April 30, 2007

Brocade Home

Have you seen the new catalogue called Brocade Home? It is a sub-brand of Restoration Hardware, just as West Elm is to Williams-Sonoma. In fact, Lisa Versacio who developed West Elm is the force behind Brocade Home. So far, it's just in catalogue form which launched in September 2006. There are no free-standing stores yet.

Their look is very feminine and girly - think Marie Antoinette in 2007. I don't think too many men would be comfortable in a Brocade Home, but touches here and there are great. Their on-line catalogue is very attractive and well-photographed, invoking an era passed.

The catalogue features wide range, including furniture, lighting, accessories, bed and bath, and gifts. Some of their prices seem quite reasonable, and some seem high. Plus, you have to add shipping costs. Brocade Home is loads of fun to look through with lots of gorgeous things.

April 28, 2007

Barrister's Bonanza!

In my quest to find a great storage piece, I headed off early this morning (but not as early as last week!) to a neighbourhood on the north side of the city for their annual yard sales. I have gotten some awesome deals there in the past (victorian brass bed, weighed a ton for $25) and so thought that this might yield some treasures.

I hit the jackpot on the second block when I found a metal barrister's bookcase for $25! It's a three level one, and stands about five feet high. It's painted black now and has glass shelf fronts. I might take it to be stripped and then painted at the autobody shop. I am thinking a nice high-gloss white... what do you think? I would probably line the insides with another colour.

I stopped to talk to my friends at Housewerks Salvage and one suggestion was to sand it down to the original steel. I had tried that on a tiny bit, but needed a rougher grade of sandpaper, which I now have. I have a palm sander, and can work for about 10 minutes before my hands go numb. Luckily, it's only got two coats of paint on top of the original grey.

There aren't too many images on Google, so I've provided a link to show you one that was used as a bar. The one in the image above is one shelf larger than mine, but otherwise the same. It sold on eBay for $399, plus $200 shipping. So, I am thinking I got a good deal. I also got a couple of iron plant stands for $.25 each, so all told, a very good hunting day.

April 27, 2007

Boots, The Chemist

Whenever I go to the UK, the first and last place I stop to shop is Boots, the Chemist. There's no real equivalent in the US that I know about - none of the major drugstore chains like Rite Aid or even Duane Reed in NYC come close. I just read this morning that Boots products are coming to all Target stores and 450 CVS and 350 Shoppers Drug Stores. I am sure that they won't have the full range of Boots' products but if they even have a small percentage of their makeup, I will be one happy gal!

Boots' No 7 line of beauty products is made by the same company that makes Chanel products. Their colour range is great and I love the way the make up goes on. Their Protect and Perfect serum got a huge boost after Professor Lesley Regan proved on BBC2's Horizon last month that it actually did what it claimed and it is now sold out in the UK. You might be able to find it on eBay for about three times the original cost in GBP, which means about six times what it would cost in the US.

Another great thing about Boots, and most other UK stores, is their loyalty program, which puts any in the US to shame. I sometimes got a point per £ spent and then could sometimes redeem this for a point per pound! My other favourite item at Boots is the "Joy RIde" anti-motion sickness medicine. Anything that's got a name like that has to be great!
Boots also carries premium labels including Chanel, Dior, Lancome and Clinique. They also carry a limited range of home accessories, which were always very stylish. You can buy anything from Boots, from car insurance to candy... I can't wait to see what Target has.

P.S. That wacky woman you saw doing the happy dance in the aisles of the Target this morning was me! Thrilled that I can get all of the things I love on this side of the pond!

April 26, 2007

Pink and...

Over on Absolutely Beautiful Things, Anna from Australia is featuring great photos of all things pink and yellow. I love the colour pink, for all of its brightness and its cheer. It can sometimes act as a neutral if it is pale enough, or provide a huge pop of interest if it's bright and hot.
Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor, once said that pink was the navy blue of India. From buildings to clothing, the country is washed with many shades of pink. When I lived in the UK, which has a large Indian population, I made a point of visiting Indian shops and picked up a 20-foot long sari in the most lush pinks. I haven't a clue how to wrap it, and haven't figured out what to do with it, but love it all the same!

From the palest of blush pinks to the hottest of fuschia pinks, there is a shade for everyone and everything. Some pinks are more blue-based and others have more of a red tone. Still more, along the coral range have yellows along with the reds. Pink is flattering to most skin tones, which is a "good thing".

What's your favourite shade of pink? Why?

Click on the picture above for another view of Jamie Drake's Pink Kips Bay Room and others.

April 24, 2007

Adaptive Re-use

In my eternal quest for storage space in my little house, I am always looking for alternative uses for things. I found two great ottomans, which would be even better if their tops lifted off for storage. I have a serpentine front dresser from my mother where I store out-of-season shoes/boots and dinner linens (it's in the dining room.) Vintage luggage is used to store sweaters and scarves.
The piece I use for a desk is an old stainless steel commercial kitchen counter, which is about five feet long and three feet deep. It's got a shelf under it, which is a great place to rest my feet and for Connor to sleep while I am working. It also has a low backsplash to prevent things from falling off. It was the only piece of furniture I kept when I moved to Wales.
When we founded Second Chance about six years ago, we thought one of the ways we could enhance our services was providing examples of adaptive re-use of our salvage items. Old floors could be re-used as wall paneling... Clawfeet from bathtubs could be re-purposed as wall sconces for candles... An old fireplace surround (mantelpiece) used as a headboard... Beautiful old damask linen tablecloths are recut to make linen pillowcases... There are so many options as long as you open your mind.What can you re-imagine?

April 22, 2007

Day on the Bay

I left at the crack of dawn on Saturday to drive down to Compton, Maryland for the monthly sale at Vintage Source. I had been looking for additional storage, but didn't really find anything that would work. I did get a serving dish in Blue Willow and a sage cashmere & wool throw for those afternoon naps. I also got to meet my friend's new daughter from China, who is the cutest thing in the world! She's tiny, but is growing with proper nutrition.
We went to Miss MA's beach house in the blink-and-miss-it town of Scotland. The house was hit pretty hard in a fall hurricane last year, so we were checking on things. It was a perfect day - 70's, sunny and crystal clear. I wanted to share the pictures with you because they make me think of beaches and fun! Summer's just around the corner.
The dogs didn't seem to mind that that water's still pretty chilly.

April 20, 2007

NYSD House

Be sure to read today's New York Social Diary House section. It's an interview with decorator, David Easton. I talked about the auction of his things in a previous post. He was closing his country house and auctioning its contents through Doyle. He and his partner are moving to a modular house outside of Ch-ville, Virginia.

The interview in House is especially interesting because he's written the captions for the photographs. So it's much more personal and explanatory than the usual snapshots. Take a minute and read through the article and look at the photos. It's well worth the time.

April 19, 2007

Kips Bay Show House

This is the 35th year for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York, which benefits the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in New York. The buzz word this year appears to be SHINY. There is patent leather, vinyl, and even aluminum foil everywhere. There are even two Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs covered in silver leather.

This show house is always held in a 1904 Beaux Art mansion on the Upper East Side. Decorators for the 2007 house include some notables, including Mariette Himes Gomez and Jamie Drake. Here are some photos from the New York Times.
Staircase done in aluminum foil!

Randall Beale and Carl Lana's patent leather chaise longue

Jamie Drake's Babe Paley-inspired bedroom

Egg chairs in silvered leather.

April 18, 2007

The Vintage Source

For ages now, my BFF Miss MA and I have been trying to get together and go to The Vintage Source in deepest Southern Maryland. It shouldn't be that hard to get together, but since VS is only open one weekend a month, it is hard. One weekend there was impending snow, another weekend I had a house calamity and then Miss MA jetted off to China to get her baby daughter... So, this weekend looks like it's finally time to make the 160-mile round-trip to check out the Vintage Source's treasures.
This weekend's trip will be extra special for a few reasons:
* I get to meet Miss MA's daughter for the first time.
* I get to see Miss MA!
* In addition to the usual treasures at VS, they are also having a flea market.
* They just cleared out a few barns in Pennsylvania and should have tons of great stuff.
* I get to give Miss MA the baby announcements I designed and printed for her.

I have mentioned that my 1880's rowhouse has about NO storage, so I am on the look out for some alternative and multi-tasking storage units. I've always wanted a Hoosier cabinet and have come close to winning one several times at auctions. If I see a nice one this weekend, you can be sure that there will be some sharp elbows flying. (Mine won't look so junky or have a bag of Doritos on it!)

Miss MA has gotten some great treasures from the Vintage Source for her cottage on the Chesapeake and now I am looking forward to finding some, too! I will let you know what I get.
All images: The Vintage Source

April 15, 2007

Arabbers (with some new images)

One of the interesting traditions in Baltimore is the Arabber community. These are not people of Arabian origin, rather mostly African-Americans, who ply the streets in horse-drawn carriages, selling fruit and veggies.

My understanding was when the fruit boats came into Baltimore's Inner Harbour, which until the last 30 years was a working port, the Arabbers bought the over-ripe fruit from the ships and sold it thoughout the city. I can remember when I was a child and lived on the northern edge of Baltimore, you would hear the Arabbers calling "Straaaaaaaaawberries, Waterrrrrrrrrmelon, Straaaaaaaaaaaawberries, Waterrrrrrrrmelon". It was always so exciting the see the ponies and their carts.

The Arabbers' carts are generally either yellow or red. They are loaded with fresh produce and have a scale to weigh the produce. I always try and get something from the Arabbers, because if I, and everyone else, don't support them, this venerable and vulnerable tradition will die out.
There are stables for the ponies and some of the Arabbers also live there, but I've never visited them. By the way, Arabbers is pronounced with a long "a" at the beginning.

P.S. I got a comment that this isn't politically correct. Please follow the Arabber link to learn more about the history of the Arabbers in Baltimore. I admire these people and buy produce from them when I see them. I am not being derogatory in calling them Arabbers, it's simply what they're historically called. I am trying to introduce people to Baltimore in general, and Pigtown specifically. This is part of life here.

April 12, 2007

Office Wall Idea

On Thursdays, the Washington Post has a chat session with two of the Home & Garden writers. I always make some time to sneek a couple of peeks at the conversation between 11 and noon, eastern time, even when I was living in the UK. The gals always have great paint suggestions and resources, especially for those living in the Baltimore/Washington area.

Today, someone asked what to do to the blank walls of her office. Obviously, painting wasn't an option. I am probably late to the game and you all probably already know about this, but I wrote in with the suggestion of using the RASTERBATOR! I found this marvelous on-line tool on the Bluelines blog.

To use the Rasterbator, you up-load a photograph and they convert it into a PDF, using as many sheets of paper as you want. Then you can print it out, either in colour or black & white. Make sure you change the paper from A4 size to letter size if you're in the US. The larger the size of the file (up to 1mb) and the larger the dots (up to 100mm), the clearer the picture comes out. It's like a half-tone picture blown up.

As I've mentioned, I had to kit out my house from scratch - from salt & pepper shakers to the essentials like a mixer and a cork screw - so artwork on the walls hasn't been a top priority, especially in the non-public spaces in the house. I took a photograph I had from V.V. Rouleaux and Rasterbated it and then printed it out on 24 sheets of paper.
I used a matte photo paper, so the colours would be bright. I trimmed the edges and then scotch-taped it to the wall. It's just a temporary fix until I find the right thing. My walls are brick under rock plaster, so it's very difficult to get anything other than a thumb-tack into them. The picture above would probably look better in a dining room, but I liked the colours and was just sooo sick of a blank wall.

Another idea I had for this was to print out a photo, and frame the sheets in identical frames, butting them up against each other in a grid. I will have to try that in the guest room. The top picture is the first picture I rasterbated, but I made the dots too small and didn't like the way it turned out.

Try this... It's really fun to Rasterbate!

April 11, 2007

The Sunflower Project

The neighbourhood where I live is in transition. There are some interesting old warehouses, including the wonderful one where Housewerks is, and the two stadiums, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium for the Ravens. We are also in very close proximity to the University of Maryland professional schools, including Law, Medicine, Social Work and the teaching hospital.
However, we don't have a lot of public gardens. There is a sculpture garden down the boulevard, and one or two little front gardens (most are in the back). One night, when I was trying to go to sleep, I started thinking about what I could do to make the neighbourhood look a little brighter. I kept thinking about plantings, and Johnny Appleseed, and watering and logistics, and finally came up with the idea of planting sunflowers. Hence, the Sunflower Project.
I thought that as I walked Connor, I could plant some seeds pretty easily and then throughout the summer keep an eye on them as they grew. I think I will plant them along some fences, and in empty lots that get a lot of sun and aren't too dusty. I want to plant them where there is some structure for them to lean against. I hope by planting these, I will bring a smile to someone's face and just help make the neighbourhood a little prettier. BP was giving away seeds, so a friend got me some, and then I bought a bunch of packets. Let's hope this works... Cross thumbs!

April 10, 2007

Prints & Patterns, or Plain?

I was looking at a piece in the magazine Beautiful Interiors (I think that's what it's called) that featured the home of a friend of my sisters. The house is in Alexandria, Virginia and is just lovely. The predominant colour that you saw when you flipped through the pictures was white. No patterns, no bright cheerful colours, no lushly painted walls. The house was gorgeous, but I couldn't imagine living there.
When I look around my house, it is filled with prints and patterns. My sofa has a bold yellow flower print, and the accent pieces are pale yellow ottomans (ottomen?), a yellow Chinese silk painting and a pale green armchair which echoes the green in the sofa's print. My guest room's twin beds have blue and white toile duvet covers, with white bedskirts and pillowcases. My own bedroom has a green, cream brown and red striped duvet and pillowcovers, with sheer green curtains and a funky print over the bed which pulls out some of the same colours. All of my walls are plain white, mainly because there was so much involved in furnishing the house from scratch, that it was just too much to handle.
Even when I look at my china, which is different blue and white patterns, including assorted pieces of Blue Willow, Cornish ware and other patterns I've collected, there's tons of interest. But I can mix and match the china with white plates and crystal.
I like the spark of pattern. I like the interest that it shows. I like the way patterns and prints catch you eye and add some depth. When you have a print or a pattern, it's easy to play up some of the more subtle colours and bring them out in paint selections or in accent pieces like pillows or vases. You can echo the pattern in a photograph or a frame.

Are you a print and pattern person, or plain?

April 8, 2007

Inspirations from The Book Thing

As I was tearing around on Saturday, trying to find some boxes of yellow Peeps, I happened to be near the Book Thing and so I thought I would pop in and see what they had. It was pretty crowded because they were closed for Easter, but I did manage to score a couple of interesting books and magazines.

When I was living in Wales, I didn't have access to many American magazines, so when I find issues from the time I was gone, I snag them. Even though they are two years old now, they are still interesting - especially to see which trends are standing the test of time, and which are already looking dated. In that vein, I got a couple of 2005/6 issues of House & Garden, a time during which they were making some changes. I also snagged a Town & Country which featured the house of someone I knew in Baltimore. The funniest thing about that was that it was donated to the Book Thing by a friend of my parents.
I also found "Living Well is the Best Revenge" by Calvin Tomkins. This is a book about Sara and Gerald Murphy, who were close friends of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in Paris in the 1920's. It was originally published in 1972, but has since been re-issued. The new cover artwork is a painting by Gerald Murphy. This little book is illustrated with about 70 photos and paintings. It should be a very interesting read.

The coup of the day was a sweet little book called "Sara Midda's South of France - A Sketchbook". This little book, published by Workman Press in 1990, is crammed from cover to cover with the most amazing images from the year she spent in the South of France. I can't really find out much about Sara Midda, but her watercolours are just enchanting.

There are pages of different olives, street signs, house numbers, shoes, fields, farms and so much more. I just can't wait to sit down and savour it!
These illustrations reminded me of the delightful blog, Paris Breakfasts, but with more humour to them. Scroll back through Paris Breakfasts to find Carol Gillot's lovely, ethereal watercolours - she's got tons of photos of Easter chocolates this last week or so.

April 7, 2007

Happy Easter

I hope you have a lovely Easter.

Although the blossoms are on the trees here, we had a little snow this morning. EEK! It is supposed to by rather chilly on Easter, so there go the plans to wear some cute spring-y dress.

I chose this Easter image from an old scrapbook from the late 1800's that my father bought at an estate sale many years ago. He collected lithographs by Louis Prang, Boston-based printer, lithographer and inventor of the colour wheel. He learned to print by dying calico in his father's shop. He was known as the inventor of the Christmas card (and Easter cards, too!).

Prang also began the practice of making prints of famous paintings, using between eight and 32 seperate plates to make the print. Some of his original chromolighographs come up at auction on occasion. Prang also founded the Prang company of artists' supplies which is still in existance today.