July 31, 2007

Carleton Varney, Part VII - Stripes, The Common Denominator

I love stripes - from a classic French sailor's shirt to fun stripey tumblers for summer drinks. So when I opened Carleton Varney this evening and the page fell to Stripes, The Decorating Common Denominator, I knew this would be a fun topic. (especially with this cute guy headlining!)"Imagine for a moment a dining room with a white dado, and above the dado, papered walls with a two inch stripe. Hang colourful chintz curtains at the windoes - delphinium blue flowers entwined with peony pink ribbons and emerald green leaves." Well, actually this may be a bit much, but there are tons of ways to use stripes.
Blue and white mattress ticking paired with a toile is a classic look for the bedroom or bath. I bought an eiderdown comforter in the UK and found a duvet cover almost exactly like the one above. You can often find vintage French mattress ticking in some of the markets in the UK and France. It's often old linen, which lasts forever. Snap it up if you see it.
These crisp black and white striped pillows from Williams Sonoma Home would enlived any setting. Crisp blue and white shirts with white collars and cuffs are wardrobe staples. In certain Southern cities, blue and white seersucker suits have never gone out of style. Brightly coloured striped rugby shirts crossed the ocean from the UK decades ago, and haven't looked back. Chanel even did a (very) toned down rugby striped top in sequins at the Paris Spring Shows.

It's hard to imagine a decor where stripes wouldn't work.

July 30, 2007

25 Design Mistakes

Currently, I am not working on Mondays, so took the opportunity to watch a little HGTV. It's a good thing I don't have cable at my house, or I would never get anything done. I was at the house where I stay sometimes, so could indulge.

I watched the Designers 25 Design Mistakes. I agreed with some of them - strongly - and disagreed with others. Their No. 24 was too many family pictures. I think that there are two schools of thought on this, as evidenced by the August Domino Magazine, and Style Court's recent post. I like some family photographs, but only if they're black & white in silver frames. Having said that, I do have a wonderful photo of my grandmother, which is sepia tone, and in a wood frame. But it's the only photo I have on the bookshelf. Others are tacked onto my bulletin board.
They also singled out too many colours or patterns, which I think is okay, but then they also go after "fear of colour", which contradicts the colour/pattern dictum. I think that an all white room, as well as one filled with a riot of colour can look wonderful... as long as they're both done with a fine hand.
Another thing they think is a mistake is keeping something that you hate. I am not sure about that one. What if your spouse gave you something truly vile, are you just going to chuck it out? I know you can have a conversation about what you like, but is it worth it in hurt feelings?
Their number one design mistake is fake flowers! Hmmm... I am sure with the design and editorial talent they had picking mistakes, they could have come up with a better one than that!

What is your pet design dislike? Why?

July 28, 2007

Dorothy Draper SCORE!

I wish I could yell "goal" like the announcers on the World Cup do, because that's what I scored this afternoon! Got the goal, scored the big one and won the game. I went by the Book Thing after work today (yes, I do work Saturdays), just to see, and because I felt it calling my name. They're only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so I have a limited window to get there.

I got there and the power was out in the whole area, but they were still open. They're in an old warehouse, so there was enough ambient light that I could pick titles out. I went to the decorating section first, and there, glimmering in the darkness was Dorothy Draper's "Decorating is Fun!". Yeeha! No cover, but it looks like it's a first edition. It has a preface by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt. I just checked Amazon and they had two original copies, starting at $99.95. Once again, the Book Thing is a goldmine!

Grace Kelly - 25 Years Later

What becomes a legend? Grace Kelly has become a legend and remains a style incon 25 years after her death in an accident. Think about what's iconic about her - her cool crisp style, her classic movies, including To Catch a Thief, High Society, the Hermes Kelly bag, her way with an elegantly tied scarf...
I recently read this book by costume designer Edith Head who talked about outfitting Grace Kelly for some of her movies, in glamorous short evening dresses, an impeccably tailored suit, a full-skirted floral dress, and casual jeans for Rear Window. Head also designed the ice blue outfit that Kelly wore to the Academy Awards where she won the Oscar for Country Girl. Images of Princess Grace from 50 years ago retain their classic good look, with hardly a fashion mis-step. How many other actresses can we say that about?
Two of the most famous French luxury lines, Cartier and Hermes, outfitted Kelly and the items she wore have become timeless classics.
While it's difficult to believe Princess Grace has been gone for 25 years, her legacy lives on in her philanthropic work with the Red Cross and with the Princess Grace Foundation in the US which funds theatre, dance and drama, and through her three children. Follow this link to an article in the UK's Guardian newspaper about an exhibition in Monaco this summer on Princess Grace.

July 26, 2007

Things swimming around in my head.

With the flooding in our dear little Tewkesbury this last week, I've been thinking about New Orleans, the times I spent in Louisiana and some other things, sort of southern. You know how your mind leaps from place to place...
I was in Scotland when Katrina hit and spent an anxious couple of days trying to find out if my friends there were okay. When I was in Louisiana, I learned how to cook with the Chef who made Cajun food famous. We were based out of his home parish and did the local food festival there. But his restaurant was in New Orleans and offices and plant were in Metairie.
I spent time in New Orleans with friends, exploring the city. One of my meccas was a place called Lucullus, a culinary antique store with a branch in NO and another in the sweet little town of Breaux Bridge. I was in heaven here, with their stunning merchandise and merchandising. I collected copper cookware at that time and was just agog at the pieces they had. They had a wonderful cement floor, painted to look like old stones. It was just great.
The architecture of Lousiana was always a big favourite and one of my special memories was in a friend's kitchen, with a black and white tile floor, black and white checked curtains and bright white appliances, with the sun streaming through the Spanish moss on a tree just outside the back door. I also love the little shotgun house, and in fact, my rowhouse in Baltimore is shotgun style, with the hall running down one side.
As everything was happening during Katrina, this song kept looping through my mind and I found it on YouTube the other day. The song is "Take Me Home" by an incredible singer called Marc Broussard, who is from the small Cajun town of Carencro, close to St. Landry Parish, where I was based. The video gives you a real feel for South Louisiana. This is the singer's version, but if you're interested, there's also this version that was produced in the aftermath of the storm for the local United Way.

July 25, 2007

Ho Ho Whoa!

It's not even AUGUST!!! But I was at the dollar store getting bones for the Connor pup and damn if they didn't have their Christmas crap out already. They also had a lot of their "harvest" things out. If it's the Fourth of July, can Christmas be far behind? Am I the only one who thinks that this is pushing the season a bit?

July 24, 2007

Brown and...

Brown isn't one of the colours that I usually wear, but I am sort of coming around to it recently. It all started with a gorgeous brown linen skirt from Talbots that I normally wouldn't have looked at twice. Then I had to figure out what to wear with it and started noticing how good brown looks with some other colours like pink, green and blue, especially the paler shades of these.
I have some wonderful thank you notes in a pale pink with a chocolate brown script. The envelope interiors are brown and pink stripes. K-Style had a gorgeous wedding invitation on her site with a aqua and brown peacock feather. It's from Hello Lucky, a small press.
I also found some fun invitations/notecards from BizzyBee Creations that were pink, green and brown. She's also got some other cute cards on her site. Check it out.
I love this cheetah and green bag from Ballard Design. It would be a great summer bag and would carry your trashy chick lit book to the beach, or on the subway. I also love this brown and aqua wallet from Etsy. What's your favourite combination?

July 23, 2007


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the house where my family had stayed in a charming little Cotswold market village. I woke this morning to hear that this lovely town has been completely flooded and the water is approaching the 900-year old Abbey that is the centerpiece of the town.

We are all so sad to hear the news of all of the flooding, but hope that the UK government does a better job with this than the US government did with Katrina.

July 19, 2007

Fonts Make the Image

I was working on a project at the office today and needed a quasi-military font to use... think M*A*S*H style. That got my mind to wandering about how much the type someone uses influences what you think of their product. This article lists the author's Seven Worst Fonts, and I do agree with most of them, and the comments. And this one talks about bad fonts in print... I realize this is all subjective, and i hope I don't offend anyone.

Some of most ubitiquous fonts that used for cutesy shops and sweet websites are Curlz and Comic Sans. There's another one called Caffe Latte that's similar, but I don't have it. There's a website called Ban Comic Sans because it's such a default font for cute. I think a lot of child care centers use comic sans because it is a kiddie font but it should not be used for anything corporate. Ban CS is kind enough to give you free downloads of a number of more attractive alternatives.
Arial is another font that is overused, mostly because it, and Times New Roman are the default fonts for Microsoft products. The thing to think about when you're using fancy fonts is how much type is your audience going to have to read. It would be hard to read an entire book in italic. It would be difficult to read a whole posting in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, especially if they're all in italics, too. (This says Vivaldi.)

The two typefaces I have used in my header are Century Gothic for the Pigtown Design part. I like CG because it is clean and unfussy. The other part of my header is called Miss Brooks, but that's isn't the "latin name" for it and so you may have seen it called other things.

I go through phases when I like some fonts more than others. I did sin and use Papyrus on an invitation recently because I wanted something that was easy to read, but looked vaguely Asian. I like this font (below) because it's somewhat louche French looking and conveys an attitude. But at the same time, it's very hard to read, so I don't use it much. Anything longer than a few words is impossible to read.

I found a link to these two fonts, designed by the same person, a few weeks ago. They were free fonts, so I downloaded them. I like that they are elegant and edgy at the same time. Here's the link to these two and some others Eduardo Recife designed.

There are some great free font sites where you can download fonts without worry of viruses. One of the best thing about these newly-designed fonts is is their names. One favourite of mine is Crack Babies, a crackly version of a traditional font. I use fontfreak and dafont as good sites. What are your favourite fonts? Why?

July 17, 2007

Carleton Varney, Part VI - Wicker Furniture

I think that looking at my CV book is like fortune telling with a magic book... Today, the book opened to a piece about wicker furniture. It's very hot here and I often wish I had a nice shaded front porch with some old white wicker furniture.
CV asks whether you can "vizualize a dining room with a rich lettuce-green Parsons table and dining chairs of white wicker with shocking-pink cushion seats?" Or a young girl's bedroom with a wicker headboard, a wicker elephant painted hot pink, with a tray for the bedside table and "brilliant shocking pink, lettuce green and mandarin orange wallpaper on the ceiling". How was that poor child supposed to sleep?

I love white wicker with blue and white fabric in a ticking or a toile. Lots of down pillows to counteract some of the hard edges of the wicker and jugs of summer drinks. I must say that I am not a fan of this faux wicker made out of plastic-coated metal. I like the old kind that creaks when you sit on it... that you have to vacuum at the beginning of the season... that you have to spray paint to touch up.
Interestingly enough, one of the early mass manufactuers of wicker furniture in the1850's was the Haywood Brothers & Wakefield Company, who maybe more well-known for their mid-century modern wood furniture.

Nice Milestone

Yes, I am vain enough to check my sitemeter and have the stats e-mailed to me... I am just that way. Today I checked and noticed that I have just hit the 10,000 visitor mark - 10,007 as of midnight! Thanks to everyone who reads Pigtown*Design. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I do writing it.

Also, congrats to my brother and his wife on their twins who are being born this morning. I can't wait to meet my new niece and nephew!
Update: John William and Caroline Alexandra were born just after noon and weighted in at a whopping 4.5 lbs each. All are well and we are so relieved. Thanks for all good wishes!

July 15, 2007

Another Great On-Line (FREE) Resource

I am not quite sure how I stumbled on this great resource, but nevertheless, I am sharing it with you. (If you're Southern, that's y'all, or the plural, all y'all.) A while ago, I showed you the Rasterbator, which converts digital pictures into huge newspaper-style half-tone photos. Now, I have found Block Posters, which converts a digital picture into a multi-sheet PDF like a huge advertising poster. This is not exactly the picture I would have chosen for my example, but I lifted it from their site.
Like Rasterbator, you can select the size you want the output print to be, they instantly convert it to a PDF and you just print it off on your printer. I do warn you that this will be a complete and total ink hog, especially if you do a large piece. The smaller the image, the more pixellated the image will be, but you can upload images up to 1mb in size. Here are some examples of posters on their gallery.

The image above was printed, flipped, reprinted, and put on a corner wall. People suggest either adhering the image to foam core or directly onto the wall using spray adhesive. I just tried Block Poster with this picture I took of a gardenia and then scaled it to five portrait pages across and three down. I am not sure whether I will print it out, but it looks good in the PDF.

July 12, 2007

1920's Style

I am not a huge fan of this era, but when I found a little book about it at the Book Thing the other week, I couldn't resist picking it up. Reading through it has been a great way to educate myself on the works of Le Corbusier, Klee, Braque and Mondrian, among others. This is an era when architects also became interested in designing furniture with both new and old materials.
The little book I got was published by Hamlyn in 1969 after being translated from the original Italian version, published in 1966. It is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs, none of which have lost their vividness, as old photos do. One sweet thing about the book is that it is littered with scraps of paper, marking specific pages.
The book was creased open to the two pages showing Jeanne Lanvin's bedroom and bathroom, which are just lovely. They're not the overblown style that some 1920's rooms have and have maintained their classic good looks for almost 100 years.

July 11, 2007

Merchandising, again...

I've always been interested in having a shop - and may do a little trial Etsy one - so try and read up on merchandising and how to make the products interesting to the buyers.

I went over at the Woman's Industrial Exchange again today (they're on my block at the office) to introduce myself to their new manager (congrats!), and so share some of the suggestions I had made to their board chair about some things to perk up the shop. Here are some of the suggestions I made:

1) Put the shop's name and hours on the front door.
2) If there are two sets of doors, keep the first set open, so people can tell you're there.
3) Don't display the gorgeous etched glass on industrial black metal shelves.
4) Store the boxes from the glass in the back of the store, not on the floor in the shop!
5) Make price tags readable. I know you have consigner codes, but don't make me put on my reading glasses to see how much it costs.

None of these suggestions are difficult to implement, but they will make a lot of difference in the store. Seriously, if you don't have any hours listed, and your doors are closed, then you're not going to get much walk-in traffic.
Shopping bags? You don't have to get fancy ones with your shop logo printed on the sides. Just print out a bunch of large mailing labels with your shop logo and name, and your website and phone number and put them on plain white shopping bags, which can be acquired from a display company, or the amazing ULine. Depending on your merchandise, you can probably get away with two sizes of bags. You can buy nice white paper bags with handles for about 25¢ each.

There's a marvelous little book, published by the former Victoria magazine, called A Shop of One's Own. I recommended this to a friend who's getting ready to think about opening a store, and she thought it was full of good practical advice. One thing this book talks about in many different ways is merchandising. This is also known as display.
You don't need to have every single thing in your stock on the salesroom floor at the same time. Sometimes it is better to only show off two hats, and have a sign saying you have different colours in stock, than to have all 30 hats. Or if you do have them, don't line them up like little soldiers, be creative. The WIE has some fabulous display pieces and beautiful old beadboard walls. But you don't notice them because they're not used to their full effect.

Do you have pet peeves about stores where you shop? Do you hesitate to ask for something because the storekeeper is having a personal phone conversation? Do you give up looking after a few minutes because there's just too much stuff with no rhyme or reason?

July 9, 2007

Brown Paper Packages, Tied Up with...

... Sticky tape. They don't allow string on packages anymore. I got a lovely package in the mail this morning from my brother-in-law. I mentioned the other day that he's got a huge collection of UK Country Life magazines and auction catalogues. Well, that was what came in the post - or a small selection thereof.
There were two catalogues from Christie's in London both of Important Old Masters paintings and British paintings. These auctions were held earlier this month. The real treasure that BIL sent me was the catalogue for Sotheby's auction of Mallett Antiques at Bourdon House.
This is a new venture between Sotheby's and Mallett, which had occupied Bourdon House for more than 40 years before relocating to Bond Street in London, as well as New York. All lots with a low estimate under £10,000 were offered without reserve. Just to make that clear, that's about $20,000 in today's exchange rate. One of the rooms at Bourdon House was a shell grotto, which made up the endplates of the catalogue.
The catalogue is more than 300 pages and is lavishly illustrated with photographs of what's on auction. I will be able to spend many happy hours searching through the pictures and learning about them. The auction was held in March 2007 and the results are thus: Mallett today announces that the auction took place on Friday and net sale proceeds totalled £2.2m. Pleasingly, 95% of lots offered were sold and the proceeds are within Sotheby's pre-sale estimated range, if at the low end.

I saw a copy of the auction catalogue for sale for $150, but this is a great gift from a good and dear friend/BIL.

July 6, 2007

Table Linens

For the longest time, I collected table linens, even though I didn't really even have a dining room. Growing up, we always ate in the dining room, had the table set with silver and linens and were expected to participate in the conversation. I think that my love of linens stems from using them all of the time. My mother had linens that came from her mother and had been embroidered with monograms. She had wonderful white damask and old lace tablecloths that she brought out to use at dinner parties.
In my travels around flea markets, thrift shops and antique stores, I would be able to pick up linen (and I mean real linen, not some ghastly poly-blend thing) for less than a dollar each. These were the wonderful soft well-used linens, cherished by other generations. Because most were only used for special occasions, they were in good condition, and if there was a spot, I usually bought enough, or had enough that looked similar, that I could use them for dinners.

Pathetically enough, one of the things I liked doing most was ironing the linens. What would start as mass of wrinkles and lumps, would eventually smooth out into a beautiful piece. I loved finding the patterns in the damask which revealed themselves upon ironing. I sold all of my linens or gave them to my sister when I moved to the UK, but I have started buying them, just a few at a time.
My best buy was something that I originally thought was a natural linen tablecloth, with some embroidery and cutwork. I paid the $3.00 that the person asked and when I unfolded it, I found that it was actually a linen sheet! It's just gorgeous! If you look, you can find brand new linens in thrift stores or on Ebay. They will be your children's heirlooms!