Monthly Archives: December 2010

Artist Spotlight…A Final Dose of Japonisme for the New Year

After that Christmas orgy of William Merritt Chase, I can’t resist adding just a few more paintings by his contemporaries for your viewing pleasure this New Year’s Eve…

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

La Princess du Pays de la Porcelain

Purple and Rose The Lang Leizen of the Six Marks

Symphony in White, No. 2 The Little White Girl

The Balcony, 1864

The Artist's Studio, c. 1865

James Jacques Tissot (1836-1902)

The Fan

Young Woman Looking at Japanese Objects

Gustave Leonard de Jonghe (1829-1893)

The Japanese Fan

Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938)

Cutting Origami

Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911)

The Language of the Fan

Roberto Fontano (1844-1907)

A Young Girl Holding a Fan

When I was a child, my mom and I would always play “pick your favorite” about any decorative item, whether it was a painting in a museum or a ballet costume in a performance. So my end of year question: If you could choose 1 painting to own, from this post or any of the others this month (check hereherehere and here), which would it be and why? Please leave me a comment!

Happy New Year all!! Here’s to 2011!!!

Shop Talk…Antiquing Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach

One of the charms of flea markets and shrine sales is the large number of vendors all grouped together in one place at one time. As it is always unlikely that any particular dealer will have just what you are looking for, there is great “synchronicity” in numbers.  Antique stores, art galleries and car dealerships often subscribe to this rule – sometimes because they take over inexpensive real estate in fringe neighborhoods.  Antique Row along Dixie Highway in South Florida is an outstanding example of this kind of antique synchronicity. Between Southern Boulevard in the south and running up to Belvedere in the north, about 50 antique stores and related services line both sides of the street. I can’t possibly mention them all, so I am only going to touch on my favorites and those that seem particularly significant.

Partially because I often use their parking lot, and also because they always have something interesting, one of my first stops is Wardall Antiques and Decorations. They have a diverse mix of European and American antiques representing a wide range of periods including furniture, artwork, great chandeliers, and decorative items. They can be relied on for trendy items – a fair amount of mirrored furniture there this visit – but also for basics. The big find this time? Three 1968 horse prints by master artist Tadashi Nakayama, for a great price at about $650 each. Someone should snag them!

The big man on the block is Lars Bolander, who has multiple shops and a design studio, in addition to his New York showroom. The store is full of his signature Swedish pieces, but also some quirkier Asian and industrial items too. On one hand, there was this gorgeous Swedish armoire with chicken wire panels and on the other, there was an enormous Buddha in the window.

Michael MacLean Antiques had its usual selection of small exquisite European pieces, with a few international touches thrown in like these Kuba cloth pillows. This is a trend that has been brewing – perhaps as a suzani replacement? – see Thomas Hamel’s project in House Beautiful this month for a beautiful use of African cloth pillows.

For serious museum quality antiques with provenance and 5 digit prices, head to N.P. Trent Antiques. Full of gorgeous 17th, 18th and 19th century European furniture and accessories, I like to play “imagine” with myself…as in imagine what I would take home if I could. Most interesting there today was this extraordinary Flight & Barr Worcester Imari partial dessert set, circa 1800. At first glance one might think it was Japanese, but in the center is an armorial crest with a stag’s head and the motto “Virtuti“, marking it (along with the incised marks on the reverse) as irrevocably European made.

New to the strip, although long in business, is Artmosphere, carrying rough-hewn furniture from Brazil and Bolivia, both antique and new. I can see these pieces feeling fresh in a Palm Beach Mediterranean.

Faustina Pace Antiques and Interiors had simple on-trend French pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries, like this antique Napoleon III settee covered in homespun, big industrial lights, and large-scale accessories like these huge demijohns for holding olive oil. Surprisingly, the bottles were remarkably similar to my Japanese bottles. Texture, in the form of baskets, rough painted pieces and homespun grain sacks, gave the store great character and style.

Unfortunately, Hampton Antiques, one of my favorite group shops at the corner of Dixie and Southern seems to have vanished (although I believe they are related to the huge Hamptons Antique Galleries in Stamford, CT). Last December I found a great pair of Napoleon III armchairs there. They were not even muslined, instead had only their original burlap.

Here is where the professional and geographic synchronicity went to work.  I wanted these chairs, but would be leaving for Tokyo in a few days and not returning until the summer. They were of no use to me in the state they were in. Across the street is Parkers fabric store (better known as Silk Surplus, and related to the well-known one in NYC), which carries super discounted remnant bolts, discontinued designs as well as “to order” fabric from major fabric houses. In one of the sale bins I found a great Scalamandre check called Brompton Plaid for $9 a yard. (Shall we say that again? $9 a yard. Normally it retails for $125 a yard!) Around the corner was an upholsterer, used by many on the block. Chairs…check! Fabric…check! Upholsterer…check! Purchase completed….Take a look at the chairs in situ at the beach house!

If like me, you are a junkie for really good but threadbare Persian rugs and suzani scraps, my “secret” favorite shop that I have been patronizing for years is Joseph Malekan’s Antiques and Oriental Rugs on the corner at Roseland Drive. You never know what you will find scattered around his store, but I have a beautiful 19th century Tabriz and two small Lavar Kirman’s that I picked up there for very reasonable prices. This time he had a great pair of Moroccan stools, some beautiful framed fan coral in distressed vintage frames and a huge selection of copper lanterns.  I love this faux boix console table too. Joseph can also now be found on 1stdibs !

There are too many shops to mention them all, but head to Dolce and Re Vue for eclectic Palm Beach and Hollywood Regency style, The Elephants’s Foot for English antique and reproduction furniture as well as a huge selection of antique silver, European porcelain and Imari, John Prinster for art deco and art moderne. Mecox Gardens has a big outpost on the row, right near Southern Boulevard.

There are a number of related services in the area in addition to the ones mentioned above, including more fabric stores and interior designers.  There is a Sherwin Williams and a shop called The Paint Store which carries hard to find brands such as Farrow & Ball, Fine Paints of Europe, and Christopher Peacock Paints.

Antique Row no longer feels like an insiders secret like it did 15 years ago, at least at these core shops, and the prices reflect that. Off of the “official” Row, there are quite a few shops south of Southern Boulevard that I haven’t had time yet to explore. Next time!

For more information and some gossip on who shops there, take a look here and here. And for lunch, I recommend a great diner called Howley’s, on the east side of Dixie Highway, a few blocks south of Southern Boulevard.

Artist Spotlight…William Merritt Chase’s Japonisme Interiors

I am not going to say a lot about about this Christmas treat post, other than that the very prolific William Merritt Chase, long considered America’s “Best Impressionist,” was also fascinated with Japanese art and motifs. For your enjoyment, I have gathered a large grouping of his paintings which include clear references to Japonisme through props such as prints, fans, kimonos, and screens. In addition to these obvious references, the compositions of these later paintings – with their high horizon lines and uptilted foregrounds – reveal the more significant role Japanese art had on his artistic style.

Hall at Shinnecock, 1893

Child With Prints

The Japanese Book

Japanese Print, c. 1888

The Kimono, 1895

The Blue Kimono, 1898

Spring Flowers, c. 1889

Making her Toilet, 1889

Girl in a Japanese Kimono

Back of a Nude, 1888

Modern Magdalen, 1888


Weary, aka Who Rang, 1889

Woman in Kimono Holding a Japanese Fan

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!!!!
Image Credits: Thanks to Pagina Artis for uploading so many of these images into one place!

Renovation Report…”Oldating” the Beach House Bathroom

So I have to gather my courage to show you the “before” photo of one of the ugliest bathrooms in the world! Unfortunately, the lucky owner of this beauty is me. It is the downstairs bathroom in our beach house and serves as the powder room for guests and a full bath for the guest room. The ceiling is low, the room is dark, and the floor is yucky linoleum. It is tiny and everything is cheap and old – 1970s old, not good old! As an antiques dealer I am always looking for old, wanting patina. This was not it. The challenge was not just to update but to take this bathroom back in time…

In addition to being tiny, the bathroom layout was a straight railroad, which limited the floor space. The shower was a pre-fab 36 inch square, but the remaining unused 7 inches was useless. The opaque shower doors limited the visual size of the room by seeming like a solid wall. We won’t even bother discussing the color, the fittings or that wallpaper border. There were no redeeming qualities whatsoever!

Changes to the original floor plan below include sealing the door into the bathroom and moving it to where the sink is shown. The sink will be relocated to the where the door was. The shower pan will be 42 inches wide and fill the whole back wall. The shower doors will be frameless glass so that the line of vision goes all the way to the back wall, making the bathroom feel visually larger.

The layout of the whole downstairs was one of the problems as well.  The bathroom was entered through the back bedroom/TV room (which was itself entered through the kitchen). Our first step was to change the entrance to both rooms, sealing the kitchen entrance (and gaining a pantry) and turning the doors of both rooms to enter directly into the main house. Here is the back corner under the stairs before the renovation.

Here it is with the two new doors. The door on the left opens into the TV room/extra bedroom. The door on the right is the new bathroom door.

The house is a very simple 1880s Victorian cottage. Neither the budget nor the room itself calls for anything fancy and I want the bathroom to look as if maybe it was always just like that. My inspiration for the design came from a small French watercolor that I love, the historic pharmacy turned ice cream shop in town, and other original fixtures in the house made of aged brass.  I had already bought a salvaged white pedestal sink from the turn of the century in anticipation. So that means simple white fittings – 1 inch white hexagon tiles for the floor and subway tiles for the shower enclosure – and unlacquered brass faucets and fixtures. Planning for Farrow & Ball Pale Powder on the walls, which is the second lightest color in the second column of the paint chart on the inspiration board below.

Natural or unlacquered brass is definitely on its way back – take a look at the droolicious Henry Collection at Waterworks – but try convincing the locals around here. Everybody was worrying about polishing! It took a lot to convince them that I wanted that deep oxidized caramel color and that my only worry was how long it would take to stop being “brassy” looking. The Waterworks collection was both budget busting and frankly, too stylized to suit my house, which was actually a relief to not have to want it! Nickel or chrome fittings also felt too 1920s art deco.

Here are a few photos from my inspiration files. This bathroom had just the kind of exposed shower I was looking for, but the color and the shelves also really caught my eye.  No chance of opening the sheetrock in my tiny space, but I think it is a great idea. Sometimes shells and sea motifs can feel trite in a beach house, but this is charming. It also has a single plain framed window, similar to my bathroom.

This next photo has the hexagon tiles, vintage sink and natural unrenovated, undecorated look I want. We have discussed beadboard to death too, as the house has some original in the kitchen, but in the end, simplicity won out and not the beadboard. Again, space was a big issue and giving up half an inch to beadboard on the walls felt like it would make the room smaller.

The renovation was well on its way when the Dec/Jan issue of House Beautiful came out, featuring a gorgeous Windsor Smith project with this bathroom. While dressier that I plan and significantly more glamorous, this has the closest feel, with thick white molding, a beautifully shaped white tub, and pale wall color. It has a wood floor, not tile, which adds a dark note, which I am hoping to add to my room with a wooden mirror and accessories.

We assembled the pieces – the vintage sink, a round profile Promenade toilet from Toto, which has just the right amount of vintage feeling and is very compact and well priced, an exposed shower from Baths From the Past and an unlacquered brass faucet from Sunrise Specialty to retrofit the sink. I was the only one in the family who voted to keep the original separate hot and cold taps on the sink for authenticity! I also bought a salvaged 24 inch door from Recycling the Past in Barnegat, New Jersey as the original door is too large for the new entrance.

Here is the (almost) finished project. I got into town 3 days ago and was lucky enough to find the perfect mirror at a favorite antiques store (antiquing on the Jersey shore is fabulous – and I am sure I’ll post about it this summer). The frameless shower doors will be installed soon and there is no styling or accessories yet, but you can get the basic idea….

I am planning on small shelves in the cutout above the toilet, like the ones behind the bathtub in the Windsor Smith bathroom. Not sure how long the oxidation will take, but some of the brass is tarnishing already.  I also bought a great vintage brass towel bar for a song on eBay, and that will go up on the wall opposite the toilet.

The bathroom is so light and pretty – even more that I expected – and it feels roomier too. I’d love to hear from you all and know what you think! Styling and accessories will have to wait until the summer as we leave for Florida tomorrow, but it gives me something to hunt for.  Oh, and I am still considering wallpaper (and can pull out inspiration photos of quirky wallpapered bathrooms too) so let me know what you think of that…

Image Credits: 1-5, 9, 13-16. me, 6. via The Lettered Cottage, 7. from Found Style by David and Amy Butler, 8. House Beautiful December/January 2011 photo credit: Victoria Pearson, 10. Toto, 11. Baths From the Past, 12. Sunrise Specialty

Divide and Conquer…Thomas Hamel, Jalis and Shoji Screens

While great rooms with exposed kitchens have become the norm, and loft living has it advantages, I can still see the need to shut the cooking area off from the dining area sometimes.  Designer Thomas Hamel has come up with one of the loveliest and most ingenious ways of doing this that I have seen in a while. Using lacy fretwork Indian style jalis – in this case laser cut stained oak panels – he has installed sliding doors that can be used to separate the two rooms, while allowing light and air to flow between them. Jalis are common in both Indian and Islamic architecture, and Hamel’s project has influences from all over the globe – he calls his style  “international eclecticism”.

This design is very reminiscent of Japanese architecture too – reminding me of the shoji screens used as room dividers in traditional Japanese houses. As space is at such a premium here, most rooms have multifunctional purposes, and space is highly configurable. Shoji screens are covered with rice paper, which also lets light and sound flow through. One of the “go to” books on everyone’s’ coffee tables here is Japan Style: Architecture Interiors Design by Geeta Mehta and Kimie Tada, with great photos by Noburo Murata. I highly recommend it!

For a look more like Hamel’s, this antique fretwork panel door with its “seven treasures” pattern featured in an earlier post would work perfectly.

Image credits: 1. House Beautiful December/January 2011, 2. Japan Style: Architecture Interiors Design photo credit: Noburo Murata, 3. courtesy of Kanarusha Antiques

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