September 18, 2014

A Thing of Beauty…

…Is a Joy Forever. That old adage was proven at least twice today.

I attended the Finery & Finish: Embellishments on Baltimore Federal Furniture exhibit at Homewood House Museum on the campus of Johns Hopkins University and was able to get up-close-and-personal with some of the most beautiful made in Baltimore at the end of the 1700’s and onward. The detail on these pieces is extraordinary, especially when you think of the conditions and tools that these artisans worked with.

Homewood is a truly stunning house museum and I’ve often attended events there, in part because the curator is a friend, but also because the quality of the pieces in the house is so extraordinary and represents a period of great creativity in Baltimore.IMG_3972

One of the highlights of the exhibit was some of the beautiful painted furniture that Baltimore was known for. This small painted box was an example with some typical motifs including the griffons. IMG_3987IMG_3989

Unfortunately, this piece painted by Francis Grey was not there, but the painting is an early illustration of Homewood House. The definitive scholarly tome on Francis Grey was written by my friend, Stiles, and it is a wonderful portrayal of a semi-itinerant painter in the late 18th century.


Because Homewood has acquired a set of chairs from various sources, they’re the same but different. Slight changes have been made by different owners, but they’re all of a set.IMG_3997IMG_4021IMG_4024

One of the chairs that caught my eye was this pagoda-topped example. The carving and turning indicate that it’s probably not a Baltimore chair, but may have been made in near-by Washington, DC.IMG_4026

The chests were just stunning, glowing with their French-polished finish. IMG_4004IMG_4005IMG_4009IMG_4011

This little piece which was sitting unobtrusively in the corner, turned out to have a bit of a secret.IMG_4022IMG_4023

The top opens from the side and then opens again to reveal a spot for a chamber pot. IMG_4036IMG_4032

If you’re in the area, the exhibit is on until January and it’s well worth your time to visit.IMG_4061

The other thing of beauty is the newly published book by Markham Roberts: Decorating: The Way I See ItIMG_4053

This is just a stunning book. Each and every page is just a joy to see. IMG_4054

His work is comfortable and very approachable. I would just love to plop down in one of these chairs with some good friends or a good book, and while away an afternoon. IMG_4056

If you look closely, the chairs in the image to the left are covered in the fabric Billy Baldwin made famous, Arbre de Matisse.

I am looking forward to a nice rainy afternoon where I can curl up with this book and really study the images. IMG_4058

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One more thing… Our painters at work started on the Reading Room and just with the priming done and the curtains down, the room already looks 100% better. Although I am freaking out a little that the painters didn’t remove the portrait and the sculptures before they started! YIKES!IMG_3962IMG_3959

Hopefully, they will finish up tomorrow or Monday, and I will have some more pictures for you!


  1. Hmm, they are painters not furniture movers, Should not the responsible party for the reno delegate the removal of the sculpture and paintings of value? If i were the painter i would not want to drop the sculpture..... what does the contract stipulate??

    1. Even though they are painters, they're being paid to prep the space, including covering and removing things.

  2. At least they could drape them with painter's plastic?

  3. a good painter should be protecting everything in the room -whether that is moving or covering the objects. you dotn' want paint splatters, particularly on the portrait. Good painters are HARD to find.

    1. Can you even imagine my fury if paint got on any of these pieces!

  4. Hi Meg, I love Baltimore Federal and later furniture and these are superb examples--the French polish is the best that I have ever seen. How about featuring Baltimore Fancy Chairs in a post? Have a super week-end. xoxo Mary

    1. I will do a post about the Baltimore Chairs... i might have done one already on the Finlay's who made many of them.

  5. MF is there a trick to picking a hue from a paint store color card to make the color pop against the white(ish) trim?? At least on my computer screen it looks the perfect combo! Should one go for the mid range of a card that has a match with the inspiration piece say the pillow honestly there must be a rule of thumb-- do we all see color a tad differently????

    1. That's a loaded question. The decorator I used on this project told me to go one to two shades down on the colour card. In our case, two down took it into a shade that wouldn't have the impact we wanted. There's a lot of yellow in the trim and so I wanted a deep green with yellows instead of one with blues. I would think clearer colours would be better with white. And yes, we all do see colour differently.

  6. Meg you are as busy as ever. The furnishings with those gorgeous veneers and the details on the chairs are wonderful! I am looking forward to the Markham Roberts book as well!

    The Arts by Karena

  7. Those painted pieces are so beautiful.

  8. I wish I had been able to attend, I never pass up an oppourtunity to visit Homewood. My friend Lindsay Carroll works there, and her husband Bobby is a direct descendant of Homewood's builder Charles Carroll of Carrollton, though he grew up at another Carroll homestead, Doughoregan Manor in Ellicott City, which wonderfully is still in family hands with his cousin Philip managing the estate.


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