Beulah's Bedroom

Revealing the Details

Originally designed as Mrs. Branch’s Bedroom, the Adam Boardroom has been sensitively repaired and preserved after many years of deterioration which endangered its most significant architectural feature – its ornamental plasterwork in the Adam Style.  The Adam Style or Adamesque of late 18th century Europe is characterized by a freer use of classical motifs, translating to a less severe approach in design from Neo-Classical Palladianism.  It is typified by clear colors and accented plaster ornamentation employing Greek and Roman motifs (anthemions, urns, lambs tongue, acanthus, and scrolling shapes).

In 2015, the Adam Boardroom was damaged in an accidental steam event, causing severe delamination of paint, exposing the original plaster finish of much of the ceiling and upper walls, including the ceiling medallion, cornice, frieze, moldings, and ornamental panels above the mantel.

To assess the damage, the roof was tested for structural integrity. Terry Jenkins of Prospect Properties used infrared thermography to detect current moisture paths (the infrared camera converts electromagnetic radiation emitted by objects and converts them into visible images). This noninvasive testing allowed us to see through the surface of the ceiling, and verify there was no current moisture infiltration. The roof was determined to be sound.

An unexpected benefit of the thermography was that it provided a vague image of how the medallion plasterwork was applied, showing the edge of the medallion’s canvas backing. Typically plaster ornamentation of this size was available in quarter sections for catalogue ordering. However, the ornament applied in this room would have been cast on site using the canvas as the base. Plasterers of the early 20th century worked in groups of 8 to 10, and before complete drying, the team would have lifted the medallion by the canvas, and attached it to the ceiling.

Paint analysis using cross-section microscopy was used to investigate the different surface applications in the room: 19 samples from the interior plaster and woodwork were collected, showing 13 different layers of paint! Cross-sections of these paint samples were examined to determine the first color scheme for the room. By the bathroom door, you can see the original color — a monochromatic beige color — used from the ceiling to the baseboards. Kirsten Moffitt, Historic Paint Analyst, who conducted this research remarked, “With so much raised ornamentation, I did not expect the findings to indicate a monochromatic beige scheme on all surfaces from the ceiling to the walls, ornament, and woodwork.” This monochromatic beige paint scheme remained throughout Mrs. Branch’s lifetime, and was possibly a backdrop for the wall hangings, furniture, and artwork Mrs. Branch would have used to decorate her bedroom. The blue and white paint scheme was first used in 2004 as a credible Adam-style paint scheme which enhanced the clarity of the detailed ornamental plaster work. The Branch Museum chose to retain those colors in the current repainting of the room.

Plaster repair — both flat surfaces and ornamentation were executed by Rebekah Jamerson, Master Plasterer, Nathan Jamerson, Apprentice and Bill McArthur, Master Plasterer. They worked to expose the details of the ornamentation, and re-cast severely damaged pieces of plaster ornament. The original ceiling plaster, once repaired, had a three-coat historic plaster finish applied.  Where the medallion canvas was separating from the ceiling surface, plaster was injected behind the medallion to re-adhere it to the ceiling. Deteriorated portions of a panel flanking the fireplace, and a 2-foot section of the frieze in the southeast corner of the room were recreated from molds made of the same features elsewhere in the room. The plaster workers used dental picks to remove excess paint to reveal the hidden plaster details.

Jeff Marble’s team at Paint Pros steamed and scraped paint from much of the damaged flat surfaces of the room, and then returned after the plaster cured to paint those surfaces.

Maeve Bristow, Architectural Finish Conservator, and Jesse Robertson, Preservation Artist, of Black Creek Workshop, and Suzanne Marion Collins, Historic Preservation Artist, and Christopher Collins, Assistant, of Marion Preservation Arts addressed the repainting of all plaster ornament as well as exposing the mantel plaster ornament tablet, and the consolidation of cameo tablets in both architraves. Every element received a tinted primer, followed by two coats of the final color. Robertson used painting techniques to highlight the fine details of the ornamentation, and enhance the frieze ornament

Scott Taylor, Conservator of E S Taylor Studio, consolidated a single original cracked pane in the left leaded glass casement door to the balcony.

The Branch House is the only Pope residence in the Tudor style in which all of its interiors, such as the Adam plasterwork, survive intact.  It is the interiors which elevate the national significance of the property. It is the unique character of these private spaces that distinguishes the Branch House among Pope’s residences.

Interested in our plaster restoration project? We’ve done more! Check out “The Branch House Plaster” webinar recording!

The Branch Museum would like to thank our donors for making this conservation of Beulah Branch’s bedroom possible.

Charles and Anna Acquino | Sabina Alcorn | Jamie Alexander | Dennis Andersen | David and Auguste Bannard | Lisa Barker | Lynn Bayliss | Helen Blackwell | Patricia Branch | Janet Branch | Barbara Brancoli | Caroline Brandt | Sally Brown | Laura Cameron | Stephen Caudle | Christopher and Margaret Chace | Edwin and Zayde Child | Walter and Jennie Dotts | Linda Drake | Page Edgerton | Elmwood Fund | Frederick Fisher | Marsha Fornash | Morgan and Gretchen Friday | Phillip and Louise Friday | Susan Goodwin | Anne Gray | Nicholas and Marjorie Greville | Helen and Vincent Grosso | Tom Hanson | John Hebberd | Julia Henley | Sarah Herguner | Margot Holman | Patti Hughes | Anne and Tom Innes | JM Foundation | Susan Klaus | Kathi Lee, Eleanor Lewis | Jean Longest | Marshall and Dennis Lynch | Bill Martin | Arlene and John McLaren | Caroline and Jeremiah Milbank | Hugh Miller | Tricia Pearsall | Cherry Peters | Patsy Pettus | Dianne Pierce | Mary Ready | Helen Reed | Ann Reed | Pamela and David Rennolds | Helen Reveley | Camille Robinson | MaryAnn Rodriguez | William Rose | Julia Rose | Kim Rosser | Olivia Ryan | Mary Sadle | Rick Fox and Sharman Owen | Larry  and Tillie Shifflett | Jack and Mary Spain | Randolph and Claire Trow | Betsy Trow | Sally Ucci | Dale Wheary | Elise Wright | Frances Zehmer | John and Bucci Zeugner

Additionally, the Branch Museum would like to thank the project team for their work on this conservation project

Kirsten Travers Moffitt, Conservator and Architectural Paint Analyst | Rebekah Jamerson, Master Plasterer, Nathan Jamerson, Apprentice, and William McArthur, Master Plasterer of All Things Plaster | Maeve Bristow, Architectural Finish Conservator and Jesse Robertson, Preservation Artist of Black Creek Workshop LLC

Suzanne Marion Collins, Preservation Artist and Christopher Collins, Assistant of Marion Historic Preservation Arts | Jeff Marble of Paint Pros Inc. | Scott Taylor, Leaded Glass Conservator of E. S. Taylor Studio | Terry Jenkins, Certified Infrared Thermographer of Prospect Properties | Additional: Sherwin-Williams Company, W. Cary Street Branch and Maurice Franck of Paul Saunders Roofing