Tour a Victorian Home Known as the Birthday Cake House
Take a look at this gorgeous 128-year-old Victorian home filled with whimsical antiques, amazing woodwork and tons of gingerbread charm.
Not everyone can say they grew up in a 128-year-old pink Victorian, but I can. One of my most recent episodes of DIY This With Jennifer Perkins was a tour of the home I grew up in. Needless to say things have changed in the 20 years since I actually lived in the house full time, but all the whimsy and charm remain. Growing up with the OG parents of flea market flips shaped the trajectory of the rest of my life. I was probably asking people what their best price was before I knew my alphabet. This skill set along with an appreciation and knowledge of American antiques has served me well through the years.
My family has owned this house in McKinney Texas for over 40 years. The house was white and the carpet was soaked with cat urine when my parents decided to take a leap of faith and buy their very own never-ending DIY project. Years and years of renovations like restoring the house to its original color of pink has earned this house a historic landmark as well as a place in the hearts of the people living in the historic district of this small Texas town. Often referred to as “The Birthday Cake House” due to the pink color and curly gingerbread trim on the exterior and turrets - this home is a gorgeous example of Victorian architecture.
The antiques inside of the home and formal gardens in the front also reflect the time period. My parents have painstakingly decorated the house to reflect the style of the Victorian era. Most of the antiques inside are American and from before the turn-of-the-century. Though most things inside the home are original - extra age appropriate additions have been added through the years like stained glass, a fancy newel post and decorative screen doors. From the handpainted ceilings to the antique rugs on the floor, no opportunity for color and pattern has been missed. The Victorians were known for their carved furniture, collections and pattern-on-pattern style of decorating. My parents have definitely kept things in theme.
Renovating a home with a historic landmark is a job not to be taken lightly. There are certain rules and regulations that must be followed when changes or adjustments are done to the exterior. The inside is free reign but my parents have made it their life’s work to fill the house with antiques just as lovely as the exterior. The wallpapers, ceiling medallions, window treatments and more were all chosen to reflect the time period. This is not to say that breakfast is being made on a wood stove or there is an outhouse, modern accessories are included. However, if there was a chance to use something antique or antique-inspired, my parents did it. For example, the decorative metal ceilings throughout much of the house are new and were added later. However, the metal was stamped using vintage presses from an actual Victorian home catalog.
The gingerbread work, or millwork, inside the house is all original. One of the many things that make this house so spectacular is the wooden details that have never been painted. The wood is heart pine and was probably produced in Baltimore. Home builders would flip through a catalog, choose their favorite pattern and off to the factory the wood went. These large pieces of interior architectural detail are great early examples of the Industrial Revolution and things being mass produced in factories.
The dining, formal living room and den all have large pocket doors. As a child I loved slamming these doors, as an adult I cringe each time my own children do it as my parents must have years ago. The ceilings in the house are over 12ft so the doors are close to 10 feet. The wood molding above the pocket doors is also original. Many of the large pocket doors have the original brass hooks installed on the walls above where heavy drapes called portieres would have hung to be used as extra insulation during the winter months.
The first thing you see when you walk into the front door of the home is the foyer. This room features a window seat by the door that is original to the house, complete with transom window. Large stone fireplace is one of the four fireplaces within the home. There is a piece of interesting furniture in the center of the room called a bourne, popular in France. Remember the Victorians loved the grandiose look of places like the Palace of Versailles and tried to emulate it with their decorating. Looking through the foyer you see through a piece of intricate gingerbread original to the house and up the staircase to the second floor.
Directly to the right of the foyer is the formal living room which is a spectacular display of all things Victorian and pink. This is the perfect room to begin a tour of this pink house. The gorgeous crystal, Moriage pottery, fainting couches and intricate lamps are all perfect reflections of the Victorian era. This room has another beautiful example of the heart pine millwork seen throughout the house.
Sharing a large pocket door with the formal living room is the dining room. This room has yet more gingerbread, two sets of pocket doors and fireplace with its original tiles. The large Victorian dining room table seats 10. There is a built-in nook for a serving buffet to one side. The heart pine floors are original to the house. The large mantel and luscious window treatments make this room extra special. There is a swinging door that leads to the kitchen.
The sunny kitchen has recently been renovated having the backdoor moved from one side to the other. There is a small breakfast nook adorned with antique wicker furniture and a marble-topped table. The beadboard on the walls is original to the house. The large blue buffet was originally a bar back from a saloon. Over the buffet hangs pieces of my mother’s extensive Majolica collection, in particular an array of French Toby Jugs. This is a collection that is spread throughout the house. There are several pieces of stained glass in the home, however, all of it was collected and added by my parents. The exception is the small prayer closet off of the den. The kitchen also has a pantry, small half bath and butler's staircase that leads upstairs to what is now the master bedroom.
The den is where majority of my mother’s antique majolica collection lives. There are two large Victorian walnut cabinets filled to the brim with a 40+ year collection of French, English and German Majolica. My mom has a soft spot for the Toby Jugs and anthropomorphic decanters. Often times these pieces were souvenirs from France brought back to England by tourists. The shelving has been lit with LED lights and lined with the same patterned fabric that is on the walls of the room. Some of the extensive collection has spread into the kitchen as well.
The intricate window treatments in the den were designed by my mother after much research about vintage curtains. These window adornments were often different on each window in a room, full of layers, pleats and frills. Typically windows treatments in the Victorian era had four parts - the top treatment, jabot which is the part that hangs down, drapes and sheers. Before screens were common, lace sheers were often used to keep bugs out of the home. The heavy curtains also doubled as extra insulation in the colder months.
My father’s study is one of my favorite rooms in the entire house. The masculine eclectic studio has a bohemian look with the treasures my father has collected from his world travels and the antique touches my mother has added through her travels to flea markets. The study was originally the master bedroom when the home was built. There is a small laundry room, large closet and master bathroom (complete with claw foot tub) that opens to this room.
There are three bedrooms on the second floor and a craft studio on the third. The turret also has a small porch on the second floor. In the back of the house a small She Shed was built for my mother’s crafting and gardening adventures. The cottage is full of architectural detail to also reflect the Victorian time period.
It’s taken me to adulthood to fully appreciate growing up in this house that is in many ways like a museum once you start to learn about all the things inside. Architecture and antiques should be appreciated just like any other art form. I learn and see something new each time I visit. My children tend to think their grandparent’s house is magic and I think they might be right.