May 31, 2011

Smooth Move

Yesterday, which was the hottest day of 2011, was moving day. It mostly went smoothly, with the older women on the street sitting and watching and making comments on everything that came out of the house. One asked if I was going to make trouble in the new place, too. I didn't dignify that with a response.

By the time the movers finished up, it was late afternoon. We got some of the furniture placed, and other pieces in the right room, where I will have to decide what to do.

I had a delish dinner with the Chefs, and then headed up to the new house where I started to get organized. It will be a long task! I was hot and grubby and wanted to take a shower, but couldn't find the shower curtains I'd bought, so I grabbed a piece of fabulous Lilly Pulitzer fabric
and safety-pinned it over the shower rod to use as a shower curtain.

Once I finally fell into bed - or rather into mattresses, since my bedframe was still at the old house - I tossed and turned for hours, even though I was exhausted. Every bone in my body hurt, and of course, I couldn't find any asprin. I know it's in a box, but which one?

Today, I pick up Connor and then head to the new house. It will be Connor's first day there, and I hope he adjusts quickly. He's been at the kennel for a few days, and I want to transition him right to the new place, with all of the familiar furnishings.

May 29, 2011

Thoughts on Leaving

As I wind down the final hours at this little house, I have a lot of good memories and some bad ones. As I mentioned a scant 11 days ago when I told you about the little house I bought, I had not originally intended to stay in Baltimore for more than a year or so. I was just dying to get back to the UK, and missed it more than you can imagine, each and every day.

But reality stepped in, and more than four years later, I am moving to a new house and a new neighbourhood. I have loved Pigtown, and have made a lot of great friends here, especially my dearest friends Cat and John, and their wonderful dog, Connor’s best friend, Halas. They have been the most amazing friends a person could have, and I love them dearly for all they’ve shared with me – especially many home-cooked meals (they’re both chefs!). snow4 There is a cadre of old women in the neighbourhood who keep watch out for everything that happens, and know every time you come and go. While some may think this is intrusive, it’s actually a comfort. I got the nicest note from a mother and daughter when they found out that I was moving. And the neighbourhood, even when it’s not covered in snow, is a quiet little place. 02-07-10 003Ravens’ Stadium is just a few blocks from my house and there’s nothing more fun than listening to the crowds cheer for a football or lacrosse game or hearing a concert echo through the streets. Too bad I won’t be here when U2 arrives in late June!

But, there are also bad things here. About a year ago, a charismatic church bought the building next door to me. They’ve been nothing but a huge problem, starting with construction without permits and after the allocated hours for work, and leading up to an assault and battery on me by one of their members earlier this year. In between, a lot of threats to me, and to Connor, including one charming person who threatened to kill Connor. In light of their ownership of the property, I felt that I had no choice but to move. It’s a harsh irony that the drug dealers don’t bother me at all, but the church people do!

So, with Connor at reform school camp for a few days, I am getting ready for my last night at my little house that’s been a refuge and sanctuary through good times and bad over the past few years. I decided to keep the name Pigtown Design even though I am moving, because it’s such a unique name, and people don’t forget it!grey copyright pig No posts for the next few days, until I get the internet situation at the new house settled. But you can look forward to some pictures with paint, clean surfaces and furniture when I come back! And thanks for all of the great layout suggestions!

May 28, 2011

Issues & Answers

I should have taken pictures of the floors after their second coat of polyurathane today, but just plumb forgot. It was another 10+ hour day of cleaning, dealing with the plumbers, polyurathaning the floors and running errands, and them coming home to pack up the house.

The suggestions I received were all great. There are a few issues with the room that I want to address:

  • There’s no real focal point in the room, and I think the space could benefit by having one, and that’s the issue.
  • There is a bump-out that was the original fireplace and is now the HVAC for the up-stairs. It measures about 4’ 8” across and sticks out about 12 inches. There’s not really much I can do with it now. My friends at Housewerks are giving me a fireplace mantel, but we’ve yet to find one small enough to fit the space – most are five feet! Totally crap artistic shot, but you can see how the bump-out looks. floors 002
  • The house is a ‘shotgun’ style layout, meaning you could shoot straight through from the front door to the back. I’d like to preserve that line of sight. I am also averse to putting any furniture along that wall because you’d have to walk around it to get through the space. 4405 011
  • While I think the space is large – 14 x 24 feet, I realize that it’s pretty small to most people!  I am most likely to use it primarily as a living room, and sometimes, as a dining space. I have the gate-leg table and six dining room chairs, including the four folding lyre-back chairs.

The pieces I have for the space are:

  • slipcovered sofa
  • two ottomans
  • two slipper chairs, a la Billy Baldwin, also in white
  • serpentine-front chest, with mirror
  • four panel Chinese silk painting
  • one tall and two short white book-cases
  • gate-leg table
  • several table lamps

I don’t think the 30-drawer shoe file is going to make the cut for the front room. It might be relegated to the mud room, or my work space. This is a partial floorplan suggested by I Love Limegreen who said to make a little entryway using some of the book cases. I gotta figure out what to do with the rest of the space though!newer floorplan

The bedroom situation is thus: The front room has a westerly orientation, two big windows and a huge closet. NONE of my previous houses have ever had this much closet space. Since it’s the room where I will probably spend the least amount of time, if current habits prevail, I think it’s the best choice.

Nutbird mentioned the street noise, but since the street only has three houses on it, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. The proximity to the bathroom was also brought up, and since it’s a total of 20 feet along the hallway, I think I am fine! A few houses ago, my only bathroom was on the ground floor, behind the kitchen! Now that was a pain – especially after a few cocktails!

I want the largest of the three rooms as a workroom, since I will be spending a lot of time there. And the guest room, which is not frequently used, is the smallest. It also faces the east and south, so gets a lot of morning sun.

The program I am using for the layouts is Floorplanner. It’s pretty simple to use and you can lock things like windows and doors in place, which is helpful.

Play around with it and see what you come up with for me!

May 27, 2011

Floors and Floorplans

My guy, Kevin, spent about 12 hours sanding the floors at the house today. Whew!  The floors turned out to be heart pine in all three rooms. It was incredible to be able to smell the resiny-pine smell from the floors once Kevin started the sanding. fkoors 003 I rented a drum sander, and Kevin used three progressively finer grades of sand paper. So effectively, he had to do each room three times. fkoors 001 Once he finished, I vacuumed each room, and then went over the wood with a tack cloth to get all of the dust off the floor. Only then could I begin applying the polyurathane. fkoors 002 I did one coat this evening and will do the second tomorrow. The floors just sucked in the polyurathane. I am using a water-based satin finish. With all of the mess the sanding produces, this is really the only logical time I could do the floors – it’s not something you want to do with furniture in the house!


I’ve been thinking about the floor plan for this house for a while. My current house and my last house, all small row-houses, have had the same layout – three rooms on the main floor – a living room, dining room and kitchen. This house has one large room, a kitchen, mudroom and full bath.

So the decision is whether or not to have a separate dining area, or to use the gateleg table as a sofa table and only bring it out when I am having a dinner party. ground floor copy The upstairs is a little more straightforward. My room, a guest room and a work room.  first floor copyI would love to hear your thoughts on furniture placement!

May 26, 2011

Floors and Zebras

I finally picked up my camera this afternoon and got the pictures of the floors in their “before” state. I think that once they’re sanded and stained, they will look great. I am pretty sure that they’re the original 1900-era floors because of the shrinkage of the wood.

This is the guest room floor.floors 003 This is the workroom/office floor.  Looks like someone was dragging furniture around!floors 004This is my bedroom floor. This floor is much darker than the other two floors.  Funnily, I think that all of the floors are different woods.floors 005

I took a break from meetings, signing more papers and packing to go to the Second Annual Trunk Show at McLain-Wiesand.  David’s staff used fabrics from the vendors - Donghia, Hines, Thibaut, Scalamandre, Schumacher and Zoffany – to make some fabulous fashions and put on a little fashion show (more when I get some pictures!).

One of the vendors, Scalamandre, had the MOST incredible tote bags, and I am giving one away to one of my readers. The bag has their iconic Zebra print and is made of a sturdy plastic/canvas material. Click the link for the story of the Zebra print. scalamandre 002It’s a bright lipstick red and has classic black and white zebra print sides. scalamandre 004  And you also get a great Scalamandre tape measure! scalamandre 003Just leave a comment mentioning your favourite Scalamandre print, and we’ll choose the winner on Monday, May 30th.

May 25, 2011

What Lies Beneath…

I was going to do a post on what we found under the disgusting carpets at the new house.  I can’t remember if I told you that the last people to live in the house were three college-age boys… Think about that for a moment and then you’ll know why the carpets had to go.

There are great wood floors under the carpets, and they will be sanded and then stained and varnished. I want to wait to see what they look like before I decide what to stain them.

I would have shown you pictures of the floors after I spent about five hours today pulling up all of the hundreds of staples left from the carpets, but I left my camera at the other house.

May 24, 2011

More OKL Insanity

Last time I wrote about the OKL insanity, someone castigated me for being negative, but I think that I am being realistic. So let me preface this post by saying that I like OLK – a lot! I think they have some great things and I have purchased from them on several occasions and have been very pleased with my purchases.

And I love “Home, James!” and their look. Their range has some fabulous table top items that I covet.

However, you’re not likely to find me buying this little goodie.OKL5 There’s a little beach near my current house and I find beach glass there all of the time. I get out my little diamond-tipped Dremel and drill holes in the top of each piece. I then string them on some fishing line and hang them from a piece of driftwood to make wind chimes. And then I give them as gifts to friends and family.

OKL and Home, James! also offering these knives, of which I have dozens. The sale price is good and it is about what I charge when I sell them. Mine are identical to these, too! OKL 6 Let me know if you want any of these French Ivory knives, since they’re sold out here.

May 23, 2011

Positives of Pigtown

As I prepare to move from Pigtown, I wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun’s Real Estate Wonk blog about the neighbourhood and thought I’d share it with you.

I've lived in Pigtown for about five years, since moving back to the U.S. from the U.K. I wanted to live in a place that was up-and-coming, and was close to things that I knew and places I visited a lot. Pigtown seemed to tick a lot of boxes, and when a nice little house with very reasonable rent on a tree-lined street became available, I snapped it up.pigtown houseThe main street in Pigtown is Washington Boulevard, which swings from east-west at Martin Luther King Boulevard, to north-south as it heads past Carroll Park. On the east, Russell Street and MLK Boulevard make up the general boundary, and on the south, it's Monroe Street. To the north, it's Pratt and Lombard streets.

Most of the housing stock dates from the 1880s and is comprised of two- and three-story rowhouses. The B&O Railroad was the leading cause for the original development of the neighborhood, and as legend has it, the pigs used to run down Washington Boulevard, from the railroad sidings at the B&O to the slaughterhouses where Camden Yards is sited now. In the early 2000s, a number of new townhouses were built on Scott Street and are called Camden Crossing.

Pigtown is filled with interesting buildings, including the B&O Roundhouse (the largest 22-sided building in the USA) the MTA's bus yard buildings with their Palladian windows and elegant buttresses; the historic Mount Claire Mansion set atop a hill in Carroll Park; 11-15 006 an old kosher abattoir on Paca Street; and the Victorian gasworks building that is home to Housewerks, the architectural antiques and salvage business.housewerks salvageAs one of the truly integrated neighborhoods in the city, Pigtown has long-time residents living alongside newly-arrived urban professionals who commute to Washington on the Camden line, or attend classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

It is a neighborhood of walkers, either heading for public transportation, to schools from elementary to graduate level, or out giving their dogs their daily exercise. From my house in Pigtown, it's a seven-minute walk to Camden Yards, about 20 minutes to the Convention Center and 25 minutes to the Inner Harbor.view from mount clarePigtown really starts hopping on Ravens game days, when the neighborhood fills with fans attending the game, or tailgating in the parking lots surrounding the stadium. On warm fall days when the windows are open, you can hear the cheers from the crowds as the Ravens make a great play. Orioles games are a little quieter, but on summer evenings, you can hear the cheers and see the fireworks after the games.

There is a lot of available housing stock in Pigtown, as the economic downturn came just after numerous investors had purchased vacant houses or shells and started to renovate and rehab them. It's sad to see so many empty houses on some blocks. But there are a lot of real estate deals to be had in the area.

People in Pigtown know each other, they're friendly to each other, and they actually speak to each other when they pass by on the street. People keep an eye out for each other, too. There are several community organizations that schedule routine clean-up mornings, manage the Main Street marketing and work on overall neighborhood issues.

While Pigtown is in the middle of the city and just moments from the always busy I-95, it is often a very quiet neighborhood, with just the sounds of the train whistles blowing and the distant hum of traffic. I've often walked my dog Connor late at night (or during a snow-storm!) and reveled in the quiet of the streets. One of my enduring memories is of an early summer evening, with the windows open, listening to someone walking up the street singing an old Motown song.meg_and_connorxI can't write a piece like this without addressing some of the perceptions of Pigtown, namely, that it's a crime-ridden area. My personal experience, and that of the CitiStat tracking, does not bear this out. There is some drug-related activity, but if you're not buying or selling, it's generally not an issue.

There is scant property crime in the area of Pigtown where I live, and most of the personal crime is between people who are known to each other. I've had plants and decorative items in front of my house for years, and nothing's ever turned up missing. painted screen in pigtownPigtown's just another one of Baltimore's neighbourhoods that's like a little village.

Thanks to Jamie Smith Hopkins for allowing me to tell the story of my Pigtown.

May 22, 2011

It’s All Happening at the Zoo…

Well, everything was happening at the Zoo on Saturday! My neighbours had their wedding at the Maryland Zoo and it was just the perfect venue, the most fun event and the best location.

The Maryland Zoo dates to the late 1800’s and is Victorian in its original look. As a child, I remember iron cages with lions and tigers pacing in them. There was a huge elephant house and lots of fancy ironwork around the 600+ acre property. Now, it’s been modernized with “natural” habitats for the animals.  If you look closely, you can see a snowy egret standing on the lake’s 001x However, much of the Zoo’s Victorian look still remains, and this wedding took advantage of that. The ceremony was held on a small lake with a beautiful picnic pavilion overlooking it. wedding 027 The bride looked stunning coming down the old stairs towards the water’s edge and her wonderful, loving groom! wedding 008 The service was warm and personal, funny and poignant. wedding 018 After it was over, the bride and groom were exuberant – as were all of the 025 The reception was held at the Zoo’s mansion, a wonderful Victorian-era summerhouse with a huge porch, wedding 054perched on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Baltimore. wedding 056Even though the mansion is now used for the Zoo’s administration, there are still a lot of the original details remaining.

wedding 030 wedding 078

The porch surrounding the house is enclosed by dozens of windows, and the evening was cool enough that they could be thrown open to the early evening breezes. wedding 033 One of the most fun aspects of the evening was the bride’s attention to detail, including the animal theme of the Zoo. Each table was represented by a different animal, and the cake, with its elaborate decoration, was one of the most creative I’ve ever 039 The cake topper was a little penguin bride and groom, complete with a bow tie and veil – all created by the bride, an art 038 This was perfect because of the special guest who came in his own tuxedo!wedding 048 I had a chance to get up-close and personal with this dear wee fellow, and as I made silly kissy noises at little Tails, he bobbed his head back and forth in time with me.

wedding 043 wedding 042

His handler put him on the floor and he just waddled around, not a care in the world! He even followed some of the guests. It was so much fun to see this and really made the wedding unique.

All of my love to the wonderful bride and groom!!! I’ll miss you when I move.  xoxo

May 19, 2011


First, thank you for all of your lovely and supportive comments and e-mails about yesterday’s post. I am glad you are as excited about the new adventure as I am!

After picking up some paint samples today, I chucked Connor in the car and drove up to the new house. house 001 He’s so dramatic, resting his chin on the window of the car, and rolling his eyes and sighing heavily at everyone who cooed at him.

I picked two colours from Valspar to check on the walls (and of course, I can’t remember their names!). Valspar has a page on FB where until recently, you could choose a paint sample and they’d send it to you, along with a tray and rollers, and some coupons. house 008This picture looks horrible, but it was the only way I could get the colours to show up! The two middle shades are the full colour and the ones on the ends are cut in half with white. I am leaning towards the 1@.5 shade. house 005 These are all semi-gloss, but I think I’d rather have an eggshell 007 I’ve been carrying this rug around in the back of my station wagon for weeks now. It’s a needlepoint rug with a brown and black background. Because all of the floors are hardwood, I really need lots of rugs to cover. I am not sure if this is the final resting spot for this, but it’s there now.

Connor seemed to love the house, running through the first floor, and then up the stairs to the second floor, checking out each room and running down the long hall. We went into the back yard, but as it’s not been mowed for a while, it was above his shoulders.

More to some! Stay tuned.

May 18, 2011

Settle Down!

When I moved to the UK in 2005, I thought it would be a long-term thing. But that was not to be, and I returned to the States to be with my family and for my father’s subsequent death, four years ago next week.  Then I thought I’d be in the States for a year or so, and go back to the UK, but that was not to be, either. (The image below is my commute to work in Wales!)commuting 074 I soon realized that Baltimore is my home, and set out to make a life here again. I rented a little row house, and got a job doing something I love. But I hadn’t settled down.

My roots in Baltimore firmly attached themselves to the ground when I bought a little farm-house this afternoon. 4405 012 It was built in 1900 on what was then the outskirts of Baltimore City, and would not be within the city borders for another 18 years. The minute I spotted it on the real estate listings, I fell in love with it.4405 010 I love that it has a ton of light! All of the windows are along the south side of the house and bring lots of natural brightness in. These images were all taken on a gloomy, snowy morning. 4405 011 Like the last few houses I’ve lived in, this one’s long and narrow – but at 14 feet wide, it’s the widest!  It has three bedrooms, two full baths, and a mudroom and a yard, which will be perfect for Connor. Unlike my last few houses, this one actually has closets and masses of storage, including an attic and basement. The house has a decent-size kitchen with pretty new appliances, but kitchens are not my main concern, much to the chagrin of my realtor!4405 009 It needs a little bit of work, mostly cosmetic. The floors on the main level are hardwood, and in the bedrooms, they’re heart pine under the grotty carpets. The house needs a good scrub and a lot of paint, as the last residents were three college-age boys.  All of the light fixtures are hideous and will just be capped for now.

You might have noticed I was doing some home-type things, like the slip-covers, the paint colours, the dining room chairs, etc. Well, that’s all been in preparation for the move.

Settlement was postponed several times, so I didn’t want to say anything until I had the keys and deed in hand! Even though I am moving out of the old ‘hood, I am keeping the name Pigtown*Design, because I’ve worked hard to establish the “brand” and I think it’s a fun name. Oddly enough, the name of the new neighbourhood is even funnier than Pigtown!4405 005The house is a departure from everything I thought I wanted, but when it came down to it, there’s so much about it that that was appealing – the yard and garden, the closeness to where I grew up and to my mother and one of my siblings, and in a much better, safer and quieter neighbourhood. 4405 002I hope that you will follow along as I make this little house my new home. Suggestions for colours, arrangements, layouts, gardens, flowers, and just about everything else will be greatly appreciated. And if you’re in the neighbourhood, stop by for a cocktail.