Monthly Archives: July 2012

Opportunity Knocks…Shopping, Storing and Saving Stuff for Later

So I have been thinking a lot about what I wrote in my last post, about considering buying that French marble pastry table even though I don’t have a use for it right now and keeping it for some later home or project. And I did buy that vintage schoolhouse desk at the garage sale, using the “it’s too cheap and too nice to leave behind” rule. Making me think about it more was seeing the just released September issue of Elle Decor featuring Reese Witherspoon’s early Wallace Neff designed Ojai, California home. Originally built in 1923 as stables for Edward Drummond Libbey, it retains much of its original detail in great condition including hewn beams, stucco walls and iron railings and fixtures.

Decorated quite simply and elegantly by Kristen Buckingham, who is always a favorite, it has got me asking myself that same question about yet another item. Witherspoon’s daughter’s bedroom, full of soft pretty colored textiles and that great alcove bed, has a swagged 1920s tole chandelier, which is a sweet focal point.

I have been tracking a similar fixture at one of my local antiques stores for a few years now. It hangs a bit forlornly over a booth full of mid-century modern furniture, the relic of a previous dealer of Continental antiques. Not inexpensive, but not unreasonable, I have always thought about buying it, even though once again I don’t currently have a need for it. Entryway, dining room, bedroom – it could work anywhere – but will I ever need it? But if I don’t buy it will I one day regret it?

Furniture needs storage, but smaller decorative items can be tucked away. Textiles are another item easy to buy and store as they don’t take up much room. I recently shopped my own linen closet and came up with yards of this hand-printed cotton voile called Shree Teak from John Robshaw that I am using as a lynchpin in my upcoming “cheap and cheerful” kitchen renovation. Where and when I bought it, I couldn’t tell you, but having it on hand and having it be just perfect was great fun.

On the other hand I have an amazing embroidered fringed panel from an antique Chinese bed (bought in Hong Kong in 1998) still wrapped in acid-free tissue, sitting in a drawer at home in Tokyo, waiting for its eventual use. I have a vision of what I want to do with it, but the question is whether or not I will ever have the right house and the right space to do so. But even so, I don’t regret buying it for a minute!

The list of other things in storage is somewhat endless, from fabric to light fixtures, to furniture farmed out on loan to friends and relatives. What about you? Do you buy things and then put them away for the future? When you take them out, do you still love them or wonder why you bought them? Is there some item that got away that you still wistfully dream of?

Still Dreaming of a French Marble Bakers Table

So, I have been offered the chance to buy this amazing French marble-topped bakers table (expensive, but reasonable for what it is) from a friend of a friend. It is the kind of piece I have always dreamed of and written about.

Melding brass and steel, gold and silver, with its classic scrolling base and a white Carrera marble top, it is divine, much like the one I have always adored…

…in Suzanne Rheinstein‘s kitchen…

…and more recently at Charles Spada‘s Normandy Chateau.

Unfortunately, I believe that it is perhaps too large, too grand and too fancy for my humble cottage, although I am tempted to buy it anyway and keep it in the basement – it would be great for folding laundry, don’t you think? – for a future home “someday.”

In the meantime, I have been out looking for a similar style table, something with an iron base and a marble top. I saw this little cutie (much less expensive) down in Point Pleasant made from a vintage sewing machine base with an oval top added. You know what a junkie I am when it comes to repurposing!

The side view shows the nice detail on the base. Unfortunately, I think it is too small and the oval top too rounded to be very useful. You’ll see what I mean in the very next photo.

Searching online I discovered the perfect piece, with a classic French metal base and an oval top that is more like a long rectangle with curved ends, much more practical for serving and display. Unfortunately, it sold at auction somewhere in Atlanta back in March.

Just to torture myself some more, here it is in an outside view – I just love the simplicity of it.

It reminds me of a piece I spotted in a photo from Tone on Tone, Loi Thai’s gorgeous Bethesda, MD antiques store, which I have never actually visited in person, only drooled over on-line. Loi has recently started writing a great blog too, featuring his pitch perfect interiors. While I am posting this photo for the bakers table, I’d happily take anything else from the shop!

Last weekend I bought this vintage school desk at a garage sale (very inexpensive). I just could not resist those amazing ironwork supports. I thought I might replace the desk with a marble top, only it is way too low to be a practical work table. I have been thinking about ways to build up height in the legs but they all seem ugly and cluttery! If you have a good idea – let me know!

I keep coming back to this inspiration photo from stylist Lucyina Moodie. Long oval table with iron base, a lamp and some display items. And note the simple sisal like runner – that is the final decision for my white painted stairs too!

Related Posts
My Kitchen Island is Back on the Table
What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table

Image credits: 1-2, 5-6 & 10. me, 3. credit unknown, via Cote de Texas, 4. Weranda, photo credit: Andreas von Einsiedel, via Boxwood Terrace, 7-8. via Live Auctioneers, 9. via Tone on Tone, 11. Lucyina Moodie

Sheraton Style Follow-Up…John Derian’s Versatile Cove Sofa

There is simply no one who understands the charm of things from yesteryear better than John Derian. Since the day he announced his furniture line collaboration with Cisco Brothers a few years ago, I carried around the ad page (not quite as cute as the Hugo Guinness Virginia Johnson illustrated one above) featuring the 6 original pieces in the line, took it out of my inspiration folder and sighed over it regularly. He took a Sheraton sofa, a Hepplewhite settee, a Napoleon III armchair, and added to them a versatile tufted bench and stylized loveseat to make a perfect collection of vintage inspired modern-day furniture with modern-day sized people in mind. It has everything good about the original pieces with more comfort and lovely Belgian linen upholstery.

Nowhere did is show itself to better example than in his own 1789 Provincetown home, where a pair of Cove Sofas with a simple Sheraton-shape, took up roost in his living room, complete with peeling wallpaper and paint. Being John Derian, he did not renovate, but instead loved the integrity of the old finishes and details.

Funny how lighting can effect the colors in photographs! What looks like a bright yellow in the Vogue Living photo above is actually closer in color to the pale yellow in the Boston Globe photo below. You can see the corner arm of the Cove and the same throw pillow.

In a newer spread in this June’s Bon Appetit, the Cove sofa looks like it has been moved into a new location – a window niche. There is a great photo of John and his friends playing anagrams while sitting here too.

Another room in the house features the Geranium sofa, based on a Hepplewhite piece from around 1780. It is more upright, less comfy and slouchy than the Cove. I think it would make a good dining banquet.

I can’t resist sneaking in this photo of his guest bedroom too. If you are a longtime reader you know how fond I am of faux bamboo furniture. My guest bedroom here at the shore has a faux bamboo bed and dresser.

So did anything ever come of all that mournful sighing? Why is it I can rave so enthusiastically about the comfort of the Cove sofa? Well, because I have one and it solved such a design dilemma too! The beach house living room has a pair of bay windows that almost make the room seem round. When I first saw the real estate listing for the house I thought it had a turret! Turns out the windows meet in such a way that there is only one stretch of flat wall – exactly 72 inches in length – just the same as the Cove sofa. That wall had a giant radiator on it so the room seemed almost unfurnishable.  Luckily, we were able to remove the radiator, and I knew the Cove would be perfect. The back is low and comes right up to the edge of the windowsill – many modern couches would have sat way too high – so it nestles in the window embrasure just perfectly. I had a washable cotton slipcover made, both because I love the look and wanted that tiny pleated skirt, but also because I figured that the Belgian linen, while durable, might not hold up to beach house wear and tear.

Now I’ve used mine in a vintage-y kind of way – not quite the peeling paint of John Derian’s house – and mixed it with my beloved Bennison Faded Floral, Indian print textiles and Moroccan tray table. But the Cove isn’t limited to antique type designs and when styled differently can look very modern. Covered in the dark grey linen – called Vintage Steel – it takes on a very different feel.

Want that Belgian-French look? Cover it in grain sack linen.

The Cove can do pops-of-color trendy too.

Not convinced? Come by and spend an afternoon reading – you won’t want to leave!

Related Posts:
A Windsor Smith Revival…Camel-Back and Sheraton Style Sofas

Image credits: 1. Virginia Johnson via Ruthie Bird, 2. Cisco Brothers, 3. Vogue Living via Habitually Chic, 4, 6-7. via Shelter Pop, photo credit : Julia Cumes, 5. Bon Appetit June 2012, photo credit: Cedric Angeles, 8. me, 9. via Hammertown, 10. via Remodelista, 11. House Beautiful via Decor Pad

A Windsor Smith Revival…Camel-Back and Sheraton Style Sofas

So I declare that giant oversized couches and seating are officially dead. Not for me to decide or declare, but saying it anyway. Even Restoration Hardware has come out with that apologetic ad and its new Big Style, Small Spaces catalog. And as a side note, their baby and child line also has some nice smaller pieces like this iron Parisian side table I just ordered during their July 4th sale.

But back to the topic at hand! One classic piece that has fought its way back to the forefront of fashion is the camel-back sofa. Common as ice in Alaska in its big early 20th century revival, it fell out of favor as dated and grandma-ish, since everybody’s grandma had one! For me personally, it was designer Windsor Smith who led the charge in pulling it out of its old lady depths, with her oft photographed and changed example in her own home. In one of its earliest published incarnations it was a soft sea-foam green, partnered with that amazing Indian octagon coffee table I am perpetually obsessed with. I have to thank Kristen Kerr of Simply Smitten for the link to where to get one… But back to the sofa – it is the Gwen Curved Arm Sofa from Smith’s own furniture line.

Its most famous version was in her iconic pink living room, featured in House Beautiful and later put on the cover of their pink issue. I have this memory that designer Kathryn Ireland gave her the amazing blue embroidered textile she used to recover it, but I can’t remember if that is actually true.

The side angle view with that amazing upholstery job…

Here’s a later view of the same room. Sorry, while the wall art and inlaid chair are fabulous, this room looks absolutely bland with the modern sofa and table in comparison to its pink incarnation above. I love the wall color of both spaces, but wish the camel-back was still here in this one.

Never one to rest on her laurels for a minute, she is always changing things around. I am feeling too lazy to track the chronology of it all, but the ceiling moulding tells me this is a different room than the one above –  the sofa is now in her family room.

So not to get off topic into a Windsor Smith design crush or to fight with those who would argue it was Ruthie Sommers who resuscitated the camel-back on that very first Domino magazine cover – an equally valid argument in my book – I want to offer up the ready availability of these sofas in great condition at truly inexpensive prices in antique and secondhand shops around the country.  Pick a fabric, whether it be bold David Hicks style, ethnic embroidered, humble ticking, velvet, or even a more avant garde choice, and you’ll have the most modern, streamlined, practical piece for your home. The charm and comfort of them lies in the fact that almost their entire length and depth is devoted to actual seat space and not wasted on oversized puffy arms or big loose cushioned backs.

Camel-back is a casual name for a sofa with a curved center hump and scrolled arms, first encountered in the late 18th and early 19th century as the whole concept of sofas and settees was invented. Prior to that there were chairs, but the idea of sitting in comfort was new. Those three famous “cousins” Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite, cabinet makers in the late 1700s, were influential through the early to mid 1800s when styles changed, only to become popular again in the early 20th century Colonial revival craze. Those are the pieces that are easily found today.

This is how easy it is. Last week while doing the rounds at Point Pleasant Antique Emporium, I could not believe how many nice, inexpensive camel-back and Sheraton style sofas they had out on the floor.



And this was just one large multi-dealer shop! Produced in huge quantities for the last hundred years or so, those from the 20s-40s are the best made so don’t forget to shop your grandma’s attic.

I am not the only one with camel backs on my mind. Michael Penney recently sent a recovered camel-back on its merry way from his new shop – Penney and Company – covered in this fabulous blue ikat.

Ally over at From The Right Bank took a Sheraton style settee from this…

…to this, with some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and new velvet upholstery.

You all know I have been drooling about Nightwood‘s deconstructed pieces for a while now. Katy Elliott just posted their custom Parker Sofa as an idea for recovering her family heirloom camel-back. The linen upholstery on this piece has such an organic feel.

It makes such a play on its own vintage-ness by having exposed sides (and maybe back),

I’ll follow up tomorrow with my favorite modern version of a Sheraton sofa, great for those who can’t bear the thought of buying one secondhand!

Related Posts:
More Real Locations in New Jersey…Antiquing Along the Northern Shore
Ume Blooming…Maybe Pantone Should Have Called Their Color of the Year Plum Blossom?
Wabi-Sabi Essence in Brooklyn, Courtesy of Nightwood

Image credits: 1-4. via Windsor Smith, 5. Veranda January 2012 via Simply Smitten, 6. Domino via Style Court, 7-12. me, 13. via Michael Penney Style, 14-15. via From the Right Bank, 16-17. Nightwood via Katy Elliott

Summer Crafting…Paper Flowers and Paper Cuts

One of the best things about our charming beach town is the plethora of activities available all summer. From the Junior Lifeguard program, library book clubs, drop in tennis clinics, sand castle contests, movies on the beach, and regular fireworks to the crafting workshops sponsored by the local Historical Society, there is always something for the kids to do on any given day at any given time. On Monday, the girls and I participated in a wonderful paper flowers class, run by teacher and artist Laura McHugh on the lawn at Centennial Cottage in town. It was a glorious day – mid 80s and dry.

We learned how to make a number of kinds of paper flowers, including my favorites, made from vintage book pages, scrap booking paper and any other interesting ephemera – such as maps – that we had available. Both luck and my subconscious steered me towards making flowers in the soft colors of my downstairs rooms, and I am dying to figure out a way to use or display the big group above. Ideas anyone?

The basic technique was easy. A square paper was folded in a triangle, then folded again into a smaller triangle, and then the corners were folded back on each side to make yet a smaller triangle. A petal shape was cut into the top open edge of the triangles and voila, a flower upon opening. See the quick video tutorial below for details. We also used some flower punches and press rollers, all available at local craft stores, for some of our flower shapes, but I prefer being creative with the hand cut ones.

We also made classic Mexican tissue paper flowers, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid. Talk about easy and big bang satisfying! Hours of rainy day fun but we have even been continuing on sunny days! Check out the video tutorial below.

Hey, Felt So Cute, she’s hot on your trail to make the best headband ever!

Laura has written a great post on the class  – featuring lots of photos of my kids and their handiwork – which also gives a sense of the charm of the town. Take a look at her blog Vintage2Glam. We can’t wait for her July 25th class on macrame!

Last summer we did a paper cutting workshop with Mindy Shapiro that is being offered again this summer on July 27. Some friends were visiting and we all had a blast. I think she has a new project for her class this year, so we may just have to do it again.

The full calendar of events is attached here. It includes everything from this workshop to crazy quilting classes.

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