April 30, 2009

Look Up Again

I was stuck in traffic this morning and I happened to be right outside of my old office. I suddenly remembered that the building above our storefront was stunning.

Here's the street level, via Google maps:
Here's what you see when you look up: You would never guess that the top of the building was a copy of an Italian palazzo unless you looked up!

April 29, 2009

More House Gawking

I had gone out this afternoon with the intent of taking lots of pictures of azaleas and dogwood, two of my favourite flowers. But I got distracted by more stunning architecture in Guilford. It's funny, but having lived in a nearly adjoining neighbourhood most of my growing up life, this is the first time I've really explored the streets in a purposful manner.

1) I would take this house in a heartbeat. Look at the way the two smaller windows above the front door help balance everything and keep it symmetrical.
Look at the incredible front door with the fanlight over it. Check out the pineapple in the broken pediment over the front door and the two lion-heads on the doors. I love how the glass front doors allow you to see straight through to the back. I am pretty sure that there's an amazing garden back there, given what the front looks like. 2) This is a semi-detached, meaning two houses sharing a common wall on the same property. Even if you divide this in half, it's still pretty massive. It's hard to tell that this is two houses, and there are about four like this on a little piece of the road. This house would not be out of place in England.3) I am trying to wrap my head around this one. I think it's got a lot of potential, and it's got some good features, but I worry about how small the windows are and how dark the house would be. What does it need? Plantings? Shutters?
4) This is the pumping station for the reservior that serves the neighbourhood. Classic. Simple. Elegant. I wish modern industrial buildings were still built like this. This would make a great house. A talented architect could do wonders with this. Too bad the city owns it.

5) I like the lines of this house a lot. It's pretty straight-forward, but with enough detail to make it special. The arches over the front windows and then the sidelights on the windows above are terrific.

But what caught my eye were the shutters and the detailing over the front door. Great fanlight. Great keystone. Great black iron urns. But the diamond in the circle in the square on the shutters! Whew!!

6) This house was probably designed by Edward Palmer and William Lamdin around the early 1900's. They designed a number of houses in this neighbourhood which all have a special flair to them. As a recent article put it "Flourishes such as dovecotes, turrets, round windows mixed with rectangular ones and the aptly named “eyebrow dormers” peek out." I wish they had done something different with the downspouts, like painted them.

Your turn. Which do you like, and why do you like it?

April 28, 2009

Look Up

When we were children, my father used to take us downtown. He would show us the monuments and the buildings, hoping that we'd learn the city and be comfortable going there on our own. He would always tell us to look up. Look up and see what the buildings used to be.
The ground floor changes as different shops, restaurants and services move in and out. The landlords update the look of the building by modifying the street level. But when you look up, you see the original building. The intent of the architect remains.
Today, when I was downtown, I did what I always do... I looked up. I saw the corner of a building I drive by every day in a new light. It's curved!
Look up. You will see an old world.

April 27, 2009

I Don't Think So...

I was wandering around the Guardian's website at lunch and saw this plate. Is it just me, or do those bugs look like roaches? I don't think I'd want bugs like these (or any others) roaming across my dinner plate.

April 26, 2009

Books on Sunday

I gave the Book Thing a glancing blow between the local garden club's plant sale and lunch with my mother. As has been the case the past few months, the design/decorating shelves were pretty bare, except for a stack of old Architectural Digests, which don't hold up very well.

A spin by the mystery section landed me a couple of easy reads and the travel/geography section came up with a book on life on a small island off the coast of Maine. After trolling the biography section, and being knocked into several times by a woman with a cart for her books, I spotted "Once Upon a Time, A True Story by Gloria Vanderbilt". With all of the buzz about the room she helped create at the Kips Bay Show House this spring, I thought it would be interesting to read how she describes her first 17 years, which were quite tumultuous.
The most interesting find was the 1982 edition of the Social Register. Of course, the first thing I did was look up my family and there we were, listed at our old address. It's always funny to see how cryptic everything in there is, with lots of abbreviations of clubs and societies. Many cities, including Baltimore, used to have their own editions, but all of the cities were merged into one thick volume. Here's Brooke Astor's 1982 listing.
It takes sponsorship from five people currently listed to be reviewed for admission or a marriage to someone already listed. The section called "Married Maidens" lists women by their maiden names, and "Dilatory Domiciles" lists summer residences which came too late for the winter edition. Archaic, but fascinating.

April 24, 2009

Maira Kalman

The New York Times has another of the monthly features by artist Maira Kalman. This month's installment is about the history of the courts. Click here to see the entire feature. This is one of the comments on the piece: you are one of the best writers ever and if you were my neighbor i would weed your garden for free just because you understand what is important in the world and how to illustrate it nicely.

April 23, 2009

Jan Showers

I was so pleased to get an e-mail the other day asking what my real name is, so I could be included in a list of favourite blogs. Before I agreed, I went to check out the site and was very impressed. The blogger is Jan Showers, a designer, decorator and antiques dealer from Dallas, Texas.
As I scrolled through her site, picture after picture just delighted me. I adored everything I saw, and I was supremely flattered that she thought enough of Pigtown*Design to include it on her list.
So, when she published the post, I was doubly gob-smacked to see who else was on the list of Jan's favourites: The Sartorialist, Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP, Michael Devine's The Devine Life and Rebecca Sherman's Houses, Gardens & People. Thank you so much, Jan. I am honoured to be included! Click the picture below to visit Jan's blog.

PhotoShop Magic

I have been working with Adobe’s Photoshop for years, and there is always something new that I am discovering. It has so many tricks and shortcuts, that it might be impossible for one person to know them all!

I am responsible for the publications and communications at the charity where I work, so I find using PS invaluable. We have just published our annual report (e-mail me if you'd like to receive a copy!) and I needed a photo of the Chair of the Board and our CEO, but the only time I could get them together was a rainy dark morning. So I took a photo of them against a plain wall.
But that didn’t convey what I wanted, so I found an image I’d taken of the back porch at the historic house where my office is. I deleted the background behind the two men and added the porch to the background as a new layer.
But I’d taken the picture in the heart of the summer, and I wanted to image to look a little more fall-like, because our corporate colours are orange and brown. I selected the greens one at a time, and then adjusted the colour slider to make them more red, brown and orange.
When I finished, I showed the picture to the CEO and he thought his tie was a little loose and wanted it tightened up, so I selected his tie and moved it up a bit, taking care to match the patterns so it looked natural. Next, I finished cleaning up the "aura" around the men, checked to see if the perspective was right, and sized the shot to the proportions of our annual report. Then I merged all of the layers into one and converted the picture to a JPG. I used a very high resolution throughout so the print quality would be high. Here's the final picture.
There are a couple of resources that I receive via e-mail that have tips and tricks to improve my skills. I like Digital Photography School, which reviews cameras, interviews photographers, and shares tips and tutorials for shooting and processing. I also like Photojojo, which has fun things you can do with photography and photographs. For PS tips and tutorials, there’s a hilarious series on YouTube called You Suck at PhotoShop. If you can deal with crude and vulgar humor, you will actually learn a lot from this series.

For really bad PS pictures, there’s Photoshop Disasters, which highlights professional mistakes and goofs from print sources, including bendy bones, missing limbs, and additional fingers and hands.

The PS suites are expensive (between $700 and $1000), but there’s a starter version called PS Elements which is less than $100 and also comes in a Mac version.

April 22, 2009

A Re-Vision

As I was listening the the hottest new show on Blog Radio this evening, I was looking through the pictures I took over the weekend and kept going back to one house. It was the gray one at the bottom of the pictures. The one with good bones, but lacking a certain something.

I opened up Photoshop and started playing around with the picture, adding colours and changing them. I finally settled on a pale yellow, which I thought would look nice with the dark greenish-gray shutters. Here are the before and after shots.

Side view before:
Side view after:
Front view before:
Front view after:
I think that the new colour warms up the house and makes it less austere. What do you think?

Earth Day Ideas

Since I've been writing Pigtown*Design, I've created a category called "It's Easy Being Green", with lots of ideas and suggestions for living a green life.

To celebrate Earth Day 2009, here are a few of the easier ones to incorporate in your life:

* Use tea towels instead of paper towels. If you can find linen towels, they're great because they don't leave lint on your china and glassware.
* Use architectural salvage or yard sale finds in your decorating for a one-of-a-kind look
* Carry re-usable bags when you do your grocery shopping. These Cath Kidston bags were made from recycled soda bottles.
* Consider hanging your clothes on a clothes line to dry them. Tumble driers use tons of energy. Even though a lot of home-owners associations do not allow them, there are ways you can be subtle about hanging things to dry.
What is your favourite way to be green?

April 21, 2009

The Stone House

One of the commenters on the post about the doors said that this picture holds the doors to her heart, and I do have to agree (although I never could have said it so poetically).
This house really struck me when we were walking the other day. It's one that I've always liked, partly because I have a fondness for stone houses, and partly because in a neighbourhood that's manicured to within an inch of its life, this house is a little shaggy around the edges.
I noticed when I was driving home from work the other day that the lot behind the stone house is for sale. So on the way home today, I went to check out the lot {wink, wink} and just happened to get a couple of shots of back of the stone house. Unfortunately, there was no angle from which I could get a good view of the entire rear without trees in the way. We've also had about two inches of rain in the past two days, so the lot was really part swamp... which may be why it's been on the market for ages.The house is symmetrical on the front, with the three palladian doors across the front terrace and one-story wings on either side of the main part of the house. The back of the house is much more organic and rambling than the front, but with the symmetry intact.
What do you think? Does the rest of the house live up to the front doors?

April 20, 2009

Harbingers of Spring

Although the last few days were warm and sunny, it's chucking down rain today. I can't complain because we're down by a few inches this year and we really need to bulk up the reservoirs.
Several of the neighbours in the compound where my mother lives are avid (and competitive) gardeners and there's always something fascinating to see. Teeny tiny buds are just beginning to pop out on some of the trees and the fiddleheads on the ferns are just beginning to unfurl.
Is it finally spring where you are?