April 29, 2008

Tin Picnic Plates

Over the weekend, Kitchenography and I went to a neighbourhood yard sale, where in the past I have had major scores, including this barristers bookcase, and a stack of handmade quilts from the 1920's. After I had scored a toile French market flower pail and the most incredible bunch of lilacs, I spotted several tin picnic plates. A number of years ago, I got some of these great plates that are far and above your usual styrofoam plates - they're copies of Sèvres plates, but they're tin! They're so lightweight and good-looking, that they're a joy to take along on a picnic. And even better, they're "green". You just wash them and use them again and again. I liked the four that I had, that they were one of the things that I kept when I moved. When I turned them over, I realized that they were from the Wallace Collection in London, just like the ones that I had at home. I snapped up the three of them instantly, and when I got home, I checked the patterns. My original ones were the Garland of Roses pattern and the new one was Flower Basket. The two other plates came from the collections at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. These plates are also adaptations from Sèvres plates, but in different patterns. Mottahedeh carries these plates in several styles and they run about $45 to $65 for four plates. Regardless of where you get the plates, they're all made by Elite Gift Boxes in the UK, suppliers to stately homes... amongst others. It looks like Elite Gift Boxes will be doing a line for Nina Campbell in the fall. Stay tuned!

April 27, 2008

More Kennedy Couture

All Things Bright & Beautiful asked if I would post more of the photographs of the stunning couture dresses from the Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years book. So here are a few of my favourite selections. It is really amazing how contemporary these dresses look, even 50 years later.

This is a selection from Herbert de Givenchy. The dress is beige wool jersey with a black kid belt from the fall-winter season of 1959.

A selection from Chanel. A suit in black wool with an ivory dot-embroidered silk satin, from the fall-winter of 1956. Model number 04637.

An evening gown from Oleg Cassini. Ivory silk ziberline with jet beading. Worn at a state dinner for Jawaharlal Nehru of India, November 7, 1961.

For travel to India, a Donald Brooks dress. Empire-waisted shift in hot pink silk shantung, March 1962.

For a formal dinner, another Oleg Cassini. Azure blue silk crepe Giselle. Summer 1962.

Hope you enjoyed these!

April 23, 2008

*** UPDATE*** Save the Mount

Reprieve! The deadline has been extended to May 31. The Mount will open for the 2008 season on May 9. Remember to take a look at the Slate Magazine slide show, along with a critical essay. You can link to it here and I wrote about it in February, here.
Image: Slate Magazine

April 22, 2008

Books - Still, Again...

I am continually amazed by the books I find at Book Thing. Although I am sending all good karma thoughts for the Billy Baldwin Decorates that Peak of Chic says is one of Charlotte Moss's favourites, I still haven't found it. It took me about seven months to muster up the karma to find I Married Adventure so I figure I've got a few weeks to go. Here's some of what I found on this trip:
Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life (1991) looks like it's going to be very interesting. It is the story of Nancy Gross Hawks Hayward Keith, Lady Keith (1916–1990) who was portrayed in Truman Capote's Answered Prayers and was known as a fashion icon throughout her life. This will be a great book for a rainy afternoon's reading.

I've always really liked Liz Tilberis and so was delighted to find her auti-biography No Time to Die, about her life and struggle with ovarian cancer. Having had my own issues similar to this, it was a very good read. At the end of the book, she's just gotten word that the cancer has returned with a vengance, and reading the book nearly ten years after her death, it's still so sad to see someone that young (51) and vibrant lose their life.

How could I possibly resist this book? I probably won't end up reading it, because it's a crime novel and that doesn't interest me, but I knew I had to snag it.
I found an series of four books that are really just one big advertisement for their publisher, but I didn't know anything about them, so I picked them up because the pictures were pretty. The four books are about the Bulthaup system of kitchen essentials, including cabinets, furniture and accessories. These four books, System 25, System 20, Communication, and Accessories, are beautifully produced and I think I will have a lot of fun looking through them. I also looked at their website and the kitchens are just lovely! I do all of the publication design and graphics work for my office, so it's always good to look at other professionals and see what they are doing. Once I am finished, they're being added to the library at McLain Wiesand.
Clearly, Connor thought these books were pretty, but I am a little concerned about his reading skills.

April 20, 2008

McLain Wiesand Custom Furniture

Every day, on my drive home from work, I pass the most interesting storefront, with a window display that changes frequently. In my last post, the bottom photograph was of a lovely campaign bed, which was made by a Baltimore-based artisan, David Wiesand, owner of McLain Wiesand Furnishings and Decorative Arts and the owner of the store windows I adore.

Today, as I was driving by McL-W, I pulled over to take some photos of the newest window and ran into David, and his partner and my old friend, Bug, who is the Simon Doonan of Jos. A. Banks Clothiers. David and Bug were kind enough to let me come in and take some photos of his work.

Although he's based in Baltimore, David's work is available in showrooms across the country including Summer Hill, Ltd, in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, Ainsworth Noah in Atlanta, and the Rist Corp. at the Design Center in Washington, DC.

This was the window display last week with a better photograph of the campaign bed David designed for his daughter, as well as a chandelier he designed for her.

Here are some of my favourite pieces that were in McLain Wiesand's showroom this afternoon. In addition to his own work, David also has a small selection of antiques. Take a look:

A shagreen side table

One of a pair of Chinoiserie-style table lamps

Several klismos-style chairs designed by McLain Wiesand

A selection of heads, including David's signature Medusa heads.

Two Baltimore Chairs, the left one is in progress and the right one is nearly complete.

A beautiful turquoise lamp base with a coral motif.

Bug & David... thanks for sharing your shop with me this afternoon. Always a treat to see you!

April 16, 2008

Carleton Varney, Part XIII - Beds & Headboards

My office has installed a major firewall, so I am not able to read your blogs in my spare moments at work, or do research on donors or a lot of other things. So I have to do all of my blog-reading and donor-researching in the evenings.

I didn't have time to research a long post, so I pulled out the magic book of spells, aka Carleton Varney's Book of Decorating Ideas, to see what it said. Beds & Headboards! That's a topic that makes me happy... Carleton says Never has the selection of beds and headboards been so versatile... I have seen handsomely carved old doors, an iron gate, a balustrade and a host of other imaginative items used as headboards. And I have, too!
The salvage operation I helped to found a few years ago was a goldmine of great pieces for headboards. I found an old piece of picket fence that I used for my headboard for years. I was at Housewerks the other day and they had a spectacular piece of ironwork that was destined to become a headboard. Too bad I didn't have my camera with me, because the next week when I went back, it was sold.
I've seen headboards made from old paneled doors, wood and marble mantel pieces, and architectural elements. Some of them work well, others not so well... like this hideous one made from hockey sticks. I like the way this one looks:
Because my house is so narrow, I wasn't able to get the beautiful old four-poster bed of my grandmother's up the stairs, so I have an Ikea bed. But here's the bed I long for. You have to look in the back of the picture to see the lines of it, but it's lush!What's your headboard?

April 12, 2008


A year ago, my bestie, Miss M.A., adopted a darling little girl from China. GL is the most adorable child, well-tempered and mostly good. About that same time, I began knitting a little sweater for GL. Today, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of GL's Gotcha Day, the day when Miss MA officially was given her daughter. Today, I finally finished the sweater.
Lest you think this was some complicated multi-fancy-stitch affair, let me assure you that it was not. It was the most simple design I could find, all in one stitch, without a lot of counting and increasing and decreasing. I made one for my niece in a lovely sage green, and found some incredible Bakelite buttons for it. This one was in a verigated blue/grey/turquoise cotton. Cotton so Miss MA can chuck it in the laundry and verigated so all the spills that children have don't show up so easily.
The pattern is from Debbie Bliss, a British knitting designer. The only thing I changed was adding buttons instead of the satin ribbon tie that is shown on the pattern. All I could think of what how nasty the ribbon would get with drool and other things that come from babies' mouths!
Miss MA, congratulations on your daughter! I am so proud of you.

April 9, 2008


I just adore spring, with all of the flowering trees we have in Baltimore! I have a Bradford Pear tree in front of my house, which delights me all year round. The tree is in blossom now and in the mornings, the flowers and new leaves cast the most gorgeous light into my bedroom. In the summer, it shades the front of my house and keeps it cooler. In the winter, it is bare, so lets all of the lovely sun into my house to warm it.
I have a huge old gardenia plant, which is a cutting from one my mother has had for more than 40 years. Last year, as my father was dying, the old plant was also dying. It was just too much to bear. My mother put the plant out back, and hacked it back to its trunk. Amazingly, it's sprang back to life and is blooming again, as is mine. I keep it in my room during the winter, so it gets lots of sunlight. I was sleeping the other night and woke up with a start from the heady scent of gardenia! It has at least 20 more buds on it, so I will be having sweet dreams for weeks to come.
I was reading New York Social Diary today and they mentioned the Annual Flowers and Design benefit dinner hosted by the The Horticultural Society of New York, honouring Charlotte Moss. Some of the floral designers in NYC did the centerpieces and they're spectacular. Here are two views of my favourite table by Van Vliet & Trap.
I think that the yellow chairs are just perfect, don't you?
At Evergreen House last week the big saucer magnolias were out. These are not the glossy-leafed evergreen ones, but a different variety, Magnolia soulangiana. Their egg-shaped blossoms only have five or so petals, but they're a beautiful pale pink. Evergreen has several trees espaliered against a brick wall, which I'd never seen before. Unfortunately, we had a little frost as the trees were budding, so all of the blossoms had some brown on them.

April 6, 2008

Kennedy Style

I've realized that I am getting quite a collection of books about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, mostly from the Book Thing. Today's selection included Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum.
This is basically the catalogue for the exhibition of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in May to July of 2001. The book is written by Hamish Bowles, the European editor-at-large for American Vogue and curator of the exhibition. There are also essays by Rachel Lambert Mellon, also known as Bunny, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
The book begins with the campaign for the Presidency in the late 1950's and continues until just before JFK's death. Each dress featured is shown in context and also as a catalogue page. There's a narrative about each dress, the thought process behind making it and sometimes, interviews with the designer.

Some of the other books I have gotten are America's Queen, The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, by Sarah Bradford; Kennedy Weddings by Jay Mulvaney, with a foreward by Doris Kearns Goodwin; and The Kennedy Curse, by Edward Klein. All very intersting books in their own way.

P.S. I also got a 1971 edition of Living Well is the Best Revenge, the story of Gerald and Sara Murphy, by Calvin Tompkins. I had an 1998 reprint of this, but can't seem to find it. I probably accidentally took it back to the Book Thing when I was doing a sweep of book to take there.

April 2, 2008

The Inside

Forgive me, for I have sinned. I did sneak a couple of pix of the house on Saturday. But I HAD to! The interiors are just so incredible that the devil made me do it... As I said to House the other day, "Heaven for the view, hell for the company".

The Garretts who owned Evergreen had three boys, so naturally, they needed a place for their schooling and recreation. So they built an addition that housed a billiards room, a bowling alley and a theatre. The ceilings in the theatre were painted and stenciled by Leon Bakst, the Russian painter who created sets for the Ballet Russes. Apparently, he lived with the Garretts for about six months and did a lot of decorative painting throughout the house. The reception/dressing room on the side of the theatre has a rooster motif, echoed in the stenciled ceiling. The ceiling is curved slightly, so it was a chore!
There were ten different stencils required to do each repeat. If you look closely along the bottom of the image above, you can just see the 10 numbers.

One of the rooms on the main floor had the most interesting walls, which were almost contemporary in their theme. Again, stencils were applied to the walls, and instead of paint, plaster was applied, so the motif was slightly raised. The room was painted a lovely celery green with white. I can't even imagine having to repaint this room.
Another simple but elegant detail was the tiebacks for the curtains. Instead of being pulled back all the way to the window frame, there was a button set about 12 inches from the window edge of the curtain (I am sure that there's a more technical term for this!) and then the tieback was buttoned to that.

Here are some more exterior shots. Cupola on the theatre wing of the house.

I love interesting doors. Here's another one for the collection.

I am always looking at contrasts, here between the straight lines of the columns and the organic form of the trees.Thanks for visiting... see you in hell!