February 28, 2007

I've Got a Sinking Feeling

I went to a little shindig in Pigtown the other week. After I left, my name was drawn for a door prize. I won a sink.

Now, I am not renovating my house, and I only have one bathroom, so I am not sure what I am going to do with a new-in-box sink.

They brought it over last night and I was all excited to see what I'd won. But it was a sink.

It's white and oval and shiny and I am still not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions?
Update: I think that I am going to take it to the local Habitat for Humanity store. It's just not useful for anything but a sink - too many holes and too shallow. Not even funky!

Stylish Storage

Monogram Mama's and Petite Tresor's blogs had postings about stylish storage and it got me to thinking about it. I only have TWO clothes closets in my late 1800's eleven-foot wide townhouse, and they're small, so I have to think of innovative ideas so I can store things that I am not using. The idea of using Rubbermaid plastic storage bins is anathema to me, because I know I can find something a lot more chic.
My good friend K gave me a set of about 15 nesting boxes with the iconic map of the London Underground on them. They are brightly coloured and remind me of all of my trips on the Tube when I worked in London. I labeled them with a Brother P-Touch labeler so I don't have to root through each box to find what I want.
I use baskets to store my stash of yarns so I will be inspired to make something creative. I use matching magazine files to store my collections of magazines, including Domino, assorted Christmas issues, British Homes & Gardens, and some others. They're also marked so I can find things. Before I moved to the UK, I sold my complete collection of Martha Magazines, including the first issue, for which I got $250.

My out of season shoes are stored in a serpentine-front sideboard, and coats are hung in storage bags along the stairway to the cellar - which is a dry cellar, luckily. I do have a few under-bed boxes for clothes and try to make sure my extensive collection of cashmere sweaters are washed and stored in boxes lined with dried lavender.

When you live in a small space, you have to be creative to take advantage of every single inch you have and make the most of it.

February 25, 2007

Duchess of Windsor

The Peak of Chic had an article about the interior designer Billy Baldwin the other week and we got to thinking about some other notable Baltimoreans. Another style-maker of Baldwin's same time period was the Duchess of Windsor, former Baltimorean, Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson Windsor.

As I was out-and-about yesterday, I noticed this hanging in the neighbourhood where she was born and lived until she got married. The Warfield side of her family is an old Maryland family, but her father died when she was an infant and she lived with her mother in relative poverty, or shabby gentility.
In 1998, the contents of her house outside of Paris, which were owned by Mohammad Al Fayed, owner of Harrods in London and father of Dodi Fayed, who was killed in the accident with Princess Diana, were auctioned by Sotheby's for more than $23 million.

Much of her jewellry was designed by the Duke of Windsor and made for her by Cartier in Paris. Much of the jewellry is shown in the book The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, which is now out of print, but is available on Amazon. Another book, Windsor Style, by Susie Menkes is also out of print, but at Amazon.

More than 20 years after her death, the Duchess of Windsor still fascinates us.

February 23, 2007

American Craft Council Show

I am all excited to go to the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore this weekend. The ACC was founded in 1943 to "promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft".

This is not your country, homespun, kitchy craft show with calico and straw. This craft market is comprised of 800 juried craftsmen and women who produce glasswares, jewellry, fiberwork, ceramics and myriad other amazing goods. The Baltimore ACC show is the largest in the country and people fly in from everywhere to attend.

Pieces in this show range in price from less than $100 to the mid-five figures. But there is literally some thing for everyone. A few years ago, I tried on a hat made from industrial felt which was in the shape of a ziggarut, but P. wouldn't let me have it... I bought a great topper in fleece instead, and wear it all of the time.

This year, there will be a special Children's section and the usual Spotlight on new talent. A number of years ago, my friend John Gutierrez was one of the spotlighted talents.
I am always interested in the jewellry and am looking to replace some of what was stolen last year. A few years ago, I got the most wonderful bangles which were silver, cast from bent twigs. One of the things I used to collect was spheres and I got some copper wire ones of assorted sizes at the ACC Show.
I will write more about the show this weekend, after I've gone.
All images: American Crafts Council

February 21, 2007

Lulu Guinness

Lulu Guinness, I think, is more well-known on her home territory of the UK than here in the US. She's somehow associated with the Irish brewing family, but I am not sure how. Her main claim to fame is her handbag collection. I think the closest comparison is that she's the British Kate Spade.

The original bag which got her noticed was a bunch of roses fashioned into a handbag. Her collection has expanded to include jewellry, sunglasses, shoes, bedlinens and books.
Lulu's signature book, "Put On Your Pearls, Girls" is her advice on living a girly life. Pearls is an acronym for "poised, elegant, attractive, radiant, ladylike, sophisticated" something she thinks everyone should aspire to become. The book is illustrated by Martin Welsh, whose line drawings are closely associated with Lulu's handbags with embroidered phrases and scenes on them.

Lulu's website is lots of fun with the requisite catalogue of her goods, and they're great, and some gossipy pages, her fashion blog, her ad campaigns - the most recent of which is a take-off on Alice in Wonderland, and is quite clever.

When my buddy, Miss M.A. came to stay with me in London, I gave her photos of the trip in Lulu's adorable and appropriate photo album, illustrated with embroidered scenes of London.So put on your pearls, check out Lulu's website and have some fun!

Update 3.27: I just saw Lulu's book on Horschow Collection for $150!!! What's that all about?

February 20, 2007


Growing up in Baltimore, we always had Stieff silver on our table. Stieff and Samuel Kirk & Sons, a firm established in the early 1800's, merged in the 1970's to become Kirk-Stieff. Both firms are closely associated with Baltimore, but were acquired by Lenox in the late 1990's and no longer exist.
My mother has an extensive collection of both Kirk and Stieff silver. Her maiden name is Rose, so her pattern was Stieff Rose. Kirk Rose is the Repousse pattern. Throughout the years, she has collected a wide assortment of silver pieces, from ice cream forks to punch ladles. When it came time for me to select a pattern, I chose the family pattern.
But I bought a set of silverware for everyday use called Stieff Cloisonne, which is a silver plate with black and red enamel insets. It's very modern, but the colours make it a classic. Even though I got it about 10+ years ago, it has aged well. Sorry about the bad photo! When I returned from the UK, I wanted something new again, so bought a pattern from Target! It's called Solar and is "silver" with embossed dots. Very simple, very easy. When I get bored with it, I won't feel bad about replacing it.

One of the things that Kirk-Stieff is most famous for is creating the replica of the Woodlawn Vase, the trophy for the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown of horse racing. The original trophy weighs in at 29 pounds, and is the most valuable trophy in sports. The winner of the Preakness receives a half-size replica... not bad!

Do you have silver service? Do you still use it?

Updated: 6:30 p.m.

February 18, 2007

Happy Pig Year!

Last night, while billions of Chinese were celebrating the Year of the Pig, so were a group of friends and I. The hostess has been collecting pigs throughout her entire life, so she had plenty to choose from for the table decorations. After a blind tasting of several wines, I amused myself at dinner arranging her napkin rings and photographing them.
I was thinking about two previously discussed themes here: Asian influences and collecting. I think that the Asian influences are more easily understandable, they're a culture who've been around for several millenia and their art and artifacts translate into good design. We were at a store a few weeks ago and there was a mirror surrounded by copies of anciant Chinese coins which would have looked at home in both a traditional and a contemporary environment.
One of the most fun places to visit in New York is Pearl River Mart on Broadway in Soho. It used to be housed on two floors above the hustle of Canal Street and you had to search for the entry to it. They've moved into a posh new quarters, but you can still find many of the old favourites like silk-covered notebooks (I swear by these), teapots, bamboo, Buddhas, clothing, silks, housewares and much, much more. In fact, they're expanding even further in March.
This lunar year is the year of the Golden Pig and is thought to be especially lucky for those born during it. I hope your Year of the Pig is nothing but lucky!

February 16, 2007

Glamour & Luxury

In my post, London Calling, I talked about Tricia Guild's stores on the King's Road in London. Yesterday, the New York Times did a slideshow feature about some of her new line of wall coverings which were shown at the Maison et Objet show in Paris. There were also some other wonderful items from the show, including ultra luxe curtains in silk and seed pearls.
Tricia Guild says that people want more glamour and texture in their homes, and that they're sick of beige. I can't agree more!
One of the other designers who is featured in this slideshow is William Yeoward, who works out of a shop which is also in King's Road in London. On his website you can find a beautiful PDF booklet of his designs, entitled Seduction.

Photos: The New York Times

February 14, 2007

Give It Some Wellie!

We have layers of snow, ice, snow and more ice, so I am sticking close to home today. I took Connor for a long walk this morning and he was just bouncing! This kind of weather isn't for those chic leather boots, but for some boots that can take the salt and water.

In the UK, wellies are a necessity because the weather can be so wet. I remember a fun afternoon with my cousins and the dog, tromping over to the local polo grounds after a lovely Sunday dinner. Wellies were mandatory. Even the Queen wears them! The expression "give it some Wellie" means get a move on it or hit the gas!
I have a great pair of wellington boots from Tamara Henriques. They are black, pink and white flowers. You've gotta love someone who makes boots in cheetah, toile, and stripes and in cowboy boot style and kitten heels!
Wellies are usually a dull army green, but now they're available in some fun colours from the original rubber wellie company, Hunter,who make boots by appointment to the Queen. Their website isn't great, if you check it out.
Photos: Tamara Henriques Boots

February 13, 2007

Wedgwood Exhibition - Save the Date

A few weeks ago, I told you about the Mount Clare Mansion, a five-part Georgian mansion in downtown Baltimore. The Mansion will be hosting a landmark exhibition in May 2007. Wedgwood items will be shown in the rooms in the settings which they would have originally appeared (had the family owned some Wedgwood - which they didn't, oddly). Pieces will be placed in the cabinets and on the tables, shown in a natural setting.

One of the signature pieces which will be on exhibit will be the jasperware Portland Vase used in the Wedgwood logo. Additionally, there will be yellow, green, black, lilac and red jasperware pieces on display. The exhibition is being held in conjunction with the International Wedgwood Society which is meeting in Baltimore in May.

Vera Wang Imperial Scroll

Barbara Barry Musical Chairs

Although Wedgwood is 300+ years old, they keep up to date, while maintaining a selection of their classic pieces. Most people think of Wedgwood as only their Jasperware, with the blue background and white figures and their black basalt vases and urns. But among their collection designers are Vera Wang, Jasper Conran and Barbara Barry.

Robert Dawson's Willow Pattern

One of the new collections is a bold new take on the historic and ubiquitous Blue Willow Pattern. Robert Dawson has taken this pattern and blown it up by a significant percentage. Slices of willow-ware edge his plates, cups and bowls.

One of the reasons that Wedgwood has been a market and style leader for more than 300 years is that they know how to change with the time. If you're interested in the Three Centuries of Wedgwood Exhibit, check the Mount Clare website.

February 12, 2007

Valentine's Day

Well, I am not much for Valentine's Day this year, as I don't expect to get anything from Connor! But there are some very nice presents I would like to get (actually, I don't really want anything - I am still gun-shy after my robbery in December). Here are some things I would not object to getting in my Valentine's Day stocking.

Probably not in this or any other lifetime! But a girl can wish...
To replace the one that was stolen. :-(

A nice Quercus-scented candle from Penhaligon's London. Yummy woody, lime, bergamot, jasmine, treemoss notes. Sounds a bit odd, but it's lovely.

Silk picture frame from Shanghai Tang.

February 10, 2007

Clipper Mill

As I mentioned in my previous post, Gutierrez:Studios is located in the historic Clipper Mill neighbourhood in Baltimore, just bordering the Jones Falls. John Gutierrez’s studio is in an old foundry in the Clipper Mill complex. This area is named for the work the factories there produced to go onto Baltimore's fast clipper ships in the 1800's. After a disastrous and fatal fire about 10 years ago, the space sat empty, just waiting for the right person to come and develop it.
Clipper Mill is still being developed as a mixed use of housing, retail, restaurants and businesses. So far, Gutierrez:Studios, Coradetti Glass and several other creative endeavours and galleries are located there. The Baltimore Architecture Foundation hosted their annual Groundhog Day party at the Studio last weekend, and although we drove around, it was dark when we left and we’d had a couple of drinks, so I went back today to look around. John's studio is enormous - about 250 feet long, 40+ feet high and 80 feet wide - covering about 20,000 square feet.
One of the most spectacular parts of the complex is the swimming pool, which is nestled in some old walls and surrounded by classical columns with gas torches on top. There is a large sculpture backing the pool and hill behind it.
Everywhere you look, there are mementos of the original use of the property as a foundry and factory. Large gears are inset into the walls and railings, industrial sculptures dot the grounds, and care has been taken to ensure that the history is preserved.

My memories of the sad weeks after the fire have been replaced by happy ones of a lively interesting place.


Chances are if you've seen some fantastic contemporary iron work around Baltimore, it's the work of Gutierrez:Studio. John Gutierrez is the youngest of ten children from an amazing family. One sister argued before the Supreme Court twice before she was 40; one brother runs a well-known landscape design firm, a couple of other siblings run the family's successful import/export business. All are terribly interesting.
John has been designing furniture for the ?? years that I have known him (his brother is my best friend from college) and is just getting more and more creative as time goes on. My god-daughter and I stopped by the studio this afternoon to check it out in the daytime… it was the scene of the infamous Groundhog Day party last weekend. When we arrived,one of John's artisans was doing some arc welding, which was awesome to watch.
The Studio is in a converted foundry in Clipper Mill, Baltimore, which still has many of the original workings in it, including a winch and pulley system that runs the length of the building. John’s artisans have access to an iron forge as well as a powder coating room, and almost acres of space. They have some signature pieces, including occasional tables and benches.
John’s work adorns some of the premier spaces in Baltimore, including the American Visionary Arts Museum, Pazo Restaurant, Tapas Teatro Restaurant and Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters in Bethesda. From the top, the photos are John's signature Occasional Table, Jellyfish stools for Atlantic Restaurant, a Film Reel table and the entrance sign for Anthropologie in Bethesda, Maryland.

I consider myself very lucky to know John and to count him among my friends, and to have seen his talent bloom over the years.