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts has eight period rooms in the new Art of the Americas Wing.

Brown-Pearl Hall in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts - Period Rooms
Another online resource is the Historic American Building Survey which was done courtesy of the "New Deal" to record our country's quickly diminishing historic buildings.  The Cape Cod homes, as well as others across the country, that were photographed, inside and out, could provide hours of entertainment for an old home enthusiast.  And who knows.... you might see your own house there!

Photo from Historic American Building Survey
Photo from Historic American Building Survey

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Women's Worlds, the Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891 by Caroline Davidson

Self portrait of the artist
I stumbled upon this book when I was searching for representations of early 19th century interiors in art.  If your home was built in the first half of the 19th century, this book is a gold mine!  Mary Ellen Best was an English artist who lived from 1809-1891.  This book shows 140 full color pictures of her paintings of domestic interiors and streetscapes.  Many of the interiors are middle to upper class homes, while some have more humble origins.

Note the slipcovers and pillows on the sofa


Ms. Best slavishly copies the details of the wallpaper, carpets, artwork, drapery and even china in the houses of her friends and relatives or of the hotels that she stayed at when traveling.  Some of my favorite paintings showed the kitchens, from homey English ones to the squeaky clean kitchens of the Netherlands.  No detail escapes her notice - right down to the table settings and crumb cloths.

The author, Caroline Davidson, follows Ms. Best chronologically through her life and many travels. She enriches the illustrations with commentary about the artist's life as well as the details that are to be found in the watercolors.

Women's Worlds, The Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891, Caroline Davidson, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York c. 1985