Getting Ideas for Our Rowhouse at Washington’s Headquarters

There are three places I like to go to for home inspiration. Ikea, Dot & Bo, and historic homes/museums. We were out and about hiking at Valley Forge when we came across Washington’s Headquarters, a.k.a. Isaac Pott’s Mill House (

Washington's Headquarters

Normally they only prepare a few rooms in the house for public viewing but the Pott’s house is just about entirely available to explore; three floors of assorted domestic stuff and, bonus, it looks like George Washington just left for a moment. Everything is rather new being reproduction, as the docents informed me.

Naturally, I walk around, not as a casual observer but as an active designer. I immediately feel at home. If I could sit and sip a cup of tea and exchange pleasant conversation with the mistress of the house, I absolutely would. Although my current outfit of hiking-friendly stretchy pants and athletic garb isn’t exactly ideal for afternoon tea. Why is it that you can never properly visit these places? I don’t want to settle for interloping. I want to have tea and sit on the chairs, in appropriate attire. To be sure, given the opportunity I would gladly move right into this house of decent size. It’s got a parlor, dining room, three bedrooms, and an attic suitable for sleeping in. A nice touch is the big kitchen located in a small structure adjacent to the house, connected by a semi enclosed passage. It’s really just right.

Walking around, I admire the lovely pointing, I note that this house is not constructed of the Wissahickon schist that ours is. But look! The mortar looks on par with our work. Well done for us!

Washington's Headquarters

Anyway, it’s back to the limited interaction I must reluctantly accept during which I consider what elements I might consider for our own humble abode and I wonder why this colonial aesthetic escapes us. I take a while to compare. We have fireplaces in our rooms and molding and wide flooring. Our textiles are hit and miss. The furniture is OK, considering we aren’t able to acquire reproductions. But, it occurs to me that it’s really what this place is missing that differentiates it so. No appliances! The minute a TV comes in the room it’s over. Fridge? Forget about it. Not only do these things take up room but they immediately, severely ruin any chance of attaining a pre-technology aesthetic.

So, for the intrepid domestic time traveler, it’s about compromise. Yes, I would like to live in George Washington ‘s headquarters but my life requires modern conveniences.

George Washington's Headquarters

Obviously the room is set up for being the headquarters of a military person and normally there would be a more cozy approach. It’s interesting to note that the furnishings of a room in the 18th century were always fairly flexible. One day a country home; the next, 18th Century ‘s answer to the pentagon. Another thing is the prevalence of green tablecloths at these colonial places, which seems to be the result of someone having seen one in a painting once and now they’re everywhere. The absence of curtains is odd but just look at that lovely Queensware! Windsor chairs, ladder-back chairs, case clock, yes!

George Washington's Headquarters

This would have been the dining room. I am such a fan of built-in cabinets, wainscoting, and paneling. I am noticing that for the modest home, the walls are cream and any color is introduced via the molding and stenciling, if present. Stenciling is actually a very popular adornment in Colonial Pennsylvania homes. I’m now really eager to paint our house and may even consider stencils, although not the odd ones that were present in the house when we bought it.

George Washington's Headquarters

In this bedroom, located on the second floor, I make further note of the use of color. The fireplace surround also catches my eye. We only have one intact mantel and would like to restore the others. This is such a nice, subtle, and delicate surround, almost like a frame. Should be fairly easy to install as well. Easy enough to add, are the homespun blankets on the beds. Once ours fall apart, which seem to happen quicker than I like, I can replace them with ones like these.

George Washington's Headquarters

The Leksvik line from IKEA is based on Swedish country design, reminiscent of several primitive pieces. Our bed looks quite like this one.

Here is George and Martha’s room.

George Washington's Headquarters

The low ceilings of our bedroom make having a canopy impossible, which is just as well. They are incredibly dusty.

George Washington's Headquarters

Both Frank and I love chests and would like to have one in our room if we can find a good deal on a usable one. Every now and then, I come across a pitcher and basin and think how much I’d like to have one. So far, I resist the urge because it really wouldn’t serve any purpose.

George Washington's Headquarters

Nice, nice. There is a sturdy simplicity that I just don’t find in other styles. It’s as if that ladder back chair is saying, I will always be here to help, not looking to impress anyone, but just being a nice reliable chair when you need me.

George Washington's Headquarters

What a lovely kitchen! Taking notes… Mantel, hmm. Yes, that is feasible. As early as 1990, one could cook in our kitchen fireplace but there are bricks that make it too small. We consider removing them and restoring the fireplace to its original form. Oh look! What a cute bread oven!

George Washington's Headquarters

I love a good farmhouse table but we need one with an extension for extra space when I sew. I’ve seen the sort where the table top is hinged and can be opened and supported on a gate leg. I love a good green bottle, or two, and we have the ideal place for a little collection but one of the cardinal rules of a small house is that nearly everything really must have a purpose. I love Amish pottery in particular, along with things that look at home in Vermeer’s kitchen. Baskets, however, are easy to justify. Baskets are endlessly useful, at least until the cats destroy them.

George Washington's Headquarters

That is a very snappy ladder back chair with such interesting round embellishments.

Aside from the plastic food, skipping that, I will not plaster over my exposed brick. I love it’s warmth and it makes me feel close to those who built my house and who could never have imagined such a small house would make anyone so happy.


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