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Manitoba History No. 89

No. 89

War Memorials in Manitoba
in Manitoba

This Old Elevator
This Old

Abandoned Manitoba

Memorable Manitobans

Historic Sites of Manitoba
Historic Sites
of Manitoba

Manitoba History: A Future for Your Past: Decorating With History

by Dr. George R. Fuller
Department of Interior Design, University of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 7, Spring 1984

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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As exemplified by this Winnipeg family’s home, one can live with history in today’s home. Appropriately integrated into contemporary spaces, antiques and collectibles can bring your interior alive with meaningful associations and visual interest. To an interior designer, an interesting interior is one that reflects you, the occupant, through objects and furnishings that are meaningful to you. These items may have been collected by you personally, or by various members of your family before you. In most instances, these family treasures, in combination with your own “collectibles,” can be a viable part of your interior decor. They need not be set apart from the rest of your furnishings, like museum pieces, unless, of course, they are so fragile or of such great value they should be treated as such. Appropriately integrated into your interior, your own historic treasures, such as those illustrated in this Winnipeg family home, will make your immediate surroundings much more interesting and stimulating to live, entertain and work in.

Entry Hall.
Source: Dr. George Fuller

The treatment of the front entry hall immediately establishes the character of this home. A turn-of-the century side table with cabriole legs provides not only the usual flat surface required in a front hall, but also a display surface for small ornaments and a support for the old kerosene table lamp. The grouping of antiques is completed by the oval mirror with its naturalistically carved cresting. The use of a traditionally-inspired, plain painted dado with wallpaper above, complements these pieces while allowing the owner’s personal preference in colours and pattern to be expressed.

Living Room.
Source: Dr. George Fuller

The living room should have functional items indicating the desired degree of formality. Here the room is divided into three distinct areas, for conversation, music, and study. The larger pieces of furniture such as sofa and settee are simple in design and non-competitive with the antiques placed throughout the room. The period decorative accessories are grouped together, such as the plate collection on the far wall above the Queen Anne armchair at the secretary. The secretary is flanked on one side by a Victorian armchair in a Louis XVI revival and on the other with a fern planter on delicate spool-turned legs. Opposite this grouping is the music area, with another Victorian armchair in a similar style. The antiques are thus well balanced throughout the room, and generally reserved by their placement for the careful use of the owners.

Detail on Dining Room Buffet.
Source: Dr. George Fuller

The family room is usually a more informal space, with many possibilities for introducing interesting “conversation” pieces. Here old pieces have been pressed into other functional uses without losing their original essence or character. A pine commode washstand with projecting side towel bars serves as a side table between the transitional chair and wicker rocker, while a delicate cast-iron stove serves as an end table for the sofa.

Laundry Room Counter.
Source: Dr. George Fuller

Across the room, another small cast-iron stove acts again as an end table. The stone fireplace wall and ceiling beams complement the rustic character of this room. The projecting stove mantle provides a display shelf for an old Gothic style clock and an assortment of pewter plates and cups, all in keeping with the informality of the space.

The use of small decorative accessories can be just as important as large pieces in continuing the “collectible” theme through-out the house. In a dining room, one might display objects of interest associated with eating and entertaining. As illustrated, there are perhaps more family treasures of this nature kept and cherished than any other. The kitchen also allows for the introduction of interesting pieces, but they should be associated with the preparation of food and food storage.

Master Bedroom.
Source: Dr. George Fuller

Those collected items that are the most personal to you should be in your most personal spaces, such as the master bedroom. The character of the room may first be established by the use of a traditionally inspired design for the bed itself. A simplified four-poster bed with tall exposed simple posts and delicate lace canopy sets the theme. On the feature wall beyond, the owners have arranged a large collection of family portraits, mounted in a great variety of fascinating frames. Below are a variety of antique pieces appropriate to the room. The washstand with the high rear towel rack displays a complete set of pottery and other toiletry accessories. Other pieces add to the setting of intimacy and charm.

This Winnipeg family carried the collection theme into their garden area. Old items from the family farm ornament the garden shed, adding visual interest to what could have been a very mundane view.

Page revised: 27 October 2012

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