Color in home decor started in mid-1800s

American homes in the 1700s seem very colorless today when compared with log cabins and many restored homes and buildings.

Ceramics during that time usually were made of clay ranging from pale beige to red from nearby sources. Fabrics were homemade from sheep’s wool, cotton or flax, almost all white to beige. Some weaving included wool from black sheep that could make a black line.

By the end of the 1700s, fabrics were dyed many colors, and ceramics were available in blue, occasionally black and a few other colors for decoration.

Furniture was made of wood, but it wasn’t painted, just waxed or oiled. Only glass and ceramics from overseas had color. (Research from the past 30 years has shown that the rich had colorful wallpaper, rugs, dishes, bed hangings and more, but much had faded over time.) The popular color “Williamsburg blue” actually is a faded bright blue.

The mid-1800s was the start of color in home decoration. Clear or single-color glass was made, then multicolored glass was perfected. Items such as lamps with glass shades could be made with a heat-sensitive glass called Burmese, which became opaque and shaded peach to yellow when reheated. Other glass in color combinations with unusual names was made about the same time.

The popularity of the colored glass lasted until the somber Mission style arrived in the 1900s. Today, there is colorful antique and reproduction glass that usually is made in Victorian shapes for those who prefer a Victorian look. A Mt. Washington student lamp made of Burmese glass sold at an Early auction in Ohio for $3,335. It was decorated with Japanese dragons and an imaginary flower.

Q. I have a Weller vase and cannot find any Weller that looks like it. It stands about 9 inches tall and is 41/2 inches wide at the base. The bottom is reddish brown and fades to a creamy tan at the top. I have no idea what the flower is. The bottom is marked “Weller Pottery, Since 1872.” It does have some crazing on the sides, but is in otherwise perfect condition. Can you tell me when it was made and a rough value?

A. Your vase probably is from Weller’s Roba line. Roba was produced from the mid- to late 1930s. Pieces have a textured background that shades from blue or green to white or reddish brown to beige. Bodies are curved and are decorated with molded gladiolas, wild roses, oak leaves or apple blossoms. The Roba line includes console sets, vases, hanging planters, wall pockets, pitchers and cornucopia vases, and many have branch handles. Roba vases sell from $30 to about $75 in good condition, less if there is crazing.

Q. At a recent auction of textiles, a number of “show towels” were sold. How were they used?

A. Show towels were popular with Pennsylvania German girls. They are long, rectangular pieces of fabric that were used to demonstrate sewing skill. The finished towel was hung on a door as proof of their work and as an added decoration. The towel, not made to be used, often was made of linen and cotton. They usually included the name of the maker, location and date. The towels were most popular from 1820 to 1870. A 19th-century show towel in good condition with names and other designs cross-stitched in a pleasing pattern sells for about $1,000 today.

Q. I’d like to find out the value of my dinette set. The table has a glass top on an iron base and there are four chairs. The chairs are marked “Daystrom No. 470820.” It’s a beauty!

A. Daystrom was founded in Olean, N.Y., in 1934. At first, the company made metal ashtrays. By 1938, the company was making chrome and Formica kitchen furniture, and upholstered stools and chairs. In 1962, Daystrom moved to South Boston, Va., and used the name Daystrom Furniture. Daystrom’s low-end dinette sets sold well during the 1960s, but foreign competition began affecting the furniture market by the 1970s. The company was sold several times and closed in 1996. Many Daystrom dinette sets are great examples of mid-century modern, a popular style. Prices start at $100 to $150, and they can go higher if the set has clean, modern lines, can blend well with other furnishings, and, of course, is in great condition. A dinette set featuring a table and six stylish chairs with chrome barrel-form bases and tufted vinyl seats and backrests sells for about $700 to $900.


Snowdomes are liquid-filled paperweights. They should not be stored in the dark. Exposure to the light is necessary to keep the liquid clear. However, do not keep the snowdomes in direct sunlight. They can magnify the rays and it may start a fire.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.

2017 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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