January 31, 2007

A Touch of France

When I was in the UK, I worked on a project which took me to Paris every couple of weeks for a few months. One of my friends has an apartment on the Seine, just blocks from Notre Dame. It has high ceilings, tall windows and spacious rooms. It is also filled with the books, bowls and other decorative accessories from several generations. The place is a quintessential Paris apartment. I was so envious of this fabulous flat.

I think that French style is so classic and that most homes are enlivened by having a touch of France in them. Not only do they show that the home-owner has a worldly outlook, but that they have the knowledge to recognize a culture that's been exporting good taste around the world for hundreds of years.
In my own tiny house, I have a photograph of the Eiffel Tour I took one drizzly and cold weekend, some small Eiffel Towers in china and brass, a classic Toile de Jouy duvet cover and a collection of heavy French copper pots and pans and some old French apothecary china jars for cotton, eau de cologne and astringent. I think that if you looked at my house, you would see a French influence. (This is the remainder of my own copper collection.)
Unfortunately, all but the one above aren't my photos... I had taken thousands and they were on my laptop when it was stolen when my house was robbed last month. I am still heart-broken.

January 30, 2007

Tea Pigs

Tea is the new coffee, with all of its anti-oxidant properties and new varieties. Exotic tea shops are springing up everywhere, and even Lipton, which always just had straight black tea, has new green and white teas, as well as whole leaf teas in pyramid-shaped tea bags so the whole leaf can bloom when dunked in hot water.

Darjeeling Earl Grey

I got my Daily Candy in my e-mail this morning and since we're coming to you live from Pigtown, I had to share their feature on Tea Pigs! This is a specialty tea purveyor, and even though they're in London, they do have an e-commerce site. Some of the flavours sound incredible: chocolate flake tea, popcorn tea and a stunning-looking darjeeling Earl Grey tea.

Chili Tea

One item that caught my eye was the chili tea. I can just imagine it on a cold winter day, after a brisk walk in the snow... Brewing a cup of chili tea, with perhaps a bit of honey to warm you from the inside out! Yum.

January 29, 2007


All of my sympathies are with the staff at both New Bolton and at Fair Hill, especially the Jacksons and Michael Matz. Barbero fought the good fight. What a beautiful animal.

Ribbons & Bows

When I lived in the UK and had to go to meetings in London, I often ended up around Sloane Street. One of the best things about that location was the neighbours, including Peter Jones, The General Trading Company and my mecca, V.V.Rouleaux, a purveyor of ribbons, tassels and other passementerie. Unfortunately, they're not yet set up for e-commerce.
VVR has a veritable rainbow of ribbons in silk, satin, grosgrain and raffia. They have bows, feathers, beads and flowers. They have the makings for wreaths and hats. You can't help but find something awesome to take home with you.
I first learned about this lush store and other London shopping treasures from author and columnist, India Knight, in her book, The Shops. I will do something about some of these wonderful places at a later time.

VVR has just partnered with The Jockey Club to create a range of travel gear printed with colourful jockeys’ silks. They are just fabulous and will make you want to take a trip just to carry them with you.
If you happen to be in London in early March, Annabel Lewis, the founder/owner of V.V. Rouleaux is giving a talk at the Victoria & Albert Museum. There’s also a wine reception and book signing for the low, low price of £15 or $30. The event is listed as for members, but it’s a good reason to become a member of the V&A.

January 28, 2007

Interior Transformations

I was at one of my favourite places to buy books this afternoon and found a book called “Interior Transformations” by Ann Grafton. Ann is the Creative Director of Jane Churchill, part of the Colefax Group.
This book is a walk through of her remodeling and redecorating of her house on the dramatic coast of Cornwall, as well as many of the company’s other projects. This book is a primer of definitions, descriptions, questions and answers, all to do with design and decoration. It’s not a how-to book, rather a think-about-this book.
Although Jane Churchill is part of the Cowton & Tout group, their fabrics and interiors are, even though in the English country house vernacular, much lighter and brighter. They maintain the same sensibilities as others in the C&T group, including Colefax & Fowler, Manuel Canovas and Larsen.

Houses designed by Jane Churchill Interiors have the classic looks that endure for years and while modern, can’t be dated to a specific year by some trendy item or design element.
Ann’s house in Cornwall takes full advantage of the coastal light and the seaside atmospheres by being more casual and airy than a place in London. Yet it retains some of the same formalities.

I wish I had “Interior Transformations” when I had to begin decorating and furnishing my house from scratch (and I mean SCRATCH!!!) last year.

I love this photo... It reminds me of the loads of bone-handled silver knives and forks I shipped back from Wales. I've been wondering how to display them, since they're so lovely, and I think this is a good idea.

All photos from Interior Transformations.

January 26, 2007

Friday Styles

A couple of days a week, I get New York Social Diary in my in-box. Most of the time I just glance at the photos, because I don't really have the time to look at them all. But on Fridays, I always link to it because they run a feature called NYSD House, a series of informal chats with some of the biggest names in interior design in New York, along with photos of their homes.
Over the past few months, they have featured Charlotte Moss, the Kip's Bay Designer Showhouse, everyone's favourite designer, Miles Redd and Baltimore native, Chris Coleman. The interviewers get the designers to speak candidly about their design philosophies, their starts in the business, and their own houses.
Some of the houses are neat as a pin, with no clutter and everything in perfect order. The items on the tables are carefully edited and curated.

Others homes are like mine – a bit lived in with the clutter of everyday life showing. Framed photographs of family and friends line the side tables, invitations rest on the desk and books are on the floor next to the bed and the sofa.
Occasionally, the NYSD House has an interview called “The Way They Live” which is a more in-depth look at the subject. The first interview was with Carolyne Roehm.
On Wednesdays, NYSD writes a Shopping Diary, which highlights some aspect of shopping in New York, or a new style that’s coming onto the radar screen.

Cruise through the New York Social Diary series and you’ll get some great ideas and inspiration!

January 25, 2007

Thursday Styles

On Thursdays, the New York Times and the Washington Post each have design sections included along with all of the politics, world news and stock listings. The Times used to only have a House & Garden section, but about a year or so, they split that to include a Fashion & Style section.

The F&S section includes a great column called "Critical Shopper" by Alex Kuczynski, who recently penned a book about her addiction to plastic surgery. There is also a rather funny column called "Online Shopper" about the trials and tribulations of ordering things on-line from Northern California.
The H&G section has such goodies as a slide show of the Currents column which provides great sources for everything from silk bedding at warehouse prices to duchesse satin curtains.There is also the Personal Shopper column which, today, has some beautiful Welsh wool blankets like ones I talked about in an earlier post. The most amazing section is the real estate listings for Manhattan, which are quite shocking.
The Washington Post hosts Home Front, an on-line chat from 11:00 to noon, EST with two of the writers in their Home section. You can search their extensive archives for specific topics. Annie and Jura are the source for such things as who can repair a torn Oriental Rug and the best design consignment stores. Much of this focuses on the greater Washington, DC area, down into Virginia and up to Northern Baltimore County and the Eastern Shore. However, the design gals are also great at suggesting colour and paint selections.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post require you to subscribe, but that's free.

January 23, 2007

Scalamandre Ming Circus

I mentioned that I am going to design the baby announcement for my friend, Miss M.A., who's adopting a girl from China. When I was talking to her last night, she said she'd had a dream about the baby and the baby's name was Ming. Now, Miss M.A. has not even gotten the referral for the baby yet and hasn't even picked any names until she does.

I need to start thinking about some designs for Miss M.A. to pick out, so taking a clue from Style Court's article on the Chinoiserie Baby Shower, I looked at the lining of the envelope and saw that it was a Scalamandre pattern. I didn't find the pattern Mary McDonald used, but I found Ming Circus.

This evening, I was wandering around the internet looking for some fabrics and came across a piece of Scalamandre's Ming Circus fabric on E-bay. It's got all of the elements I was looking for: Chinamen, pandas, elegant herons sitting on trees and a great colourway - a cinnabar red.

I am staked out at the laptop waiting for the bidding to end. Wish me luck!
PS - I lost in the last six seconds to "miniaturecatman". Oh, the horror!

January 22, 2007

Year of the PIG

Since this coming Chinese year is the year of the pig, and we're coming to you from lovely Pigtown, I thought I would take a minute to talk about the enduring good looks of Asian decor. Bloggers Style Court, Absolutely Beautiful Things and All the Best have recently posted some of their favourite Chinese-style rooms and furnishings, so now it's my turn.

When I moved into my house, my mother generously gave me some things she couldn't use in her new place. Among them is a lovely yellow silk four panel screen, which fit with just an inch to spare on my unused chimney breast. I purchased two pale yellow ottomans (ottomen?) piped in white from Target. Since I already had a yellow flowered sofa, it pulled the living room together.

When I look around the rest of my tiny house, I see Chinese influences everywhere, from the blue & white toile de Jouy bedspreads from my brother-in-law to the similar, but not identical duvet cover, to the similar but not identical shower curtain, to my growing collection of Willow-ware china in blue, green and red to the heirloom jade and gold ring I have (one of the only pieces of jewelry that didn't get stolen in my catastrophic robbery last month).

My best friend is adopting a daughter from China later this spring and I want to take a page from Style Court and Absolutely Beautiful Things and design the baby announcement, keeping the Chinoiserie theme.

January 19, 2007

Carolyne Roehm

I adore Carolyne Roehm's style. She's posts a magazine, CR Style via e-mail either monthly or quarterly, which is filled with entertaining, gardening, cooking, present-wrapping and other tips. She's also got the most beautiful collection of ribbons and wrapping papers, as well as small gifts. Her colours are stunning, and make a bold statement. I would have a hard time unwrapping something this beautiful.

Carolyne's collections, Black & White, Louis XVI, Tapestry, Luxe, Ode to Bill Blass and Bright Gifts feature gift collections, wraps & ribbons and entertaining ideas focusing on the theme of the collection.
Along the right side of this blog, you can find some of my favourite reference books, including Carolyne's four Seasons books. Each of the books highlights aspects of the season with suggestions for gardening, cooking and decorating. The books are spiral-bound and have places for you to keep your own notes. While she was writing this series of books, the house in Connecticut where she was living and using for her photography for the book, burned to the ground.

January 18, 2007

John Derian Company - NYC

I was in New York a couple of weeks before Christmas and one of the places on my agenda to visit was John Derian Company. This amazing store specializes in decoupage, which is the art of cutting and pasting - something we all learned in first grade. It's not as easy as it looks and takes some amount of talent to make the items look professional.

JDC's plates, trays, glasses and other items feature old letters, prints and painting, all affixed the the back side of glass and then painted so you don't see the images from the back. They had some terrifically funny old letters, and some really gruesome images from old medical books. The incredible thing to remember is that each of the elements on these trays and vases is applied by hand!

John Derian also has an antiques/salvage store called Dry Goods, just down from the decoupage store with beautiful new and vintage linens, bedding, china and fun Morrocan poufs. If I didn't have about 12 other places on my agenda, I would have snagged something fun!

Office Supplies

I am forever buying office supplies in the futile hope that it will automatically organize my life. However, recently, I have adopted the theory of mess - that those people who are neat are spending more time organizing than they are working, or having fun.

Nevertheless, I still like pretty office supplies. I was wandering around the Ballard Designs website this morning and found these and these beautiful files. I used to have zebra striped ones and hot pink toile ones from Ballard. I also just got some really funky 70's print files from the Dollar Store!

I would love to have office space in my house, but for now, it's the guest bedroom. I do all of my computer work in the kitchen, it's not like it's used for cooking!

January 16, 2007

My Drive to Work

The other morning when I was driving to work, the sun was trying to break through the fog over the water. I always carry my camera with me and managed to snap these two photos. In the top photo, you can just see the sun glinting off the water.

Sunrise over Port Covington

January 15, 2007

Mount Clare Mansion

Mount Clare Mansion

Another one of the walks Connor and I took this weekend was over to Mount Clare Mansion in Carroll Park. You can read all about the history of the house here.

North Portico

The house is a spectacular 18th century five-part Georgian mansion, which has retained its classical good looks to this day. The interiors are spectacular, furnished with many of the original pieces from the house. The dining room and some of the bedrooms are enough to make you jealous that you don’t live there.

Main Entrance from Carroll Park

When you're walking around the property, which includes a carriage house available for rentals, you forget that you're in the middle of the city, just a stone's throw away from I-95.

View looking into downtown Baltimore

Mount Clare often hosts special events, one of which will be a show in conjunction with Wedgwood, although curiously, the house has none in it's original collection. At Christmas, I bought a wreath, magnolia leaves and several enormous pine cones at their greens sale. Mount Clare is one of Baltimore's many hidden gems. Take a look!

I Love These Blankets!

When I lived in Wales, I bought and sold the traditional Welsh Blankets loomed throughout the country for generations. But my favourite blanket was one that my housemate, Andy had. It looked like the second pillow on the pile below and came from an old Welsh mill called Melin Tregwynt.

Melin Tregwynt had a shop in Cardiff where I used to stop and check out the new things. The people who worked there were very informative and patiently answered all of my questions about the weaving process. They invited me to come see the mill, but it was a several hour drive on “B” roads and I never got there.
Instead of sticking to the old colourways, Melin Tregwynt takes traditional colours and patterns and turns them on their heads. Rather than muted plaids and earth tones, they have purples and pinks, greens and golds, and shades of denims. Their blankets are warm and soft, not at all scratchy. They also have a great range of messenger bags and some clothing.

I don't know whether Melin Tregwynt has an outlet in the US, but I just think that the blankets, the colours and the patterns are just fabulous and wanted to share them with you.