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  • Writer's pictureLizzie Hessek

Lady Mildred: the Quest for a Triple-duty Salon

Hello! Welcome to a new segment called "Lady Mildred." In these posts we will be exploring the super fun world of home ownership. Specifically, home ownership of a 100-year-old 750 square foot house with a whole lot of charm and a whole lot of challenge.

As you may know, Rachel and i bought this adorable little house in Philadelphia earlier this summer. It's on Mildred Street, so we're calling it Lady Mildred (which was Ally Walker's idea). It's a type of house rather particular to Philadelphia: a Trinity! These types of houses are called Trinities because they have three floors above ground, and each floor has one room. Trinities tend to date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries when Philadelphia's large land parcels were being cut up into smaller segments and developers were trying to fit as many houses as possible into the plots they owned. New York had tenement buildings, Philadelphia had trinities. Our house dates from a little later - 1915. Our whole neighborhood was built as servant housing for the people that worked in the lovely big homes on 9th Street.

Because there are three rooms on three floors, Trinities are also called "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" houses which fits the vaguely "vestibule of a Catholic Church" theme we having going in our salon. Speaking of the salon! I am having a hard time figuring out the ideal design and layout for this room. Here's the deal: the salon is the room you enter when you open the front door. The door opens right into it. It is also the ideal space to invite guests to sit because it is the only room that does not require alighting a set of spiral stairs to access. Additionally, we do not have a dedicated dining room in our house, and I think that the dining room should somehow be on the first floor.

That's right - I am asking this little 14x14 sq. ft. room to serve triple duty as a foyer, parlour, and dining room.

To make matters worse, there is not a lot of wall space on the first floor because two closets, two stairwells, a window, and a patio door take up a lot of real estate. Here, I've made you a map of the room:

Take note - the water heater is in the old chimney shaft which has been converted into a utility closet with a louvered door. It is unnecessary for the door to the closet to be easily accessibly, but it does need to be let air pass through (so no giant furniture can go in front of it like our china cabinet.) Ok, now I have made you a map of how the room looks with our current furniture. It's not a very thoughtful layout, but it is working with what we got:

As you can see, it's not the most conducive to inviting guests to sit, to eating a meal, to entering the house, or to being in at all, really. The chairs as they exist in their current form serve more as a mail depository than a butt depository. The rug is really, really good at capturing cat hair. One thing that is great about this design is that it is easy to move through, which is great, because you don't really want to stay in this room. I want that to change!

So I was browsing around the interwebs, and I stumbled upon the work of an interior designer named Dorothée Meilichzon. She is, apparently, super famous in the interior design world, but this is a world that I am not in (yet - just wait until my salon is done. The interior design world will be knocking on my [bright green] door). In any case, I love very much her style, and I am taking it as my inspiration. I am delighted by her use of patterns, the plushness of her fabrics, and the natural materials like wood, stone, and brick. They say this about her:

Patterns are very present, fabrics often have a strong character, light fixtures accumulate and shapes are soft. It feels like the revival of a style that you just can't place because Dorothée decorates spaces that fit with the spaces' period. It is a hybrid style characterized by this new generation that rejects the "total look."

What do you think? Here are some examples:





Right. So. Please allow me to now present to you my concept for the foyer + parlour + dining room:

As you can see, I have not moved the china cabinet because that fucker is heavy and I am not moving that goddamned thing again.

We have added a dining table with folding wings - on loan from my parents - which will double as an entry table/console when not in use as a dining table. I am thinking that it can also be positioned horizontally, thus creating more of a "vestibule" effect. I have high ambitions to put some funky tile down in front of the door to delineate the "foyer" part of the room.

We have also new chairs and a bench that are positioned around little tables. This is the parlour part, but when we are throwing a dinner party, the room can quickly transform (thanks to that table - parents are the best) into a proper dining room. Check it out:

We currently own those deus ex-machina folding chairs. They are our current dining chairs. They are from a Catholic school that shut down, and I adore the little plaques on the back that say, "Sts. Peter and Paul, Lehighton, PA."

What do you think? Would you come to a dinner party at this house and say, "Oh. Ok. This is fine," or would you straight up RSVP "no" because you don't want to be in this crazy room all evening long? Are you actually an interior designer and you have tips? Please do share!

In case you are interested in seeing what will actually happen, all of my updates to the house will be immortalized via YouTube broadcast. My colleague Tony and I are starting a show called "Nuts and Knockers" which will chronicle our adventures in home ownership. Stay tuned for more!

#LadyMildred #Philadelphia #InteriorDesign #HomeOwnership

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