Charleston, South Carolina is still with me….I think about the beautiful gardens and the historic homes and I am amazed that there is a city this beautiful. They call it, “The Holy City,” because of all the churches. I thought that you would like to have a mini tour of one of THE most beautiful homes in the city. It is for sale! I took these photos from the real estate listing but I also did some research to learn more about the historic home. This interesting property is located at 60 Montagu Street. To see the real estate listing, go here.
From the listing I learned, “The Theodore Gaillard (Gaillard-Bennett) House, circa 1800, is one of the finest examples of the Federal Period in Charleston and the country. This elaborate double house and all auxiliary buildings have been painstakingly renovated to near perfection including restoration of the plaster cornices, ceiling decorations, and composition fireplace mantels. The original plat has been re-assembled to recreate the original urban plantation which includes the main residence of 9,345 heated square feet, the kitchen house (four bedrooms and two and a half baths) and carriage house (two bedrooms and two full baths) which represents an additional 3,922 heated square feet. There is also a Tack House which hides every 21st century mechanical element of the home, to preserve an authentic look.”
When the current owners bought the property in 2004 there was some deferred maintenance that they tackled. During a five year remodeling they updated the kitchen and bathrooms including remaking 26,000 pieces of plaster molding. This is not a typing error…26,000 pieces of plaster molding. In the garden, they added a saltwater infinity pool and a pool house.
This is our first glimpse of the extravagant moldings present in the historic home.
The dining room has been kept light and airy with the pink wallpaper and crystal chandelier.
The ceiling in this room reminds me of decoration on a wedding cake.
But I think that the most beautiful, spectacular, astounding, (I will spare you more adjectives) embellishment in the whole house is over this mantel. It was pictured on the cover of a book about Charleston which I found at the Charleston Historical Society. When I saw it on this real estate listing, I was thrilled. Look at the shells!
I don’t know how it could be more beautiful. I have a shell collection. Could I glue them to my fireplace mantel and paint them white? Could I travel to Italy and learn how to do this from some old world master?
Is this the shell mantel reflected in the mirror? I would not need music….just let me sit and look at that mantel all day.
I would say that the cabinets are cherry and the design is in keeping with the furniture of the period. I believe that the table has Queen Anne chairs
I learned from touring Charleston historic homes that a parlor like the one above is on the second floor. The reason is that when the windows were open, the second floor afforded more breezes without the smells coming in from the street.
I had to wonder how these moldings were made. After some research, I learned from a scholarly paper written by Frances H. Ford from the University of Pennsylvania. In a theses which he wrote for a Master of Science in Historic Preservation in 2006. he stated:
At 60 Montagu the cornices were most likely made in the house. A design element or a complete frieze could have been used by a plasterer either as a pattern or else actually remolded to use in a project. Composition ornament, which closely resembled wooden carved elements of the past, was available for sale through catalogues. These too could have been used by the plasterer as models for ornament cast in plaster. Books were available to the craftsmen on the proper technique for running and casting plaster cornices who were teaching apprentices. Treatises illustrating the designs of the Adam brothers and others were in the collection of the Charleston Library Society as well as the libraries of wealthy landowners such as Theodore Gaillard.
The following is an excerpt that Mr. Ford added to his theses. It was written by John Haviland in 1818 to describe the process of making the plaster designs:
“The putty is then to be mixed with about one-third of plaster of Paris, and brought to a semi-fluid state by the addition of clean water. One of the workmen, with two or three trowels-full of this composition upon his hawk, which he holds in his left hand, begins to plaster over the surface intended for the cornice with his trowel, while his partner applies the mould, to ascertain the parts where more or less may be wanted. When a sufficient quantity of plaster has been laid on, the workman with the mould, holding it steadily and firmly against both the ceiling and the wall, moves it backwards and forwards, which removes the superfluous stuff, and leaves an exact impression of the mould upon the plaster. This is not indeed effected at once, but while he works the mould to and fro the other workman takes notice of any deficiencies, and fills them up, by adding fresh supplies of plaster. In this manner, a cornice of from ten to twelve feet in length, may be formed in a very short time; indeed, expedition is essentially requisite, as the plaster of Paris occasions a very great tendency in the putty to set; and to prevent this taking place to rapidly, it is necessary to sprinkle the composition frequently with water from a brush; as they generally endeavor to finish all the lengths or pieces, between any two breaks, or projections at one time, to secure the truth and correctness of the cornice. In cornices of very large proportions, and in cases where the orders of architecture are to be applied, three or four moulds requisite, which are applied in the same manner, till all the parts are formed. Internal and external mitres, and small returns, or breaks, are afterwards modeled and filled up by hand; an operation upon which a dexterous plasterer much piques himself.”
…definition of “pique”—feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, especially to one’s pride. Should I try to do designs such as those found in the Gaillard-Bennett House, I would be most piqued!
How can we add some of this same beauty to our own homes? Perhaps buying latex ornamentation is the answer. Add it to furniture, paint it, and you have a beautiful result for a fraction of the work. For example:
The above photo and those following are from the Efex website. They specialize in moldings that are bendable and can be added to furniture. To see the site, go here.
I watched the video included on the Efex website and it seems very easy to install these beautiful moldings. I don’t think I would get piqued!
Create and be happy!