Featured, Homes: Rich texture
Jim and Winnie Crowder have lived in their Tuscola Victorian Italianate for almost seven years.
Story: Bridget Broihahn
Photos: Rick Danzl
Jim and Winnie Crowder have lived in their Tuscola Victorian Italianate for almost seven years. They bought it in April 2011.
Winnie Crowder said that throughout its 140 year history many families have made this their home. Many modern conveniences have been added over the decades. Fortunately, some of the most beautiful features have been left alone such as the 10 foot ceilings, original banister and stairs, ornate door and window moldings, hard wood floors, and the arched windows with the original glass. It isn’t always easy to find the materials that you need to maintain the original character of a historic home. Sometimes it’s just a matter of “repair” rather than “replace.”
“Our home was built in 1876 and is Victorian Italianate in style. As much as possible, we try to preserve its historic appeal both on the exterior and interior. We choose colors and finishes that are appropriate for that era and that lend themselves to a historic home. The house is not listed on the Historic Register and the City of Tuscola does not have criteria for historic homes which gives us great flexibility,” she said.
It is more out of a sense of responsibility that the Crowders try to preserve the historic appeal of their home which is one of the oldest homes in Tuscola. Because it was built in 1876, which was the year of the centennial anniversary of the founding of America, and just 11 years after the end of the Civil War, they feel it has a special value in United States history as well.
“Following the terrible hail storm of 2014 that caused a lot of damage to our house and garage, we decided to change the exterior color to sage green. The house has always been white but we felt the architectural details of the trim were lost against the white siding. To us, the details of the trim of the two front porches are what make the house so unique. We love the new color and believe it remains true to the period and character of the home,” Crowder said.
It is a joy for them to prepare this grand house for the arrival of Christmas. It is a marvelous setting for festive garland with big velvet bows, twinkling white lights, and sparkling vintage mercury glass which they have used throughout the house.
“For the holidays and other times of the year, I think it is important to think about scale, repetition, and detail. Repetition in decorations can give you a really powerful impact,” she said. “We hung Victorian shaped pendant ornaments on the trim of the porches. Then we carried the theme inside with oversized mercury glass ornaments in different shapes suspended with ribbon from the bay window seat and the transom above the front door.”
Their living room is pretty large so they use a larger Christmas tree; anything shorter than a 9-foot tree would be lost.
“Fortunately, we have lots of ornaments because we’ve been collecting them for 20 years. Each year, we enjoy looking for “just the right one” to add to our collection. We like the Old World Christmas line of ornaments because of their vintage look and quality. If a tree is sparse and has “holes” in it, I like to fill them in with oversized decorations like one foot wide glitter snowflakes. I also bury plain glass ball ornaments deep in the tree to give color and depth,” Crowder said.
They also used larger tabletop pieces like the wood deer head on the buffet that is surrounded with seasonal greens and mercury glass balls. They carried the mercury glass to the mantel where they have tall silver mercury glass spires. On their dining room table, she stacks glass cake plates and mixes different colors and shapes of mercury glass votives with greenery mixed in.
“When the votives are lit the aura is so magical,” she said.
Crowder loves the rich textures that are so traditionally associated with Christmas.
“To make the entire room look festive I use pillows and table runners in rich velvet and silk. I have a collection of Christmas needlepoint pillows and the look wonderful mixed with red velvet and gold silk pillows. I even look for ribbon to decorate with that is rich velvet or sheer silk organza. These textures are elegant and have such an impact on the room,” she said.
The Crowders love nature and have used colors inside the house that are soothing and remind them of the outdoors.
“The color sage green is carried throughout the house – it is my favorite color and I never get tired of it. We started collecting Audubon bird prints several years ago and we have them in nearly every room. I think you can’t go wrong with botanicals and things taken from nature – they are inherently classic. We enjoy collecting antiques and vintage pieces and mixing them with pieces we inherited from our families,” Winnie Crowder said.
One of the most interesting things about their house was left behind years ago by a former resident. In 1925, 14-year-old Thelma Warren chose to pencil her name, age, and date on a wall in the foyer. At some point her inscription was covered with wallpaper and then uncovered years later – like a time capsule waiting to be discovered!
“We enjoy learning about our old house – it is a treasure trove of fascinating stories about the people who have lived here and also called this their home,” she said.