This fall, it was time to update the exterior colors of our modest 1960′s ranch house in Western Massachusetts. I wanted a change from the neutral slightly silvery color stain that had been the original color. My choices were nature-inspired for the most part, as you can see from the photos I’ve taken of the foliage that’s around the house. The Pioneer Valley is really lovely year round, but the foliage colors in the fall are amazing.
I did some research on 1960′s house colors, and depending on when in the 60′s, there was a trend toward colors found in nature, so how could I resist? This particular palette is a bit Arts and Crafts meets 1960s’ or 70′s appliance colors meets the autumn woods in 2013.
Colors: Siding: In the foreground, Ben Moore Springfield Sage (510); Trim: Ben Moore Camouflage (2143-40); Doors (including brick in the breezeway): Ben Moore Georgian Brick (HC-50).
The house is rather-well hidden from the street, but here are my amateur photos of the finish colors on the house: starting with the view of the garage door from the driveway, walking along the path along the side of the garage, looking back toward the garage and then entering the breezeway to reach the front door. We have kept the original light fixture in the breezeway (not seen in the photos), the brick in the breezeway is also original (now painted the Georgian Brick color) and the doors and windows are all original, as well (except for the sliding glass doors off the front deck that can’t be seen). The cedar board and batten siding needed repair in a few areas, but is has held up well since 1964!
The breezeway can be dark, so I hope to add some additional lighting in the future, and perhaps a sky-light. I had the painters use the lighter trim color on the siding next to the front door, so at least the light that is available would reflect off that color more than on the medium green color of the rest of the siding.
What is it that attracts us to porches?!
Porches can be more protected and reflect the inside of a home…
… or more open and furnished with elements that can withstand more of the rigors of being outside …
or have furnishings that stand on their own and reflect the outside environment.
We find safety and comfort in that connection.
The example below is a reconstructed portico from Ancient Pompeii.
Whether we just sit on a vintage porch…
… or enjoy a modern version …
…or even sleep!
Sleeping porches were popular in the Victorian and Arts and Crafts periods (late 19th into the early 20th century). For example, just after the Civil War, American vacation homes had spaces for sleeping outdoors. Even as the 19th century was coming to a close, into the beginning of the 20th century (as late as 1925) homeowners requested that in new construction or as an addition to an existing home, builders add porches for sleeping, for cooler nights during the summer and for the healthiness of being in the fresh air.
However, it was only in the 20th century, with advancing technology, that air conditioning (which first became widespread in homes after World War II) and television were both reasons for home-owners to stay inside. The emphasis on uniform temperature inside, regardless of seasonal changes outside has become the norm, even in areas where the changes of the season do not cause enormous temperature variations.
And here we are in the 21st century and, in fact, what we think of as “outdoor rooms” have become increasingly popular again. And as we move into Fall, in New England, we savor porches and other outdoor spaces that reflect or are decorated in late summer and fall colors.
Spring renewal means that soon, in New England, we’ll start to see those young shoots of the first plants that make an appearance after winter and we’ll see buds on the early blooming trees and bushes. It also means spring cleaning; getting rid of the dirt and debris that always seems to hang on as winter leaves.
A quick look on the internet, under the topic of “Spring Cleaning” lists a number of influences, ranging from living in cold climates before the technology of the washer and dryer, thus needing to hang recently washed household furnishings outside, to the religious and cultural, including during the Jewish celebration of Passover, which falls in the spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-origins-of-spring-cleaning.htm)
My mother was in the secular camp when it came to spring cleaning; it was all about the time of year and the need to open the windows and literally wash away the winter grime on every surface, including windows and walls. Everyone in the family had to participate and every drape, bedspread and blanket was washed and hung out!
When I married into a Jewish family, and started celebrating Passover, I learned about the religious and cultural reasons in Judaism for spring cleaning.
Part of the observance of Passover requires a thorough cleaning of the home to be rid of all leavened grain products (chametz), and only consuming unleavened grains (mostly matzoh) for the 7 or 8-day period of Passover in part to remember the speed with which the Jews needed to leave Egypt (and their leavened bread and other foods) after many generations of being enslaved. http://www.jewfaq.org/holidays.htm
“Preparations for Passover begin typically a month before the holiday commences, with traditional Jews emptying their homes of the five Biblical grains (rye, oats, wheat, barley, and spelt), as well as any foods derived from those grains. Additionally, Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern European origin) remove a separate additional class of foods called kitniyot, including corn, peas, beans, and rice. The idea is to remove anything that rises, recalling that the Jews left Egypt in haste and their bread did not rise, leaving them with flat (and very difficult to digest!) Matzoh. The grains used in Matzoh are monitored very closely so that they do not bake long enough to rise fully.”
My favorite comment from this blog post, as it continues:
“The spring cleaning preceding Passover involves not only cleaning your living spaces, but also your mind, as you examine what “enslaves” you in your daily dealings emotionally as well as what can get filled with hot air and puffs up in your pantry.”
What else is holding you back? I think spring is a great time to reassess your home’s interior, not just from a cleanliness perspective, but from an interior design perspective, too. Before making any changes in your interior environment, ask lots of questions! Collect images of rooms and furnishings that inspire you – you can do that on-line, using Pinterest Boards, for example, or do it the old fashioned way, and have a hard-copy file of images.
Sometimes, just asking questions will start you on the journey to a more authentic environment; here are some questions to begin…,and add questions of your own!
What are you holding onto, that you want to let go? What do you want to embrace?
Do you come home from a hard day at work, to sit in an uncomfortable chair? Can you relax in your home?
Do you have art work that you inherited that you just don’t like, but keep anyway? This is not about running out and just buying new things, it’s really about taking stock of what you really want to surround you in your life.
What do you really want to keep and what can you sell, give away or otherwise remove from your home that doesn’t speak to you about your life and who you are?
Can you showcase your favorite collection in a way that makes you smile every time you walk by it?
Does your space meet the needs of all your family members?
It’s about making choices and really examining how you want to feel in your own environment. Don’t hesitate to contact design professionals for help; often having professional help is more cost-effective and certainly less frustrating than repeatedly trying to address design problems that are not in your field of expertise.
Do you feel comfortable with many objects surrounding you?
Do you enjoy collecting and collections?
Do you prefer the minimalist approach?
Do you prefer more traditional furnishings styles?
Or something eclectic?
Do you like embellishment?
Do you like saturated colors? Is color important in how you express yourself?
Or something more subdued?
Do you like to bring the outside in?
Nothing like something (somethings!) from nature to inspire design thoughts…. I enjoy working with colors that range from subtle and muted to vibrant and bright; nature so often does a great job of mixing both!
In New England, 2012-2013 has been a more traditional winter than last year’s. Snow and colder temperatures arrived as they typically do for the winter, and now we still feel like it’s winter in March. No question, spring will arrive, (and it has officially) but along with many other folks, I wanted to jump start the end of winter and welcome spring with a visit to the Lyman Plant House at Smith College in Northampton last weekend for their annual spring bulb show.
I visited the show on the last weekend it was running, so some of the blooms were starting to fade, but my trusty iPhone and I couldn’t resist capturing the wonderful colors!
From an article on Mass Live on February 22 (www.masslive.com):
“This spring’s event features 3,000 tulips, 1,500 narcissus, 400 hyacinths, and 2,000 other bulbs such as crocus, iris and freesia, all purchased primarily from a Connecticut importer who gets them from the Netherlands.
By the time the show arrives, ‘everybody is desperate for spring,’ (commented) Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden on the Northampton campus.
‘And it’s not just the color of the flowers. You walk into these greenhouses and the fragrance is just amazing,’ she said.
‘We don’t realize how we’re really lacking fragrance outdoors at this time of year.’”
My husband, Bill and I visited the Vanderbilts’ Biltmore Estate last November. I wrote about the house and its interiors in a previous post; here are some of my own photos along with other images, showing the magnificent grounds and gardens at different times of the year.
More from the Arboretum (from the Shrub and Spring Garden areas):
From http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/biltmore.html: ”The final touch that Olmsted added was a lake, called Bass Pond. He added two islands in the lake to add to the scenic value. It also added a private place, which pleased Vanderbilt.”
Frederick Law Olmstead, the great American landscape architect, was the designer of the grounds, and determined the site for the house, as well. Olmstead first visited the 120,000 acre site for the Biltmore in August of 1888, with George Vanderbilt, when Olmstead was 66 years old. In Witold Rybczynski’s wonderful book, “A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmstead and America in the 19th Century,” (http://www.witoldrybczynski.com/other-books/) quoted Olmstead’s proposal to Vanderbilt of how to tackle the landscape of the immense estate (page 380): “‘My advice would be to make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and gardens; farm your river bottoms chiefly to keep and fatten livestock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing roads and planting the old fields.’” Olmstead produced a 36-page report detailing the main landscape components of the estate.
A map of the gardens at the Biltmore is below; as you can see there are a number of different gardens and trails and water features; I will be highlighting just a few of the areas:
“The last great project that Olmsted was involved with was the laying out of George Vanderbilt’s 120,000 acre Biltmore Estate near Asheville North Carolina….”
“He stated that the land would be better suited to have a grand garden area close to the house, and have the majestic views beyond it with 80,000 acres of the land being turned into a grand Forest, which became the basis for the Pisgah National Forest. Olmsted also designed and built a 9 mile arboretum that wound from the house to the French Broad river and back up to the house….”
A small section of the three-mile approach road to the Biltmore Estate, including indigenous, as well as more exotic plant varieties:
The Italian Garden, with three reflecting pools is to the left of the house, when you approach it from the front.
Some summer images of the Italian Garden:
The Conservatory, surrounded by the Walled Garden, is to the left of the Italian Garden, when approaching the front of the house; the Walled Garden and Conservatory are full of ornamental plantings.
Images of the Walled Garden and the Conservatory (closer to the house are the Italian Gardens), taken in the 1950′s:
Recent summer images of the Walled Garden’s plantings, with the Conservatory seen in the distance:
November images from the Walled Garden:
And, the Conservatory:
And inside the conservatory, during our trip in November, the staff had just “decorated” for Christmas:
Olmstead, in addition, encouraged Vanderbilt to consider managing the forested land, (from
“‘Much of the land that Vanderbilt purchased for Biltmore had been cleared for farming and timber. Olmsted prepared instructions and trained foremen to improve the existing patches of woodland by removing poorly formed and damaged trees, thus giving the best trees more room to grow. He also began reforesting eroded and worn out farmland and by 1891 had planted 300 acres with white pine. He carefully documented his work, writing a report in 1889 titled, Project of Operations for Improving the Forest of Biltmore. This may be one of the earliest forest management prescriptions in the United States.”
Ultimately, the Vanderbilts couldn’t afford to maintain all the 100,000 acres of forest land;
“…Edith Vanderbilt sold approximately 86,700 acres of the estate’s forested mountain land—known as Pisgah Forest—to the federal government on May 21, 1914, to form the beginning of Pisgah National Forest. In 1968, sixty-five hundred acres of Pisgah was designated as The Cradle of Forestry in America by an act of Congress and thousands now visit the restored Biltmore Forest School campus annually.” (biltmore.com)