March 29, 2012

Faux Chateaux {Or Some Great Houses!}

While I was out taking the pictures for the Mies van der Rohe post the other day, I took some time to drive through one of Baltimore’s prettiest neighbourhoods and take some pictures of houses that caught my eye. But before I could start shooting, and this being Baltimore, aka Small-timore, I ran into my friend Tracey!I am pretty sure she’s saying “Get outta here and put that damn camera away!”.  Or not.

One of the things I noticed about this area is the preponderance of houses that were built to mimic French chateaux. This area is about to celebrate its 100th birthday next year, so these houses are beautifully crafted, with details that make them special. If you compare and contrast a house built in 1912 and a similar one built today, the new ones just look flat. The details on this front entrance are gorgeous… the ironwork on the canopy, the grill over the small window, the dentil work on the canopy, the windows on the door… So many elements that just give it a charming look.

More than anything, it’s the colours in this house that evoke France to me. The stucco, the blue shutters, the French balcony above the front door, the lantern hung with an iron rod, the slate roof and the iron-work all combine to say France!faux chateaux1 (26)And again, the decorative grills over the window.

This house fits the classic French country  model: Brick or stucco, stately and formal. They have steep hipped roofs and a square, symmetrical shape with windows balanced on each side of the entrance. The tall second story windows add to the sense of height.

Instead of the grilled windows like the other two houses, this one appears to have louvered shutters. I like the little brick wall and the boxwood in front of this house.

Another French look is from the Normandy region, and these houses are sided with brick or stone, have Tudor-influenced details, and sometimes have a tower with a cone-shaped roof. This house ticks those boxes, although I always think that this house might be dark inside because of the size and lack of windows. I also think that this house needs more foundation plantings to soften it a bit.Here’s another house with a central tower with a cone-shaped roof. Both houses have a distinctive oeil de boeuf window. I have a suspicion that they were designed by the same architect.

This house is similar, but the tower is a bit more flattened, and the roof isn’t exactly conical, but it retains the profile. I like that you can see through to the other side of the house via the French windows on the right, and also in the windows above them.

I hope you enjoyed our little trip to France via the houses of Baltimore. Next, we’ll visit the English countryside in Baltimore. Stay tuned.

March 28, 2012

OKL: Good on Ya!

I do give OKL more than their fair share of grief, but I also try and praise them when they do something good, which they just did.OKL_LogoLast week, I, along  with probably their entire mailing list, was asked to partake in a survey about my buying habits with them. They asked a number of preliminary questions, and then asked when I’d be available for a phone interview. The time came and went with no call. Whatever.

Then yesterday, I received an e-mail, thanking me for volunteering to talk to them. Apparently, the response was so overwhelming that they couldn’t call everyone. So I received a very nice gift certificate from them, good for anything. Any sale.

It was a lovely and gracious gesture. Thank you OKL. You did good!

Yes or No? Deconstructed Furniture

Joni over at Cote de Texas did an extensive post about this subject, but when an advert from Restoration Hardware appeared in my in-box, I took a few minutes to really look at their new deconstructed collection and had to weigh in with some thoughts.deconstruction This image makes my skin itch for any number of reasons… First, the deconstructed look is a bit unfinished and informal for a room that seeming appears to be formal. Then there are the damn books with their white covers. Clearly, if you actually use your books, then you don’t cover them in white paper, just for looks. book_bundles This is a previous Restoration Hardware offering, which I hated. Here.

Itchy. These pieces make my skin itchy because the fabrics look itchy and scratchy. deconstruction2 All of that burlap can’t be too comfortable to sit on. In a short skirt. In the summer. And doesn’t burlap smell funny?deconstruction5Restoration Hardware is putting a lot of money and effort to PR this look, and like their airplane wing furniture, I think that the market for this is very small.venn diagram Probably much smaller than in my Venn diagram indicates. Much much smaller. Here’s my imaginary conversation:

Meg: Come on in and have a seat. I just bought this great chair from Restoration Hardware. It’s from their latest collection.

Meg’s friend: Oh, thank you very much. {and to herself: How sad that Meg could only afford to buy the chair, but that she couldn’t afford to have it upholstered. Ouch, this damn chair poked me with a nail.} It’s a perfectly lovely chair, dear.

deconstruction4 I would also worry about snagging my clothes and my skin on the exposed tacks and the wood looks like it’s pretty rough. deconstruction3 I can sort of understand the faux French- and English-style deconstructed chairs, but this is just all kinds of wrong. And ugly. And expensive.


March 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

When I clicked on Google on Tuesday, I realized that it was the 126th anniversary of the birth of famed “less is more” architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. There are two iconic Mies van der Rohe buildings in Baltimore, one of which I passed every day on my way to the mvdr

The most well-known of the two buildings in One Charles Center, a building which started the renaissance of downtown Baltimore in the 1960’ charles center One Charles Center is a 24 story office building, with an exterior curtain wall of dark brown-finished aluminum, and grey glass. It’s an eight-sided building, although not octagonal, but to fit the building site. JELOWEIt’s a stark contrast to some of the older, more elaborate buildings surrounding it, but because of the tall, elegant columns supporting the building, it fits the space and appears almost airy from street level. One Charles Center was built in 1962 and renovated in the 1980’s and again in the 1990’s when it was returned to it’s original design and condition.

The other building is an apartment building, Highfield House, located in one of Baltimore’s most posh neighbourhoods, filled with beautiful old homes, and lawns with not a blade of grass out of place.Again, this building sits on a series of column, with the ground level open and airy, and of course, with a central lobby filled with Barcelona chairs. On the north and south sides of the lobby, there are open areas, giving the building a lightness. Read about one of the units that’s for sale, here.When Highfield House was built in 1964, a major concession was made to appease  the surrounding neighbourhoods – the building needed have a strong horizontal line, accomplished by designing column-to-column windows, making the building seem shorter than its 15 floors.

Happy Birthday, dear Ludwig!

March 26, 2012

Spitalfields Life

A few weeks ago, I posted an image of a book, Spitalfields Life, that I’d seen in the window of a house I saw when I was exploring the Brick Lane area of London. A few people asked me about it, and I have been remiss in answering the questions.

However, I must confess that I am not the one who did the detective work. It was my charming blog friend, Yonks in Cardiff. She filled me in on the story of Spitalfields Life and then I followed up.

In the midst of life I woke to find myself living in an old house beside Brick Lane in the East End of London.” Thus begins the tale of the Gentle Author. His ambition is to write 10,000 stories of Spitalfields Life. This will take him approximately 27 years and 4 months.  He’s not just putting in a few images and several paragraphs like I write, but long, involved interviews and stories.  His pieces top out at more than 2,000 words!

The areas of London about which the Gentle Author’s writing are filled with old East Enders,Spitalfields Life East Enders new immigrants,Spitalfields Life New Immigrants Pearly Kings and Queens,The-Pearly-Kings-and-Queens-at-Spitalfields-Life-by-Jeremy-Freedman-2012 who are born within the sound of the Bow Bells, which makes them official Cockneys.

Each story that the Gentle Author tells is one of either a disappearing way of life in East London, Brick Lane, Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields Market, many displaced by the 2012 Olympics, or dying of old age, or else a person or business that makes London the unique and special place that it is. The writing is just beautiful and the photographs, taken by a range of photographers are marvelous and evocative. Spitalfields Life ChurchI am pretty sure that the book will be winging its way to me shortly. I only wish I’d picked up a copy when I was there, but I missed the book signing and launch because I was in Wales.

Read Spitalfields Life here.

March 25, 2012

Pretty in Pink: Trees

This has been the strangest spring here in the Mid-Atlantic states. We had virtually no winter, only two days below 25*F, and days above 80*F in March. Very odd.But at the same time, it’s been great because my heating bill will be small(ish) and every single tree that flowers is blooming like crazy. One of my favourite trees is the weeping cherry with its graceful pink branches that sway in the slightest wind. We had two at our house growing up and I loved them. I saw these at a local school that I attended. So elegant.

And then there are the magnolias. Not the southern magnolia grandiflora that everyone thinks of, but magnolia soulangaena, the saucer or tulip magnolia. We had one of these growing up, as well, and the flowers were often ruined by a cold snap after they’d started blooming. Luckily, this was not the case this year. But a lot of the petals were blown off during an early morning thunderstorm that came through on Saturday. Literally, everywhere you turn, you see gorgeous clouds of pink blossoms, and even on grey days like today, they seem to glow.This is a weeping cherry given to a local hospital by Al Capone, the notorious 1920’s era gangster who was treated there. I love the way this tree blends with the one down the block a bit and forms a mass of pink.I like the way the branches on this tree stand out in contrast to the blossoms.  Does look like it needs a bit of pruning though.With the way things are going, tulips and azaleas will be blooming any minute now!

March 23, 2012


A school friend of my older sister’s has an amazing handbag company called Bosom Buddy Bags. She and her partner design the bags and have them made in Bali, then the bags are shipped back to Baltimore and decorated with gorgeous ribbons, fabulous embellishments and great colours. Yes, they are totally prep, but that’s not a bad thing! As far as I am concerned, prep is just another way of saying classic. The sale opened at 4:00 this afternoon, and when I got there about 10 minutes early, it was already buzzing with buyers. Here’s the LINK to the sale information.Luckily, it was a well-mannered crowd, so no one duked it out over their favourite bag!Some of the other businesses along their road also opened up for business and there were some great deals to be had!The sale is Friday, March 23 from 4-7 and Saturday, March 24 from 9-1, rain or shine!Thanks to the readers who kindly introduced themselves to me. I can’t tell you how wonderful that makes me feel!

On the way home, I stopped by to say hi to friends and got these stunning camellias!Because of our warm winter, the camellias are blooming like crazy!

March 22, 2012

Sugar, Sugar

I found a set of cookie cutters that will be perfect for making cookies for Easter lunch next month. But I thought I’d give them a trial run this weekend when I am bringing cookies to a party. The shapes are a lamb, a dove, a sheep, a cat, a pig, a duck  and a lion(?). But, I don’t have a good go-to rolled sugar cookie recipe. I looked at the one on Martha Stewart, thinking she’s as reliable as I am going to get, but her recipe got bad reviews and only made 10 cookies. MSL CookiesSo, I am asking for your go-to, no-fail, delicious sugar cookie recipe. Are you willing to share it with me and everyone else?