We want to provide the best television for an historic home, but television viewing angles didn’t get much thought in 1883 when the Broughton Street House was built. This post has been updated to include how it all worked out. Pictures at the bottom!
What we would now call the “living room” was a parlor. The parlor’s primary function was receiving guests. It was a formal room where a host would put their finest seating arranged to facilitate conversation. To that end, hosts would orient seating in front of a fireplace for maximum comfort of the guests. In an exceptionally fancy house there would be two parlors: the formal front, and the informal parlor in the middle. An example of this layout would be the beautiful Andrew Low house.
Owners typically closed off back rooms such as the dining room and kitchen behind doors. In a typical Savannah-style townhouse like the Broughton Street House, there are pocket doors that can be pulled shut. For dinner, preparations would occur behind the closed doors while the guests waited in the parlor. Once ready, the hosts would open the pocket doors and present a bountiful table ready for guests.
Times have changed and people expect to be able to turn on a sporting event, check the news, or binge watch a series when the weather isn’t cooperating. We get it it, we do it, too. So here we’ll discuss choosing the best television for this historic home and how we’re making it work. When you come to Historic Downtown Savannah we want you to have everything you need at the Broughton Street House.
Vacation Sometimes Need Televisions – Like Them or Not
The previous owners of the Broughton Street House had deliberately avoided over-emphasizing the television. I respect that decision. It’s difficult to place today’s giant screen televisions in a historic house in a way that doesn’t dominate the room and draw all attention to the television. At the Broughton Street House the rooms are beautiful and multi-purpose. How many times have you sat down in a living room and realized there’s nothing in your field of view except a giant electronic box? You naturally reach for the remote to figure out how to use it. We’re not going to take that route and instead we’re going to put in the best television for a historic home.
I wanted to add color to the kitchen of the Broughton Street House but what I found was a history lesson. While searching for patterns and colors that would fit our Victorian house I learned about the founder of a design movement. William Morris patterns bring beautiful colors to everyday items. We’ll be using them throughout Broughton Street House.
In the middle of the 19th century, Britain changed. Industrialization reshaped the economy and created new wealth and new manufacturing capacity. Victorian households used their affluence to fill their homes to impress visitors and display their status. Furniture, textiles, and fabrics became ornate, cheaply made, and widely available.
In 1851, in Hyde Park of London, Prince Albert hosted “The Great Exhibition“. His goal was to showcase what is now called “High Victorian” wares and to champion the virtues of the English economy. This exhibit was a powerhouse display of the industrial design capabilities of the era. Famous figures such as Queen Victoria
, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carrol, and Charlotte Bronte came to the Hyde Park to see the goods and be seen by the people. In fact, over six million people attended the exhibit.
While the Exhibition was popular, there was a group of disaffected but well-to-do thinkers that criticized the event. Richard Redgrave, John Ruskin, and William Morris saw the displays as cheap, ostentatious, and dependent on industrialization instead of craftsmanship.
William Morris Takes a Stand for Beauty
William Morris and his lifelong friend Edward Burne-Jones established a counter-culture school of thought after the exhibit. They based their movement on nostalgia for the medieval period and a desire to restore the beauty of hands-on craft. Morris tried architecture, fine art, and publishing but never achieved major success in those fields. However, he expanded his circle of influential friends and fellow travelers and shared his ideas. The “Arts & Crafts” was founded with a mission to bring the beauty of craftmanship to the people of England. Ultimately, William Morris saw his opportunity to begin producing textiles and fabrics that reflected his ideas. This is where he made his mark.
William Morris’ Red House is today considered a British national treasure for its design and décor. His summer cottage Kelmscott Manor is a much older design, but he drew inspiration from its medieval beauty.
More than Beautiful
Arts & Crafts is about more than design; it is about fitting design into a context of social constructs and division of labor in a beautiful way. Most of the proponents of Arts & Crafts were wealthy, educated, and socialist. They believed with proper design they could entice British consumers to make different choices. In their vision, everyone would place more value on handcrafted, beautiful, wares built in small shops reflecting the individuality of the craftsmen. But in reality, only the wealthy could afford the high quality wares that emerged from this movement. Although a few practitioners of the Arts & Craft movement collaborated with manufacturers to make these goods available to a broader audience, most of the practitioners shunned commercialization and the movement faded from popular design in Britain.
In the United States, the movement took a different turn. Americans scaled the ideas to the mass market: Tiffany, Stickley, “Mission” style furniture, and “Craftsman” architecture all emerged from the designs and themes William Morris introduced.
Introducing William Morris to the Broughton Street House
The Broughton Street House is a popular vacation rental with Victorian décor and antique furniture, so we want to introduce new color in a way consistent with the period of the house. Thankfully, beautiful prints by William Morris are a great place to start.
The William Morris Society sells fabrics and wallpapers using the patterns, and the proceeds go to support the Society. Also, Wallpaper Direct carries a huge line of beautiful William Morris wallpapers, including some exclusive colors.
Additionally, Many of William Morris’ original designs are now in the public domain, so there are lots of options for displaying some of these amazing patterns.
Prints from Art.com, Patterns by William Morris
We ordered a selection of beautiful William Morris prints from art.com. First, the colors add excitement to the earth tones of the kitchen, and draw the eye upward to make full visual use of that high ceiling. Second, we can also repeat these period colors and patterns in other elements (like countertop appliances and kitchen tools and throughout the house) to brighten up the space.
Here you see two of these prints in our kitchen. We added these to fill the blank spaces above the cabinets since the ceiling is so incredibly high in this kitchen.
We’ve also used William Morris patterns for some of the cushions around the house.
We have placed William Morris place mats in the kitchen, William Morris hand towels near the oven, and even a deck of cards in the living room with William Morris patterns on the backs of the cards. We’ll continue to look for opportunities to incorporate William Morris’ designs and patterns into the Broughton Street House where appropriate. I’d love to find a place to use Morris and Company Wallpaper at some point, but we’re not ready for that right now. It’s peak season.
The Broughton Street House is in downtown Savannah. When I vacation in Savannah I want coffee. Coffee is important to me.
If I’m working I start the day with cup of coffee as a catch up on anything that happened overnight, and then create my plan for the day. Early morning is generally the only time of the day that I’m not in a WebEx or Teams meeting or responding to something that’s come up. But in the morning, I’m in control of my own schedule. A cup of coffee is essential.
If I’m on vacation at the Broughton Street House I may wake up a little later, but my morning coffee is still my companion as read through the news, do a little online shopping, or check through my emails. I generally wake up before anyone else in the family, and I do not like waking up and immediately heading off to an activity, preferring a quiet, calm start to set the tone for the day. This is Vacation Coffee.
So when I think about what I want at the Broughton Street House, I know for sure I want vacation coffee. But how do I want to prepare that coffee? So many choices! At home I have a Nespresso, a Keurig, a grinder and French press, a stove top espresso pot, and a drip coffee maker in the attic, you know, just in case. I also have a nice burr grinder.
The Many Ways to Prepare Coffee
I love the Nespresso system. It makes a great tasting cup of coffee, and if you opt for the Nespresso Vertuo line you can have full, rich cups of coffee or intense, bold shots of espresso, depending on your mood. But you won’t find Vertuo pods in the supermarket, and even the original Nespresso pods aren’t always available in the expressions that a guest might want, so if I went that route I’d have to make sure the house is stocked with Nespresso pods at all times, and if we ever ran out we’d leave the guest in the lurch, and I never want that.
A French press cup of coffee is probably the best cup of coffee ever. And they’re super easy to make, if you’ve ever done it before. It is a multi-step process, though. For a great cup of coffee you’ll want the coffee ground properly. You’ll want your water heated to 200 degrees. And you have to let the coffee steep in the press. It feels like that would be asking too much of a guest to get a decent cup of coffee.
So then there’s drip and Keurig. They’re both super easy, fast, and supplies are readily available at any supermarket, convenience store, or Target. This seems like the right way to go, and it’s what I see most hosts doing. I often pack my own K-cups to make sure I’ve got a coffee I know I’ll like. So at the Broughton Street House, we’ll have drip and we’ll have Keurig.
Shopping for Coffee Makers for a Vacation House
I like to use systems and patterns to limit my choices
, otherwise I get overwhelmed. So I read this article from 1chicretreat exploring the effects of blue, so for the purposes of this exercise let’s choose blue! We may not stick with it, but it will give me something to get started.
I’ve never used one of these, but dang they look cool. The reviews are solid and I love the sturdy, retro appearance. It doesn’t look too difficult to figure out, so I’m thinking this might be a winner. Even if it doesn’t make the first cut, I’m going to keep my eye on this one.
This is a bit of a cheat, as I actually have this coffee maker at home. I love the “Strong” brew feature, and the reservoir is big and easy to use. It’s quick to make a cup of good (not amazing, but good) coffee. I keep Peet’s Major Dickason’s nearby and I know that a good cup of coffee will be a stress free experience. I know this one, though. If you want quick, reliable vacation coffee, this is a strong contender!
I want to like this one so much. What a lovely drip coffee maker and I can see myself smiling every morning as I walk into the kitchen to make a pot to take with me out to the courtyard. I have a SMEG toaster that works well and looks amazing and I’m just sure I would love this. However, the reviews note that it’s difficult to add water to the machine, and that gives me pause. If I wake up late and really, really need that first cup of vacation coffee in Savannah, I’m not going to mess around with something that’s hard to use.
At first glance, I like it. But reading the reviews there’s apparently quite a bit of plastic. It’s on my list, but I’m not sure about this one. I don’t just need cute, I need durable. Sorry, reliability issues cannot impact my vacation coffee.
, and I actually don’t need the programmable part, but the blue is cute. The reviews indicate a few problems with filling, but it has a heating pad to keep the coffee warm and I like that idea. If you’re going to have vacation coffee in Savannah, it should stay hot!
I know, I said I wasn’t going to go the French press route at the Broughton Street House. But this one came up in my searches and I really liked it. The details of the handle, with the little thumb grip to help you meter out the pour, the double lines in the ceramic to add interest to the otherwise smooth surface. French presses are durable work horse coffee makers. Maybe this one belongs in the cabinet, just in case. You probably can’t have too many ways to make vacation coffee in Savannah!
Final Call for Coffee
Well, in the end we decided not to go with blue after all. We found this machine at Best Buy (they have the color exclusively) and we thought the copper would complement the Victorian style of the house and go really well. Quick, convenient and easy to use: The best vacation coffee in Savannah.
We don’t close for a few more weeks, but I spend every day thinking about our new vacation home. I imagine the ways we’ll use it and how we’ll make it a great vacation rental. I’ve spent many hours researching the history of the house and documenting what I find here. My plan is for that to be a living page as we learn more about this amazing property. It’s a beautiful Victorian home
, and the design will need to reflect both the house and our own needs and wants.
Interior Design and Victorian Homes
Cathy has been thinking about interior design. While we’re purchasing the property furnished and ready to rent, we want to make changes to reflect our own style. One of our favorite design blogs is run by Mercedes and Karen at 1ChicRetreat. We’re interested in engaging them professionally at some point, but right now we have to make some choices. We can ask for help to get where we want to go, but we need to identify our destination, our “design concept”.
I tend toward period-correct furniture and design choices, but I do like informal. Cathy loves comfortable, accessible design that feels welcoming, unbound by the limits of a specific period. So we swap pins, pictures, and magazine articles in an effort to find a balance we can both agree on. We’re looking for our north star, the thing in the distance we can stay fixed on. As we make the hundreds of choices we’ll face as owners and caretakers of this beautiful property, we’ll need that.
Staying True but Adding Comfort
The house is well furnished with beautiful, period-correct furniture now, but the current style is formal. As beautiful as that is, it feels a little like playing dress up to us. We’re just not formal people. We can’t drastically change, as people have booked this house based on the current design. We wouldn’t want them to arrive and find a house that doesn’t meet their expectations. Since changing out paint and major design elements takes time, we won’t make any major changes during peak season for Savannah. Therefore, most of our thinking is for the future.