June 29, 2007

Vaughan Designs

I was browsing through Architectural Digest last evening at the architect's office where a friend work and spotted the most gorgeous wall-lamp in an advertisement. The company is London-based Vaughan Designs. They have showrooms in London, Paris and New York. It looks like a beautiful icicle.
Although this lamp is a bit modern for my taste, it's lovely nevertheless. Don't you agree?

June 28, 2007

Woman's Industrial Exchange

I happened to wander into the Woman's Industrial Exchange this afternoon. Baltimore's version of this old concept store began just after the War of Northern Aggression (or the Civil War, as it is commonly known), to help women of means who were lacking cash, exchange their needlework, handicrafts and cooking for cold currency. In fact, the Duchess of Windsor's mother often took in sewing from the Exchange. Current consigners receive 65% of the price of the item sold.

The Baltimore, WIE used to have the most wonderful restaurant, which can be seen in a scene from Sleepless in Seattle (watch this clip - it's hilarious, but it's not this one--->) where Meg Ryan and Rosie O'Donnell's characters have lunch. The average age of the waitress, and they were all women, was about 90. They wore Tiffany-blue dresses with huge starched white bows. Hopefully, another restaurant will be coming in soon, but it will never be the same as the original.
In the St. Louis Woman's Exchange, they sell the famous Cherry Dresses, which have been classics for more than 50 years. In Baltimore, the store is famous for its sock monkeys. There are WE's across the country, including Dallas, Memphis and Philadelphia.
Right now, the Baltimore WIE is having a terrific sale on Michael Weems glassware. It's really spectacular stuff and is being sold at a deeeep discount. If I told you how deep, you would not believe me... and I don't want to tell in case I buy presents there. People will think I am skint!

Do you have a Woman's Exchange near you? Do share...

June 26, 2007

Carolyne Roehm's Yard Sale

If I were to consider a trip up to Connecticut for a weekend, it just might have to be this coming weekend for Carolyne Roehm's YARD SALE!!! I think that this would the creme de la creme of yard sales.

She says "It has been a four year obsession of mine to “right-size” here at Weatherstone by having a whopper of a “tag sale” to relieve my groaning cupboards and closets from the accumulations of products from book and magazine shoots and years of parties. It may be an older baby boomer thing but I want to simplify and I see no better way than to start with a bang. If you are around Sharon, Connecticut the 30th of June or the 1st of July between 9:00am-and 4:00pm stop by..."

Can you imagine how fabulous this will be!!!

June 25, 2007

Weekend Books

I just glanced by the Book Thing on Saturday afternoon, as I am working Saturdays right now. They seem to have been swept by hoards of book lovers, because the paperback mystery book section was barren!!! I don't watch TV, so reading's my escape. One of the things I like most about the Book Thing, aside from the fact that all of the books are FREE, is that I can get books that I would not normally take home, and if I don't like them, back they go.

I do understand that this concept is similar to the public library system, but they frown on you keeping the books you like, and really hate it when you cut the French-language books to paper a box.

One of my favourite old movies is the classic "Father of the Bride" with Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett and Billie Burke (aka Glinda the Good Witch), directed by Vincente Minnelli. I found a first edition of the book from which the movie was adapted, complete with hilarious illustrations. As you may have noticed, I love old line drawings from vintage books. The book was written by Edward Streeter and illustrated by Gluyas Williams. It should be fun to read the original version.
The other fun book I got is "Dry Rot and Daffodils: Behind the Scenes at a National Trust House". The house where the author lived for seven years is in Norfolk, England, where my Auntie lives.
I got an e-mail from my brother-in-law, asking if I wanted his collection of Country Life magazines and auction catalogues. I think I will take them, as long as I can cull through them and give the unwanted ones to the Book Thing. Country Life is very different from the American magazine Country Living. "Country Life is compulsory reading for those who enjoy rural pursuits or who are looking to join the pack." It usually features a debutante or three on its pages, and they're known as "girls with pearls", although some pose in more than that. There's also a funny cartoon called Tottering by Gently, which appears to be based on my friend from the Castle, Lady Pen.

June 24, 2007

Hat Trick

I love hats and have a small collection of them, including a great hot pink straw hat that I wear with a black grosgrain ribbon with white stitching, fastened with a diamond pin in the shape of a rose. I love the long ribbons tapping on my shoulders. The pink is a very flattering colour and the shape is perfect for my face.
I was reading something yesterday and was reminded of how very much I love the terrific hats by Aussie, Helen Kaminski. She first designed raffia hats to protect her children's skin from the blazing Australian sun and then branched out from there. Her hats are not inexpensive but they do last and can be rolled up and stuffed in a corner of your suitcase, washed easily and worn well.
In the UK, wearing hats is much more accepted than in the US. You can even rent hats to match the outfit you're wearing to a wedding. June 21 was Ladies' Day at Ascot where everyone shows off their amazing hats. I have collected a sampling from the BBC's website, which shows some of the more outlandish ones. Do click on the link to read the comments, which are hilarious!
Which hat do you like best?

June 21, 2007

Robsjohn-Gibbings Redux

A few months ago, I posted about T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and his delightful book. I was reading 1st Dibs today and they had him featured as their Spotlight Designer. Take some time to look at 1st Dibs, it's a wealth of information. As they mention, it's not only important to look at today's myriad design names, but to also look at past design stars. Mr. R-G was inspired by designs from the past, often using classical Greek and Roman furniture for a contemporary look.

While we look to the future for new opportunities, we should also look into the past for inspirations.

June 20, 2007


I can never decide whether the first day of summer is the best or the worst day of the year. We've been building up to the longest day of the year for six months and now we're heading down the slippery slope towards shorter days...

Oh well, I will be a glass-half-full person and think of the whole summer spead out in front of me like blank pages. Who knows what the next few months will bring...

Happy Summer Solstice!

June 19, 2007

The Landmark Trust

Miss Peak of Chic did a posting today about pineapples and had a wonderful photo of The Pineapple in Dunmore Park Scotland. It instantly shot me back to a summer that my entire family spent in England. It took two years of planning and preparation but we rented two knitters cottages in Tewkesbury, a village on the edge of the Cotswolds. We found these two cottages through a group called the Landmark Trust.
The Trust was started in 1965 by Sir John and Lady Smith. It has preserved a remarkable number of sites across the UK and makes them available for rental at very reasonable rates. We rented two adjacent cottages, furnished very simply and provisioned with almost everything but the food we needed for day to day meals. We were there for six weeks, so we made Tewkesbury home.
The Trust has properties as diverse as Lundy Island, a small island off the coast of South Devon, and the Pineapple. You can rent a water tower in Norfolk and the Castle of Park in Scotland, a House of Corrections and a monastery in Tivoli outside of Rome, a fort in the Channel Islands and a banqueting house in Chipping Camden. Or you could stay in the Pigsty, a former home of two pigs that looks like a Roman temple.

The Trust requires you to purchase a book of their listings, which is updated every year, but here's another resource with listings and pictures. Each property sleeps a different number of people and has different amenities. Take a spin through Landmark Trust's website and see what they have on offer... then imagine living there for a weekend or a week.

Eau de Nil

It seems that every paint company has someone who throws darts at a word board and comes up with a name that may or may not describe the colour enough that you know what it looks like. For example, what colour would you think that Benjamin Moore's Mount Saint Anne is? Would you have guessed a blue? And would you ever put Split Pea on your walls without thinking of the Exorcist movie?

As I was perusing the New York Public Library's on-line digital collection (see below post), I was looking at some of the old prints of shoes. They were listed by their colours and used some of the wonderful older names - heliotrope, delphinium and eau de nil.Eau de Nil literally means water of the Nile. I am presuming that this means before the 20th century's use of parts of this river as a garbage and sewage dumping ground and when fashionable Victorians took Nile River cruises. You can imagine this green as a light shimmery green, wonderful in a silk satin. The image it conjures is of cool evenings on the water in a far-away land. I just don't think that Split Pea does that...

June 17, 2007

Great Resources

One of the myriad other things that I do is creating digital artwork. My sister's birthday is today, so I made a digital card to send to her. After my father died, I took an old sketch of his of the Rialto Bridge in Venice created a thank you card to send. I mostly do these for myself so I can learn Photoshop, but I have also created some headers for blogs.There are some great resources for copyright free images. First is Microsoft Office's clip art. They have teamed up with iStock photos for photographs and have tons of clipart, photos, animated graphics and sounds. The thing you have to be careful about with this resource is that it's something everyone uses and you don't want your work to look like everyone else's.
Another great treasure is the Dover Publications catalogue. Dover specializes in reprinting copyright free images and books. They have a weekly e-mail with a selection of about ten books and images from them, which you can download. In the old days, when you needed an image, you clipped it from their books and pasted it onto your layout. Now, you just scan it in, or download it from a CD, manipulate it and you're done.
The last resource (that I am going to talk about!) is the New York Public Library. They've digitized more than a half a million images from their extensive collections. These range from the prototypical photo of the Flatiron Building to a huge collection of menus from the late 1800's. All of the images on this site are available for free download, as long as they're not used for commercial purposes, and also as archival prints. Every month, they feature an editor's choice. If anyone has any other resources to add, please share them in the comments!

June 16, 2007

Antiques Roadshow in Baltimore

Public television's Antiques Roadshow is in Baltimore today and the 3,500 allocated tickets were snapped up months ago. Roadshow is a copy of the original BBC show, as many US TV shows are. It has shown the average person that the stuff in granny's attic has value and isn't just some old stuff.
The definition of an antique, according to the US government, is something that's 100+ years old. I try and watch AR so I can educate my eye about what's valuable and what is just dreck. Beanie Babies, no matter how valuable, are not antiques, they're collectibles (and you're not going to retire on your Beanie Baby futures).
One of the things I've always loved to do, and clearly I inherited this trait from my father, is to "poke around". Sometimes this is in dusty old stores that don't fall into the antiques store category, sometimes this happens in neighbourhoods that are off the beaten path and aren't on the trend-meter. Some of my best buys, including a large collection of gold bangle bracelets (since stolen) came from junk stores. I've also found old pieces of silver, beautiful quilts and my best find ever, a Cartier tank watch (also stolen).
It's all about knowing to look for the maker and the marks. It's knowing that sometimes the things that are a little tarnished and worn are more valuable than the new and shiny. I am not sure when the Baltimore Roadshow episode is airing, but will try and let you know.

As I type this, Connor-dog is lying on his back, with his hind feet resting on the wall, but if I get the camera out, he will run!

June 15, 2007

My Favourite Designers in My Favourite Store

I adore the British home goods store called Heal's. I still get e-mails from them and got a great one that cheered me up enormously. As so many stores in the UK do, Heal's has partnered with a charity and several artists to come up with a cheap and cheerful item available to the masses at a good price.

First it was the Anya Hindmarch "I'm not a plastic bag" handbag, originally offered at £5.00 at the local grocery store and now fetching £75 on e-Bay. If that's the way you get one of Anya's bags, it's still pretty good!
Heal's has the most wonderful doormats designed by top UK designers, including two favourites, Lulu Guinness and Orla Kiely. Although Lulu and Orla are polar opposites, with Lulu embracing glam and lipstick and Orla going for the chic retro look, they have both contributed doormat designs for Heal's. Which would you rather have gracing your doorstep?

It's always to do good while doing well!

June 14, 2007

Happy Flag Day

Today's Flag Day... We're celebrating by heading out to Fort McHenry, the home of the Star-Spangled Banner for an evening of music, the Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance, and a great display of fireworks. There's nothing quite like singing the National Anthem at the place where it was written. We will take a picnic and some wine and just have a good old-fashioned time.

I want to thank Terri Sapienza from the Washington Post for her nice mention of my blog in this morning's Home & Garden section. Very unexpected!

June 13, 2007

New Diana Books

It's fast coming up on the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, and the new books are just hitting the bookshelves. First up is Tina Brown's book called "The Diana Chronicles", which sounds like the Princess Diary... It's interesting that Tina Brown has written this book as she was the editor of the UK's Tatler magazine when Diana was a bride, and often published stories in Vanity Fair later on. I think some of the most beautiful photos of Diana were published in VF.
There is also Diana, The Portrait, published by PQ Blackwell, a leading illustrated book publisher. This is the only book authorized by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. There are more than 400 photographs in this book, including some by Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino.
Both of these books have very similar covers, featuring Diana's distinctive signature in red/pink, with white backgrounds and black writing.
This might be an alternate cover, because I've seen this and the signature one...

June 11, 2007


Every bone in my body hurts and I am not looking forward to tomorrow, because I don't think I will be able to lift my arms. Today was wallpapering day at Miss MA's house and we did all of the work. The paper, which I showed you in CV, Part III, is 27" wide and the walls are eight feet high. The paper wasn't pre-pasted, so we had to go buy wallpaper paste, which basically looks like a bucket of snot. I had an old wallpaper kit with brushes, rollers and razors, so that helped a lot. Because the pattern is a trellis, it had to be matched perfectly and the drop is 27", so there was a lot of cutting to make things fit. We're still not done, but the bit we have left isn't too daunting.

There are some wonderful wallpaper patterns these days after years of ho-hum ones. Casapinka has just wallpapered her entry hall with some great graphic black and white printed paper from Wallpapers from the 70's. Is that George Michael I see in that photo? Wham!
When I Googled hand-printed wallpapers, I came up with a lot of UK companies. Every house I lived in there had wallpaper in almost every room. There are some very traditional papers in the tradition of William Morris and some very contemporary ones from young designers like Deborah Bowness whose wallpapers look like they're rolling off the walls.

June 10, 2007

Today's Haul

I try to spend time on Sundays with my mother, which gives me an excellent excuse to swing by the Book Thing. I am an avid reader and can easily go through a 200 page book in an evening, thanks to speed-reading classes in prep school. I also can't sit still without doing something, so I always have an upstairs book and a downstairs book handy.
Today's haul at the Book Thing yielded another Carlton Varney gem, complete with the cool dude 70's look on the cover. I got a mint condition copy of "Carleton Varney Decorates from A to Z". This is a great book, with descriptions and line drawings of everything from accessories to zingy colours. The wonderful thing about a book like this is that it won't be (too) dated, since definitions of things like Hepplewhite and Jacobean don't change over the years. This book has line drawings, as I mentioned, as well as a selection of full-colour photos. A-Z was published in 1977 and has a foreward by Paige Rense, the long-time editor of Architectural Digest.

Another book I picked up is called "When We Were Rather Older" a spoof on "When We Were Very Young" the A.A. Milne classic, complete with a selection of Jazz Age poems in the Milne style. One reason that I got it was that one of the authors is someone called Fairfax Downey. Also, the drawings are hilarious. This book was published in 1926 and aside from not having a dust jacket, is in great shape. Here's A.A. Milne's poem about daffodils:
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:"Winter is dead".
The Daffodil poem in this charming book reads thus:
She wore one day a yellow hat;
Along with it her greenest gown;
And when her best beau came to call,
She curtsied, sinking down.
He said "You're like a daffodil
On which the sunbeams shine."
She answered "Though that's sort of sill,
I rather like the line."

This will be a fun book to read through. I love having the Book Thing to visit. I should mention that all of the books at the Book Thing are donated and are not to be sold, so even though the fun books that I've gotten are free, I can't profit from them.

Top image: Trinty College Library, Dublin

June 7, 2007

Carleton Varney, Part IV

When I get to Carleton Varney, the last part, it's going to be hard to remember which Roman numerals to use! As usual, I cracked open the book and something appropriate came up. Miss MA, my BFF has a) sold a house, b) bought a house, and had it fail inspection, c) bought another house, d) traveled to China for three weeks, e) adopted a baby girl and f) moved to the new house... all in less than three months.

I am helping her decorate her new house, which is going to be done in a British Colonial style. Sort of tropical islandy and sort of formal. She's pretty much starting from scratch as far as the rooms go, but she does have some furniture.
So it was perfect when Carleton Varney directed me to Tropic is the Topic. Although he advocates more the Pacific tropics rather than the Caribbean tropics, he's got some good suggestions. For tropical dining room walls, why not consider... a reedlike design of brilliant greens on a white background? ...Open-back natural-rattan chairs would signal the islands in your dining room.

This is especially funny in light of the e-mail I got from Miss MA this afternoon telling me that the wallpaper we'd ordered for her house came in today. It's green bamboo trellis on a white background. The paper is from Stroheim & Roman's Chinoiserie collection and is called Cathay Trelliage in celedon and cream. We are going to put it on two walls of her living room to make it look like a tropical garden.
Miss MA also bought some rattan chairs that have pillows, but she's going to get them covered in something that looks better than the current beige and black. They're also sort of a chenile fabric, which doesn't cut it in this humid climate.

I think the verdict is that tropical is still topical today. Think India Hicks and her look, Ralph Lauren and the Little Palm Island Resort in Florida and the island of Bermuda.

I peeked ahead to the next page in the book and it was about foil wallpaper. I think I will just shudder a bit and jump right over that suggestion.

June 6, 2007

Gee's Bend Quilts

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore will be holding an exhibition "Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt" beginning June 17th. This show of quilts is quite a departure for the Walters, which has a permanent collection ranging from ancient Egyptian jewelry to 18th century masters paintings.

Gee's Bend quilts have caused a sensation around the country, and earlier this year, the US Postal Service issued a series of stamps commemorating these graphic, non-traditional quilts, made by the women of the tiny Gee's Bend village in Alabama.
These quilts are very different from traditional American quilts in that they don't follow the typical patterns like Log Cabin, Drunkard's Path or Flying Geese. Instead, these are free-form quilts, with long strips making stripes or squares. The fabric was from used clothing, including some 1970's polyester leisure suits, flour sacks and old blue jeans. Auburn University, which is close to Gee's Bend has some a webpage with loads of images.
Contemporary quiltmaker, Denyse Schmidt has quilts which are very derivative of the Gee's Bend quilts, and her couture line of quilts begins at a whopping $4,000! But they are very beautiful.
Copies of the definitive book, "Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts" are selling used for more than $280.00 on Amazon! The book is illustrated with 350 colour illustrations and 50 black and white photograph, though. On Friday, June 15th, the Walters will host a discussion with some of the quilters. It should be a wonderful event and I am planning to go see the show, especially since the Walters is just a few blocks from my offices.