French antiques

Expat Decorating…An Updated Master Bedroom

Doha master bedroom

So I want to relieve you of the suspense I left you in as of my last post and show you the current chapter in the story of my striped curtains. They have never looked better and ironically seem to have been custom designed for their new home framing the little charming arched windows that made me want this house in the first place. The rest of the bedroom has been updated too and I want to talk a little bit about that process, especially in response to all the inquiries I have been having lately about how to think about changing or modernizing a space when you have limited resources and no ideas on how to start. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the items in our bedroom, but here in Doha (and to a certain extent in Tokyo) they had started to feel too ‘Paris flea market’ if such a thing is possible. Almost all the furniture is 19th century antique French – even my winter duvet is made from antique document print curtain panels sourced at les puces. The tiny French night stands shown below in our Tokyo bedroom were purchased originally for a New York bedroom so small that there was barely 18 inches on the side of the bed and both they and the sweet lamps were completely insubstantial in our new cavernous Doha bedroom.

French night stand trimmed lamp striped curtains

By choice and by the default based on availability I talked about last time, the rest of the house had brightened with a more modern eclectic mix and the bedroom needed to join in that party. For years in Tokyo I had been dreaming of getting my gray painted walls again but now, with the gray tiled floor, everything felt too gray and too subtle. The room was screaming for some color punctuation, although I did not want to lose its overall soothing vibe. So the starting point was to think about what might be easy to change like textiles, bedding and accessories, using a Pinterest board and inspiration photos as a way to narrow down choices and test combinations.

My main inspiration came from two very different bedrooms, by two very different style designers. The first one, by Bunny Williams is in a formal Park Avenue apartment, full of gorgeous storied antiques.  The mirrored bed is a 1930s piece by French designer/artist Serge Roche. The headboard is upholstered in a spectacular Indian-inspired silk embroidery by Naeem Khan.  You can see more of this space in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Social Diary.

Bunny Williams NYC bedroom via WSJ mirrored bed

Vignettes of collected objects and art, as well as simple white ruffled linens against a soft color palette speak to the antiquarian in me. Much of the furniture is from a similar place and time as mine.

Bunny Williams bed embroidery detail dresser 2 views

The other bedroom is in a 1940s home in Charleston, designed by Angie Hranowsky and featured in Lonny Magazine. It is often referred to in blog posts on ‘boho glam’ or some other silly name as it unexpectedly combines casual elements such as a rattan headboard with a more glamorous material like the mirrored nightstands.

Angie Hranowsky lavender bedroom yellow lamps mirrored night stands boho

The lavender is of course my long standing favorite, but the unexpected surprise of the yellow is what really captured my attention, along with the incredible textile mix against simple white sheets.

angie-hranowsky-bedroom-lavender-yellow-mirrored night stands boho two views

So what binds these two very different spaces together? You might say nothing, but for me, they are filtered through the lens of what I have to work with plus the feeling I want to create. The Bunny Williams bedroom has a softened pretty formality that I can’t escape with the majority of the furniture I already own. The Angie Hranowsky bedroom has relaxed vibe I’d like to add, along with a color palette I adore. The actual binding between them is in the mirrored pieces (bed and night stands) and the handmade textiles – the Indian embroidery above Williams’ bed and the tapestry, bolster pillow and block printed John Robshaw quilt in the Hranowsky bedroom. I knew an embroidered ethnic textile – I was thinking suzani or something similar originally – would soften the formality of the furniture and bring in the color and visual interest I was looking for. But from a practical point of view, my husband and I are duvet sleepers and nothing will change that. I didn’t want a fussy extra coverlet that served no purpose other than display. As luck would have it, a ready-made savior came in the form of the Safia Embroidered Duvet Cover from Anthropologie. It is so perfect, it’s as if I conjured it, with its Indian applique and embroidery and exact color palette.

safia embroidered duvet crane canopy gray scallop sheets It didn’t hurt either that it coupled perfectly with the new Gray Scalloped Embroidered Sheets Set from Crane & Canopy and my other vintage white bed linens.

safia embroidered duvet cover crane canopy gray scallop sheeets master bedroom

Another key component of all the inspiration spaces I was using was mirror – for two main reasons. The original impetus was to add another material, another finish, to all the wood furniture. Part of what kept the room trapped in the past was that lack of variety, and even though the bed frame is painted, everything else is medium to dark wood tone. A mirrored surface provides much needed contrast while also being dressy enough to hold its own with the French antiques. But the second reason – the expat reason of its possible availability – is what truly made it compelling. As I’ve mentioned before, the local population here likes very glitzy interiors so I knew that somewhere out there something along the lines of what I was looking for existed. While my fantasy tables were of the vintage 1940s variety like these on the left from 1stdibs, settling for these brand new ones from the main mass market furniture store here in Doha didn’t feel like such a terrible compromise. The fact that they were also a fraction of the price didn’t hurt and honestly, their modernity, their newness, provides even more needed contrast with the rest of the room.

French 1940's Mirrored Night Stands home center new Other inspiration photos included one detail again and again – simple yellow ceramic gourd or vase-shaped lamps like the ones in the Angie Hranowsky bedroom, here in two stand-out rooms by Miles Redd and Bailey McCarthy. Most are Christopher Spitzmiller, which once again is not available here (although those of you in New York right now can go to the last day of his Summer Seconds Sale today!!!!) nor are there many similar options. This was a situation in which local sourcing just wasn’t going to happen. On a trip to Hong Kong last November I hunted for a pair of Imperial yellow porcelain vases to convert to lamps, but had no luck either.

Miles Redd bedroom Bailey McCarthy Spitzmiller yellow lamp mirror night stand

That left the internet, which is sometimes the only option when you know you want something very specific. I was obsessed with the gorgeous pair of yellow lamps on the left from Palm Beach Antiques Center, but no matter how I tried to spin it, they were way too large and a bit too orange. I’m still in love with their shape and luster and they are still available along with numerous other beauties. In the end, One Kings Lane delivered with this pair of more vase-shaped lamps with a Chinese mount. They were a bargain – especially if you compare similar pieces on 1st dibs (subtract an entire digit from those prices). And for another expat homily, sometimes the price of doing business and living your life is costly shipping. Luckily, I had finally joined Aramax, an international shipping service that delivers here pretty reliably and at fairly reasonable cost. Since the lamps were a bargain, paying their price over again in shipping was worth it. All in, they still cost less than many other choices.

yellow lamp pair palm beach antiques and one kings lane

The combination is bringing me great visual pleasure and the functionality of the taller, more substantial lamps and the extra drawer space the night stands provide can’t be beat.

Doha Master Bedroom uodated yellow imperial vase lamp mirror night stand

The room is not finished, but has certainly made strides in the right direction. Finding a floor covering is high on my list as getting out of bed to those acres of cold tiles isn’t very nice. In typical expat style I brought a giant empty suitcase with me on a quick trip back to the US a few weeks ago and stuffed it with a giant wool flokati rug. It never made it up to the bedroom, getting hijacked by the living room along the way, where there were also acres of cold tiles. I’d love to add a chaise or other comfy chair to the corner next to the settee, where some old world crystal sconces have been hung on either side of a trio of painterly lithographs by Japanese printmaker Keisuke Yamamoto. What an interesting coincidence that these prints are all about the arches and now they are hanging in a bedroom that is kinda all about the arches too. I happened to stumble across these yellow pillows in the housewares isle of our local supermarket (!) so I grabbed them, knowing they wouldn’t be there if I hesitated. Playing around with other pillow choices on the Pinterest board.

master bedroom settee Keisuke Yamamoto

Along those lines of mixing old and new, I’d like to find a great piece of abstract art to hang over the bed, a little like this combo in a room designed by Amanda Nisbet. Although I’m laughing a bit, as the night table lamps remind me so much of my old ones – they could use a little beefing up I think.

Amanda Nisbet french bed lavender modern art

Those little lamps have been relocated to atop the dresser, in similar style to the Bunny Williams bedroom. I’m still working on the gallery wall here, grouping antique sketches and etchings.

master bedroom dresser

Miles to go before I sleep…well no, not really. Actually, the house is in substantial shape as I ready myself to leave in two days for the next ten weeks of summer, where I’ll be turning my attention to our beloved beach cottage. See you there!

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Expat Decorating…Getting Lucky and Making Do

He Giveth…And He Taketh Away

french chairs

So I have been promising this story for ages and it is a good thing that I hadn’t told it as it developed a surprise ending yesterday. Design resources here in Doha are in some ways more limited and in other ways less limited than they were in Japan, but for everyone back in the USA, it really is a struggle to source items that you all have in such abundance of selection. This story might have been part of a larger post on decorating as an expat – entitled “Getting Lucky or Making Do” perhaps? – but now I think it is entitled to its own show.

Those of you who have been reading along with me these past months know from this post and this post that I snagged 3 French style fauteuils for free early this fall. They have been an integral part of my design scheme for our dining room, which has been proceeding nicely.

dining room progress

Along with the chairs I also got a huge marquetry desk with gold mounts and an inlaid leather blotter. It may sound potentially ugly and it certainly is a bit over the top, but it arrived on my horizon as if it had been an answer to a prayer. As you may also know, I’ve been working on redesigning my elder daughter’s bedroom. Her Pinterest board is full of Moroccan shaped upholstered headboards in interesting fabrics, monogrammed hotel linens, simple night stands and gourd/vase-shaped porcelain lamps. Basically, it is a look that is super popular right now and in her case, Ashley Whittaker has been her go-to designer for inspiration.

Ashley Whittaker House Beautiful bedroom suzani

Circumstances make it such that like the Whittaker room below, we too bought the IKEA Malm 3 drawer dresser to use as night tables. There are not a lot of other choices to be had and its simplicity and large storage capacity is unbeatable. We discussed using mirrors and O’verlays to create our own IKEA hack and make the Malm look like the dressers above, but decided we were perfectly happy with it on its own.

ashley whittaker bedroom HB

The trouble for me in all this was that the room had become too full of bright white furniture and was starting to feel childlike or worse perhaps, have that blogger-on-a-budget look. It needed some weight, some gravitas, some wood to ground it. Had I been at home, I would have trotted off to some antique/consignment/thrift shop and picked up an interesting wood desk in an afternoon. That isn’t possible here so I thought a bit and realized that what might be perfect – and more importantly available – would be a French style desk. As I have mentioned before, decorating here has a tendency to run to the super ornate brocade/damask/gilded avenues, but a piece or two plucked out and used in a tongue-in-cheek manner in a different environment could be perfect. And certainly a little OTT can be just right for a teen’s room. I mentioned it to my family that night at dinner and my daughter thought it sounded like a fun idea.

The very next day I was visiting a friend over at her large compound (think gated community if that word is just too weird) and as we were taking a walk we passed a villa (glamorous sounding but basically a house) that is used for compound storage. In the open car park stood a bunch of washers and dryers, metal bed frames and other detritus, but more importantly a huge desk in full Continental style with ormolu mounts and dark blue leather top. It was so exactly what I had been thinking of that I couldn’t believe it. Even the leather blotter was blue! It was covered in sand and dust and had just been sitting out there getting ruined. Tucked in a corner under cover were the three chairs, so dusty you couldn’t see the color of their upholstery. While not antiques in any way, they were good pieces of furniture with definite potential and needed saving. My regret from that day is that I didn’t think to snap a photo so you could see how trashed they were getting.

My friend proceeded to call her compound manager and over the next few weeks they determined that nobody needed or wanted the furniture and they gave it to me gratis. Because they were free I was particularly satisfied with them – one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth after all! I spent a good day cleaning them and I worked on the desk with some lemon oil and slowly it emerged. Since the room is in no way finished, I don’t have real photos, but here is a quick snapshot. We are planning to turn the tall vase into a desk lamp and be sure to note my small IKEA hack – I painted the legs of the Snille desk chair with old gold spray paint to make the modern chair integrate with the antique looking desk. The room was really beginning to come together.

photo

So the closing of this post should have been some kind of musing on fate and luck. Instead, I got a call yesterday from the aforementioned compound manager. It turns out that the furniture didn’t actually belong to the company that leases all the properties and is actually the personal property of the Sheikh who owns the compound. And guess what? He wanted it back! So as of today, I no longer have accent dining chairs and my daughter’s books and papers are on the floor of her room. I feel a bit paralyzed about going forward. Do I look for just the same things? Do I try something different? I love the serendipity of the find and now that has been snatched away. Your thoughts?

Related Posts:
(Fabric) Bordering on Obsession
Tussle at the Antique Jamboree…or the Never Wait Rule

Image Credits: Ashley Whittaker photos via Ashley Whittaker and House Beautiful

Instagram…Another Bandwagon I’m Getting On

Today was a crisp and very cold day at the Oedo market at the International Forum, but as usual there was lots to see and plenty to buy. I have been wanting to find a way to start sharing what I am seeing at the markets every week, but when there isn’t a theme or cohesive feeling about the merchandise I find it fairly boring to post about. I have been thinking that real-time photos of what I am buying, both for myself and for sale, might be more fun and more interesting for both me and for my readers. So as of today, my plans are to start instagramming (is that a verb yet?) while I am out and about at shrine sales and antique shows. So if you would like to keep up with me, you can follow me on Instagram on your mobile device here.

One of the fun parts of Instagram if you haven’t tried it is playing with the filters and the framing to add special effects to your photos. Typical me, I like all the filters that give an aged feel…

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…and I am a sucker for those old-fashioned photo borders…

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…or burned edges.

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I already made a faux pas in editing this photo down so that it didn’t fit the Instagram format.  Won’t make that mistake again.

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The photos have the perfect format for a blog post – a nice big square. There is also a very effective exposure button, used to fun effect here.

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This art deco mirror glows like a jewel using one of the filters.

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Kasuri kimonos seem lit from within.

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As usual Oedo was full of European goods, these lace patterns being some of my favorites.

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No lack of British goods either. This collection rivals any I’ve seen in English antique shops.

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Couldn’t resist these door knockers – just for Steve at An Urban Cottage.

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And you know you want it…If you see items you want to buy, just let me know via email.

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I made a couple of wonderful scores for myself, including this handmade folksy heart chair. It has a beautiful grey-blue wash paint and is soooo much prettier than it looks in this photo – the only find of the day that the Instagram filters failed to enhance.

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I know just where this sweet little baby is going to go…

beach house living room

I have also been finding the most irresistible and inexpensive art lately which deserves a post of its own. But this little oval print (nothing better than a few art pieces with circles or ovals to break up a lot of rectangles) is headed to my youngest daughter’s room at the beach…

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…along with this chiyogami you may remember from here. She begged me to hold it back for her from the sale so I did.

chiyogami 5

Won’t they look so sweet in here?

miss p beach bedroom

I am going to try to add the Instagram button to my sidebar, probably right below the Pinterest one. But I am including the link here again, in case I am not successful.

Related Posts:
Like La Brocante…French Day at Oedo Antiques Fair
Paper for a Thousand Years…Vintage Chiyogami

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

My Kitchen Island is Back on the Table

Just been perusing the Jayson Home Fall Flea Market full of to-die-for antiques and other items, when I spied this late 19th century marble-topped cast iron table from France…

Close-up

…And this Belgian one with a salvaged oak top.

Close-up

Now I have talked a lot about the perfect kitchen island for my tiny Victorian beach cottage here. And just a few weeks ago I waxed endlessly about my long-term dream island from Peri Wolfman’s house here. And we all know that whatever I choose will be antique, but all of a sudden, the particular charm of a cast iron table base has really caught my attention. It wasn’t just these offerings at Jayson Home either. I saw one, brought all the way from France, at the Oedo market that day out shopping with Peri. I loved it – it was sold of course – and I wasn’t dragging it back to the US anyway (imagine the carbon footprint on transport from France to Japan to the USA). But I think the idea has been germinating in the back of my mind for a while.

The more I think about it I realize the idea is not a new one for me. I looked at a similar one this summer in Asbury Park at the great cast iron and garden furniture store.

It had a great rusty patina (I can hear some of you chuckling at that idea) but I also might have considered painting it. It was actually too small and once again sold to boot, but I liked the idea then. It was also missing its marble top.

Side view

So I went off to check that magic market of all things – eBay – and came up with a few gorgeous, but wildly expensive options (the items at Jayson have pretty hefty price tags too), including this 1920s French marble-topped butchers table with bull head details.

Amazing, but too large and at over $8000, definitely not the answer. But liking this idea…What say you all???

Image credits: 1-4. Jayson Home, 5-9. me, 10-11. via sillyrabbits95428q90

Related Posts:
Ingenious Repurposing…Unusual Kitchen Islands and Printers Drawers
What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table

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