October 25, 2016

American Patchwork Quilts

For years, I’ve had a minor interest in American Patchwork Quilts, since finding one bundled up in the back of an old barn sale. It was about $20, so I felt like I didn’t have much to lose if I bought it. When I got home, I consulted some of my old Martha Stewart Magazines (this was in the pre-Google days!) who had consulted specialist, Laura Fisher, to see how to wash it.

image(Totally irrelevant, but you can see the detail of a quilt that Figgy’s on!)

The basic recommendation was to soak it in the bathtub to remove the surface dirt and continually change to water until it ran clean. I was then able to lay it in the back yard to begin the drying process, and after it was almost dry, I hung it on the clothes line. The quilt was white with huge green, orange and pink tulips on it. I loved it.

That was about 20+ years ago, and I find that I am still buying American quilts and use them in my everyday life, not, unfortunately, giving any thought to their value. The white star quilt that shaggy Figgy is sitting on is now her bed and she loves it. The stars were rather worn out, so I didn’t feel too bad about using it for her. image

One of the first things I made when I taught myself to sew about six years ago, was a patchwork quilt in no discernable pattern. I figured it would help me learn to sew in straight lines. I backed the patchwork with a cozy fleece and still use it today, as evidenced by this image from a year ago, while I had Halas the Brown Dog, staying at my house.image

I am pretty casual about chucking the quilts into the washing machine and then hanging them out to dry in the sun and the breeze. This weekend was a perfect time to do that, so out they went!


One of the things I love about these old quilts is how they change as you move closer to them, and then step back to get another perspective. image

The perspective above looks totally different than the one below.image

The workmanship is amazing, and since I got this one at an auction in Southern Pennsylvania, I have a suspicion that it was made by an Amish woman or girl. image

I know that they’re not the rage like they were 25 years ago, when Ralph Lauren cornered the market on them, but they’re such an American icon.

I am in major de-accessioning mode and these and others (except my beginning sewing project) will be on my Etsy shop within the next week or so. imageRegardless of that, I have my eye on one at a local auction that just has me swooning! Killer shade of yellow!

October 20, 2016

Deconstructing the Tea Service

I frequent a lot of auctions, and at nearly every one of them, I find someone’s gorgeous old silver tea-service, which consists of a tea pot, a coffee pot, a creamer and a lidded sugar bowl, all on a footed and handled tray. imageSince many most none of us have the time to sit around drinking tea (with, or preferably without pinky finger extended), what happens to these tea services? My suggestion is that you start thinking of alternative uses for the pieces. Let’s deconstruct the service and see what you can do with each piece!

For me, I start by using the tea and coffee pots for vases. After all, they’re filled with water when in their original use, so why not fill them with flowers? image

image image


If you think that you’re never going to use the tea or coffee pot again in its original purpose, you can remove the lid by taking out the pin that holds the hinge. But be sure to save it!

One of the great things about the sugar bowl is that it usually comes with a lid! In my guest bathroom, I use a creamer to hold tooth-brushes and –paste, and the lidded sugar bowl to hold cotton balls. imageClearly the image below isn’t from my house because I can’t stand tarnished silver. I know it’s horrifying, but if something is this tarnished, I use a tarnish remover like Hagerty's Silver Dipto take off the initial black layer and then polish it with silver polish.image

If you can find a set with a monogram on it, all the better. And if the monogram is yours, that is the BEST! But if not, just invent an instant ancestor with that name and make up a fabulous story, or give it to a friend with that initial. They will love it!


Here are some other ideas of what you can do with old pieces of silver. Funnily, on my desk at the office, I have an old sugar bowl filled with pens, pencils, scissors and exacto knives! Honestly, it is such a shame that this great old silver is no longer appreciated.





I would love to hear what you do with your old silver and if you have any great ideas to share.

October 12, 2016

World of Interiors Features Evergreen House

World of Interiors Magazine, one of the best shelter magazines on the market today, is often thought to be the publication to which all others aspire. So it’s especially exciting to see that they’re featuring Evergreen House, a local landmark, on the pages of their October 2016 issue.image

The main theme of the article is the incredible interior spaces done by Russian Léon Bakst of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, which includes a small theatre, specially done for Alice Garrett, who lived at Evergreen with her husband. image

I’ve written about Evergreen House a number of times, mainly because of their annual House Beautiful lecture series, and also because it’s a five-minute drive from my house.


The theatre is filled with stenciled motifs taken from a book of Peasant Art in Russia, found in the Garrett’s extensive library.image

I have been to so many lectures in the theatre, and I never fail to see something new in the space. image

Other Bakst items in the house include these botanical drawings over the mantle in the main house,image

and the colour scheme devised by Bakst for the bowling alley-turned-art gallery. image

Naturally, one of my favourite spaces in the house is the amazing library, with its TWO full elephant folios of Audubon’s Birds of America. image

But then there IS the solid gold bathroom, the ultimate in luxury!image

To see the complete article from the October 2016 WOI Magazine, please click here. Thanks to WOI and James Archer Abbott, head of Evergreen for the images and article!

October 7, 2016

This is Baltimore: Ballroom Apartment

My office is in one of the city’s elegant neighbourhoods, and I noticed an advertisement for an apartment for rent, just a few blocks away. If I wasn’t already well situated, I’d snap it up in a heartbeat!

Check it out:

The apartment is in an old ship-builder’s house. It's about 1600 square feet, with incredibly ornate details, floor to ceiling windows, and 16 foot ceilings. Really intricate plasterwork all over the apartment, with marble fireplaces, giant mirrors, and other crazy details.


The floor is divided into three main rooms (with a kitchen and bathroom)image that are separated by huge pocket doors.image

The decor over the mirror and windows are a hunting motif - deer (mirror), boar (center) and dogs.


Enter the apartment through the dining room. The kitchen and bathroom is to the right (includes W/D and a storage closet), bedroom is to the left.imageimageGiant builtin holds pantry, butcher block countertop, gas range with broiler, dishwasher, w/d, fridge. SO MANY CABINETS


Here’s the view:image

Oh, and the rent is $1,500 per month! 1BR, $500 deposit. Subject to screening and new lease through the management company. Pets welcome, smoking not so much. W/D, gas stove, storage, forced air/heat, and historic detail like you wouldn't believe. Check out the entire gallery of images here.

October 5, 2016

Academic Building or Family House?

As I was scrolling through the listings of the most expensive houses in the region, I stumbled across this place. Surely they’ve got this wrong, I thought. This is an administration building at a local prep school, some government agency like the Department of Agriculture or a private mental institution.image

But no, it’s actually a private home… one with only THREE bedrooms! It was built in 1989, and is on almost 50 acres just north of Baltimore. My clever friends refer to this monstrosity as the “University of Me”, because it’s a paean to someone’s personal excess and grandiosity.image

Of course, I had to immediately click on the interior images to see if the rest of the house matched up with the unbelievable exterior. They did not disappoint.

The solid wood front doors open to a hall with an awkwardly-placed grandfather clock. imageimage

And once more, I am deeply disappointed that real-estate listings are not required to include floor plans, because, as you can see in the image below, there are some oddly angled walls.image

And the pale brick in the fireplace is completely wrong and adds a discordant note to this room. imageAt least the floors look like actual, not engineered wood. In the description of this house, it refers to “17 piece crown mouldings” and you can certainly see that they’ve added trim and mouldings everywhere possible, sometimes to complete distraction.imageimage

This looks like another living room, this time with built-ins and oddly, a brown ceiling fan. image

It looks like the cupola is really a giant skylight, if I am guessing correctly from this image. And there seems to be an excess of glass n’brass® throughout the house. image

As mentioned, the house is advertised as having only three bedrooms, but if they are as vast as this one appears to be, that’s understandable. Again, a floor plan would help greatly in figuring it out.imageimage

This bathroom, one of three full and three half-baths, is also vast and also has a preponderance of glass n’brass® including the commerical-looking rails leading to the bathtub.image

There’s an old saying, All hat, no cattle. But in this case, it looks like All boots, no cattle. I am left pondering why the only thing left in the huge walk-in closet is boots.image

The rear elevation of this house is also missing something. It’s trying very hard to look colonial or Williamsburg-esque, but failing in the details. imageShutters would help a lot, and some foundation plantings.image

The front could benefit from some shutters as well!image

My understanding is that the owner wanted to put a private landing strip in so he could land his plane, but since this is horse country, the neighbours objected and so he’s moving. You can see where the landing strip was laid out below.image

The house is on the market for $4.25 million, and you can see details here. In an area of gorgeous old estates, and stunning hunt country, this house is certainly an anomaly.