by Pat Stelzer
Ever wish bright ideas would filter in and make a decorating difference in your home? Most everyone one does, but sometimes it’s hard to know what fits and what appeals to the soul. Why not look before leaping into a decorating scheme? Visiting a place that has a particular style, dedicated to a special time period or group of people, is one of the best ways to judge what feels right. Having spent a great weekend at one such place, it’s an idea I’d like to share for those interested in Colonial styles.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, is just such a place. This living museum holds so much more than information for the history buff. All of the homes in the restored village have been done in styles and colors dating from the 1700s through the early 1800s. They accurately recreate life as it was lived in the years just prior to the Revolution, the work done by skilled craftsmen following the plans and methods used in Colonial and Early or post-Revolutionary America. Even the inns (restaurants) feature furniture and décor that were prevalent in the time period, as well as serving food that has its origins all those years ago. Strolling through the streets, it is possible to see signs for stores and tradespeople, reproductions of those originally used two centuries ago.
Homes range from those belonging to the wealthy to those of the middle and working class, including the Public Gaoler’s family quarters. The homes of George Wythe and Peyton Randolph, both quite prominent citizens, are strikingly simple. The interiors of the two-story homes are tastefully decorated, but not overdone. The bar-keeper’s quarters and guest accommodations at Raleigh Tavern are a little more Spartan, just as the Governor’s palace is just a bit more luxurious. It is also possible to get ideas for exterior decorating just by taking note of the variety of fences, garden plans and trims used around and on the homes.
One of the best ways to judge if something fits, is to try it on before buying. The same is true with home decorating. “Try on” a particular style before taking it home. The best way to do that is visit a place where care has been taken to keep the faith, keep authenticity. Another option is to visit electronically, using the internet, but visit in person if you can. (www.colonialwilliamsburg.com) Other places around the country offer the same inspiration. Places like Pleasant Hill, Lebanon, Galena. But more on these later.