Thursday, May 17, 2012

Re-creating Home Decor c.1872

With construction of our "Shop Life" exhibit well underway, it's time to start thinking about interior design for the re-created home of John and Caroline Schneider. The Schneiders ran a German beer saloon at 97 Orchard Street and lived in a small apartment behind the commercial space. What did their home look like? Our Curator Pam Keech answers this question through the careful selection of paint, furnishings, and textiles for the space.

It's a bit more complicated than going to Home Depot to pick something pretty. As a first step, we worked with Jablonski Building Corporation to study the traces of interior finishes left behind in the building, in order to re-create them accurately. Tiny paint and wallpaper samples were examined under a microscope and dated, layer by layer, to gather the best possible information (we talk about this process on our "Exploring 97 Orchard Street" tour).

A photomicrograph of a paint sample

Because "Shop Life" will recreate the space as it appeared in 1872, we'll use paints that match the earliest found layers. For the back room, it's a light grayish olive colored base coat topped with a yellowish brown colored glaze.

Here's a peek at Pam's "finish schedule" for the kitchen and back room:

Pamela has also chosen a period-appropriate ingrain carpet and fabric for curtains. As was typical for the time, the building's wooden floors were intended to be covered with carpet. And curtains would have been essential for the Schneiders, since their ground-floor bedroom window looked out onto the building's backyard just a few feet from the privy stalls!

The black and red jacquard carpet and gold floral curtain fabric are a bold combination. "We didn't want to be too matchy-matchy," said Pamela, "It would be too precious."

Carpet and curtain fabric samples

We'll keep you updated as our design progresses for the "Shop Life" exhibit!

--Posted by Kira Garcia

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