We all think we’d like to live in one of those mansions. I know several people who bought one and tried to restore it. They acquired them with the best of intentions. They saw in their minds glorious images of perfectly finished wood paneling and ceiling beams with miniature gargoyles and carved balustrades in the hallways.
Gleaming wood floors and a kitchen big enough to run a restaurant with a dining room to match.
Despite those dreams, everyone ultimately gave up. The reality was too expensive. Every piece of every part that needed repair was too expensive and many parts had to be bought from places that collect parts of fallen down buildings and sell them to would-be restorers. It was just too much house and in due time, they moved on.
One couple actually finished the job. The house was magnificent. Then, they went bankrupt.
These are wonderful homes. Big rooms with plenty of light from windows much taller than me. High, airy ceilings, hand carvings, and stunning hand-carved wood interior decorations. But with those beautiful parts came rooves that were incredibly expensive to repair and early 1900s wiring never designed for modern appliances. Plus primitive plumbing that needed to be completely redone.
Those gigantic rooms and 12-foot ceilings made the homes much more expensive to heat than a “normal” house. Everything that made the house beautiful also made it a problem for a modern homeowner. Most particularly, the sheer size and lack of insulation in these houses as well as the lack of modern infrastructure.
These homes were designed to house large families with lots of children and probably two or three generations from babies to great granddad. And maybe the odd aunt or cousin, too.
Did I mention that they don’t have closets? What they considered a closet, we would call a “tie rack.” Because most people had a set of fancy clothing, an outfit for Sunday church-going, and work clothing. They didn’t need the amount of storage we’re used to.
In the real world, as we get older we realize we don’t need a 3-story house with 8 bedrooms and only one bathroom. We’d be fine with a single-story house, two bedrooms with one and a half baths. And hefty closets.
Luxury? How about a small fireplace and a fenced yard for the dogs?
In my middle years, I yearned for large and open. With tall windows. Oh, those windows!
For a brief time, I owned a one-fifth of a Victorian. It was a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of a much bigger house. By the time I bought it, the house had been broken up into five apartments — four in the main house and an even bigger one on what would have been the attic level. My piece was not huge by square footage, but it felt bigger than it was
It was elegant with twelve-foot ceilings and polished elm flooring. It cost me almost a thousand dollars to have simple cotton curtains made for the windows. Not fancy drapes, mind you. Just enough to cover those 7-foot windows.
My apartment was on the first floor and was not in the country. You had to have window coverings. I lived there for less than a year and then Garry and I got married. The apartment only had one small bathroom with no room for another. Garry and I can share many things, but NOT one bathroom.
NO closets. Well, in theory, the bedroom had a shallow closet good for hanging a bathrobe, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Real Victorian houses in their time never stored much. Whatever they own was on display. The rooms were huge, but there was no room to move in them. They were unbelievably cluttered with lamps, vases, statuary, knick-knacks, pottery wildlife and often, many dogs. You had to be a ballet dancer to not knock over the breakables — and it was ALL breakable.
Pre-plastic, everything was fragile although often surprisingly ugly.
We tried to buy the other (empty) apartment across the hall, but the condo association got confused by the concept. I don’t know why because combining two condos is not such an unusual thing and wasn’t even 30 years ago, but they got all fluttery about it. We gave up and moved elsewhere. I rented it out for a couple of years, then I went bankrupt.
No one wanted the apartment. At that particular time, this area was unsaleable and had gone far downhill. The GE plant had left with its jobs and the drug dealers had moved in. The bank canceled the mortgage and but I kept the place. I gave it to my son who lived in it with his wife and my granddaughter until finally, he passed it along to an ailing friend who completely remodeled it. It’s gorgeous and looks just the way I’d have done it if I’d had the money.
Many of these glorious “painted ladies” have been broken into pieces for condos. It’s probably the only way to maintain them. At least that keeps them as one building because otherwise, they end up falling down to make room for more sensible housing.
These are houses to dream about and for which we yearn. If you are wealthy, you can fix them up and live there, but you need some pretty big money to make them livable and it takes years to bring them up to reasonably modern living standards. Not only hundreds of thousands of dollars but a lot of patience. It helps if you don’t have to live in them while they’re being remodeled — if you want to come out of your reconstruction sane.
At this point, I can’t imagine dealing with so much room. I can barely take care of this house which is less than half the size of one of those Victorians — not counting their basement and attic sections. For most of us, Victorian homes exist to admire. Otherwise, they are the highest maintenance houses ever built with far too many stairways and an awful lot of glass.
When my rare moments of yearning come to me, I watch “Meet Me In St. Louis.” That makes me feel better and I can sing along, too.
Whenever my daughter, Sarah, comes to visit from LA, we always take a trip down memory lane together – in my jewelry drawers. I used to have all the jewelry I kept from my grandmother and my mom and my earlier years in shoe boxes and Tupperware containers that were stashed away in a closet. Then one year Sarah decided that we should organize all the old jewelry and display it in easy to access drawers, which we did. We discovered many pieces that I can still wear and those got transferred into my personal jewelry collection.
Now every year, Sarah and I go through our neatly organized drawers, reminiscing and trying on pieces of our family history. Here is a sampling of our favorite ‘historical’ treasures.
The two necklaces below belonged to my grandmother and I believe came with her to the US from Russia around 1908. I remember her wearing the one on the right and I always felt that they had a ‘European’ look to them.
My grandmother’s primary, go to piece of jewelry was the pin. She never wore earrings, bracelets or rings. But she wore pins in may ways, like at her neck with a high collared dress, to hold a scarf in place (she loved scarves) and on her chest, on their own. She was very conservative in her taste but liked good quality, well designed pieces.
These were Grandma’s dressier, more classic pins.
These were Grandma’s more colorful, more ‘artsy’ pins.
In the ‘olden’ days, no woman’s wardrobe was complete without a collection of pearl necklaces. Below is Grandma’s three strand, ‘evening’ pearl necklace but she also had single and double strands of varying sizes.
Now onto my mother, who was born in 1916 and started her jewelry collection around the 1930s, as a teenager. Her early pieces were primarily Bohemian in style, with many Beaus Arts/Art Deco touches. Her style changed dramatically as she got older and she later favored large, bold, ‘funkier’ statement pieces. So looking back at her early collection is always odd for me because I never knew the woman who would wear these pieces.
I have worn all of these necklaces, and I wore the center one often, for many years.
The smaller, inside piece was one of my favorites and I wore it for many years. The stones are all different colors and one has always been missing.
My mother’s style-evolution can be seen, to some extent, in her two wedding rings. She married her first husband in 1936 with a small but interesting band. The wedding ring she wore after she married my father, in 1949, was big and flashy and not really a wedding band at all. She had a large collection of big rings which I gave to her friends when she died because neither Sarah nor I wanted to wear anything that big.
The mother I remember, and the grandmother Sarah knew, loved chunky, big necklaces. She was short but very busty and broad-shouldered, so she wanted her chest to make a style statement. It’s hard to tell how big her pieces actually were since I gave away the bigger ones to her friends after she died.
The green and gold piece below is only HALF of a two-tiered necklace that I deconstructed because I couldn’t wear it in its original state. The second tier was also gold balls with green stones, so you can imagine how bulky it was. Even as it is, it’s a bit too large for me but I do wear it every once in a while. I mostly keep it for sentimental reasons.
My mother rarely bought any ‘real’ jewelry because she favored the larger costume pieces. But she did like sparkle for the evening, so she had some crystal/glass pieces in her wardrobe for dressing to the nines, which people often did in the fifties and sixties. She wore ‘evening’ clothes, often long dresses, at least once or twice a month. As a child, I used to love helping her decide what clothes and jewelry to wear when she went out at night. Maybe that’s why I’m so attached to her jewelry.
This was one of Mom’s dressier pieces reserved for a fancy evening gown.
This was a more casual but dramatic look, also for evening wear.
In her later years, I introduced my mom to the Craft Show and she ended up buying a lot of her costume jewelry there. At that point, our tastes had grown together and we both liked interesting, unusual, pieces that people would notice and comment on. So often she and I would buy from some of the same craft artists. The glass jewelry below is an example of something we both bought and wore. She bought the necklaces but I wear them now. The earrings are mine because she never pierced her ears.
My mother only wore clip on earrings and I couldn’t tolerate clips, so I gave away all of her earrings, which were as big and full of personality as all her other jewelry. I did keep one pair though because it was one of the last pieces of jewelry that I bought for her and because it represents the bright, fun, spunky spirit that characterized her and endeared her to everyone who knew her.
Why do you take pictures? What makes you pick up your camera? Is it just the beauty of the scene? Or the smile on someone’s face?
I’m sure it is different for each of us, but this morning, I remembered what it is for me. Because even before I turned on the coffee machine, I grabbed my camera. The light was coming through the window and the Dutch door and I saw something. I remembered abruptly that this is what always grabs me. I take pictures of my granddaughter, my dogs, friends just like everyone else. You don’t need a degree in photography to take a snapshot.
Spectacular scenery is inevitable. Like any photographer, I’m going to try to grab it because I’m a sucker for a pretty picture. But that’s not it. In the final analysis, it’s the light. The color, the subtlety, the flare, the radiance.
It has always been about light. My very first roll of film, in black and white, about half the pictures were of light coming through trees. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to show just how light filters through leaves or the way it shines through a window. Reflected light on water or wet sand. The sun as it rises or sets. I love the subtleties, the minute by minute changes of color of the sky.
That’s why I almost never raise the saturation level in a photograph. I’m looking for delicate shadings and subtle colors. I don’t want everything more vivid. I am more likely to turn the color and contrast down than to push it up.
The changing colors of the light through the seasons: golden in autumn, nearly white in winter and how these annual color shifts change the way the world looks. Ephemeral, fleeting, soft. I love shadow, the brother of light and how these change with the time of day and the seasons. I can watch for hours the changing colors of the sky while the sun moves across until it finally sinks below the horizon to full dark.
Have you ever watched the sunset from the late afternoon until full dark? The light lingers even after the sun is below the horizon. The further north you are, the longer the sky stays light. Everyone shoots brilliant sunsets or sunrises. I favor sunrises, but I realize that may have something to do with living on the east coast.
Facing east makes sunrise more accessible. Yet even the most ordinary dawn or dusk contains its own beauty. It’s harder to capture it. Brilliant color is easy compared to incremental pastels. You don’t get nearly as many “oohs” and “aahs” from a photo composed of softer pastels.
I’m fascinated by the way shadows shift as the day ages. All the colors of the world change as the sun sinks and we move into artificial light — street lamps, candles, neon signs — each have their own spectrum and effects.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.