Award-winning author E. F. Watkins specializes in paranormal mystery and suspense. She’s also a founding member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers. Today she’s here to discuss decorating with us. Seem like an odd combination? Read on. Learn more about E. F. at her website and more about Dark Music here. -- AP
Quinn Matthews, the heroine/sleuth of my new paranormal mystery Dark Music, writes about architecture and interior design for a living. She buys the Victorian house of her dreams in a quiet New Jersey suburb, only to discover it is haunted. The ghosts awaken latent psychic abilities Quinn didn't know she possessed, turn her life upside down and even thwart her attempts to sell the place. The only way she can lay them to rest is to solve a 100-year-old crime—the murder of the house's first owner, whose love life was far from "Victorian"!
All of this should be enough to keep any single 30-something busy, but Quinn graciously has taken time out from both her journalistic career and her sideline as a psychic sleuth to offer a few tips on decorating a 19th-century house on a slim budget:
The basic care and feeding of a Victorian home can strain anyone's finances, before you even think of furnishing it to suit the period. Good antiques from more than 100 years ago don't come cheap! If you weren't lucky enough to find a stash of these in your attic, here are a few ways to “cheat” with style:
* Scour vintage shops for pieces from the 1940s, which often had a neo-Victorian look. You should be able to find plenty of solid wooden furniture with curves, carving, inlay and other ornate touches. The pieces may be a bit more simplified than high Victorian, but that just makes them easier to dust—and much cheaper!
* If you love the lines of a piece but not the finish, you can strip it and refinish it—which calls for some real skill and elbow grease—or you can just prime and paint it. For the "shabby chic" effect, paint it white or a light pastel shade, change the knobs to cut-glass or flowered ceramic, and maybe add an old-fashioned floral decal in a key spot.
* Want the effect of dramatic Victorian wall treatments without spending a lot on wallpaper? Get a deep wallpaper border in a style you like, apply it near the ceiling and paint the rest of the wall to coordinate. Rich shades like rose, rust and gold are true to the period, though you may want to go lighter if your rooms are small.
* Intact throw pillows from 100 years ago are hard to come by, so try 1940s barkcloth in a romantic floral. The full drapery panels can be pricey, but all you need for a pillow or two is a remnant. Center a partial landscape or big burst of flowers on a round or square pillow form, and trim it in satiny braid or fringe for a Victorian look.
* If you like to needlepoint or crochet, you can make your own pillow covers in Victorian styles. Sometimes you can find an old needlepointed pillow “front” among the linens in an antique shop—just use a sturdy, solid-colored cotton or velvet for the back. Tack an old, crocheted doily onto a plain or calico pillow to give it that turn-of-the-century look.
* Have any old photos of your ancestors from that period? Display them—or copies if the originals are too frail—in antique or antique-looking frames. They'll add a touch of your own, personal past to your decor.
* Found a battered old trunk in the basement or attic? Clean it up yourself, or let a professional restore it, then display it as a coffee table or a funky storage piece. Finally, be sure to hang onto any contents of the trunk—such as period clothing, keys, a scrapbook or a journal—that provide clues to the history of your house. They might come in handy, just in case it turns out to be haunted! (Trust me on this…)
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