Wallpaper and Romance Novels
Yes, I am actually writing an entire blog post about wallpaper. WALLPAPER PEOPLE. OK don't worry its not really about the wallpaper.
Before you read on, please note: I am by no means an expert. Please read with the understanding that I have begun my historically-accurate-information journey recently, and only glean my information from books I have read, websites I have spent time on, people I have talked to only in the last year and a half. If you read something below and think " 'GASP' she is doing it wrong, has no idea what she is doing!" You might be more right than I would hope to admit. Please feel free to correct me in the comments, but for my own sake - be gentle! On that same note: I feel pretty confident in my process. While I am no expert, I do feel more educated in this than many, and I have learned that in the B&B world - I need to be a perfectionist about it more for myself than for anyone else (future blog post about what I learned from staying in other B&Bs and how it made me relax a little bit).
So this winter we hired a contractor to remodel four of our bathrooms at the Inn. If you are curious - we are remodeling all of the bathrooms in what we call the "West Wing" of the house - those rooms are: The Madame LaFramboise, The Lafayette Davis (which is getting all sorts of redecorating), The John Jacob Astor, and The Constance Fenimore Woolson. The fun part about this is that I get to pick out new sinks, showers, toilets, light fixtures, etc. and someone else does the hard part to put all of that together into a bright-shiny-new bathroom. Almost all aspects of this have been moderately easy - House of Antique Hardware is great for light fixtures, and bathroom appliances I was given only a few choices anyway so it was easy to narrow down what I liked for the Inn. The last piece of my interior-design-fun-puzzle was the wallpaper.
Why wallpaper Shannon? Why do you feel the need to fill the bathroom with something that requires more maintenance and is more expensive than paint? Why do you need the busy patterns that wallpaper brings to a small space? Why do you need to put your contractor through the not-exactly-fun process of installing wallpaper?
I want my guests to all feel like they have stepped into the pages of their own historical romance novel.
First, I LOVE wallpaper. If you were to define my personal interior design style it would include words like "eclectic" and "busy," which patterned wallpaper fits into quite nicely. Second (and probably most importantly), wallpaper is very common in old homes. Colonial, Georgian, and especially Victorian homes frequently had a lot of wallpaper. Third, my grandmother loves wallpaper. As the original designer of Haan's 1830 Inn, she put wallpaper all over. Five out of nine of our rooms have wallpaper somewhere. Grandma Joyce has given me the power to do what I need to with the B&B, but I still like to hope that she will like what I do.
So I started my wallpaper journey with loads of research on historically appropriate designs and patterns. I bought a dozen books on Amazon on historical interior decor, antiques, etc. and I spent hours online researching. I would not be exaggerating to say to you that I have probably spent over 100 hours in the last three months looking at wallpaper. WALLPAPER. And spent over $200 on samples. OF WALLPAPER.
These beautiful samples are from Adelphi Paper Hangings, which makes hand-printed reproductions. While I love them, they are not washable and are wayyy over my budget.
Why is it so hard to pick out the perfect wallpaper? I kept finding great samples that had some sort of issue - wouldn't ship to the US, isn't washable, is $500+ per roll. Or the time period wouldn't be right. Or the colors weren't perfect. Or the paper had raised patterns (could you imagine cleaning that in a bathroom?). I was (am) determined not to settle.
This journey with wallpaper has really brought me to deeper questions about the Inn in general. What kind of interior do we want? With a remodel, I have the opportunity to redefine the Inn's style, or essence, or "flavor" if you will. I had to decide what kind of place we want to be. There are several places on the island that have cute, cottage-y, purely Mackinac Island-y flair that would be a modern twist on a Victorian Cottage. Patterns with cute bicycles or horses or lilacs are common, with modern furnishings that look vintage with little details or intentional distressing. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact I think it is really great and cute. But it is not who we are at Haan's 1830 Inn. We have furniture that is actually hundreds of years old. We have breakfast at one big table with warm inviting lighting from oil lanterns. We have books and games for you to enjoy so that you can really disconnect from our fast-paced screen-based modern world and connect to the real life world and people around you.
I don't want to cater to the typical island visitor (I know, not exactly the best business model, is it?). I want to cater to adventure seekers. I want to cater to people who vacation to experience peace again. I want to cater to the people who love deep history and the magic and mystery an historical place carries. I want my guests to all feel like they have stepped into the pages of their own historical romance novel.
So I want to do it well. I want our rooms to feel genuine. To really feel like you have gone back in time or stepped onto a movie set. I want it to be different. Mackinac Island has so much magic and I believe I can cultivate that magic here at Haan's 1830 as well.
So (you are either wondering or have stopped reading because I actually did write a blog post about wallpaper), what did I choose? The first bathroom wallpaper I decided on is this delicate chinoiserie-ish example from York Wallcovering's Williamsburg collection. It will be going in LaFayette Davis's bathroom, and is in York Wall's words, "The classic Asian motif is an interpretation of 1770s handpainted Chinese wallpaper that hung for many years in the SupperRoom of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia." Davis as a whole is getting a few other redesigns as well, the chief complaint from that room is that it is dark, so we will brighten up the paint in the room, and add brighter decor including a few Audubon reproduction prints that are both historically minded and pleasing to the modern visitor.
York Wallcovering's Chinese Peony in Blue from their Williamsburg II collection. This wallpaper is washable and affordable.
The second choice below was an internal struggle. The pattern from Bradbury & Bradbury is SO beautiful - I actually ordered extra so that I could find a place to put it in my own home. I also love that it has raspberries, which is so wonderfully appropriate for our Madame LaFramboise room. The dilemma came from the reality of being historically minded - the time period for this wallpaper is off. The wallpaper below is much more William Morris - which would date the design at the earliest in the 1860s, but probably more accurately even later. My original goal for the west wing rooms was to bring it all together with an earlier time period similar to its construction in 1847, or even earlier to a more Colonial/Georgian time. But after sound-boarding my strife with my soon-to-be brother-in-law who is also one of the experts at the Henry Ford Museum's Greenfield Village (Cool, right??), I felt better about using an-only-slightly-later dated wallpaper. It redefined the "west-wing" a little bit for me as well, allowing me to be more flexible with myself in making the decor Victorian in general, rather than specific to a certain decade within the Victorian time period.
Bradbury & Bradbury's "Raspberry Bramble" in Aesthetic Green. This wallpaper is also not suited for bathrooms, but we will put a protective coat on it to protect it so that it will hold up great.
The other two are still in the processing stage! In Woolson we may forgo wallpaper in the bathroom since the room itself is heavily wallpapered. In Astor I just ordered another dozen samples of some patterns that are light and airy like the island, but also formal and regal like the name John Jacob Astor invokes.
Want to stay updated on the process? Follow us on instagram: haans1830innkeeper
... And, thank you for reading - I am truly humbled by our guests/friends/family who take the time to read and be connected with us at Haan's 1830 Inn. You guys are what really make this all possible and the amazing gift that it is.