Monthly Archives: May 2011

Colorful Stair Risers, June Magazines and Muriel Brandolini

I couldn’t resist posting these stairs featured in the new issue of Country Living.  Designer Lisa Teague painted the risers in soft shades of the colors she uses throughout the house. I don’t know if I would actually do this, but as I have been musing on the topic lately here, I thought it was very pretty and interesting.

Those painted stairs reminded me of these fabulous boldly colored ones from Muriel Brandolini‘s Long Island home…

…which in turn reminded me of the ship chandelier hanging in this Ken Fulk designed San Francisco bathroom in the June House Beautiful, much like the one of Muriel’s featured here.

I am sure there will be some other link as soon as I get my hands on the June Elle Decor or World of Interiors! If so, I’ll add it here…

Image credits: 1. Country Living June 2011, photo credit: Bjorn Wallander, 2. World of Interiors July 2009, 3. House Beautiful June 2011, photo credit: Francesco Lagnese.

Finally Found…The Perfect Vintage Japanese Milk Glass Lamp

Finally, something accomplished and not just thought about! I have long admired the vintage milk glass lamps popular in Japan from the early part of the 20th century through the post-WW II era, with their peak of production and design from the 1920s-1940s.  While quite similar to their counterparts in America and Europe, the Japanese fixtures have extra details that you don’t find elsewhere, meant to approximate earlier lamps with metal mounts. The added charm of the Asian motifs make these glass lamps particularly collectible and as they are rarely seen outside of Japan, a unique addition to one’s decor.

I have a small open bottom fixture hanging in my guest room here in Tokyo as a reading lamp, since there is not really room for a proper night table. I would also like to find one for the ceiling in my newly renovated bathroom at our beach house in New Jersey, albeit much larger.

These open bottom hanging glass shades are the most common, adorned with metal, plastic or bamboo detailing…


or sometimes frosted insets, raised molded glass patterns or a combination of any and all of the above.

Less common, but still frequently seen are the closed variety, particularly this globular shape, often embellished with a hanging tassel.

Here’s another charming example.

A specialized dealer at the Antique Jamboree had an incredible collection of globe fixtures. There is a special summer Jamboree this year from July 22-24. See the “Shrine Sale” tab at the top of the blog for more details.

Even more spectacular and unusual were these porcelain sockets and fittings. I had occasionally seen the white ones, but never before the blue and white. They seem like the kind of perfect antique detail designer Michael Smith would add to an interior project.

In addition to fixtures that hang from cords, there are also some that have a stiff metal bar. A pair of these would look perfect hanging over a kitchen island.

I debated about buying this unusual long shaped fixture. It had a nautical feel that might have been right for the beach house bathroom, but seemed too long and narrow for the space.

I loved this pair of sconces but couldn’t think of a place to put them

I never did make it back to the fantastic shop The Teardrop Club…

…or Rakuda in Nishi-Ogikubo.

In the end, I decided the detailing on the fixtures was at odds with the simplicity of the bathroom. I also had the realization that the low ceiling might not accommodate a hanging fixture. Luckily, the glass globes can also have fixed ceiling mounts.  I thought about giving up and just buying a new fixture, but in my heart I wanted the vintage charm of an older fixture (even with the hassles of re-wiring) versus a sparkling brand new one from the excellent reproduction companies like Schoolhouse Electric Co. or even the mainstream home catalogs. The answer, I decided, was a simpler more “schoolhouse” shape with a ceiling mount.

So the winner came from Kanarusha Antiques. They had long been holding another glass shade for me, waiting on finding the proper vintage fittings. So often the glass globes are available, but not the lamp socket attachments, and I didn’t want to count on anything in the US actually being the proper size. I was never sure the other shade was perfect – it seemed too small and insignificant -so last Friday I stopped by and they had this beauty!  I dug through a crate of vintage socket fittings they had just received, found this well patinated metal ceiling fitting and married it to the shade. Perfect!

A dear friend sent me this photo of a tenugui she had purchased just before leaving Japan last year. Tenugui are thin cotton towels, usually a standard size, printed with absolutely anything and used for just about everything. They probably deserve a post of their own!  I had never seen this one and got a great laugh from it. She has framed it and some others for a unique art display. Make sure to note the discontinued Lee Jofa fabric covering the chairs that we tracked down from an old 2003 issue of House Beautiful.

The lamp photos were taken over the course of the year at numerous shrine sales and different antique shows, illustrating their high level of availabilty. Keep your eyes open!

Antique Teardrop

On Dumbwaiters and Butler’s Trolleys…Non-Japanese Antiques in Tokyo at The Penny Wise and Found

While we are at it, let’s return to that same photo of the wall and staircase at the beach house from my last post, but this time, let’s talk about what is going in front of it. I need a piece of furniture that will hold extra serving pieces and platters, table linens, a lamp, alcohol and bar accoutrements. Basically a sideboard, but I imagine something more open. My dream piece has been a traditional Georgian or Regency period English butler’s trolley, also known as a dumbwaiter.  Everywhere I look these days, bar carts are the trendy thing to have, but I find them a bit small and flimsy, and I prefer the stolid-ness of the trolley.

If you ignore the yellow sofa, this Jeffrey Bilhuber designed dining room in Bridgehampton has a very similar feel to my space. Dark table and floorboards, pale painted chairs, big bay window with white trim and blue-grey walls. He also has a dumbwaiter on the right hand wall, put to use exactly as I would like to. The whole house is light and lovely and gorgeous and well worth scrolling through here.

Christopher Spitzmiller uses a trolley to hold his bar goods, but also copper pots and kitchen items. Maybe this one is in a butler’s pantry?

I spy one against the wall in this eclectic Spanish apartment.

And Tom Scheerer has one stocked to the brim in the Bahamas.

Visually, I love the attractive open display of everyday objects. Kathryn Ireland uses a table with a lower shelf the same way in her house in France.

And maybe what I am truly drawn to is all the alcohol bottles arranged on or in a basket, like the photos above and this below…

…or this. Tom Scheerer again!

So I went and checked out the easiest and most well stocked antiques resource on the internet – 1stdibs. There was no problem finding some gorgeous examples, like this one from Huntington House Antiques

…or this one from Hollyhock. There were a number of other lovely examples, but all are in the $5000+ range. Ouch!

I was determined to take a look at one in person to see the scale and proportions up close. Finding one in Tokyo also fulfils a dual role, which is to prove that absolutely everything is available somewhere in Japan if only you know where to look. In Hiroo, not far from my house is an antiques store called The Penny Wise, which imports furniture from all over Europe. In addition, they have another nearby shop that stocks scrubbed pine and Colonial Check fabrics as well as a huge warehouse in Kachidoki. So I took a quick walk down the hill and voilà!

Exactly what I was looking for. They also have a few more in the warehouse. And the price? Around $4500, which is unexpectedly less than the ones in the USA. The Penny Wise tends to be a real “brown” furniture shop, but they stock just about everything and I am not surprised to have found one on my very first try.

Ironically, the other item of furniture I am looking for is a china cabinet.  I have been imagining something kind of 1920s, with legs off the floor and a casual paint job. Something like this…

And guess what else The Penny Wise had in stock? This!

Thinking about painted furniture makes me wonder if I might prefer a painted piece in that spot as I already have a dark wooden dining table. Maison Maison on 1stdibs had this example.

Not long ago I visited another great Tokyo antiques shop at the far side of Meguro called Found, which has great displays of on-trend French furniture made more casual by stripping and painting techniques. If you are looking for a chair upholstered in feed sack burlap, Found is the place to go. They had a small painted shelf piece, which while not officially a trolley, could work well.

Their artfully staged vignettes, like this one with a 19th century china cabinet and bentwood chairs (which are just as trendy in Tokyo right now as they are in the US) are fun to browse. Hmmm…I am liking these dark accents too. Perhaps a china cabinet painted dark grey or black might be a perfect punctuation point.

While we are talking about black, maybe it isn’t a light painted piece I want, but a dark one.

I have drooled for years over Michael Smith’s gallery edge trolley from his furniture line for Jasper. Also quite expensive…

and I missed a half-price one in his Tastemaker Sale at One Kings Lane last year. Here’s another view of it. Too fancy? Maybe…

I have also been wondering about this marble top console table from Wisteria. At $899, it seems like a bargain in comparison and I love the practicality of the marble top. But maybe a little small and too French?

After all this thought about the open shelves of a butler’s trolley, I remembered another ingenious bar idea. Rita Konig wrote in The New York Times about her friend Amanda Lindroth’s makeshift bar. Basically it is a chest of drawers in the hall which she styles like a bar during a party, pulling out the top drawers to hold pitchers and ice buckets and arranging glasses and bottles in a basket on top.

Just thinking that there is a lot to be said for closed storage too…

If you are new to Tokyo or just plain old tired of Ikea, bad furniture and fake Chinese antiques, I recommend the stretch of Meguro-dori running southwest from the Meguro station for a few miles. There must be more than 50 antique and home decor shops, with everything from mid-century modern to Louis XV. The Penny Wise would represent the northernmost end of  the strip and Found would be the furthest south. I have long been planning on a walking guide to all the shops, but life keeps getting in the way. I promise one next autumn, and in the meantime, feel free to email me with any questions.

Image credits: 1. Elle Decor July 2007, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 2.Elle Decor December 2006, photo credit: unknown, 3. Nuevo Estilo via A Perfect Gray,  4. via Tom Scheerer, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 5. House Beautiful November 2009, photo credit: Kathryn Ireland, 6. House Beautful June 2009, photo credit:Reed Davis, 7. via Tom Scheerer, photo credit: Matthew Hranek, 8-9 & 14. via 1stdibs, 10-11, 13, 15-17. me, 12. via Houzz, 18-19. via Michael Smith, 20. Wisteria, 21-22. The New York Times, January 12, 2010, photo  credit: Rita Konig.

Stairway Solutions…Musings on Runners, Risers and Treads

Only three weeks to go until I am back in the USA for the summer. My ostensible reason for rushing home is getting the garden planted. Honestly, it is a bit (too?) late in the planting season, but I am hoping that if I hurry and water a lot, most of what I plant will survive. I have two narrow borders and space for a hydrangea hedge in the front of the house. It is all going to be summer blooming flowers – no foundation plants for winter green (I hate them anyway), no spring bulbs, no worries about autumn color – as I will never get to see any of it. I’ll report more on the garden design when I get there!

In the meantime I have had a few requests for more details on the house and my decorating plans. It is a good thing too, as I have so much to figure out and so little time to do it. It has been hard to concentrate this spring and now I am full-on in the rounds of sayonara (good-bye) parties and the raucous fun, hangovers and depression that comes with them.

One fairly simple problem that needs to be solved is the staircase. The previous owners painted it solid white, but it had long been painted. In this photo, taken shortly after we moved in last summer, you can see how dirty it is, but this was taken after movers and mattress men had tramped up and down in their shoes! Of course we don’t wear shoes indoors after seven years of living in Japan, so with a fresh coat of paint, they can look like new. But unfortunately, I still think they will get dirty and would like to add some interest to them as they are a focal point of the house. The railing and newel posts are beautiful and the staircase is open to both the living and dining rooms.

One of my key inspiration photos for the house is this photo of the entry of a Jason Bell designed home in Connecticut. The striped rug, sheer voile table skirt, Moroccan mirror, Empire mahogany table, straw bag and modern botanical print are touchstone elements I am using in my own design. I have been translating each of them as follows – striped stair runner, curtain sheers, Moroccan tray table as coffee table, Empire dining table, jute rug and modern Japanese prints.

This Markham Roberts hallway in the Hamptons has a similar feel and similar components, with beautiful Elizabeth Eakins striped runners.  Both photos have a beige based palette while mine is grey, but there is just something about the feel of them both that speaks to me.

So for the last year I have been planning on working with that vibe and installing a striped runner, perhaps one from Elizabeth Eakins (who is having a huge May sale right now) or Dash & Albert.

Or even better, one from Blenheim Carpets in London. I have been carrying around these samples for a year and they are still my favorites. The top pattern is Chatsworth and the bottom two are Longleat. Maybe a little excessive to order carpet from England???

Then a few months ago, I started reading Joan’s blog for the love of a house where I discovered that she actually has my dream staircase. Wood treads, white risers and a glossy black newel post. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can recreate it in my house as I know there are layers and layers of paint on my stairs and I don’t have the energy to even think about stripping them. Too much time and mess, and who knows what I’ll find under all that paint?

And sometimes I also worry that stripes might just be too busy for the small space. Perhaps a sisal, hemp, jute or some other natural runner might be just right?

But when I look at the photo above and below, I feel the lack of color. They are gorgeous spaces, but I need a bit more color…

In talking to Joan about staircases, she raised a very good point. One problem with runners is that they make steps shallower and sometimes slippery. The more I think about mine, the more I am worried that there isn’t really room for a runner as my stairs are already small and narrow. Hmmm……

One easy option would be to use paint. I can’t get the original wood treads back, but I could paint the treads a color, possibly a grey from the same paint chip as the walls (which are Benjamin Moore Pelican Gray), perhaps just a few shades darker.  In this photo a white staircase has simple grey treads.

I love the idea of painted treads, but that still leaves the risers white and that is what you see when you look at the stairway. Might they get kicked and dirty and still look bad, even with painted treads?  So here is a similar idea, with a painted “runner” down the center of the staircase. The benefit is that both the treads and the risers have the darker color paint. Traffic tends to walk up the middle and there is quite a bit of visual interest.

Here is a version with color.

I love the bit of border detail in this version.

And back to my stripes…Here is an entirely painted striped runner. I don’t love this photo – the colors are not me and the whole thing looks busy – but it was the only one I could find and seems like a fun idea.

I am not sure how well these paint treatments would hold up. Which brings me right back to where I started, thinking about a runner.

Aaargh! Even after writing this post and reading it over, I am still all over the place and undecided on what to do. I’d love some input, whether based on experience with runners or just aesthetics and care,. Help! Please comment!

For more guidance on these kinds of projects, there are some great posts out there on installing a Dash & Albert runner at What am I going to be when I grow up?, and how-tos on painted runners at Take the Side Street, Salvaged Bliss and Living Livelier.

Image credits: 1 & 6. me, 2. House Beautiful September 2008, photo credit: Simon Upton, 3. House Beautiful October 2008, photo credit: Francesco Lagnese, 4. via Elizabeth Eakins, 5. via What am I going to be when I grow up?, 7. via for the love of a house, 8. via 1st Option, 9. via Lucyina Moodie, 10. Martha Stewart Living July 2008, 11. via Apartment Therapy, 12. via Skona Hem, 13. via Salvaged Bliss, 14. via Country Living

Artist Spotlight…Updates on the Higuchis, Mashiko Pottery Rebuilding and PaperGlueBamboo

It becomes two months soon on that day. The season comes round as if nothing had happened, and the flowers are in full bloom in our garden. The petals of the wild cherry tree begins to scatter like snowing, it means the last chapter in spring here.
-Kimiake and Shin-ichi Higuchi

Kimiake and Shin-ichi Higuchi are working towards rebuilding their studio. In that light they have uploaded photos of many of their works for sale to their website Proceeds will be used to fund the rebuilding. They report, “the builder started constructing several days ago.  They said that they have difficulty to obtain the necessary materials because many production plants also received serious damages by the tsunami, so that the completion of the studio is delayed more greatly than the schedule. We will work over the idea of the work while enjoying gardening for a while.”

Meanwhile, over in Mashiko, there was a great turnout for the annual spring pottery festival. Although about 20% fewer people attended than last year, it was still many more than predicted and visitors were buying strongly. “I felt many customers came and bought our works to cheer us up, ” said Tomoo Hamada, and “by the autumn pottery fair, well-heeled potteries here will have rebuilt their kilns.” The Mashiko Pottery Fund is still taking donations and the money raised will be crucial to getting the kilns going again.

I had the pleasure of meeting potter Ken Matsuzaki at the Mashiko group exhibition at Gallery St. Ives last month. Here you can see him standing where his kiln used to be after cleaning the broken mess from the earthquake. This is where he will rebuild it.

And this is his pile of broken shards…

Gallery St. Ives currently has an exhibition of work by Clive Bowen and Masaaki Shibata running until the 22nd of May. More information and photos can be found on their Facebook page.

Artist Lisa George of PaperGlueBamboo has been doing her share to help, donating 100% of all proceeds from sales of her ikkanbari and Tsukiji shopping baskets to the Red Cross and All Hands.

Unfortunately, she won’t be visiting Japan this spring, so online orders are the way to go. Shipping in the USA is easy and there is still time to have things arrive here in Japan for sayonara parties. Visit her Etsy shop and remember all proceeds are being donated to Japan relief charities. And the big news is that it looks like she may be returning to Japan in the autumn!

I had meant this post to be published on the 11th of May, but I have been waiting for more updated information. Please excuse the delay.

Related Posts:
Shattered Glass…A Small Tribute to the Work of Kimiake and Shin-ichi Higuchi
After the Earthquake…Help Rebuild the Kilns at Mashiko
Artist Spotlight…Lisa George and the Modern Art of Ikkanbari at PaperGlueBamboo

Image credits: 1 & 2. via Kimiake and Shin-ichi Higuchi, 3. via mohri63,  4 & 5. Ayumi Horie, 6. Lisa George

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