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A Ravishing Victorian Home

Never has the interior of this Queen Anne looked so good, from its wallpapers to textiles. By Brian D. Coleman | Photos by William Wright

    The dining room is a testament to the beauty of skillful wallpaper pattern mixing. The ‘Victory Frieze’ is above ‘Roland Wall’ with ‘Bachelor Button’ in the high dado.

    The Queen Anne house on a corner lot in Portland is transitional, not High Victorian, as it was built after 1900. Still, the wide veranda encircles a tower; its rooms boast pocket doors and plate rails.

    Audry and Chris Bond soon realized their Danish Modern teak wasn’t going to fit—and they didn’t know much about the Victorian era. It was in those early days reading books and poring over magazines, visiting antiques shops, and meeting collectors that the homeowners fell in love with Victorian ornamentation and the era’s rich palette.

    The house, long subject to indignity, retained its original floor plan, staircase, moldings, and broad windows. On clear summer mornings, the master bedroom has an easterly view of the sunrise over Mt. Tabor. The couple spent nine months patiently stripping woodwork with heat guns and dental picks to liberate the warm fir from its coating of antiseptic white paint. They knew that a set of room-dividing fir columns had been removed between entry and parlor. Audry made a lucky find while out antiquing: an exact match to replace them.

    Then the Bonds discovered Bradbury & Bradbury’s art wallpapers. For the parlor, they chose the ‘Eastlake Frieze’ in Aesthetic Green from the Victorian Anglo-Japanese room-set, noting that the paper’s sunflowers and swallows complemented a gold silk paper they’d hung on the parlor walls. The dragonfly and spider ceiling paper is called ‘Gossamer’; it lights up when the Japan-finished combination gas-electric ceiling fixture is on.

    Vintage textiles give the room a soft and enveloping atmosphere; purple silk, velvet, and chenille portieres hang between the dining room and parlor, while swags and jabots in burgundy and gold silk decorate the bay window, and embroidered felt table runners cross side tables.

    Add a Hunzinger chair, embroidered footstools, silver vases, and opalescent glass epergnes, and soon the room made a joyful Victorian noise.

    An Aesthetic chair with carved sunflowers and oriental fretwork wears embroidered paisley and blue velvet.

    The couple became enamored of the proto-Modern designs of Christopher Dresser, as have many Victorian Revivalists. Again they looked to Bradbury’s papers, using several from the Dresser Tradition for the indigo-and-gold dining room.

    More textiles enrich this room: burgundy and gold chenille portieres across the pocket doors, a lustrous midnight-blue mohair covering the table, delicate lace panels at the window sash.

    More was better in the 19th century, of course; side cabinets are suitably crowded with Aesthetic silverplate (from tea sets to toothpick holders), and plate rails hold chargers and the saved ephemera of early 20th-century Portland. The dining table has a pair of brass candlesticks with a winged Dresser motif, along with a vase of peacock feathers for good luck.

    An ebonized cabinet with painted Aesthetic storks sits in one corner of the dining room; swags and a cornice over the vintage lace panels make a lovely window treatment.

    Upstairs, the tower provides a sitting area in the master bedroom. Audry is an accomplished seamstress, and this spot has become her favorite for sewing in the morning light. The couple turned a muddy patch of grass surrounded by a chain-link fence into a pretty garden room outside. Now a cedar plank fence, softened by a climbing vine of violet-blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea), provides privacy. A slate patio next to the garage is protected by a simple pergola of trellis supported on wood columns.

    A good house is never finished, of course. Last winter, an ice storm jump-started the kitchen remodel: housebound with a case of cabin fever, the couple took a crowbar and sledgehammer to the 1970s particleboard cabinets, tangerine floor, and turquoise walls. Restoration is in full swing around the antique Real Economy seven-burner gas stove.

    It’s a happy chapter for a place that was once called “The Stinky House” for the smell of rotting wood (a mailman, years ago, went through the porch deck). After 16 separate owners in the 20th century, the house has finally fallen into good hands.

    For tips on using vintage textiles in your home, visit us on Facebook!

    Published in: Old-House Interiors May/June 2010

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