January 10, 2018

A Dozen Years

When I returned from the UK a dozen years ago (!), I was working for a friend’s father on a short-term contract, renting a small row-house and trying to figure out what was next.image I needed a little structure in my life, and thought that by writing something each day, researching a topic, and taking photographs, I would be using my time productively. image

Then, as now, I wrote about completely random things – art, architecture, interiors, my life, my dog, food, books, and much more.image Certain themes arose again and again, some continued and some dropped away. (You can check the labels links on the side-bar to see these.) image

I have always tried to present the best parts of life in Baltimore, which doesn’t always get the best press. imageIt’s a beautiful city, in parts, and even in the parts that aren’t filled with big old houses with gorgeous gardens, I can almost always find an interesting building or something at piques my curiousity. image

I hope that you enjoy following along as much as I enjoy sharing my life and my interests with you.image

As always, thank you for reading Pigtown*Design!

January 3, 2018

Hello, 2018!

Please excuse the lack of Christmas and New Years greetings from me, and for my usual round up of the year’s favorites. The flu/cough combination has come down hard on me and many of my friends, and I spent the week between Christmas and New Years flat on my back, with Figue acting as my nursemaid. I must say that she makes an excellent warming pad. image

As you might imagine, my holidays were pretty dreary, but they were bracketed by fun meals with good friends, so that was good.

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When I was looking through my Instagram feed, three images in the past few weeks indicated to me that yes, I do indeed have a “type” that I like – in fireplaces! image



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A little project I am playing with is hunting up some of the early 1900’s public schools in Baltimore. There was a concerted effort to use quality architects for these buildings, and when I found a gorgeous building designed by the architects of my offices, I had to see if there were others. It’s been fun visiting sections of the city where I’ve never been before.

Aside from the completely inappropriate doors, this looks like an English country schoool. Love the copper cupola, too.image

Another set of bad doors, and a good cupola with copper lattice. image

I am really glad they are renovating this instead of tearing it down. image

Here’s another section of it, with Romanesque arches and griffons adorning the walls. image

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I like to have a yearly project, and I think I am going to continue the 2017 project of exploring my hometown. I got hold of the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties and have been working my way through all 5,000 listed properties in Baltimore City alone! I whittled down the list to about 2100 buildings, and will be looking for them over the next year. I hope you will come along with me!image

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Finally, and better late than never, one of my favourite Christmas carols is “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and as I was leaving a party on Christmas eve, these dark and quiet city streets brought the song’s words to mind. image

Happy New Year, too!

December 18, 2017

Last Minute Holiday Shopping Ideas

We are less than a week out from Christmas and if you haven’t already started your shopping yet, you better get a move on it! As a public service, I have a few last minute ideas for your consideration.image

One of my long-time favourite places to get last minute gifts is museum shops! Each and every museum on earth (practically!) has a museum shop generally featuring an array of goods which reflect their mission. Our local historical society has re-purposed an old store-front to use for their shop, which features a selection of consigned goods including old silver and china, and some antique furniture.image

Does your town have a fun and funky shopping street? Baltimore’s Hampden neighbourhood, close to where I live, is four blocks of small independently-owned shops. I love shopping at these little stores because their merchandise is always unique, and I know that my money is staying in the community, and not going off to some mega-corp somewhere else. image

Another great idea, but maybe one that’s too late for this year, is the local craft/maker shows that are so popular. One here in Baltimore, the Holiday Heap o’Craft is held in an old church and is absolutely packed with makers and buyers!image

A very simple gift is a few paper-white narcissus bulbs, along with some stones and a glass container. Garden centers and big box home improvement stores usually have the bulbs and you can pick up glass stones and glass containers from the dollar store. In the depths of January and February, it will be nice to have some blooming flowers!image

Food is always welcome, especially if you make it yourself. Fellow blogger, Pinecones and Acorns, had a great seasonal recipe which I can’t wait to try out. It’s an easy Cranberry-Apple Chutney, which would be beautiful paired with a soft goat cheese and a box of water crackers, bundled on a fun cutting board. Click the link for her recipe. She also has a few other quick and easy last minute food gifts. image

In the past, I’ve made caramels, imagemy father’s lemon curd, image

candied grapefruit peel, image

and puff pastry palmiers or elephant ears from Ina Garten’s recipe. image

Finally, a trip to your local antiques mall or auction house can yield a unique gift or two. I like to pair an great tea-cup and saucer with some elegant teas. image

Or a single plate loaded with some good cookies. image

Or an elegant knife, paired with some exotic cheeses.image

Regardless of what you choose, the main thought is to keep the recipient in mind.

December 13, 2017

Holiday Decorating

Traditionally, I don’t do too much decorating at my house, mainly because I am almost never home, and the dog really doesn’t appreciate my hard work. I put up a few flameless candles which actually look pretty good and won’t burn down my house. I burn my favourite Thymes Frasier Fir candle which makes my house smell amazing. I also have white lights strung on my huge gardenia which is looking rather pitiful after I left it outside too long and most of the leaves turned brown.

I love looking at other people’s decorations and appreciate the work that goes into making them beautiful. I adore white fairy lights, and the new tiny bee lights and think they can look magical.


The holidays are a time to be totally outrageous and over-the-top with your decorating, using items like these oversized bows!image

This is a super minimalist decoration that could actually be used all winter. I might add a few shiny red balls on the mantle.image

My favourite shop in London, VV Rouleaux, has a wonderful oakleaf spray that can be used for a range of decorations. image

And here are some holiday decorating pictures from VV Rouleaux’s owner’s house in the English countryside. (article here)image





Even if you just use some glass balls and sparkly lights, you can bring the spirit of the holidays into your home.

December 6, 2017

Picking A Wreath

For many years, I made my wreaths by hand, picking magnolia and boxwood branches and trying to fashion them into an amazing artistic expression. Mostly, it went okay, but with much sweating and swearing. My ambitions and aspirations are great, but my talent is limited.

I think that this was a cheapie wreath from Ikea with a ton of boxwood tucked in behind it.image

My friend, Andrea, is a master of wreath-making!image

I bought a bunch of pheasant feathers last year, and think they make a great addition to a wreath.image

I did this one year. I collected tons and tons of vintage ornaments and glue-gunned them to a wreath form. Hung it on my front door.
Then it rained, all the glue dissolved and the ornaments fell off. I was broken-hearted.image

I really love magnolia leaf wreaths, but I might embellish this a little more.image

Like this one with some gilded leaves and a few tiny lights.image

In a fit of insanity one year, I made this cranberry wreath. It was gorgeous but I don’t know if the glue-gun burns were worth the effort.image

It’s always fun to collect pinecones on a fall walk in the woods. image

Last year, I bought Williams-Sonoma’s jingle bell wreath. This year, I think I will re-visit it with some sprigs of boxwood surrounding it.image

November 21, 2017

Lunchtime Safari

Luckily, my office is in the center of the city, and I always try and get out for a bit during lunch, just to clear my head and get some fresh air. I can get almost anywhere in the city and back during my lunch hour, so I set a goal of a building to see or a neighbourhood to explore and see what I can get done.

I’ve hashtagged images from lunch as #LunchtimeSafari, so that I can easily access them on Instagram, although some other people have snuck theirs in as well! Take a look…

A dramatic sky and a little photo-editing combined to make this moody photo.image

I stumbled across this gorgeous Georgian-style school building, only to find out later that it’s by the same architecture firm that designed my offices in 1909. image

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this is also Ellicott & Emmart, the architects of our building. image

Speaking of which, this is my offices, built in 1909 and overseen by our ghost, Marcia. IMG_0004

St. Katherine’s Church looks like it belongs in a country village, not the heart of the city.image

I just found this Italianate villa, perched on the top of a hill overlooking Baltimore. image

This is part of the Montebello Water Filtration plant. I love the Moorish look that this has.image

This is on the same property. I think it would make an amazing house!image

The old Beaux Arts Congress Hotel. image

I love discovering new-to-me buildings, and revisiting old buildings that I’ve known for years. Thanks for coming along!