There are three rooms in this house of many rooms that I use as bedrooms. Not at the same time, of course. I’d be hard pressed to choose a ‘favorite’ among them. Take the summer bedroom as an example. It was, when I first came here, used year round. It had been two small rooms. A servant’s bedroom and a separate bathroom complete with a copper lined bathtub and running water piped in from the huge laundry room, now my dining room, immediately next to it. I took the wall down, saw the beauty of the space with light coming in from the three windows and said this room is mine. It has a very beautiful ceramic tile covered wood burning stove, pale grey with cream, pink and green dogwood embossed on it, Nancy tiny firebox and a dark green enamel stove pipe . For a short time there was also electric baseboard heating. The room is the shell pink color, walls and ceilings, that I’ve used in the living room. I had the one inch molding near the curved ten foot high ceiling painted in a Florentine gold that mimic a gold leaf perfectly. I wanted to keep this room simple and relatively unadorned but that took more restraint than this Connecticut Yankee could maintain (my personal style is too Connecticut to be borne) and so, bit by bit some pictures began to adorn the walls, some of sheep and, and some of my family. The linen drapes proved too tempting as well, and so I began, in a rash moment, to embroider a scene from one of the windows it covered, winter nights, sheep and two of the monumental pine trees that surround the house. It isn’t finished, of course, but what has been done is draped to its advantage to be seen day or evening. The grey and pink marble top on the stove holds some things I like to look at as well as the occasional bouquet of flowers. I had a window seat built along one wall. It is used, in part, as storage. It holds many of the feather beds I buy whenever I find them and blankets. I am a compulsive buyer of blankets. In its lid is a feather bed, jammed into a rose velour cover, high and puffy. A cozy thing on which to lie with a book. Attached on one side is a little ledge on which to perch a tea cup and a plate of cookies. I used to think I’d sit there and read in an afternoon. I did, a few times, even going so far as to say to myself, fifteen minutes is better than nothing. The far end of the window seat has another backrest of sorts, compiled of assorted blankets, appropriately sized sheets for that room, a towel or two, and is covered with a cream colored cashmere blanket. I did manage to leave one wall, the one next to the bed unadorned. For now. The bed, however, is. Adorned. The coverlet is an antique linen table cloth with white embroidery. The bed is narrow. Not as narrow as the captain’s bed in the winter bedroom, but narrow nonetheless. Sometimes there even is a lambskin rug on the floor. Best of all is my exquisite little art nouveau desk, rosewood, beautifully carved. Above it is an ivory and ebony framed miniature of a very perfect Edwardian lady. The interior of the desk is reserved for the most precious things in the house. To me, that is. A small jewelry box holds my favorite antique buttons. A thick stack of picture postcards that I bought in the Louvre. Several silk ribbons, black, dark green and wine. A small stack of out of print newsletters about making cheese that I’ve never wanted to mislay. And a folder in the drawer of pictures I’ve cut out of magazines of rooms I love to look at. There is a lady’s boudoir chair I bought at auction the first summer I was here. Now it is fashionably frayed, but had I the money I’d reupholster it. In velvet. This room can be cold. However, the most lovely of all things in the room are the three windows. Or, rather what can be seen from the three windows. Nighttime I’ve watched the moon, a sliver of a golden thing, move slowly across the one above the window seat. And sometimes have seen it set at the crest of a hill through the western most window. And counted in seconds the time it took to move from one pane to another. Sometimes an evening star will make its way across as well and I’ll count as well the time it takes to go from one to the next. The window boasts of the embroidered linen drape, they all have them, but only one has the sheep and pine trees, is brushed by a tall young ash tree or if it isn’t young, it was here when I came, it seems to be. It is wide enough when in leaf to completely obscure anything else beyond it. The leaves are in constant motion, varying shades of green. But afternoons, when the sun is on it, the leaves dance, gold, and sparkle, as if green leaves could sparkle but they do. Sometimes when I have been sick in bed I’ve taken great pleasure in watching those leaves in constant motion. Dancing to delight me, they are Dancing to delight me.
The white guest room is one in which I’ve only begun to sleep. It is bigger than the summer bedroom with the appearance of three windows as well. One, however, is a door, leading out to a lovely porch. I’d taken down a wall there as well. In this case I do not think the wall was original but installed by the people before me. The porch faces south. The other two windows reach from floor to ceiling. It used to be my daughter’s room and has a bigger bed than the other two bedrooms. I was able to restrain my hand in this room. I wanted it to be a very quiet calm place, with no distractions, visually or otherwise, and yet it asked of me that it not be austere. It isn’t. The curtains are flat, white lace panels. Stiffly starched white sheets are the drapes held back by gossamer ribbons threaded with gold. A white filigree and linen cloth covers the antique dark wood chest. A small round table by the window has white lace tablecloths in tiers and white coffee cups and a sever. A wing chair in doubtful condition is shrouded in a stiffly starched white sheet. The bed is painted white. In winter there is an enormous white down comforter on top of which is still another white linen table cloth on top of that. There are three small paintings between the windows by my favorite artist, Valerie Razavi. There are two large mirrors, one with an antique gold frame that is lined up opposite the windows to mirror them. The other, in a dark walnut frame with a touch of gold on the edge of the molding. They, in effect create windows on two of the walls that don’t have any. On the bureau is another confession of the influence of my Connecticut upbringing in my style of decorating, a ceramic basket in shades of mustard complete with three ceramic rabbits in black and white, sitting comfortably together looking into the room. The beauty of this calm and pretty place is also the view from the windows and open door. The moon favors rising on that side of the house and will give me, at times, the pleasure of seeing it, bright orange between the great pines in the south meadow in front of the house. There is a window seat on the porch where it is possible to sit sometimes and watch the sky in the mornings. Mist rolling up the valley, obscuring the surrounding hills, leaving me floating on an island far from land. The sun pours in though the windows and glass door and creates a warmth in this house which has an affinity for the cold. Sometimes the room above it and the one below are heated, and because of this southern exposure it can become one of the warmest in the house. This spring I’ve taken to sleeping there. The dawn’s first light slips over the hills surrounding the valley where I live and turns night gradually into day. This summer I’d awake a little after five and watch the subtleties of change. The peacefulness has kept me in bed. Sometimes until after six, when the burst of sun cresting the hill jars me into activity.
It is that burst of sunlight that is the most appealing thing about the winter bedroom. I had painted that room a very bright clear goldenrod yellow. The paint was never mixed properly and the walls became what was for awhile a fashionable stria. The first couple of years found me disconcerted by the streaks, however subtle, but I gradually came to love it. It was first designated to become a studio, this smallest of rooms in this house of many rooms. At least of those that are not service rooms. Its ceiling is ten and a half feet tall. It is in the wing where the summer bedroom is. As was the summer bedroom, it was also a servant’s room. One of four. Most of the part of the house that I live in is the servant’s wing. I stenciled a border of pears and their leaves at the place where the ceiling begins to curve. As the summer bedroom it was made of two parts. A hall and a room. I took the wall down from a hall to widen this room and to add a second window to it that was at the end of the hall. It is the most decorated in the whole house. Not by intention but by its own request. There is a large store table top that once must have been in a dairy that now sits on a frame. I had made from lilac branches, reincarnated as my desk. On it is a large clear glaze lamp that is embossed with cream colored leaves and a cream shade. When I bought it, it reminded me of lambs in my Aunt Katie’s sunroom in Connecticut. It has a rich lady’s aura about it. I was pleased to have this large work table on which to draw, sew, or write. It sits in front of two windows that each have a lace panel for a curtain and cream colored crewel embroidered drapes. Of course, seemingly unadorned space created its own temptation. And soon a little china ink pot from France in just the right shades of gold and red soon found its way there, next to a black toy bus I bought in London and a tiny metal silhouette figure of a man and woman at a table that I bought in France but was indeed from Germany. Folders in a beautiful glowing stack of colors assumed pride of place in one corner filled with clippings of things I couldn’t’ resist saving. Decorative tins, some containing knitting needles, others with sewing things began to crowd the tabletop. Black and red and green. A tin from Scottish shortbread and one from a single malt, and one from butter cookies, and one from her, my favorite shaped like the dearly familiar basket the little boy traditionally carries in all of their advertisements. There are pictures in ivory frames of my children, my dogs, my grandson, my sheep. Gradually there came to be no room for the sewing machine. Only room for the things I liked to look at. All of which needs to be dusted.
A chest painted the yellow of the room is unadorned. Unadorned that is except for its top, of course. Which is as well covered as there would be work table. I bought a curly maple high boy, a lovely piece, perfect except for a slightly damaged top. That called for a lace runner. Of which I have many in to be ironed baskets or needs be mended baskets. In this instance it was easier to restrain my hand. I had bought a lovely little French clock, brass, on thin metal legs. It filled the space perfectly. The space created by a wall behind it with a carefully arranged group of pictures, photographs, tiny mirrors. Looking at it from the bed – sometimes couch, everything is equal distance from each other, including the piece of magenta wrapping paper, pinned neatly to the wall. The tiny room is crowded with baskets of linens to be turned, my note books about the life here, small wooden boxes filled with magazines, a bamboo bookcase packed to capacity and propped up by an equally tall stack of books. Mostly from books, interestingly enough and all of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes mystery books.
There is a closet in this room, without a door but with shelves. In it are fabrics. Fabrics to remind me who I am and who I was. Tons of fabrics from a city spilling over into the country. Dreams. Dress fabrics for the perfect summer dress. Slip cover fabrics. Fabrics that may never be used. No matter.
There is a narrow bed against a wall. A captain’s bed. Or a hired man’s bed. I am both, of course. It is barely wide enough to turn around in. No room for the dogs. It is tightly made with Dick and Jane printed flannel sheets so it is like sleeping in a cocoon. There is a feather bed on top of the very skinny mattress under the flannel sheets. And when it is not covered, day time, with clean clothes and linens fresh from drying on the fence needing to be folded it is covered with a silk quilt, the exact color of the walls. A crystal clear yellow despite the windows facing an unblocked north wind, and the high ceiling, this remains to be the warmest room in the house, although I have woken up seeing my breath. It is tiny and right over the kitchen wood stove. If there is a possibility, even a remote one, to be warm at night it is in this very bright visually involving room.
But that is not the best thing about it. Although its aspect is north, it really faces north east. Winter morning, the sun cracks over the hill between seven and seven thirty. It lights the room through the lace panels on the windows and beside the crewel work drapes. It passes through the large glass base of the lamp ands casts both bright light and golden shadows on the yellow wall. I love to watch that wall as the shapes change perceptibly, as the world turns so rapidly on its rounds. They are different shapes every day, beginning and ending at a slightly different moment. It is lovely That is the reason it so pleases me to sleep in that room. The mornings.
The light in the summer bedroom is best at the end of the day. The late afternoon sun sings in the ash tree. The white bedroom is best throughout the day. A morning retreat with a cup of coffee. An afternoon nap with a book falling out of my hand. But this tiny, crowded, visually stimulating room is at its best when the day has just begun
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