September 21, 2014

Flowers on Sunday

I was out at Halcyon House Antiques this weekend and went up to the house to pick some flowers. And what gorgeous flowers they were.  I showed you the garden a few weeks ago, and in the middle of September, it’s getting that louche, overgrown look that I adore. IMG_2746

We headed into the garden at around 5:00 p.m. and wonderfully, there were loads of bees buzzing round all of the flowers, and Jonathan warned me to be careful when I was picking flowers because the bees were so active. Bees are disappearing, so it was good to see so many in the garden, although butterflies have been scarce this year.

I came home with a huge bucket of flowers, as well as some large and small tomatoes and some basil. I think that next to peonies and gardenias, dahlias are my favourite flowers.IMG_4085

I quickly set about arranging the flowers, using my trusty champagne bucket. I can’t tell you how helpful a flower frog is when working with flowers like these with heavy heads. You stick the stems in the holes which hold the stems in place. They’re hard to find, but work brilliantly.image

After fiddling around a little, I finally made an arrangement that I liked. IMG_4086


I used the burgundy and purple dahlias along with some deep red coxcomb. I’ve set it on a table in front of my Japanese silk painting that I love, and I think it works perfectly.

But I still had some flowers left over. These amazing flowers are Leonotis leonurus aka Lion's Tail. IMG_4083This is an African plant related to mint, with tubular flowers that encircle a square stem. I was fascinated by the plant, never having seen it before.


I knew that this plant called for a tall container, so I pulled out a silver ewer with a rattan handle (to keep it cool to the touch), and put the Lion’s Tail in it. IMG_4090IMG_4095

The plant’s leaves echo the ones in the painting perfectly!

I accidentally cut some of the flowers too short, so I added them to other vases. This one’s floating in a piece of old English china. although you can’t really tell. IMG_4113

This is a deep purple, so dark that it almost looks black.IMG_4097IMG_4101The leaves are such a velvety texture and the colour is just fabulous.

I also loved this purple and white variegated variety. IMG_4115

These flowers just make me so happy and I am pleased to share them with you.

Also garden related, my friend Loi Thai, over at the beautiful blog, Tone on Tone, was up in Baltimore visiting us a few weeks ago, and he had a chance to see this garden, too. imagePlease click here to see Loi’s take on this garden. He took pictures immediately after a rainy day, and I took them the next day which was sunny. It’s fun to see how differently we looked at the same garden.

September 18, 2014

A Thing of Beauty…

…Is a Joy Forever. That old adage was proven at least twice today.

I attended the Finery & Finish: Embellishments on Baltimore Federal Furniture exhibit at Homewood House Museum on the campus of Johns Hopkins University and was able to get up-close-and-personal with some of the most beautiful made in Baltimore at the end of the 1700’s and onward. The detail on these pieces is extraordinary, especially when you think of the conditions and tools that these artisans worked with.

Homewood is a truly stunning house museum and I’ve often attended events there, in part because the curator is a friend, but also because the quality of the pieces in the house is so extraordinary and represents a period of great creativity in Baltimore.IMG_3972

One of the highlights of the exhibit was some of the beautiful painted furniture that Baltimore was known for. This small painted box was an example with some typical motifs including the griffons. IMG_3987IMG_3989

Unfortunately, this piece painted by Francis Grey was not there, but the painting is an early illustration of Homewood House. The definitive scholarly tome on Francis Grey was written by my friend, Stiles, and it is a wonderful portrayal of a semi-itinerant painter in the late 18th century.


Because Homewood has acquired a set of chairs from various sources, they’re the same but different. Slight changes have been made by different owners, but they’re all of a set.IMG_3997IMG_4021IMG_4024

One of the chairs that caught my eye was this pagoda-topped example. The carving and turning indicate that it’s probably not a Baltimore chair, but may have been made in near-by Washington, DC.IMG_4026

The chests were just stunning, glowing with their French-polished finish. IMG_4004IMG_4005IMG_4009IMG_4011

This little piece which was sitting unobtrusively in the corner, turned out to have a bit of a secret.IMG_4022IMG_4023

The top opens from the side and then opens again to reveal a spot for a chamber pot. IMG_4036IMG_4032

If you’re in the area, the exhibit is on until January and it’s well worth your time to visit.IMG_4061

The other thing of beauty is the newly published book by Markham Roberts: Decorating: The Way I See ItIMG_4053

This is just a stunning book. Each and every page is just a joy to see. IMG_4054

His work is comfortable and very approachable. I would just love to plop down in one of these chairs with some good friends or a good book, and while away an afternoon. IMG_4056

If you look closely, the chairs in the image to the left are covered in the fabric Billy Baldwin made famous, Arbre de Matisse.

I am looking forward to a nice rainy afternoon where I can curl up with this book and really study the images. IMG_4058

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One more thing… Our painters at work started on the Reading Room and just with the priming done and the curtains down, the room already looks 100% better. Although I am freaking out a little that the painters didn’t remove the portrait and the sculptures before they started! YIKES!IMG_3962IMG_3959

Hopefully, they will finish up tomorrow or Monday, and I will have some more pictures for you!

September 17, 2014

Auction Fever

I love going to auctions and there’s nothing like the thrill of bidding and winning a coveted item! But my favourite auction house has recently converted from a live auction on Saturday mornings to an on-line “discovery” auction. I still bid on things, but I really like the fun of out-bidding someone in person, and watching all of the different personalities and characters who attend the auctions.

In smaller auctions like this one, there are “lots” of items, and sometimes they’re related, like a box of china, and other times, the lot is totally random, like the that lot that had some mid-century modern lucite and chrome pieces, and this Thai Noodle Cart. I won a few lots at the auction over the weekend, which was amazing with everything else that was happening, and I thought I’d share them with you.

How about this amazing cheese dome! It’s huge and weighs a ton. There is one similar to this, but with more elaborate decoration, on 1st Dibs for over $6,000! I can imagine a huge hunk of Stilton under this dome. IMG_3879

Do you remember that massive lot of china I got at an auction earlier in the summer? This huge platter matches it exactly!


One of the other pieces in this lot was a piece of the china that my mother collects, and pieces of which have been in her family for generations. It’s Davenport in the Flying Bird pattern. IMG_3875

I especially like this piece because it’s been repaired with staples. A jeweler would use a diamond-tipped drill bit to cut the holes for the staples. It’s completely sturdy and shows a respect for the piece.IMG_3877

This is another piece in the lot, and although it’s filthy, it’s still a great piece.


The reverse is equally interesting. Some one’s written “English Ironstone, Crown Derby …” and on the side, it almost looks like a date, 17xx??IMG_3883

This platter is also huge! The pattern is similar to some pieces I bought at auction last summer, except they were blue and white.


The last piece I will share with you is a toast rack. It’s English silver and is marked 1867! Such a sweet piece with its hearts. IMG_3898

There is still an auction house that does live country-style auctions, so I will probably start paying more attention to that!

September 14, 2014

Pride of Baltimore!

If you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for any length of time, you know that I am a big booster of Baltimore, my home town. This weekend gave me so much more to be proud of with the celebrations for the 200th Anniversary of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. As I mentioned last week, there were loads of events happening in and around Baltimore, on the land, in the sea and in the air. I managed to take advantage of all three!


Friday started out by leaving the office at noon to join one of my best friends for drinks and lunch at the Four Seasons, which is right on the waterfront. We knew that the Blue Angels would be practicing in the afternoon, so we had a front row seat for that, and for watching the ships sail by. The one above is Pride of Baltimore II and is a gorgeous ship!

It was so exciting to see the Blue Angels swooping and zooming by us and they looked like they were having such fun! They are so fast that they move faster than the speed of sound, so you see them before you hear them, and they can actually sneak up on you!IMG_3481

At times, they fly so close to each other that their wings are only 18 inches apart. It’s equally thrilling and a little scary!IMG_3537

Saturday started out with some rain, but all reports said it would move out by 3:00 and sure enough, it did! We headed down to the harbour and had a chance to look at some of the tall ships that were visiting for the Star-Spangled 200 celebrations. Luckily, I had the perfect shirt to wear!SS200  (1)

Each of the tall ships that we saw were impressive in their own way, from the masthead to the rigging.
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Just before sunset, we hopped on a boat and headed out of the Inner Harbour. The sky was just gorgeous and provided lots of opportunities for pictures!SS200  (42)SS200  (43)SS200  (56)SS200  (64)SS200  (68)SS200  (72)

When we finally reached the cove where we moored, we waited in anticipation of the fireworks. On the way out, we’d seen the barges that they would be shot from, and there was a barge about every half mile.

And then with a huge bang, the fireworks started!fireworks  (3)

We were perfectly situated, being able to see over to Fort McHenry which was the main venue, and back into the city and the Inner Harbour. To say that these were the best fireworks I’ve ever seen would not be an understatement. They went on for more than 20 minutes, with all six barges firing off fireworks at the same time. It was a sensory overload, but so much fun!fireworks  (11)fireworks  (21)fireworks  (23)fireworks  (33)fireworks  (50)

I tried to take a panoramic shot so you could see more than one barge, but it’s not great… the boat was rocking a little bit in the chop, so some of these pictures are a little crooked. fireworks  (29)

One of the fun pieces that they did was make pictures out of fireworks, and you can just see the flag here. They also spelled USA and 1814 and 2014. fireworks  (57)

I love this picture, during the finale! I am taking a picture of the fireworks, and in the corner, you can see one of my friends taking the same picture!fireworks  (64)

I love the second or two after the fireworks finish, and they’re still echoing across the harbour, and then all of the boats start sounding their horns in a cacophony of hoots and toots!

As we sailed back into the harbour, it was great to see how many of the buildings had been lit in red, white and blue!fireworks  (76)

On Sunday, I met up with some friends at Port Covington and we watched the final show of the Blue Angels. If you haven’t seen them, they’re simply amazing.BA  (39)

Their rolls, spins, speed and seer power are fabulous. At times, they are flying so low that their landing gear drops, BA  (4)and then they fly so high that they get lost in the sky and the clouds. They fly over so fast and so close that your bones rattle.If you look closely, two of the planes are flying up-side-down! BA  (8)

As these two went by, they were going about 600 miles per hour. BA  (28)

My little camera and iPhone are just not good enough to get decent shots, although the friends I was with got a lot. Between the two of them, they shot off more than 1400 images!BA  (37)

One of the fun images from this weekend is of Governor Martin O’Malley dressed in period uniform atop a horse. I remember when he learned to ride about 10+ years ago at Fort McHenry. Later in the weekend, he and his Irish rock band played a concert at one of the Star-Spangled celebration sites!bal-omalley-pg-026

It was such a fun weekend and I am so glad to have the chance to participate in the events. I am so proud of Baltimore and how beautifully everything went and how fabulous the city looked.