February 8, 2016

The Year of the Monkey

This is the Chinese Lunar New Year and this year’s symbol is the cheeky monkey!

The general image of people in this zodiac sign is of always being smart, clever and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth.

In addition, their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life. Although they were born with enviable skills, they still have several shortcomings, such as an impetuous temper and a tendency to look down upon others.

Monkeys are frequently used as a decorative element, and I remember finding a remnant of a gorgeous Schumacher fabric with fun monkeys all over it. Here are some other examples that I found.

P Kaufmann: Elephant Monkey Floral Print


Sanderson’ Capuchinimage

House of Hackney Troop image

Caspari Papersimage

Lilly Pulitzer’s Monkey Troubleimage

De Gournay wallpaperimage

Hermes’ Jungle Life wallpaperimage

Herend Three Monkeysimage

Nina Campbell’s Barbary Toileimage

Now that it’s the Year of the Monkey, I am sure we’ll be seeing these cheeky fellows everywhere!

February 6, 2016

#ThisIsBaltimore: Winter, So Far!

This has been a busy week here at Pigtown*Design World HQ, as we call it around my house. Lots of evening meetings and events, especially one special one – the 27th Annual Groundhog Day Party. This year, it featured extensively on my Instagram feed because it was held in a gorgeous 1840’s townhouse in Baltimore.

A striking staircase and a stunning window.image

Several gorgeous fireplacesimageimage

The small red barn at Halcyon House Antiques. This is a week after the storms, and the snow’s down by about half.image

This was hour 25.5 of the storm. At this point, we were at about 24 inches. Eventually, we got about 30 inches.image

Housewerks Salvage looked like an old church boneyard.image

But it was pieces like this fireback from the British Embassy in DC that drew us. image

Honestly, I find the strangest things when I am searching through old medical journals at the office.image

Starting the new year on an inspiring note.image

Ending the year with a long lunch of Bloodys and oysters with my best friend from college. image

As always, thank you for reading Pigtown*Design!

February 3, 2016

RIP Mr. Lee

One of my favourite summer cocktails is a Southside, but really a Mr. Lee’s Southside. The famous Mr. George Lee, Sr. made his own cocktail mix, no fancy bottle or hipster-designed label for him.  image

All you really needed was a bottle of Mt. Gay rum, or gin or vodka depending on your preferance, some of Mr. Lee’s mix and some soda water. If you happened to have a sprig or two of mint to decorate the glass, all the better.


Over the weekend came the news that Mr. George Lee, bartender extraordinaire, had died at age 96. He was one of 15 children and spent his life in service as a butler, bartender and finally a cocktail maker! He was always such a cheerful presence at a party, remembering exactly how you liked your drink served. His obituary is here.

A few years ago, a friend was visiting from the UK, and I wanted to serve Southsides. I couldn’t rustle up Mr. Lee, so another friend whose shop we were visiting, zipped back to his house and brought me a bottle of Mr. Lee’s mix, because he couldn’t stand the fact that I’d serve anything less than the best. And Mr. Lee would drop off a case of mix at my mother’s house when my brother would be coming into town, so he could stock-pile it at home.image

RIP dear Mr. Lee.

February 2, 2016

My Newest Obsession

Ah, ‘tis a slippery slope when I find something I love! IMG_8329Thinking back to last May, when I first laid eyes on the gorgeous mother-of-pearl silverware that I spotted, and knowing what’s happened next, I certainly didn’t need a new obsession.

When I found one set of the mother of pearl silver, I also discovered mother of pearl Chinese gaming chips being sold by the same dealer. IMG_8368These tiny, and I mean 1.5 inches by .75 inches, pieces of mother of pearl are all hand-carved. The Chinese are huge gamblers and in the 1700’s on long sea journeys, the crewmen filled their time by carving these pieces and then using them for games. These chips then moved to England, especially as part of the tea and porcelain trade, and became commonplace in English households. I’ve seen examples of these engraved with beautiful monograms, and coats of arms. imageAs tastes in games changed, the need for these beautiful counters faded by the 1850’s. The best ones were made in China, and feature cross-hatching, as you can see in one of the chips above and below. IMG_8366

The chips came in several shapes including fish, roundels, rectangles, some with plain edges and others with scalloped edges, and ovals. THe details are amazing, and on the rectangle above and the ovals below, the dots are raised! They are also carved on both sides, but with different patterns. IMG_8367

I have seen some of these bound in gold and made into pendants, earrings and other jewelry. image

A great source of information on these amazing treasures is Chez Bill, here. You can find these Chinese gaming chips on Etsy here.

January 28, 2016

I’ll Take This: The St. Paul’s Studios

I’ve written about this amazing block of buildings in London several times before, most recently in September, here and also here. I am just enchanted with the St. Paul’s Studios, a block of former artists studios with gorgeous double height windows, and look forward to seeing them when I am back in the UK next month. imageOne of these was recently featured in The Guardian (UK) with some interior images. The houses were designed for bachelor artists by Frederick Wheeler, and provide enormous amounts of natural light, a necessity for artists. imageOver the years, fewer artists live in them, and the six-lane road outside has become the main artery to and from Heathrow Airport, and on to the M4, a major east-west highway. Unfortunately, there’s also a tube station in the rear.imageThis end-of-group unit had been owned for 40 years by an American, and prior to that, it had been sub-divided into apartments. The couple kept a mezzanine or loft that had been added and made the huge studio room their master bedroom. imageThe wallpapers are by the owner’s niece, the designer, Neisha Crosland. image Regardless of anything and everything, I’d still take one of these terrific buildings in a heartbeat!image

You can read the full article here.

January 24, 2016

29.2 Inches!

Well, this was a record-setting weekend all along the mid-Atlantic coast, and especially here in Baltimore. We set the record for one day/one event snowfall with 29.2 inches falling in just about 30 hours. At times, the snow was falling at three inches per hour! The snow started slowly, at about 3:00 p.m. Friday and continued until just about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday.IMG_8149IMG_8160IMG_8185

In the second image, you can barely make out the lump that it my neighbour’s car! Mine was shoveled out with the help of a young man who was savvy and motivated enough to advertise on Next Door™. I still can’t get my car out of our street because it hasn’t been ploughed yet… This might be the reason why:IMG_8184

Here’s my car before shoveling.IMG_8170

After lots of shoveling, we managed to make piles of snow taller than I am – and on both sides of the path!IMG_8175

No work on Monday because many of the city’s streets are still impassable. With the high winds we had along with the snow, there are massive drifts that make ploughing difficult.IMG_8180

Did you have snow? How did you cope?

January 22, 2016

Prepping for the Storm

We have had a pretty easy winter here in Baltimore. In fact, my family ate Christmas lunch on the porch in 70°weather. I can’t remember that ever happening before! Well, as they say paybacks are a bitch! image

We’re expecting up to two feet of snow, plus 50 mph winds, beginning on Friday night and ending sometime Sunday. If you remember, we had about 50+ inches of snow in five days in 2010, but since then, just 10 inches here and there. Nothing too monumental! image

I will be sorry not to have Connor around to use as my snow-meter, but I still have the snow bunny for measuring. He actually loved the snow, and would sit outside for as long as I’d let him. imageWhen we had that storm, during which we were required to shelter-in-place, I taught myself to sew. I’d just discovered a local store which sold amazing fabric remnants, and I couldn’t resist buying them… and then I had to buy a sewing machine!

I think I am going to work on finally finalizing the design for my Toile de Baltimore. My friend Julie had resurrected this over Christmas and had printed some wrapping paper with the pattern. I used it on a gift bag over the holidays, too. image

My work hours preclude me from photographing my great mother-of-pearl silverware during the week, so the bright diffuse light of the snowstorm should be perfect for shooting. IMG_4452Look for new items on my Etsy shop over the next couple of days!

Luckily, I am well stocked with reading materials, and am making sure that all of my devices and chargers are charged in case we lose power.I went to the grocery store before it became an episode of The Hunger Games (literally). It’s all a little daunting, but I am sure we’ll all get through it, and then have great stories to tell.

Wish me luck and check my Instagram and FB feeds over the next few days!

January 18, 2016

At Home with Tone On Tone

As I’ve said many times before, one of the best parts about this blogging adventure is meeting new people. Loi Thai and his partner, Tom Troeschel, are some of those people. They have joined us for some fun parties here in Baltimore and have become wonderful friends over the past few years.

Loi and Tom also own the gorgeous store, Tone on Tone, in Bethesda, Maryland and writes the blog of the same name. He’s also got a beautiful instagram account with something like 31,000 followers (gawd, now I am depressed!).

And, if that’s not enough, their beautiful house is featured in the February issue of Martha Stewart!image

His house is the epitome of cool, calm and collected, as is Loi himself. Spare, clean, white and bright are some other words I’d use to describe his design aesthetic.image

Here’s Loi with Baltimore-based photographer, Helen Norman, who did the photography, and Lorna Aragon, editor for MS Magazine. I was actually up at Helen’s Star Bright Farm, just before Christmas.image

This is all just a sneak peek, but you must go pick up the magazine and see how gorgeous it all is and then go visit his blog.image

Tell Loi I sent you!