September 30, 2007


I was reading Jackie Blue Home's blog the other day and she did a story on intaglio, which I love. Yesterday, I stopped by Housewerks Salvage to have a chat and beer with the owners, and to see what's new at the store. I've written about them a couple of times before and their store always has great treasures!
Yesterday, they had a collection of intaglio stones from the early 1900's. Some of the stones were of natural things, and others of people. Intaglio is a process in which a design, text, etc., is engraved into the surface of a plate (in this case, a stone) so that when ink is applied and the excess is wiped off, ink remains in the grooves and is transferred to paper in printing, as in engraving or etching.
Some of the stones only had one image on them, and others had a number. Still others had different sections of the same image, so as to lay down different coloured inks. The detail on the stones is extraordinary and to think it was all done by hand, carved into stone is incredible!

Here are some other images from Housewerks yesterday.

Stained glass window and ironwork fence section

Steel chair

Painted glass detail

September 28, 2007

And now the floor...

The estate manager came up to my office to tell me the the colour we'd chosen for the floor of the porch had been discontinued. We had picked a stone shade to reflect the colours in the flagstone of the house. His suggestion was a terra cotta, but I think that is too much of a contrast to everything else and would really weigh down the porch.

I am still thinking in the stone family of colours, or something darker than the pale yellow we're using for the rest of the trim. But we also have to be cognizant that we've got 50 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 living here, so it will get a lot of use. When it's nice, the kids eat on the porch and have picnics and special parties there, so we need to use a deck enamel.
I have included some pictures of the porch that I took this morning. It looks particularly scruffy because the workers are wet-sanding it (lead-based paint) and then applying a sealer. I would love to hear your comments and suggestions, and appreciate all of the input you've offered for the Tivoli makeover!

September 26, 2007

Blue Porch Ceilings

We received a wonderfully generous grant to paint the outside of the historic house where I work. When it came time to pick the colours, we all agreed on a pale yellow that would look good with the fieldstone of the house. We also liked it because it wouldn't turn grey with age like white would.

The estate manager then asked what colour to paint the porch and its beadboard ceiling. "Blue", I shouted, "Of course, you'd never paint a porch ceiling any other colour than that." A pale sky blue, with the floor a slightly darker shade than the trim.
Apparently, no one had ever heard of painting a porch ceiling blue. Was this just something that I knew but couldn't explain how I knew it? My family is from the South, so maybe that's where I heard about blue porch ceilings. Luckily, I didn't say Haint Blue, which is what I was thinking.

So I did a little investigating. I think that I'd heard that blue ceilings repel bugs, but apparently that was from the lime in old paints, not the colour. Haint Blue milk paint was mixed in the lime mines and used on old houses. For those who might not know, a haint is a ghost or spirit. Slaves in the American South believed that this colour blue kept the spirits away. Haint blue is a pale blue with a hint of periwinkle. FYI, we're using Duron's Bluebell for the ceiling.

Another explanation is that the blue reflects light into the house and makes it brighter. Additionally, it mimics the sky, keeping the daylight longer. Last summer, NPR did an interesting story on blue porch ceilings. Listen to it here.
My girls, Annie & Jura, from the Washington Post's Home Front also weigh in on the porch ceiling colour in a discussion from earlier this year. They say that the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay paint their cabin tops blue to repel bugs, especially mosquitoes. There's a reference at the top of the discussion, and then about half-way down. Do you know about blue porch ceilings?

September 25, 2007

Me & Hue

My blogging friend, Rachel, whom I have actually met, is featuring a brochure I designed on her colour consulting website, Hue. Mosey on over there and see what you think. Some of the fonts didn't transfer when I put the brochure into a PDF format for her, but let me know about the colours. This is what the main W should look like and these are the colours, but I've scaled them way back.
Please leave comments on Rachel's site and help me make this brochure look great! And if you happen to link to the embedded website where I work, it's going to be revamped in a couple of months!

September 21, 2007


This is my house, but you can't really see it! It's 11.5 feet wide.

I've mentioned that I live in a small 11.5-foot wide rowhouse with three rooms down (living room, dining room, kitchen) and three up (bedroom, bathroom, bedroom). I basically use my kitchen as my "office" space, but other than that, I have to dust off the stove before I use it.

I have a guest room that currently has two twin beds, a side table, my barristers bookcase and some lamps in it. During the time I've lived in my house, I have had a sum total of four people stay in the guest room. In a house of less than 800 square feet, I feel like a significant percentage of the space (the guest room) is totally wasted.
This is one of the twin beds and the wash stand.

You might be thinking, well if you move your office to the guest room, won't the kitchen go to waste? One of the reasons, aside from the fact that I don't cook (I can, but choose not to), is that there is virtually NO counter space. My current desk is actually a five-foot long stainless steel commercial prep counter. I am using a barstool as a chair, which after a little while isn't terribly comfortable. So moving the computer, printer and all associated technology will free up the counter space for other things, like prep work and cooking.

Here's the plan: Disassemble one of the twin beds and put it in the (unfinished) basement. I've never had more than one person stay over at a time, so the second bed is just redundant. All of my cashmere sweaters are in the barristers' bookcase, so that will have to stay. The bedside table is actually an old iron wash stand that I found at my parents' house and refinished to make a table. I will have to figure out what to do with that. It may go in the garden (all 12 x 12 feet of it!).
Here's what I will need: A good desk, large enough for a laptop, printer/scanner and other desk-type things; a good chair; book cases for supplies, books, etc. and a design for how this will all fit into this 11.5 x 11.5 room! Any good suggestions?

I've gotten some excellent suggestions. My limitation, as I mentioned to Cote de Texas, is that to get anything upstairs in my house is a major chore and I usually have to hire someone to help. So, for the time-being, I got a top and legs from Ikea. It's a quick fix, so I can get back to having a functional kitchen. As they say, you've got to live in your house for a while and then decide how things should work.

September 19, 2007

Carleton Varney, Part IX - Mirrored Furnishings

I have been busy at work, designing brochures and other collateral material for the organization where I work, so I am just trying to sneak in a post here... I turned to my old buddy, Carleton Varney for inspiration for this post.
As usual, Carleton didn't let me down. I cracked open the book to the title "Mirrored Furnishings", a perfect topic. Carleton says "Mirrored furnishings can bring a lot of life, colour and drama into your home... Modern furnishings are not restricted to the modern style. There are many smoked-mirror tables that are perfect in French or any other period room."
There are lots of great mirrored pieces available these days at places ranging from JC Penney to ABC Carpet and Home and Horchow Collection. You should be sure to use mirrored furniture sparingly, as an accent. More than one or two pieces and your room will look like like a fun house. Be prepared to clean the mirrors often if it's in a high traffic area, like a hallway.
Visually, mirrored furniture is light and bright. A small side table with a collection on top would be a great accent. A mirrored hall table would add light to a hallway. Mirrored furniture is evocative of a deco look or glamorous 40's Hollywood. If you're not comfortable having a table or chest that's mirrored, start with a Venetian mirror over an existing piece. Also, be careful not to overdo it!

September 17, 2007

The Golden Age of Couture

I just adore the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and many times when I had to go to London on business, I stayed at a hotel just down the street and stopped by the Museum in the evenings. I am on their e-mail list and today got the announcement of their new show "The Golden Age of Couture in Paris & London, 1947 -1957". The show runs from September 22, 2007 to January 6, 2008.
There are lots of gallery talks, conferences and conversations associated with this exhibit, and many of them are free or rather inexpensive. Ozwald Boateng is speaking and there are screenings of "Funny Face" and "The Devil Wears Prada". The Golden Age of Couture was launched by Christian Dior and celebrated the end of the Second World War.
The clothes of that era are defined by their incredible tailoring, their incredible details and the new look that ushered in a new prosperous life across much of Europe. If you scroll through the pages here, you will find a wealth of information about that bygone age.

September 16, 2007

Design/Decorating Books

As I've mentioned, the first place I head at the Book Thing, and at most other places that sell books (not just bookstores) is the section with design/decorating books. Before I moved to the UK, I probably had close to 100 design/decorating books that I'd collected over the years. I sold a lot of them on Ebay and at the salvage company I helped found, or gave them to like-minded friends.
On the right side of my blog, I've listed some of the favourite books that I refer to time and time again. Maybe I am thinking of a tabletop arrangement, so I look to Carolyne Roehm's great quartet of seasonal books. Maybe I want to do something creative in the guest room, so I look to Nina Campbell's Decorating Secrets. David Hicks' books are always inspirational for their trendy, yet classic design. I pick up other books as they interest me, and I like a lot of text and descriptions.
I also collect design and decorating reference books, as the information they contain tends not to change too much. Chippendale style is always going to be that. Unless France has another King Louis, that's not going to change, either. A lot of the older reference books have great line drawings.
This weekend, I picked up Homes & Gardens UK's Decorating, Style Advice, Design Options and Practical Know-How. This book starts out with finding a style, whether it be modern, simple, French casual, French classis, English or Scandanavian. It looks at each style and analyzes the elements that make the style special. Then, room by room, it illustrates the points, without overwhelming the reader with information. Case studies are done of rooms with furniture, window and wall treatment and flooring suggestions. Finally, there is a list of resources.

It is clearly a book not written in the US, but in the UK. The general architectural bones of homes there are very different than those in the US, and this comes through in the photographs.

If you're interested in design and decorating books, take a look at the Peak of Chic's Bibliostyle book blog. She's got some great books and reviews there. What are your favourite books? Why do you like specific ones?

September 13, 2007

Dorothy Draper Auction Catalogue Available

The catalogue for the Dorothy Draper Auction on September 29 at the Potomack Auction rooms is now available on-line. They are accepting on-line bids for the items. Here are some of the pieces that will be available. There are 209 lots in the Draper section.

One of the fascinating items on the block is a pair of screens that were used to hide the doors to the underground bunker at the Greenbrier. This was where Congress and the Cabinet would hide out in case of a nuclear threat during the Cold War.
The estimates seem very reasonable - chairs starting at $30, head and footboards for $100. There is also a lot of artwork in addition to the furniture and furnishings.

I think that there will be a lot of interest in this auction. I am certainly going to try and go!

September 11, 2007

Pillow Talk

I love pillows. I think that accent pillows are the jewelry in a room... especially if they're done well. I was reading the NY Times "Key" magazine on property this afternoon (it takes all week to read the Sunday edition) and there were four rooms from country singers in Nashville. One of them caught my eye and kept me staring, but in horror, not admiration.
LeAnn Rimes, the singer who had her first hit at age 13, had designed this and maybe other rooms in her house. I applaud her for that undertaking, but I am left to wonder what's up with the pillows! If you look carefully, there are pillows on almost the entire surface of both sofas, with barely room to sit. They're all chopped in the middle, too. And then there are the pillows on the floor. Not big poofy sitting pillows either. I can't imagine just plunking down on those!

This room adjoins the kitchen, so I am sure that it's a sitting room. But when you want to sit on the facing sofas, do you have to throw all of those pillows on the floor with the others? I need someone to explain this to me. Any helpers?

September 10, 2007

Brocade Bed Heads

I got an e-mail from Brocade Home this morning and it certainly cheered my Monday morning up - not that it was bad, it just got better! There are some incredible beds featured in the at Brocade Home but unfortunately, none of them would fit up the stairs in my tiny rowhouse. The prices are pretty affordable, ranging from $350 to $450 for the Silhouette bedframe above to $1500 for the hand-carved mohogany one in the bottom photo. The petite lace cut headboard below begins at $300.
I love the green bedroom above, but I am having a little bit of trouble with the rope that suspends the chandelier being wrapped around the headboard. Couldn't they just find a nice brass cleat and tie it down there? And if it's hanging from a rope, where's the electrical... or am I just being way too practical?

September 6, 2007

Paper Source

Around this time last year, I was in Chicago for the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I went with two other dear friends who had lived in Chicago, and so knew I would have a great couple days exploring the city. I was content to let others make the agenda, taking the architectural tour on the river, visiting Millennium Park, and eating at lots of great places. Oh, and the wedding at the Adler Planetarium!

The only thing that I wanted to do was to go shopping at the Paper Source. I love their motto: Do Something Creative Every Day! Somehow, I had gotten onto their e-mail list and with every mailing they showed the yummiest papers, most creative ideas and gorgeous cards, envelopes and wrapping papers. So before the wedding, I left everyone in a bar watching Colorado play football and headed off to Paper Source.
It was like walking into a treasure chest. They have papers from Japan and India, calendars from Italy, incredible book binding and journaling supplies, papers of every colour and size and much more. They also have a comprehensive set of instructions for projects you might want to undertake on your own. They have wonderful letterpress cards and notes.
There is a great colour-scope on-line that explains why you might like one colour over another.
I bought a few little Kolo photo albums and gave them to my hosts and the wedding couple as presents. I had taken photos all weekend and assembled them into these mini 2.5 x 2.5 inch books.
Great place...

September 5, 2007

French Marché aux Puces

As I mentioned, I went to a great flea market this past weekend. It's sort of "curated" and the vendors have to be approved by the Load of Fun group before they're allowed to sell. Load of Fun wants to make sure that the monthly market doesn't get trashy. I got some great things, and would have gotten more if I could have found an ATM.

When I was travelling to Paris on a regular basis, I would always try and visit the amazing marché aux puces or flea markets. Some flea markets here in the US have a bad name as a place to get rid of stolen goods, or sell multiples of white tube socks. I have been to flea markets in London and Rome, as well as some of the really fun ones in Los Angeles but I love the French ones the most.
Clignancourt is the most well-known of the Paris markets, but there are two other large markets, as well as smaller brocante (second-hand) markets that pop up around the city on an irregular basis. Bargains at these markets are less frequent than in the past, but there are always a ton of interesting things that you won't find in the States.
Lile also has a huge annual sale, La Grande Braderie de Lille, which took place the first two days in September. This market is much older than Clingancourt, dating to medieval times. Any resident of Lile can find a spot and set up shop. You are always expected to bargain at these markets, but be polite about it. Now's not really the time to be looking for bargains, especially with the pitiful exchange rate for the US dollar.

Photos of the Lile Market: The Guardian UK

September 3, 2007

Looong Weekend

It was the end-of-the-summer weekend in the US, and I was glad to have three days off, since I've been working six days a week much of the summer. I had a list a mile long, and was delighted to be able to check many of the items off the list. Brunch and dinners with friends, a lot of errands and chores done and HGTV Design Star Marathon today.

I went to the Book Thing and among other books, got a copy of What Remains by Carole Radziwill. Most of the reviews I've read have been mixed, but leaning towards good. I think this will be one of those books that I have to be in the right frame of mind to read. It's going to be devistatingly sad with the deaths of John Kennedy and his cousin Anthony Radziwill two weeks apart. Continuing on sort of a Kennedy-family theme, I got P.S., an autibiography of Pierre Salinger who was witness to many of the century's most fascinating moments. On Saturday morning, I did a bit of flea marketing, stopping by the Station North Saturday market. For you Baltimore types, it's the first Saturday of the month, and is in the parking lots across from the Charles Theatre. I picked up about five yards of Manuel Canovas fabric for $.50/yard, considerably less than the retail price. It's an old pattern, Bienaimee', but the gorgeoushot pink flowers and blue and white ginger jar design hooked me. Now all I need to do is figure out what to do with this!

I also got some small stretcher frames for a fun project I am working on. Earlier this summer, I learned how to print directly onto fabric from my inkjet printer. It involves freezer paper, an iron and some fabric... Here's how. The print detail is incredible, and so I am printing out some digital pictures and then putting the canvas on stretcher frames.

I always find September to be a bit melancholy, heading down the slippery slope towards winter. I've got a lot going on in the next few weeks, so maybe that will distract me!