We recently rented a 17th century manor house in Scotland that appeared so forbidding as we drove up to it that we wouldn't have blinked twice if the ghost of William Wallace had welcomed us at the front door.
But inside, it was a different story. Obviously, the unrelentingly cold weather outside had driven generations of previous owners toward a fierce love of color in their interiors. While my son and his little friends ran around looking photogenic, I spent most of my time aiming my camera down at the floor and trying to keep everyone's feet out of the way. The rugs, oh, the rugs! They were tattered and threadbare and pure perfection.
And despite the ancestral portraits of grim matrons in mourning wear and neck ruffs gazing disapprovingly down at me...
...I knew that anyone who had chosen this fiery palette had to have had some fire burning within as well. A postscript: When I went through my photos later, I found them dotted with small apparitions. Even now, I shudder.
(All photos taken at Gargunnock House, Scotland)