Daily Archives: March 15, 2012

Double Parlors

We’re repainting our double parlor, finally.  For years friends have been telling me to go darker, to highlight the serious moldings in these rooms. It’s painted a very subtle blush pink now, but it just looks like a rather shabby off-white in the pictures below. And it looks cold. Clearly it’s time to paint: I’ve taken down all the pictures and removed all the moveable stuff, now out with the rugs, the couches and the mirrors–Moneypenny will stay on the radiator for as long as she possibly can. We haven’t quite decided on the exact color yet:  I really like Rundlett Peach from California Paints Historic Colors of America, while my husband is leaning toward something a bit more something with a bit more orange, or perhaps a warm grey (is there such a thing?) or something “buffy”. We tried a rather vibrant persimmon last year and realized we could not live with quite that much color in these rooms. Any suggestions would be welcome; there’s a lot of prep work to do so we have a few days to decide. The double parlor is really one large room separated by pocket doors which we rarely close; while it is a large area it is always rather dark, as our house is north-facing.  The matching grey marble mantles are the other consideration; obviously we want a color that complements them. Here’s a few pictures of the space now.

There are “fake doors” in both the front and rear parlors for symmetry, which is very Greek Revival.

After painting, lighting.  I’ve never really liked the fixture in the rear parlor, and what you are seeing above is a cap where a gas fixture once was so we need some wiring in the front parlor.

It’s fun to turn your house (and your cat) into a pencil sketch!

While looking around for some inspiration and colors for my double parlor, I kept coming across images of the Greek Revival house in Brooklyn Heights where Truman Capote lived when he wrote In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. No doubt Google was directing me there because I was searching for “Greek Revival Double Parlors” and this house is a Greek Revival with several parlors (I don’t think they are contiguous) but also because this house has recently been in the news for setting the sales record for a single-family home in Brooklyn: $12 million (though the asking price was $18 million–sign of the times). The house looks stunning even though it has a bit of an ’80s ambiance (1980s not 1880s, though neither is good); it has a lovely enclosed garden in back and the colors of its parlors are close to what I want for mine, although I think I need a warmer, slightly rosier color than that pictured below. I must admit that I like my softer grey mantles better.

I think both Federal and Greek Revival houses are quite adaptable to a range of furnishings. You can go very period if you like, or in a more contemporary direction, or mix it up (my preference), and it all seems to work in these spare, classical spaces. I love looking in my Richard Jenrette books, but that kind of grandeur is unattainable. House museums like the Merchants House in New York City are fun to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. On the other hand, the parlor in cosmetics scion Aerin Lauder’s Greek Revival country house in the Hamptons is a bit too modern for me (although that orange might be just what my husband wants).

Richard Jenrette’s great book, followed up by More Adventures with Old Houses, which focuses on Edgewater, his amazing Greek Revival estate on the Hudson River, the front parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum in NYC, and Aerin Lauder’s Hamptons living room photographed for Elle Decor.

I think the warmer, traditional yet updated look that appeals to me the most is well represented by the double parlor of an 1838 Nantucket house designed by Thomas Jayne Design Studio for clients “who were committed to adapting to the historic architecture of their home rather than altering it to fit contemporary tastes”.  A lovely attitude and a lovely room.

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