"Barny, I'm trying to write"
"I help" he said
Morse-Libby House, Portland ME
Italianate Style, 1860
Architect Henry Austin
To have license, as an individual member of a group at a reception, to roam around an historic house without benefit of docents is a real privilege, believe me, for not to have to listen to the irrelevant and worthless tales of the lives of original and subsequent homeowners is a blessing. Some like to listen to that, I find it a waste of time – give me a caption, a QR code or the like, dump the docents and I'd be happy as a pig in muck, as it were.
The Turkish smoking room has been fully restored and like all restorations cannot avoid a feeling of inaction – it is as if it awaits a layer of nicotine (many layers of which were removed in the restoration), an echo of male laughter, a glint of polished leather on a footstool, the glow of a cigar and the blue smoke layer swirling around the gasolier. So brightly lit was the electrified gasolier that evening it seemed someone really was trying to keep a ghost or two at bay. Romance aside, I was reminded that with gas lighting, the fire of diamonds was dulled and only returned with candlelight and, eventually, with electricity. I was glad I left mine in the vault.
Museum managers need to attract visitors to places and buildings so much in need of upkeep and repair that, inevitably, a decision has been made to attract income from anyone who will pay the entrance fee (I know I'm being simplistic but for the sake of argument, etc) but for those of us who know something of the interiors, furnishings and styles, and do not wish to listen to the kind of populist crap soliciting "oohs" and "ahas" from the gum-masticating congregation with which one finds oneself, the problem is avoiding it. I do tend to wander off and risk being taken to task for stepping out of line (always infuriating to someone) rather than not visiting the places.
The small dark rectangle towards the top of the left-hand panted panel is not a shadow but a remainder of the original scheme darkened by nicotine, dirt and time
The Pompeiian bathroom (restored) with its rebuilt "thunderbox" water closet and beautiful oilcloth (?) floor
I remarked to some people that much of what I saw in the house – the smoking room and the Pompeiian bathroom especially – brought to mind an English decorator called Geoffrey Bennison and was shocked to find no-one had heard of him. Tail between my legs, I went in search of Rory, found a discussion about religion instead, downed half a glass of white whine and was out of the door, husband on my arm, texting the dog-sitter, and headed to dinner. Over a glass of bourbon I nattered on, eventually reaching the conclusion that we all have our specialties and … faced with a plate of lobster and gnocchi none of it mattered anyway.
An effect of light I find so attractive and which the camera lens always resolves more clearly than my eyes allow
On my Instagram I remark that it took two World Wars and a Modernist coup in schools of architecture to almost wipe out this type of decoration – a gross oversimplification, I know, but Instagram is not a place for essays, blogs are.
A lovely trompe-l'œil cartouche, one of many, which I hope will be left in its faded, unrestored state