March 31, 2009


Well, it's finally here! April Food Day looks like it's going to be a huge success. All day today, I was getting e-mails from bloggers and others, asking for links to the websites, the April Food Day logo and copy for their blogs. If you still want to participate and need any of that information, please click here, where it is all listed. I have a big grant due tomorrow and am pushed to get it in by 5:00!

On the April Food Day site, there's a list of participating blogs. I know that this only represents a portion of who is posting about April Food Day. Everyone has a slightly different take on their post, and it's so interesting to read them. If you know anyone who has posted, but isn't on the list, please let me know.

For my contribution, I am emptying out a copper pot where I dump my change. The last time I checked, there was about $260 in there, so I am going to donate half of that to Feeding America, and half to the Maryland Food Bank, here in Baltimore.

Chris at Easy & Elegant Life and I send our deepest thanks and appreciation to everyone who has posted. The need is great and the time is now... and you have helped make this project a success. Thank you.

March 30, 2009

Adventure Covers

When I was wrapping the I Married Adventure book for LaviniaLab last week, I pulled out my copy to see if they were the same. To my surprise, they weren't. There are two different covers! My original find had the title all in caps, and Osa's name in title case.But the second find had Adventure in italics and Osa Johnson's name in caps.
I am curious why they changed the title. If you have a copy, which one do you have? Which one do you like better?

The Real Easy & Elegant

Here's my easy and elegant compatriot in the April Food Day project.

It's not the old guy shown in the April Food Day Reminder post below.

March 29, 2009

Tracking Billy Baldwin

At the lecture the other day, Jim Abbott mentioned the address where Billy Baldwin spent most of his childhood and young adulthood. It's just a few blocks from the house where I grew up. When I was uptown today, I decided to do a "drive-by shooting" and take some pictures of the street where Baldwin lived. If the address Jim mentioned is correct, this is the house.To my mind, it's one of the most beautiful blocks in all of Baltimore. These two houses are on the same side of the street from the one where Baldwin lived. I think I like this one the best. Which is your favourite?

March 28, 2009

April Food Day Reminder

Easy & Elegant Life and I have created the April Food Day, Bloggers Fighting Hunger blog action day to help bring awareness to hunger in America and to ask our readers to make a contribution to the cause on April 1st. If you're a blogger who is interested in participating, please let us know by leaving a comment or sending an e-mail, and I will send you the April Food Day logo and the links to Feeding America. We will include your blog name and link on our special April Food Day blog.
Working together, we can make a difference at the food banks across the country. Please help us!

March 26, 2009

Billy Baldwin, Baltimore Boy

As I said earlier, there are a lot of things that swirl around in Baltimore and lots of interwoven ties. LaviniaLab, who joined me at the lecture, turns out to be a childhood friend. We hadn't seen each other since we were teens, and had a great time re-connecting.

We got a chance to meet the curator of Homewood House and some of the people who work for her and Jim Abbott, who's curator at Evergreen, both of which are owned by Johns Hopkins.
When Jim started talking about Billy Baldwin, I realized that BB had grown up several blocks from where I grew up. I would have driven by to take some pictures of the house, but it's chucking down rain, so I skipped it. As Jim went through BB's early history in Baltimore, many of the families BB worked for were very familiar names. BB said something to the effect that "if one is born in Baltimore, you remain a Baltimorean", which is very very true!

In another interesting interweaving, BB's WASPy family's cook's sister was the maid of the Jewish Cone sisters, Etta and Dr. Claribel, who were early collectors of painters such as Matisse, who was an inspiration to BB.
At the age of nine, BB was allowed to decorate his own room - not just picking the paint colour, but choosing all of the fabrics, furnishings and paints. His mother deferred to his taste when she dressed and his father was a clothes-horse, whose out of season wardrobe was stored in special cedar closets. This may account for some of BB's use of dressmaker details in his furnishings.

In 1925, BB met Alice Garrett, owner of Evergreen, at a dance. She loved dancing with BB, but once managed to break his leg dancing with him. It was at Evergreen that BB was first exposed to many of the finest things, and said that once he'd been to Evergreen, he could never return to life as he knew it. Alice was the person who taught him about slip-covers - she draped her furniture with huge lengths of white linen, just tucking it under the cushions.

It was through the Symington family, who live in Greenspring Valley, just north of Baltimore, that BB met Ruby Ross Wood, who became his mentor and whom he would work for for many years. She and her husband had a house in Maryland where he fox-hunted, and she fell in love with BB's work, including the first known instance of his famous deep brown walls.
BB was also friends with Harvey Ladew, a very wealthy gad-about. In each of BB's books, he has a picture of a room he did not decorate for Ladew, but "advised him on". As deep and dark that the brown BB is famous for is, that is the colour of purple Ladew's room was.

BB met Van Day Truex just before WWII, as Truex came back to the States from France where he'd been working. They were very close friends, introduced by Mrs. Garrett, who thought BB could use someone like Truex in his life.
It was also at Evergreen that BB met Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee. As Cole Porter was dying, he told his wife to take the furniture they had and use it in a new apartment in NYC that he wanted BB to design. This apartment had the first instance of the famous brass bookshelves lining the walls. These are still made by Ventry, here, as is Baldwin's iconic slipper chair and the rest of his furniture collection. (For some clarification on who made the original bookshelves, read these comments on the Peak of Chic)
BB was hired by First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy to do some work on the White House, but that was a week before the tragedy in Dallas, so he never really did any work. Prior to this, Mrs. Kennedy had travelled to India with her sister, India-based motifs were beginning to show up in BB's work and the Beatles were sprending time in India. So BB was right at the forefront of some trends. Mrs. Kennedy also hired him to decorate the house she then bought in Georgetown, but sold that before much work was done because too many tourists were bothering her.Near the end of BB's life, things came in full circle. Harry Hughes, then Governor of Maryland, hired BB to decorate a room at the Governor's mansion in his traditional style. Gov. Hughes wanted the rooms in the mansion to reflect Maryland's history in the decorative arts, and the sun room with its ceiling-height palladian windows would be perfect for Baldwin's trademark shiny brown paint and white slipper chairs. Soon after, the new Governor was elected and his tacky "girlfriend", Hilda Mae Snoops, painted over the room and made it her Florida room. It was criminal.

There was loads more to the lecture, but I could only take notes so fast, so I missed some!

March 25, 2009

Great Lecture

Jim Abbott did a great job at the lecture on Billy Baldwin this evening and it was loads of fun. As I've long suspected, everything revolves around Baltimore, including some of the guests there for the event.
More on Thursday...

March 24, 2009

Billy Baldwin Lecture Tomorrow

I am very excited about James Archer Abbott's lecture about Billy Baldwin tomorrow evening at Evergreen House. It is part of their House Beautiful series of lectures each spring. Last year, I attended Archer's lecture about Maison Jansen, which was so educational.
As you may know, Billy Baldwin was born in Baltimore and was actually friends of the family who owned Evergreen House. Here's what he had to say about Evergreen "The gates of Evergreen had opened up a whole new world to me. There I was surrounded by the best art and music... I knew I could never return to the life I had led before."

I am very excited to be joined at the Lecture and for dinner afterwards by LaviniaLab, the winner of the I Married Adventure book give-away over the weekend. She's just down the road in Washington, DC, so this was a perfect way to get together. She's even told me she is bringing a present for me! A copy of Billy Baldwin Remembers, a book that I've been looking for!

Of course, I will provide a wrap-up of the lecture on Thursday!

March 23, 2009

Hideous House

Here's the house in all its hideousness. Keep in mind that I took this picture from the passenger side of the car, at a distance of about a quarter of a mile. The columns have no real relationship with the rest of the house, save as a fringe around the edges. I will be back down there in May, so I may have to tresspass and take some additional pictures. But, if you need to see this in all its high-res glory, then e-mail me!

Nina Campbell's Dining Room

Click here for an interesting "My Space" interview in the Sunday Observer with designer Nina Campbell, as she talks in her own words about the dining room in her new house.

March 22, 2009

Footprints in the Sand

If you've come looking for pictures of the Redneck Taj Mahal, please scroll to the bottom. For a more recent view of the house, with interior images, please click here

Today was a gorgeous early spring day, so I took off down to Scotland, Maryland, where a friend, Miss MA, is in the late stages of building a beach house. The house formerly on the property was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Ernesto, so she's rebuilding on the original footprint, which is only about 25' by 25'.

We took some time and walked up and down the beach which sits about 40' in front of the cottage and looks out over the widest part of the Chesapeake Bay, just above Point Look Out and just below Point Look In.

These are the buoys that local crabbers use to mark where their crab pots are located. Each crabber has different colours, shapes or numbers.
As we walked along, picking up pieces of beachglass, we noticed lots of footprints in the sand and speculated as to which animal would have made them. That's my shoe at the bottom of the picture, so you can see how large these prints are in comparison. They're probably from a Great Blue Heron, which can be up to 55" tall!One set in particular fascinated us - sets of footprints on either side of a straight line, indicating a dragging tail, perhaps? Everything was lovely until we saw this gawd-awful house under construction. Apparently, it took the owner quite a while to find an architect who would build this ghastly place. It looks like a reasonable five-story house, until you realize that the columns have no association at all with the house. They are just an appendage around the edges. In the end though, we were greatly cheered by this picture-postcard perfect view of the Patuxent River, with the Chesapeake Bay beyond. Thanks for a {mostly} great day, Miss MA!!!

March 21, 2009

And the Winner Is...

I received more than 70 comments and e-mails to enter the drawing for I Married Adventure. Connor took the time from his busy schedule of sleeping and playing with his buddy, Halas, to listen to me read through each and every entry. He was particularly pleased to hear all of the nice things people said.

He asked his favourite "baby" called Lambie-Pie to help him pick the winner who was... Lavinialab, who lives just down I-95 from us on the Potomac River. I think Connor was especially taken by her entry which said "My heart pines for a Baltimore bachelor! I am ready for adventure... Fifi La Rue aka Fiona Reese, gorgeous yellow lab, the pride of Potomac". Congratulations, Lavinialab... Pop me an e-mail and we'll see how to get you the book.

March 20, 2009

I Married Adventure Reminder

Before I left for the office this morning, Connor suggested that I remind everyone that he's getting ready to pick the winner of the copy of I Married Adventure tonight. I know that he's at home, thinking long and hard about who he'll pick and resting up for the arduous task of selecting a winner!

March 18, 2009

I Guess The UK Didn't Hear

At the end of 2008, a number of design/lifestyle/decor blogs declared that the ubiquitous poster stating "Keep Calm & Carry On" was soooo over. But I guess that the UK didn't get that message, as the poster and its message are more popular than ever. The story behind this poster resonates with me because my father and his family were living in England during the Blitz and the years leading up to and during WWII.
The poster and its history have been the subject of several articles in the "quality" UK newspapers and today there was a story and some great photos in the Guardian, and an interview with one of the Guardian's editors here. It's a message that should resonate with most all of us. Panicking and freaking out about the economic climate isn't going to help anyone or anything. Calm and reasoned thinking will get us through this. The economic situation will turn around when it does and not a moment sooner.
Please, keep calm and carry on.

March 16, 2009

Grand Designs Ireland

There is a TV show on BBC4 in the UK called Grand Designs and I was hopelessly addicted to it, and wildly in love with the presenter, Kevin McCloud. He always starts out sort of gloomy and doomy and then in the end loves the finished project, which was completed against all odds.
One of my favourite episodes was about a couple who stumbled across an abandoned church in Co. Mayo and restored it to make it their weekend home. The husband is an architect, so did much of the planning and design work himself. He made the 8-hour round trip between Dublin and Mayo each weekend and came up with the solution to fixing the property - building an inner structure that is self-supporting.
Here's the website for the property, where you can actually stay, and It's what Irish-Americans think of owning back in the old country. Here's a clip of a promo for the show and it's got my amazing crystal ball!!!! Sláinte'!

March 15, 2009

I Married Adventure Giveaway!

About a year and a half ago, I found a copy of decorators favourite book, I Married Adventure, with its cream and brown zebra-skin cover, at the Book Thing. I truly embarrassed myself by jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. It wasn't pretty.
Today, I had all sorts of plans. My sister, Bird, and her family were coming into the city for the St. Patrick's Day parade, and my mother was going to join us after mass. But the weather today is pretty bleak, 40's and drizzly. So I did some errands instead and took a huge LLBean bag full of books and magazines back to Book Thing.As I was browsing, I found a copy of I Married Adventure. This time, I was a little more subdued and just did a little internal cheer. Following that, I decided to give it away to one of you as a thank you for reading Pigtown*Design. Just post a comment here by Friday, March 20, and Connor, the Wonder Dog will pick a winner. If you don't have a blog, please leave a name (you don't need to leave an e-mail address) somewhere so if Connor picks you, I will be able to identify you by something other than Anon@11:13!

March 14, 2009

April Food Day - Bloggers Fighting Hunger

Everyday, the news is filled with the dire news about the current economic climate and a lot of us use the blogging community to take a break from the constant drumbeat. However, we can not ignore the fact that friends and family members, and even some blogger friends have lost their jobs because of the recession.

Former advertising executive and editor of
Easy & Elegant Life, along with fundraising professional and editor of Pigtown*Design, have teamed up to create a blogger action day on April 1, 2009, which we are calling April Food Day – Bloggers Fighting Hunger. We are asking our fellow bloggers to create a post about this project and ask each of their readers to make a contribution to Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), a national food bank with 200 member banks across the country.

People who never had a worry in the world now have to think about where their next meal is coming from. People who never would have dreamt that they would need help are now showing up at the local food banks. But when they get there, the shelves are bare. There is not enough food being donated to meet the sudden rise in demand. There is not enough money to buy the food for the food banks. There is not a general understanding that food banks need help to help fill their shelves.

Every dollar contributed provides seven meals or 10 pounds of food. A gift of $25 provides 75 meals. If we all post together and ask our readers to make a contribution on April 1, we can make a huge difference in our communities.

We would like you to help in a few easy ways:

  • Send this or a similar letter to your friends with blogs and ask them to send it to their blogging friends.
  • Write a post, and we can help you with copy if you need it, and publish it on March 31 or April 1, asking your readers to make a contribution to Feeding America. We will provide you with the direct link to Feeding America’s donation page.
  • Provide a link to our blog April Food Day and we will link back to your blog and your post about April Food Day.

We hope that you will help us help others. We know that this is a quick turn-around, but the need is great and the time is now.

March 13, 2009

I Love City Life

I have a circus at the end of my street! Cirque du Soleil has set up their grand chapiteau in beautiful downtown Pigtown and will be performing from March 12 until April 5th. It has been interesting to watch them erect the tents as I walk Connor each afternoon.
I saw Cirque du Soleil in Montreal ages ago and thought it was just terrific. I hope that I can find a chance to see their Kooza show here in Baltimore over the next few weeks. There's a little video preview here.