Saturday, April 10, 2010

Imaginative Decorating

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What if you liked the look of Victorian "roses & lace" but needed to consider someone else's taste in your decorating? I know some women are reluctant to decorate "Victorian" when they have a house full of men, and feel that they need to make their decor more masculine. Is it possible to decorate in such a way as to satisfy everyone? I was thinking about that as I was looking at this wall. With a little imagination, someone could turn this into a "western" or "cowboy" theme without losing the feminine Victorian touches. I'm not good at computer drawing over photos, so you'll have to use this photo as reference and go on a little imaginary trip with me!

Can "Western" and "Victorian" styles live together? They can!
There were a lot of women living out on the range in the Victorian era. I imagine that they did not abandon all the niceties of a refined life, even on the plains, but used as many as they could in their homes. Certainly with the Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck catalogs coming in the mail, decorative items were available to them even if they were miles from a shopping center. Perhaps if a new lamp was needed, the lady of the house would have chosen to order a colored-glass one from a catalog, prettily etched and softly shaped. Many of the items made in that era were embellished, such as carving on chairs and tables, and pretty scroll-work embossing on tins and metal items. Even the smallest items, such as combs and keys, were designed in a beautiful way.

Take a trip to a pioneer museum, and see how many items were brought from the East, or ordered via catalogs, and shipped on the new railroads out west. You'll find that the families back then had a lot of "pretty" things in their houses.

After that trip to the museum, you have a historical basis for your Victorian touches to a western theme.

For starters, keep the wallpaper. It is a neutral tone-on-tone vine print, quite harmless to the western theme. Vines grow in a lot of places. As a matter of fact, so do roses. Wild roses can be found on many ranches, and in the ditches of many counties. Other borders could be found, but I think the roses, especially ones as unassuming as the ones in the border here, could work with a western decor. You could replace the painting above the fireplace (Sir George Clasuen's "Two girls arranging roses") with something like the one below:

The colors are gorgeous, and can go with many things. You might find some greenery like the ivy above the frame, that is more compatible with the painting. Or, you could add a lasso over the top of the frame, or a tin star.

On the side of the picture, you could add some wrought-iron sconces instead of the white ones shown.
On the mantelpiece, the "Country" sign is certainly compatible with a western theme, as is the clock. I'm sure cowboys needed to know what time it was, and since they did not have ugly plain plastic clocks back in the real "old west", it would have been a nice looking clock. One could use a "gone with the wind" type lamp instead of the beige one, and some other object, perhaps a horse sculpture to echo the painting, could replace the bird house. There is nothing wrong with a doily or pretty runner for the mantle. The woman of the house no doubt added her touches about the place in the old days. Isn't that what lonely cowboy bachelors wanted on all those old western movies? "This place needs a woman's touch."

The floral swag on the mantelpiece could be replaced with something regional, or again, something from the painting. Wildflowers abound in the west, and florals add fullness and splashes of color.  The wild west is so beautiful, so bright, so full of color! The huge blue sky, the green grass in spring, the wildflowers like Indian Paintbrush and Black-eyed Susan, the colorful and sweet-sounding birds like the meadowlark, the creeks with the wild grapes growing up the trees, the red cows.... why, it is enough to turn a tough cowboy into a poet or a painter!

If florals won't do, nice carved frames with black-and-white photos of the family, or even cowboy hat could go on the mantel. A braided rug can be a very western touch. Western-style rooms can look dark, with all the leather and wood and wrought iron, but so can Victorian rooms with their deep hues, so if you like dark, the two styles are similar there. My personal preference is for "light Victorian," which I think can combine with Western as well. 

If a trip to a museum and these changes in the decor do not convince the men of the house that it is "western" enough, have them watch some more old movies. Make sure they aren't just looking at John Wayne's hat, but at the interiors! And remember, all those Victorian-era cowboys had mothers, and probably grew up in a household that had a "woman's touch" before wandering out west.

Here is a photo from the archives of Manitoba: Please note all the knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, and the rifles on the wall. See, they can live together. There is even a pretty skirt on the sink to the right.

Here is an interior of a Ranch in Nebraska. I like the clever bookshelf in the wall above the sofa (hidden by curtains). Note the deep Victorian wallpaper border, and the rather nice oval frame.

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