Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Victorian Houses in the Twin Cities

I visited my friend Beth this weekend in her new home in the Twin Cities.  She is my absolute favorite person to shop with, because she loves antiques, lace, embroidery, muted colors... I don't know anyone else that will join me in enthusiastically digging through a rack of underpinnings of long-dead women, hoping to find something nice to wear.  When I came to visit her, I had no qualms about letting her pick the entire itinerary, and I was very pleased to be welcomed at the airport with: "So, I've planned a weekend of touring Victorian houses and conservatories and going to antique shops. Is that OK?"

Umm... YES!

I didn't know this about MSP, but there are some very fine Victorian houses in that city.  Whole streets of them, that are quite intact.  I didn't take many pictures: sometimes they weren't allowed, and I was busy catching up with my friend, but I took some where I was allowed and I'll supplement them with some Flickr and Instagram photos from people more talented than myself.

American Swedish Institute
Out of all the houses, I think I liked this one the best aesthetically.  It was done in lighter colors, and had a lot of pretty details, including a gorgeous 10-foot tall gilded mirror that I cannot find a picture of.  I also really liked the museum restaurant, FIKA, which served me salmon and rye bread with an excellent iced coffee.
Exterior of American Swedish Institute

The ballroom

Ballroom detail

The best living room ever, with a full gallery all around the second floor

Dining room

Dining room detail

The kitchen
Obviously, these are very ornate houses.  There's not much to draw from here, other than to stare in awe.  I think in houses like this, I am most drawn to the workspaces.  I love the marble-walled kitchen complete with marble window surrounds, with its cast iron shelf brackets and porcelain sinks.  I also think the kitchen light is lovely.  I want one!

 James J. Hill House
 This is the largest house in the Twin Cities.  It was built by a railroad baron, and it's huge and ornate.   There's lots of light though, because of the unbelievable amount of windows and some huge skylights which you can see over the porte cochere and over the roof on the righthand side of the picture below.  This house was unbelievable and ostentatious, with a pipe organ in the art gallery, a two-story pantry, and a palatial staircase.

The Grand Staircase with stained glass windows

Mr. Hill decided, rather than building a separate ballroom, that he would host large parties in the grand center hall

The dining room

Music room ceiling detail
Lace cutwork curtains

The Hill family

The gorgeous laundry room

Another shot of the laundry room.  Love the table and the marble walls, and the light aqua paint!

The Hill family also had a marble-walled kitchen

The best-ever pantry. Two stories!

Embossed paper wallpaper

The huge porch

Alexander Ramsey House
This house was extremely unique, because it was held in the same family for years until it was donated to the state to be used as a museum.  Because of that, ALL of the original furnishings as chosen by the family are still in place.  It's really a fantastic time capsule.  Absolutely no photos were allowed, so I've had to google everything for this house.  Fascinatingly enough, these old photos show almost exactly the same furnishings and arrangements that we saw on the tour.  Besides learning about the house, we also learned about the Victorian Gothic Novel in a fun, Halloween-themed tour.
The Alexander Ramsey House

The curved staircase in the front hall

Look at that beautiful marble fireplace!

The upper hallway with a gorgeous collection of landscape paintings

This room is so lovely.

This house had the most ornate, carved marble fireplaces.  They were absolutely gorgeous!  It makes me so excited to have our marble fireplace mantel installed in the living room.  I can't wait to see it!

All of these houses are so glamorous and evocative of the High Victorian era.  I'm posting them to remind myself of how pretty they were.  When looking at the Victorian era, I always think its best to not directly interpret. I tend to let the dark colors, tiny-print wallpaper, and oversized mahogany carvings lie in the past century.  However, I can think of some decor ideas that would evoke Victorian elegance in a timeless way.

Room 1:
Oil paintings of landscapes
White marble fireplace topped with a large mirror
Large oriental rug
Elaborate white plaster crown moldings on tall walls painted a pale neutral
Dark wood furniture with carved, thin legs

Room 2:
A huge French crystal chandelier 
A plaster ceiling medallion
Floor-sweeping ivory velvet curtains
Floor to ceiling wainscoting
Ceiling molding
An arrangement of bleached peacock feathers

Room 3:
Marble tiled floors and paneling
Grey painted walls
White porcelain
Ivory furnishings
Black cast iron handles and brackets
One large wooden piece for contrast and patina

Room 4:
Delicate lace cutwork curtains
Floor to ceiling glass-fronted cabinetry, filled with white linens and china
Black and white marble tile floors
Ornate, white-enameled radiators

Room 5:
Lush floral wallpaper
Glittering metal accessories (console sink, brass headboard, etc)
Linen skirted tables

Until Next Time!

P.S. As for what's going on in our actual house, we took a little break to spend time relaxing with each other.  Which, for us, usually means cooking nice dinners.  We made mushroom ravioli with homemade cream sauce, sweet potato gratin with a chiffonade of fresh sage, and crab legs and artichokes.  Tomorrow, our countertops come in, which I think will re-inspire us to finish up the kitchen!!

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