Thursday, September 16, 2010

What about All of Those Brightly Painted Things in the Village

Recently we were sent a blog comment that went something like:
“What’s with the ugly bright painted items out there” 

And because the answer is long, and actually pretty interesting, we thought it would make a great blog post for our readers rather than to just bury the answer in our comments section.  

So what is with the brightly painted furniture out there?

Our mission being that we are a Living History Museum, is to immerse you in the time-period. And this demands as much accuracy as we can muster.

Those bright colors that you have seen in some of the building this season are, in fact, accurate for the time periods that they represent.  Just like the painting of Foster-Tufts this year as well as the bright green shutters you may have seen making their way into the village square, these colors are based in reality and have been chosen for the village via our historic paint expert as well from what we know about furniture styles and finishes of the time period.

Please be aware that we evaluated the museum's furniture collection prior to this project and some of the "antiques" on exhibit, were found to be marriages of styles, old reproductions and probably outright frauds. Rather than just discard these pieces, it gave us the perfect opportunity to use the pieces in a more meaningful way to tell an accurate story of 19th Century life.

Another reason for painting the objects, beyond the historical accuracy of it, is the clear indication it gives you that these items are for use and not on exhibit.  This means you can touch them, sit on them and pretty much participate in some of the buildings in a way that was not possible before.

It is not our intent to change all buildings or spaces in this manner, just in places where it makes sense.

Sometimes styles popular in bygone eras don't do much for our 21st century tastes and sensibilities. Whether it’s the bright and exuberant “fancy” styles popular between 1800 and 1850 or the taste for plaids, avocado green and plush carpet of the 1970s there is no arguing that people’s tastes change.  And it’s our job as an educational institution to be as faithful to those tastes as possible whether or not we like them personally.  Otherwise, we are simply decorating to our taste.   If you find that the pieces are difficult to get used to in a place you love, try and think of them as reminders of the days when work and life were often harsher and people did what they could to "brighten" up their surroundings with up cheerfully painted objects, bright walls, colorful carpets and floor cloths, as well as fanciful carpet and wallpaper designs.  


  1. I have a chair much like this one in storage that my grandfather painted for me. The detail work on the back is much the same. The seat is woven.

  2. We take for granted how saturated our environment is with profuse imagery and bright color from magazines, billboards, packaging and screens. Maybe that explains why fashion and interiors have simmered down to black, gray and dull hues, with so-called "pops" of color. Like those chairs....