May 30, 2008


In my Coming Attractions post update, I stated that James Abbott had met Stephane Boudin, and a kind Anon. rightly corrected me, since Boudin died in 1967, and Mr. Abbott was surely a toddler at that time. I just got an e-mail from Mr. Abbott saying "...I knew - and counted as a great friend - his daughter, as well as his nephew..." There was so much great information flying around at the lecture, that I didn't get it all down. Mea culpa.

I will be posting some stories Mr. Abbott told from his books over the weekend. Tonight, we're off to see Sex and The City!

Image: Maison Jansen sofa

May 29, 2008

Maison Jansen Lecture Notes, Part I

I was lucky enough to attend the House Beautiful (not the magazine) Lecture at Evergreen, given by curator James Archer Abbott, author of Maison Jansen and Jansen Furniture. He's a delightful man, as I've said before and his lecture was witty and entertaining. I will share some of the stories he told us, with you all in my next post. First, here's some history.
Maison Jansen (MJ) was one of the first global companies, having been founded in Paris in the 1880's and then opening branches in Buenos Aires (1905), New York, Cairo, Havana (1920s), and Rome in the 1930s. Jean-Henri Jansen created interior design in France. He and his designers were the social equals of their clients, much like to day. His shop at 9 Rue Royale was lit with electric lamps and had huge plate glass windows. He redefined French design by reaching into the past.
By the 1930s, their workshops employed more than 700 people creating ironworks, textiles, and boiserie in the various locations. In fact, their boiserie was so well-done, that experts had a hard time telling whether it was newly made or original.
During WWII, MJ's history was sad. Within hours of Paris falling, the German generals were at MJ's door, demanding their wares. The staff said they couldn't give them to the Germans because they were being worked on. For the next four years, they stripped and refinished, re-upholstered and redid the furniture over and over again. Many staffers were Jewish and were put in camps in Germany. That story did not end well.
Among MJ's clients were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Nancy Lancaster and Ronald Tree, Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy, William and Babe Paley, Harry Winston, Coco Chanel, Leopold, King of the Belgiums, and many others. In the red book, there are chapters about many of these residences. MJ worked for one client, Lady Baillie, for more than 40 years at her homes in Maidstone, Kent and on Hog Island in the Bahamas.
Even though the Duchess of Windsor is from Baltimore, many people do not think highly of her. Mr. Abbott said that she basically bartered with MJ to get them to do her work, something that wasn't too surprising. Each new client she introduced to MJ, garnered her a design credit so she could redecorate her house in Paris.
Stay tuned for more Lecture notes in the next day or so...

May 28, 2008

*** UPDATED*** Coming Attractions

Tonight is the lecture on Maison Jansen at Evergreen House in Baltimore. I am really looking forward to hearing James Archer Abbott, Curator of Evergreen talk about this incredible design firm. Click here to read a piece about Maison Jansen and Abbott's book on 1st Dibs. Depending on how long the lecture lasts, I will try and write up a piece about it when I get home. I will also share comments on Abbott's book with you.

In June, I might have convinced a friend in England to write about a day at the races. But these are not just any races, they're the Royal Ascot races, dating back to 1768. Royal Ascot is an internationally renowned sporting and social occasion, where tradition, pageantry, fashion and style all meet in a glorious setting. One of the most famous Ascot images is that of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" in her gorgeous black and white dress. Cecil Beaton designed the Ascot sets and costumes for the movie. This year's races are in mid-June, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: I got to Evergreen a little early, since you never know what rush hour traffic will bring. I had a nice conversation with James Archer Abbott, the lecturer and author of two Maison Jansen books, including the simply gorgeous Jansen Furniture, which other bloggers have written about.

I bought both of his books, which I could justify since I rarely pay for books, courtesy of Book Thing. Mr. Abbott kindly signed and dated them for me. He's working on a new book, this time about Baltimorean, decorator Billy Baldwin and I can't wait until he finishes that one!
Mr. Abbott was a terrific lecturer, smart, funny and very informative. He illustrated his lecture with some incredible pictures from his books, and had great stories to tell about the firm, meeting Stephane Boudin and some of Jansen's clients. I took lots of notes and when I decipher my writing and distill my thoughts, I will share them with you.

May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

It's been a year since my father died. On a picture-postcard beautiful afternoon, my mother, one of my sisters and I went out to visit his grave, on which the stone has just been placed. He's buried in an old country church in the hunt country north of Baltimore City. It's the family church, first of my mother's family, going back to the 1700's, and then of my father, going back to when he immigrated to the US from the UK in the 1950's.

My mother and I had visited the church this winter, during a snow squall and wind storm. The light was incredible that day, with a black sky in the background, and the the low winter sun highlighting the white stones.
After we visited my father's grave, we went to find my mother's and our ancestors. The graves date from the 1790's and are worn and mossy. You can still make out the dates and names on some of the graves, and it's an affirmation of our family's deep history in Maryland.
These 220-year old gravestones still retain a certain elegance and grace.
I love taking shots of doors, and the one at St. Thomas is a beautiful example of a classic door with lovely symmetry.
On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, take a moment to think about people who've gone before you, and who've paved the way for all of us.

May 20, 2008

Peak of Chic, HB & Zebra

Have you seen the June 2008 issue of House Beautiful yet? If not, run out right this minute and buy one... It's okay, I'll just have a drink and wait until you get back.
Good, you're back. Now, please turn to page 42. Got it? Good. Now please cast your eyes to the upper right corner and read the by-line. It's JENNIFER DWYER! Yes, blogland's own Peak of Chic! And she's got a great article about using everyone's favourite zebra print!
Jennifer and her editors have picked out a fun selection of items, including some dinnerware by Ballard Designs that would be perfect for al fresco dining this summer,
a yellow safari dhurrie rug from Carleton Varney for Elson & Company, which would look great in my living room, and desk accessories from the MacBeth Collection and Superdeluxe. The favourite design accessory is still "I Married Adventure" with its famous zebra-print cover, but it wasn't mentioned.

Way to go, Jennifer! I will look forward to reading your wonderful words both on-line and in print!

May 18, 2008

Housewerks Visit

I try to stop by Housewerks Salvage every so often and see what fun new things they have gotten in. Ben and Tracey had just returned from a buying and selling trip to Brimfield the night before and were exhausted. Tracey told me that there were a lot of Europeans and Asian buyers there because of the weak dollar.

Here are some fun things I saw on Saturday.
Hello... here are some typographer's letters and a glove mold

I love the mid-century modern look of these chairs. There are six in the set.

This little chandelier reminds me of one I shipped back from Wales. There are three of these that match - all from different sources!

These doors are stunning. I can imagine them on the front of a gorgeous old townhouse, or as the doors to an incredible dressing room/closet!

Because so many churches are closing, Housewerks has an incredible selection of pieces from old churches.

May 16, 2008

DIY Hermes Kelly Bag

I don't know where I first found this, but the Hermes website has instructions for a mini-DIY Kelly bag for you to cut out, decorate and assemble yourself. In case you don't have the patience to wait for a real one, e-mail me for a jpg of the instructions.
As if you didn't already have a million things to do this weekend!

UPDATE: Here's an image of an itty-bitty Kelly Bag I made. You can see a dime in front of it for comparison.

May 14, 2008

Preakness Traditions.

When I lived in the UK, I was dispondent about missing the Preakness for the first time in my life. It wasn't on television there, and the race would be at 11:00 p.m. local time. I e-mailed the owners of Pimlico to see if the race would be broadcast on the internet or via a live feed. They told me it wouldn't be available until later, but kindly gave me a URL and a code, so I could watch the network feed. I will always be grateful for that small kindness. I did wander down to the local betting shop to put a £5.00 bet on the favourite, but I lost.
The Preakness Stakes is the second jewel in the Triple Crown. Last year, Curlin won the race, but this year, the race will not be as exciting. Unfortunately, Big Brown is the only horse from the Kentucky Derby that will be racing.
The trophy that the horses at Pimlico Racecourse are vying for is the famous Woodlawn Vase, possibly the most valuable trophy in any sport. The vase was made by Tiffany & Co. in 1860. It stands 34 inches tall and weighs nearly 30 pounds. It is on permanent display at the Maryland Historical Society, and is brought to Pimlico under guard for Preakness. It is worth in excess of $1 million. A smaller replica of the vase is presented to the winner of the Preakness and that's worth about $30,000.
One of the traditions of the Preakness is for the winning horse to be covered by a blanket of Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), Maryland's state flower. Maryland's colours are red, white, black and yellow, Black Eyed Susans have 13 petals, and Maryland was one of the 13 original colonies, so... If you know anything about these flowers, you know that they bloom in the summer. So, the florist who makes the blanket colours the "eyes" of the yellow daisies with a brown or black marker. The blanket is 18 inches wide and 90 inches long.

Another tradition is painting the winning stable's silks on the jockey on the weathervane on the old Pimlico barn. As soon as the race is over and a winner is declared, the painter begins working on the weathervane. It's not often that a sign painter is shown on national television!

Maryland, My Maryland, our state song is not nearly as well-known as "My Old Kentucky Home", but it shares the same pre-Civil War sentiments. Its tune is the same as "O Tannenbaum", the Christmas carol. It is sung at the Preakness by the US Naval Academy's Men's Glee Club. Fortunately, they only sing the third verse of nine, because the first two are pretty awful and the song does go on for quite a bit. Here are the first three verses:

Verse 1
The despot's heel is on thy shore, Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Verse 2

Hark to an exiled son's appeal, Maryland!
My mother State! to thee I kneel, Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Verse 3

Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust, Maryland!
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Cheery little tune, no?

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Here's best wishes to my mother for Mother's Day. A million thanks for all that you do for me! I love you. xoxo

May 10, 2008

A Big Balloon

I love living in the city, because you never know what's around the next corner, like this, this or this. When I was walking Connor this evening, I noticed a truck with a basket for a hot air balloon on the back, parked in a local lot. I wandered over and asked what they were doing, and it turned out that they work for Brooks & Dunn, who were part of Kenny Chesney's Poets & Pirates country music show at Ravens Stadium, close to my house.
The ground crew was gauging the winds to see if they could launch the balloon so it would float over the stadium as B&D began to play. First, they sent a small black helium balloon up to see what the wind currents were doing and then decided on a launch point that would put them at the right height. Since they were not launching for another 45 minutes, I walked home and grabbed my camera.
When I got back, they were just beginning to unroll and inflate the balloon. Huge fans filled the black and white balloon and when it was almost full, they turned on the propane to heat the air to make it rise. The crew unfurled a huge American flag to fly from the side of the balloon, which had Brooks & Dunn's logo on it.
As we watched, the two pilots jumped in the basket as the crew struggled to hold down the balloon. With an excited cheer from the crew and me, they let the balloon go and it drifted off in the early evening air currents. I watched it until it disappeared and then walked over to see if I could get a shot of it behind the stadium, but it was gone.
I saw the chase crew driving around furiously looking for it, hoping that it didn't drift east towards the open Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the crew at Brooks & Dunn Aeronautical for letting me be a part of this.

May 8, 2008

Maison Jansen Lecture

I had an interesting e-mail exchange with the Peak of Chic today after a comment I had made about the alleged reprinting of one of Billy Baldwin's books. I thought I had seen that Rizzoli was reprinting it, but it wasn't in their catalogue. She mentioned that someone named James Archer Abbott was writing a book about Baldwin, and that Abbott had Baltimore connections.
I said that I had heard of Mr. Abbott, but didn't know him, but something buzzed in the back of my mind, and I googled him. Damn if it wasn't the gracious Jim Abbott, Curator of Evergreen House, whom I had met when we'd visited a few weeks ago!
After a bit more poking around, I found that Mr. Abbott will be giving a lecture at Evergreen later this month about his book Maison Jansen, published by Acanthus in 2006. The lecture is entitled, "Fit for a King: The Furniture and Design of Maison Jansen." Evergreen’s House Beautiful lecture series explores 20th-century tastemakers whose work promoted the idea that life could be improved through artful design of everyday objects.
Here's a word about the book: JANSEN is the first comprehensive study of Maison Jansen - the most celebrated decorating house of the 20th century. the book documents the evolution of this legendary Paris-based company from family firm to global enterprise. It showcases over 30 of the firm's most alluring commissions, including rooms for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Shah and Shahbanou of Iran, and President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy for whom Jansen renovated and redecorated the White House. Over 300 illustrations in color and duotone.

Tickets to the lecture are available here. I've already got mine!

May 7, 2008

Daily Candy Travel Visits WALES!

When I moved back from Wales, it was always interesting to see people's reactions when I said where I lived. Mostly, I got a quizzical and questioning look and just told people it was part of England, like, ya know, the Prince of....

When I got my Daily Candy Travel feed today, they featured Wales. You can read the article here. The title, Enter the Dragon, is a reference to the red dragon on the flag of Wales.

They talk about old Cardiff, which isn't all that old in the scheme of things in the UK. Cardiff is only about 150 years old, and is the youngest European capital. DC also mentions favourite Melin Tregwynt, which I wrote about last year. The article also mentions some of Wales' spectacular scenery and wonderful little hotels.

Cymru am Byth! Wales forever!