Monthly Archives: December 2011

Crystal Ship Chandeliers…A Little Bling for New Years

New Years Eve always makes me think of excess, in dress, food and drink, so why not interiors? Before leaving town this holiday season I was searching back issues of shelter magazines and came across the folded down corner on Jennifer Nicholson’s quirky and charming California home in an old House and Garden. Firmly printed in my memory for years were the blue and white porcelain and all the shells, but I had forgotten she had a crystal ship chandelier too. Like some of the photos I wanted for my previous post, I left the issue on the “to be scanned” pile, but never got to it, so luckily for me Moodboard has put them all in – thanks!

As 2011 closes, the post I’ve Been Missing Muriel Brandolini has become one of my most popular interior design posts. Interest in her continues to be at an all time high, but I secretly believe the hook that keeps everyone coming back over and over again is her precious crystal ship chandelier. To see it over the years, in multiple spots in her house, click on over to the post – I am sure you’ll agree with me.

Over the years, there have been others saved in my design files, including the one featured in Nanette Lepore’s Jonathan Adler designed apartment.

Katie Leede used one to add whimsy to an overly serious NYC dining room.

And this soft blue and grey room has been floating around blogland a lot too.

One place I have routinely seen them over the years is along the Dixie Highway antiquing strip in West Palm Beach. I thought I’d get out to do some live antiquing while in Florida for a few days, but looks like family commitments (can anyone say Harry Potter World?) may keep me from getting there for the first time in years, so I may have to be satisfied with some theoretical browsing.

As usual, 1stdibs has had some amazing examples, but in particular, this art deco one from Jonathan Burden has really caught my eye. Such a fresh and different feel from the others we are used to seeing.

A number of dealers are selling this classic Bagues example, at wildly different prices.

For those of you really looking to accessorize in the New Year, a pair of earrings?

That pair too glitzy for you? What about these simpler and older ones from Kevin Stone?

For even more glamour, marry a hot air balloon to a galleon. I am not sure what to call this combo from Linda Horn, but it would certainly make a statement!

And if it is just the ship, but not the crystal you are after, there are quite a few choices out there too.

Like the key to any good outfit, adding just the right amount of bling is key…

Related Posts:
I’ve Been Missing Muriel Brandolini
Colorful Stair Risers, June Magazines and Muriel Brandolini
Image credits: 1. House & Garden August 2006, photo credit: Paul Costello, via Moodboard, 2. House & Garden October 1997, photo credit: Francois Hallard, 3. Elle Decor September 2008 photo credit: William Waldron, 4. Katie Leede via CocoCozy, 5. Lili Diallo via Apartment Therapy, 6-13. via 1stdibs

Some Green Transferware (Inban That Is) For Christmas

Of course the photo I want is sitting in a “to be scanned” pile back in Tokyo, while I am sitting in a relatively warm and sunny Florida, so I’ll have to settle for the dining room of Mari Ann and Michael Maher’s Llewellyn Park home, but I wish I could have the kitchen too. Their house, featured in the July 2007 Elle Decor remains my touchstone of the perfect family home, and I have shown the living room here before. I wish the Elle Decor online photos were as complete as the magazine – they lack the exterior in addition to the kitchen and perhaps a few others. The house is beautifully historical, gorgeously but comfortably furnished, with a feeling that every space is used and used well. I can think of no better spot than this dining room for Christmas dinner. But what I really want to focus on is that collection of transferware straight back in the cabinet against the wall. I know the photo of the kitchen has some hanging on the walls too, so it may be irresistible to add it when I get back to Tokyo after the New Year.

English Staffordshire dishes, routinely called transferware, have been on my mind a lot lately. To basically quote myself,  “transfer printing was invented in England in 1756 and developed as an inexpensive way to recreate the characteristics of the hand painted underglaze blue ceramics of China and Japan. Ironically, transfer printing does not become popular in Japan until the late 19th century, but modern-day markets abound with transfer printed pieces that show it eventually did.” These Japanese transfer printed pieces, referred to as inban, are one of the absolute bargains to be found at almost any shrine sale or antique show.

English transferware was predominantly blue and white, but red, brown, black, yellow, purple and green were also made, particularly for export as well as much brown in the later 19th century aesthetic pieces.

In Japan, 90% of the printed inban is blue and white, and easily mixed and matched. I often push clients towards them as an alternative to the modern inexpensive dishes found at those large discount outlets. But much rarer than the blue and white, thus making them more fun to collect, are the green and white pieces, perfect for Christmas dining tables right now, but also for everyday use. Already having an extensive lavender and white English transferware collection, carefully brought with me to Japan, I have forced myself to limit my green and white collection to photos only, but find it increasingly hard not to buy. So for a little holiday season cheer, I’ll share my collection and let you all imagine how you might have added these items to your tables, hutches, cabinets or displays.

I think I’ll start with this one, just because the pattern reminds me of a snowflake and seems that much more seasonal.

Butterflies are pretty and a bit special.

Casual chrysanthemum laid over a karakusa background.

A little sho-chiku-bai (pine-bamboo-plum), our classic three friends of winter.

Sakura, or cherry blossom is common…

…as you can see, along with its sister ume (plum). Confused about bai and ume being the same thing? They are the same kanji, just different readings. Remember me mentioning I needed to work on my kanji – that is why I don’t make any progress!

There is a bit of every pattern hidden in these plates. And be sure to remember this bird and flower motif for the very end of the post.

You could think of these as tiny little Christmas trees.

I know there has to be a full story behind this plate – Chinese zodiac maybe? – but I am too lazy to look closely at it right now.

Some basho (banana leaves) in a star-like shape and goldfish swimming in the river.

When you consider how influenced late 19th century English transferware was by Japanese design, it is fun to think about mixing the two! Look closely at the border of the Cashmere pattern platter below from Merlin Antiques and compare the small stylized patterns to those in the Japanese pieces above. Then compare the bird and floral images with those in the plates a few photos above…

Happy Holidays to all!!!!

Related Posts:
Shop Talk…A Great Eye at Les Yeux Noirs
Sho-Chiku-Bai…The Three Friends of Winter: Pine, Bamboo and Plum

Image credits: 1. Elle Decor July 2007, photo credit: William Abranowicz, 2-3 Martha Stewart Living November 1995, last photo via Merlin Antiques, all additional photos by me.

A Day Too Late…One Perfect Bathroom Photo

Finally sat down to enjoy the raved about December/January issue of House Beautiful. I’ll have a lot to say about it in a coming post, but as I turned to the final pages I came to this and my chin hit the ground!

Is there anything that needs to be said about the perfection of Barbara Sallick‘s bathroom after reading what I wrote yesterday? Even the space around the sink/door placement is almost identical to my layout. So hopefully, this is my bathroom’s future one day, just not in the short term. But I continue to solicit ideas on temporary prettiness in the meantime, so keep the comments, all much appreciated, coming! Mary, I love the beadboard idea and could even do a rough rip out of the tile myself if I am putting beadboard over it anyway. Alisha, it is definitely time to get out the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and have a go at that vanity!

But for now I am going to sigh and sigh…

Image credit: House Beautiful December/January 2012, photo credit: Miki Duisterhof

Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom

For the last few days I have been here at our beach house in New Jersey pondering the age-old question “Do you throw good money after bad?” which really is a tough one to answer. Consider the following…a brand new master bathroom, with nothing “officially wrong with it” other than the fact that I hate it. For those of you unfamiliar with my house, it is a simple Victorian beach cottage, full of pale soft colors, vintage furniture and thick white original moldings. The previous owners carved out 2 bathrooms upstairs from what may have been only one. The hall bath is simple white subway tiles and small blue and white checkerboard floor, with white fixtures – just right for the period of the house and my taste. I have also renovated the downstairs bathroom in a similar fashion, with white hexagons and a vintage pedestal sink. The connundrum of this post is what to do about the master bath. For me, it has major problems of both form and function. The photo is from the sale listing almost two years ago now. While the bland colors and finishes are there, it is harder to see the silliness of the design, so I am going to try to draw a literal and a verbal picture for you. First, in terms of function, there is an unnecessarily small vanity with no counter space and about six inches of unused and therefore wasted space on either side. It has 3 ridiculous little drawers, each cut out in the center to accommodate the plumbing, so no real storage to speak of, even though it is a reasonable size cabinet. This photo is taken looking straight down into the drawer – you can see the space for the plumbing cut out – and the storage gets less and less as you move down.

Added to that is an oversized modern mirror/medicine cabinet that projects out from the wall, rather than being set in and recessed. It sticks out so far it actually makes a shadow over the sink and you bump your head into in when you lean over to spit out toothpaste.

Next take a look at the floor plan. You have to open the door inwards to enter the bathroom, then move all the way towards the shower in order to close it to get near the toilet. Now this bathroom was entirely new construction, so there were other options when building it, such as a pocket door. While I am no real fan of the pocket door, if ever a space called for one, than this is it. I hit my head on the door edge all the time, when turning from the sink to move towards the toilet, and not realizing the door is partially open. This architectural change is a must, whether or not I visually tweak the bathroom.

If you are not a floorplan lover, the photos below give a sense of the awkwardness.

And finally, the aesthetic part, which shouldn’t matter so much to me, but it does. The vanity is the worst kind of “faux French” and could not be less in sync with the style of the house. Stylistically, the modern mirror looks all wrong with the ornate vanity. The color in the room is all an unpalatable pinky peachy beige – the tiles, the walls, the ceiling – everything. Now, I love pink, and actually the master bedroom outside the door is painted Farrow & Ball’s Calamine, a wonderful dull grayed pink, as soft as it is pretty. But when it comes to bathrooms, I am a white tile and fixture kind of girl and I have just not been nor continue to be sure what to do with this mish mash. There is simply no way to pull it all out as it is new and clean. I just have to find a way to make some functional and cosmetic fixes. But the big question is when do “small” fixes cross the line in effort and expense? Would I be better off leaving it and living with it and going whole hog at some later date?

My actual fantasy bathroom is this well-known “English Bohemian” one from the beloved defunct Domino. But as the budget doesn’t call for a full gut and frankly, I can’t make the square footage materialize out of thin air, I’ll just sigh and file it away. (I will note that my bedroom has 2 beautiful threadbare Laver Kirman rugs, much like the one on the floor here.)

I had stewed on it endlessly, but still had no ideas on how to manage some kind of smaller improvement to the space. And then, voilà, just like that, I stumbled across this photo in my files of a bathroom decorated by the renowned Phoebe Howard and it gave me just what I needed. So here is the usual pitch I always give people – save inspiration photos whenever you find them. You just never know when you will need them. They give visual language to unformed ideas and can clarify and communicate thoughts that would otherwise be impossible to relate.

For me, there are a few key components here. The French mirror, pinky Indian inspired wallpaper, and jewelry faucet. I have to skip the mounted bowl sink as it is powder room friendly, not master bath friendly, and sweet husband has used his rare veto. Frankly, it doesn’t go with the house either. But I am not looking to slavishly copy this photo anyway, just to use it for exactly what I have named it for – inspiration.

First, the French mirror.

This turned put to be an easy fix thanks to a gift from a friend. Her mom runs a small antique shop in the old icehouse attached to The Gatehouse Country Inn in Shawnee on Delaware, PA. The mirror is in great condition – the circle in the center is just from the flash. In this photo you can really see clearly how silly the vanity is and how much space is wasted. (And I know some of you are thinking it is pretty, but trust me, in person, it truly is not!). One of the immediate practical improvements is the mirror sits directly against the wall and does not get in your way or cast a shadow. And if nothing else, it goes stylistically with the vanity below, unlike the former modern mirror. What is humorous though, is how the French mirror feels right – it feels eclectic – while the faux French vanity still feels wrong.

Next Wallpaper.

I keep thinking I can ignore the floor and shower tiles and think of them as a neutral background, which would work, except for the fact that they come around and line the area behind the sink, rising high to about 4 feet. In trying to simply ignore the tile work, I need a wallpaper with a white background, and some soft pink. Since the whole house has a bit of “Out of India” meets “The Orient Express” what better than spying Les Indiennes‘ new Madame de Montreuil wallpaper in a Vogue feature in February of 2010, soon after we had bought the house. I carried the photo around all winter and ran right into John Derian‘s as soon as I got home to see it in person. Loved it!

Here you can it featured in a room on remodelista. I just adore the feel of this and think it might actually look OK with that tile.

But alas, my sweet husband was a spoil sport. Our first priority upon taking possession of our house last summer just could not be wallpapering a perfectly good bathroom. There were serious things to fix first, including changing the bathroom door to a pocket one, which does actually involve tearing out the sheet rock and would need to be done before the wallpapering. His further point centered on the practicality of very expensive wallpaper in a bathroom with no window or ventilation.

I was not discouraged though! My new budget plan was to make my own woodblock print “wallpaper” by stamping directly onto the walls. I had long admired the hand printed canopy the talented Lauren Liess of Pure Style Home had made for her son’s nursery. I believe it was actually a stencil, but somewhat the same idea.

And everyone had been talking about stencils including the second issue of newish online shelter magazine House of Fifty. Courtney over at Style Court had actually block printed a pillow by herself, and it came out beautifully.

So while in Singapore on my “evacuation vacation” last spring I made sure to buy a few pretty floral woodblocks, a bit like those in the Les Indiennes’ wallpaper. I had huge dreams of the best DIY project and post for the summer of 2011 but life got in the way. And as we still hadn’t put in the pocket door…

I also came across this extremely pretty Nichola wallpaper by Mally Skok, which feels both 18th century and modern at the same time and is less expensive than the Les Indiennes paper. I adore Skok’s entire line of fabrics and wallpapers and promise a full post in the new year!

Definitely Change the Vanity

From both the form and function point of view, the vanity has to be changed. If I wanted to stay with dark wood, something like this simple Schuyler Samperton elegance would be ideal. (Note another favorite of mine – the butler’s trolley.) But in this photo, the lovely wallpaper extends behind and around the vanity. In my bathroom, the tile work extends up the wall behind and to the side, so ideally I would like to remove it. When I checked with the contractor, assuming it would be easy, he pointed out that it created a chain of events, all the way to having to take out the shower doors, cut new tiles and locate some extra bullnose tiles. That seems to be getting awfully close to actually re-doing the bathroom, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

So what about an antique piece like this? The softly colored marble might neutralize the ugly tile work on the wall, although it doesn’t provide the practical storage I need.

But if I don’t take down the tiles, is a dark wood cabinet the answer? Is it different enough from what is there already to make the effort? Might a smarter choice be a neutral painted cabinet that blended into the tile? Well, if I had the answer to that one, then I’d be showing you a photo here. From an aesthetic point of view, I could finally pull out the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint I have been recommending to everyone and use it to paint the vanity, but that wouldn’t change the fact that I can’t store anything taller than 4 inches in those drawers.

The fun and the ease of decorating the room lies in the details. Additional design ideas include using my bits of pink lusterware and pink depression glass that I have managed to acquire over the years. These lustreware displays are from my files, I assume from Martha Stewart Living, but I can’t find the credit.

Luckily for me, there is no tile on the far side of the bathroom behind or around the toilet!

Here’s a little mock-up of the area over the toilet with the Nichola wallpaper sample and some pink lusterware cups on a vintage display shelf alongside my favorite Jo Malone Red Roses summer mixers.

So I am at a loss. To sum up, I need to change the door to a pocket door – that has to be done no matter what – and needs to be done before any other work. I need to change the wall treatment, whether with wallpaper or a DIY block print project. I can add cute accessories. But do I change the vanity? Do I tear out the tile? Do I gut the whole thing and start over? I wrote this post, more for myself than you dear readers, in the hope that it would clarify these issues, but I am still unsure. I would absolutely relish comments!!!

On another note. I am loving Mally Skok’s Nichola so much that I am considering fabric in another colorway for the renovated downstairs bathroom. The aqua/sand color has such a different feel, almost coral-like, a bit like the Min Hogg fabrics and papers I had considered for there too.

Don’t you think it would be perfect for a soft roman blind in here?

And while the shelves are not fully built yet, I couldn’t resist styling a few accessories for a sneak peek in there.

This is truly a plea for help! I hope someone out there has the bit of inspiration I need!

Related Post:
Renovation Report…”Oldating” the Beach House Bathroom

Yamamura Really Got Around…More Details on His Suitcase Travels

The large spark of interest created by Yamamura’s suitcase and story (screenplay anyone?) have pushed me to continue on in my investigations. While I have sorted out the large label (Dairen Mansyu Hotel in Manchuria) and medium label (Onnuri Ryokan in Seoul, Korea) on this side of the suitcase, the only challenge that remained was the smallest label on the bottom in this photo. Further research (with great help from my reader Mary) reveals it to be a Japanese owned ryokan that was popular in Shanghai in the between-the-war period. The kanji escaped me, but not her –  常盤館 – and we think it is pronounced Tokiwakan. No photos of it from the period, or any additional labels, but the building is still standing in China and here is how it looks today. I don’t find it hard to close my eyes and imagine a more glamorous past life for the run down structure – actually all of the old foreign areas of Shanghai still feel like a movie set to me.

To do a truly thorough job of exploring Yamamura-san’s travels, it seemed that we needed to track down each and every hotel, so the next challenge was the other label on the right hand side of this photo. While the label says Japan Hotel in English, the kanji identifies it as the Fusokan or Fusangkuan in Beijing.

Yamamura’s label is pretty tame, but here are two jazzier examples.

An undated photo of the Fusokan reveals multiple forms of transportation, from autos to rickshaws. My guess is early 1930s, right around the time Yamamura may have stayed there.

Finding this hotel advertising flyer, with its drawing of the Temple of Heaven, seems to confirm its nearby location.

Mary also discovered that Japanese short story writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa stayed at the Fusokan for about a month in 1921.

The label on the left in my original photo (which I am showing once again above as this all starts to get a bit confusing) says Shenyo Hotel Mubuden, and I had hypothesized in my original post that perhaps it was an alternate spelling for Mukden in Manchuria. I continue to believe they are the same place, perhaps one is a regional name and the other the city. The kanji can also be read as Hoten, making this the Shenyo or Shinyo Hotel, as seen in these alternative labels below.

These great labels came from another collector’s suitcase, and if your Japanese is good, you can read more about them here.

This photo shows Hoten in Manchuria, called Shenyang today in China, around 1931.

While we are still on this side of the suitcase, let’s finish by showing a great view of the Anto Hotel (the middle sticker). I had a view of it from the train station in the original post, but you can really see the size and the art deco grandeur of it here…

…and the strength of the Japanese presence in Manchuria made so perfectly clear by this card – sakura season!!!!!

So we know Yamamura made his way around China, including Manchuria, Shanghai, and Beijing, as well as Seoul, Korea. The one clue I still haven’t acted upon is the fairly modern meishi (business card) in the luggage tag. It is newer than the suitcase and has a different family name and an address in Osaka, but still the possibility to reveal more about our mysterious Mr. Yamamura.

Again, thanks to Mary and as always, my sweet husband, without whom this post could not have been written. If there was ever anything to give that kick I am needing to work on my kanji, this might be it!

Quickly before I go to publish – I saw this set of 3 vintage leather suitcases in a design store today in New Jersey. A perfectly proportioned stack, with a price tag to match, but no back story. Nonetheless, I was tempted…

Related Posts:
If Only This Suitcase Could Talk
Research From a Reader…More On Yamamura-san’s Suitcase

Image credits: 1,3, 8 & 15. me, 2. The Weblog With Osaka Dialect, 4-7. The World of Hotel Label, 9-11., 12. eurodollers flickr, 13-14. International Center for Chinese Studies

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