Though it was not a conscious plan, I've added a number of different red decorative elements to my room over the years. The result is a richer, more tonal effect than I would have achieved with one shade — or texture — of red. I've also layered objects that draw the eye away from the walls making the red function as a neutral background color. Like the furniture, most of the objects in the room have a story and a history unique to me. They are decorative, but never mere decoration.
I've included the shot above as a reminder of the layout of my red room (or at least the east and south walls). The wall above the desk is covered with art. My initial impulse was that all the images would be garden related, since I already owned a Beatrice Parsons watercolor of a garden path as well as a long color etching of views of a garden.
Over time the collection has grown more eclectic and includes everything from a photo (printed by my sister from a glass plate) of an American Indian couple at a 19th century world's fair to a 1950's magazine ad that was a gift ("I dreamed I was a lady editor in my Maidenform bra!") to a Japanese print I bought in San Francisco during my student travels, and a tiny brooch sporting a scene right out of the Italian Renaissance. I found it at my favorite Door County gallery in the years when Mark was showing his work there.
I have an array of textiles that rotate in and out of this room: contemporary pillows in red felt and suede and a rectangular one made from a felt banner from Mark's high school, paisley shawls, and a pair of antique patchwork pillows (one is visible in the photo). Among my favorites is this needlepoint pillow I made as a wedding present for Mark. The design is based on one of his woodcuts, which in turn is based on a photo from the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The embroidered textile draped over the back of the chair is an Indian head covering for a donkey — the holes are for the ears! We found it many years ago on a drive in the country where we discovered a 1903 hay barn converted into a multi-floored, multi-cultural shop.
I mooned and swooned over this 19th century Spirit House for a couple of years until one day Mark decided that if I liked it that much, I could have it as a birthday splurge. The central display niches have hand-painted details on the rear walls; and the spaces behind the grillwork contain tiny vases with hydrangeas. There are pairs of working drawers and doors behind which I store jewelry. On the top of the house sit two pairs of twins: carved wood figures from Tanzania and Ecuadorian Shigras (bags), made by looping yarn spun from fibers of the Cabuya (Agave) plant.
This little origami couple come out for Valentine's Day. If you look closely (click to enlarge any photo), you can see that the woman is held in the man's embrace. But she can also be removed from his arms to stand on her own. They were made by local artist and quilter extraordinaire, Rumi O'Brien. She rarely makes anything for sale anymore, so I feel fortunate to have had a chance to purchase some of her origami work and small textile items.
The objects with the highest sheen are these lacquered boxes, providing essential storage for small items. I love their glossy good looks and their Crate & Barrel price tag. They hold more jewelry and a collection of holy cards and obituary notices of friends and family, including both my parents.
The location of these boxes amidst antiques — the Spirit House, the gilded English mirror and my grandmother's beaded bag from the 1920's — belie their mass market origins. People just assume they are the same quality as the surrounding objects.
I used to use the top of the black bookcase as a display surface — until it became the resting place for the Spirit House. I switched to playing with objects on top of my china cabinet which is located on the wall opposite the window. There's less room but it still allows me to bring out favorite items seasonally, as in this Christmas display above and the row of Persephone books and other gray-blue items below.
But most of the time, the top of the china cabinet is the home to more mundane and utilitarian collections, like my eternal TBR pile of books — glitzed up with a crown.
The china cabinet is actually used to hold china — dishes that I've collected over the years as well as those that belonged to my mother and her mother. It's also home to a few wedding presents and Mark's much-dented silver baby cup. One shelf displays the tea cups that were featured in this month's GBBD post.