Don’t miss Dorothy’s ruby slippers on a corner curio shelf, way in the back. The intent is to include stories we all know – the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – and also to reference a Salem connection. You will see the ruby slippers and much of Dorothy throughout Salem, especially in shop windows as a “No Place Like Salem” initiative. It’s a sign of welcome, of openness, and an indication of Salem’s place as a city of peace and of tolerance.
Have some fun with the picture of the parrot in the cage. I couldn’t find the right miniature parrot, so I took a picture of my own parrot, Pipinella, and placed him in the cage, front and center of the Living Room. It’s only fitting – he’s an attention hog. The inclusion of a parrot is a nod to the boxes of Joseph Cornell. [Hence the idea of the Doll House as “boxscape” as a whole and the “box(ed)scapes” of each individual room.]
But like The Kitchen, there is a lot of duality lurking in the items and atmosphere. The adults that inhabit The Living Room are either enjoying relaxed entertainment – or trying to escape from their ‘lives of quiet desperation.’ There is a cheese board, and chilled champagne. I intend a 70’s type social that can be a reminder of Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” see quote below:
“….disillusionment is everywhere. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the [ C & H] households…the parents…seek escape from the blandness of their existence with the tools at their disposal: drugs, sex, and deception….The relationships in the dysfunctional families are strained, with each member hiding behind pretense in their dealings with each other. One night…a rain storm coats every exposed surface with a glaze of ice. It is under these circumstances that the characters must confront their weaknesses and attempt to find peace despite them. “
So that’s the dark side in this room if you choose to interpret it that way; the suggested partying might be genuine fun, or it can be a front for the troubled side of escape. However, in this tableau the adults must work this out for themselves. The children are in another room.
At first glance the kitchen is a cozy place. It started with a simple country kitchen look, the table and chairs sporting a strawberries motif. Additions included a sideboard with fish for dinner, a box of fresh fruits, a tea set, and a spice rack on the wall. It seemed a good fit to include a 1920s stove with 2 ovens to complete this charming picture.
But beware. The lower oven door was determined to fall open and stay open, suggesting a danger. The open oven door reminded me of Hanzel & Gretel, who had a close call in a forest cottage, with a witch and her oven. So I went with the stove’s insistent suggestion, left the oven door open, and it’s become the Hansel & Gretel Kitchen.
The story of Hansel & Gretel as told in the original Grimm, is indeed grim. Fortunately Gretel is quick thinking and gets the pair out of a grisly ending. However, the story doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in strangers, or parents, although it says a lot about self-reliance, the importance of being a good judge of character, and in the end, forgiveness as return to hearth & home.
The original house was pretty sparse in features, and may have been unfinished. Two rooms on one side, and a missing floor on the other left a cathedral ceiling that didn’t look like what the Victorian details intended. So I added a floor over what would become the living room, and that added room became Alice’s Room. A few pieces of craft store doll house furniture got things started, but what to do about inhabitants? I just happened to have an Alice (in Wonderland) cloth doll, a small ornament, that was calling out to move in. So far she has little company, although I am looking for and surely will find a Mad Hatter, White rabbit or Caterpiller to keep her company.
What has found its way to Alice’s Room is a family member, our gray cat Billie, who could be a stand-in for Alice’s cat, Dinah. Cats are very special. I think so, and from the number of cats in our neighborhood, one could say they are a favorite in Salem. Surely cats, witches & Salem go together. However, Billie started out with more of a reality check than Alice’s cat, Dinah. For his story, see Billie Holiday.
So here’s a picture-visit to Alice’s Room, a fantasy room, but ‘safe’ rather than scary. There are two pictures of Billie (whatever ‘gray cat’), a picture of 2 family children (in Victorian dress), a baby (a generic for the grandchildren), and a really really nice, really really tiny, electrified lamp that was hell to install and get working.
It’s hard (impossible?) to be a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, without having an acute sense of Salem’s history, an awareness of the infusion of witchcraft culture into the tiny metropolis, and a feeling for the twists, turns, and final spillage of this history and culture into the yearly Halloween frenzy. Salem has a delightful dark side; it has a culture of tolerance, inclusion, inspiration, imagination, and fantasy; and it has a lot of good clean fun that comes dressed as anything you want to be. Looking through Salem for objects to add to the doll house, it was clear that it had to be a haunted house.