February 13, 2017

Flowers for Valentine’s Day

My friend, Andrea is one of the most talented people I know. She started as a floral designer and while she’s moved on to other ventures, she still takes on a few events for private clients. When a friend asked her to do the flowers for an important dinner later this week, Andrea said yes, and off to the flower wholesalers we went!IMG_5427

I’d never been to a place like this before, so it was a wonderful adventure! Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping tons of images. The warehouse is huge! There are several huge walk-in cold-boxes and this time of year, they’re filled with thousands of roses.
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The roses ran the full spectrum, from the deepest reds to the most gorgeous pale pink David Austin-style ones. IMG_5429

But the warehouse had a lot of other flowers as well like these yummy yellow Ranunculus,IMG_5396

stunning purple orchids,IMG_5413

chrysanthemums which look like something from Dr. Seuss,IMG_5399

hundreds of branches of about-to-bloom forsythia,IMG_5402

and the teeniest, tiniest “pineapples”.IMG_5436

It was so hard to focus on finding a special treat for myself because there was so much to choose from – and this was just one room!IMG_5435

But in the end, I picked out some of my favourite freesias with their peppery sweet fragrance. IMG_5439

Thanks so much to Robin and Potomac Floral Wholesale for patiently answering all of my questions!

February 6, 2017

Mad About the House Blog

It’s really a small world, you know. Kate Watson-Smyth, the god-mother of the children of a friend of mine in London (follow that?) writes the most gorgeous blog called Mad About the House. She is based in the UK and sources most of her images and items from that side of the pond. image

She writes several rotating features including 10 Beautiful Rooms, The Househunter: Room by Room, 10 Best and others. If you read British design magazines regularly, you will notice that the houses and rooms that they feature are not styled to within an inch of their lives like the rooms in American magazines. They have that lived-in look, with stacks of books on the floor, faded chintzes and a dog lazing on the sofa. I find this rather comforting.

Here are some of my recent favourites that Kate has featured.

Georgian details in the boot room.Perfection!image

Beadboard walls, pinkish plaster, great stove… yep, I’ll take it!image

Honestly, I am not wild about the furniture, but wow, those windows!!!!image

Lightness, brightness and lots of cheer!image


Holy cow! That wall is AMAZING!ab_ebury_mews_07

That sofa is a killer!image

I hope you’ll pop over and take a look at Mad About the House. I am mad about it!

January 30, 2017

Baltimore in the Wall Street Journal

There was a great article about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Baltimore in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. The writer, Nina Sovich’s, family originally came from Baltimore and she returned for a visit. Although her family was worried about her coming, she found that the city is not what most people think. image

She discovered some of Baltimore’s treasures in various buildings in the Mount Vernon neighbourhood where she spent much of her visit. image

My office is in Mount Vernon, so I know the area well. Nina did a great job conveying that there are amazing parts of the city that you will never know if you only watch The Wire. image

Coincidentally, I had just finished a book last weekend which had the most beautiful description of Baltimore, from a surgeon at Hopkins who had moved here in the late 1800’s from rural Ontario and lived here for more than 50 years. He made it his home and loved it.

Charles Street in certain lights can revert. The sky clears after a storm, the day thins and recedes. Along Charles Street, Baltimore is again the Baltimore Tom Cullen knew in youth; the town whose portrait is engraved in old prints, withdrawing in mannerly perspective before the eye of the beholder, accepting with happy serenity of the well-proportioned the homage of regard. It was so, coming to Eager Street on a remembered evening.
New snow on the sills and cornices laid soft-edged accents below and above the ordered rows of lighted windows. The west was blue-green over the gas lamps of the climbing cross streets, the east pale with reflected brightness. Against it on the far hilltop a dome showed - small and dark beyond the balustrade of Mount Vernon Place and the lines of lights falling away and lifting again - the lanterned dome of Johns Hopkins. Tom Cullen broke a silence that was long for him.
"I love this old town," he said.

You can (maybe) read the entire article here. It might be behind a pay-wall.

January 26, 2017

Resolution: #ThisIsBaltimore2017

Although I’ve lived in Baltimore for most of my life, I realize that there are huge swaths of the city that I really don’t know. In Baltimore, the areas that I do know are called “the white L” mimicking the center of the city and then the sections that go along the water, which make an L shape. So, my resolution for 2017 is to venture to parts of the city that are not as familiar to me.

I’ve gotten a little push-back for this, because, as you might have heard, not all areas in Baltimore are safe. I pride myself on my street sense, although I did drop it in High Point, NC a few years ago and got mugged (not kidding!). I know not to go wandering into old buildings or explore areas on foot. I do most of my shooting from the comfort of my car, and if I do have to get out of the car, it is still close by.

My guide in this venture is A Guide to Baltimore Architecture, which is out of print, but still available. This book was published in 1973, and one of the reviewers on Amazon complained about new buildings not being included.


Here are some of the buildings I’ve discovered thus far.

Druid Hill Park, where the Baltimore Zoo is located, is filled with wonderful Victorian-era follies.image

I found this abandoned school building when I turned left instead of right.image

The Ashburton Pumping Station on a snowy afternoon.image

An abandoned building at the Pikesville Armory. Note the Maryland Flag above the front door.image

Mount Royal Station on a stunningly gorgeous late January afternoon.image

The Stieff Silver Building, now office space. image

I know it’s the end of January, but did you make any resolutions?

January 19, 2017

Look, Books!

You might know that I have been the President of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation for the past few years – I just stepped back to be solely a board member in December. We are about to celebrate our 30th birthday, and are also involved in a move from what was our HQ for the past dozen or so years, into the same building as the local chapter of the AIA. image

As part of that move, we finally decided to clear out our library which has books on architecture from across the world, dating back to the 1700’s. But since the BAF’s mission is the appreciation and understanding of the built environment in BALTIMORE, we are de-accessioning books that don’t fit with that remit.image

There are books on drawing, theory, history and more, spanning three centuries. One of the best sets we have is this four-volume monograph on the works of McKim, Mead & White. This book doesn’t come around very often and the pre-auction estimate is $1,500 to $2,000.image

In case you’re not a fan of Beaux Arts, you might like this little volume on the Bauhaus.image

I’d love this “sketchbook” but with the low end of the estimate at about $400, it’s a bit much for a lark.image

Or how about this gorgeous book of patterns? LA PEINTURE MURALE DECORATIVE DANS LE STYLE DU MOYEN AGE (Paris: 1881) folio, portfolio, decorated cloth; the binding worn, but plates goodimage

The auction will take place at Alex Cooper Auctioneers outside of Baltimore on Friday, January 27th, beginning at about 10:00 a.m. You can view the items here. The Architecture Foundation’s items begin at Lot 1601 and run for about 100 lots. If you can’t be in Baltimore, you can bid on-line.

All of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the programs of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

January 17, 2017

Rocque-ing London

As I was scrolling through my FB feed the other day, I literally stopped in my tracks because of this stunning image from the Williamsburg Brand. I had worked with them at High Point a few years ago, and love how they have translated their traditional style into contemporary goods.image

Of course, the lamp is a ton of fun, but it was the paper behind it that I wanted to know more about. Someone from the Williamsburg Inn kindly responded instantly and told me that it was available at Williamsburg at Home, their shop in Colonial Williamsburg. I almost hopped in the car and drove down, but then saw it was sold out.imageHere’s the description from their catalogue:

Designed by British surveyor and cartographer John Rocque in the 1740s, this iconic London map elegantly portrays the neighborhoods of what many American colonists considered to be their true home. The six panels that make up the mural are almost identical in size to the original 18th-century map, which was widely used by gentry and commoners alike. The metallic finish on the wallpaper gives a hint of sheen to any accent wall.

It is actually six wallpaper rolls, sequentially numbered, which are 18" wide for an overall mural size of 108" x 110". I am pretty sure that this would fit in my upstairs hallway. image

The map is also available through York Wallcoverings, here, and comes in metallic and non-metallic versions with additional paper on the top and bottom for use on a nine-foot wall. The cost is $159 for the six rolls.

I know that Ben Pentreath has this map, featured in his stunning London home (now redecorated).  But it’s in 24 panels, suitable for framing (which adds considerably to the £175/$200 price tag). Each of the sheets is 24x19 inches, which makes for a massive piece. Ben said that the original map was photographed in the 1970’s and then colour-corrected and repaired. imageimage

Of course, all of this brings to mind the famous Turgot Plan de Paris, about which I wrote much many years ago. If you search for “Plan de Paris” you can read all about it, including me mounting it on the dining room at my old houseimage and Connor chewing pieces of it after I took it down to move. Here, he is contemplating the map and figuring out his plan for destroying it.

What do you think of this map? Would you buy it? I am considering it strongly!

January 9, 2017


When I lived in the UK, at 11:00 every day, the whole place would take a break for tea, which was called “elevenses”. As an American who was used to working through lunch most days, this was a novelty! We also took an office-wide break at 3:00-ish for coffee. image

This blog is your elevenses – a short break for light refreshment. Shockingly, this is my 11th year of blogging. I am as curious about things as I was 11 years ago when I sat down to write my first blog post.  In the early days, I wrote about John Derian, Scalamandre fabrics, tea, copper pots and pans and one of my favourite shops:V.V. Rouleaux, the amazing ribbon shop near Sloane Square in London. image

So, you can see that the things I do and I write about are still as eclectic as ever! After spending several days down with a stomach bug, I did some exploring this weekend and discovered this gorgeous old pumping station in Baltimore.image I should do a series of pictures about the pumping stations in Baltimore, as some are quite lovely!

January is already shaping up to be a busy month, with lots going on at work, including a quick refreshment of our largest room. We added trim and re-hung the painting collection, including a few gathered from other parts of the building. We still have a few things to do, but the improvement in this room is 100%!IMG_5013

While we were working on that, one of the workmen opened a display cabinet for me. I pondered how to open it for three years, and discovered that the panel of glass in front slides up and down, just like a guillotine! The cabinet holds what we call our “Napoleon Chest” and I will write about it later. But here’s just a sneak peek of what is inside!image

Stay tuned!

December 28, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up

You might have noticed that I’ve cut way down on blogging this year. After more than 2,400 posts, and ten (!) years of blogging almost full time – for years, I wrote five times a week – I have found that it is hard to find the time to devote to blogging. I love the community of it, the friends that I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had. But the thought that I had to find a topic, gather images, do the research and then the writing, just got too overwhelming and so I made the decision to slow down. In 2017, I am going to aim to write once a week, and I hope that you will still follow along.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite posts of the past year, most of which were crowd faves, too!

First up, the new dog. After losing Connor about 14 months earlier, I found adorable little Figue, a Yorkie mixed with some other things, possibly including poodle. imageShe is so completely and totally different from Connor as to be an entirely new species! She is silly and funny, and fast as lightning. She adores riding in the car, sticking her head out the window, and barking like mad when I stop!image

In the spring, I took my longest vacation in ages – two full weeks in the UK, with stops in London, imageWales imageand the Cotswolds. image

The weeks were enlivened by wonderful visits with family and friends, and the discovery of G&T in cans!image

In September, my friends at Halcyon House Antiques hosted a pop-up shop for me, which was loads of fun. image

I had made some tea-towels as a one-off for the pop-up and the idea has turned out to be phenomenally successful and I had to hire someone to help me hem the towels!image

I am so lucky to have friends with an amazing cutting garden, and every other weekend during the summer, I get a bucket full of flowers. I have such fun arranging them in the myriad vessels in my collection, regardless of whether vase it the original purpose or not!imageimageimageimage

I want to personally thank you for reading Pigtown*Design, and hope that you enjoy it. I always love to read comments and try to respond to each one. Thanks!