Katie Leede

Botanicals…Eternal History and Science in Art and Decor


In Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions & Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press 2012), [Daniela] Bleichmar uses this vast (and gorgeous) archive of botanical images assembled by Spanish natural history expeditions to explore the connections between natural history, visual culture, and empire in the eighteenth century Hispanic world. In beautifully argued chapters, Bleichmar explores that ways that eighteenth century natural history expeditions were grounded in a visual epistemology where observation and representation were powerful tools for negotiating both scientific and imperial spheres. The “botanical reconquista” spanned fields, shops, gardens, and cabinets across the New World and the Old. Botanists, artists, and others employed images for collaboration and competition, developing distinct styles and practices for observing and representing the natural world.

-Carla Nappi in New Books for Science, Technology and Society

Does that sound as divine to you as it does to me? I haven’t actually had a glimpse of this book, other than the pages I have managed to see on the internet, but it has sent me dreaming…Dreaming of the images themselves and to quote Carla Nappi who interviewed Daniela Bleichmar here, the “possibility of doing history with images, of images, by images.” Looking at Bleichmar’s accomplishments has me dreaming perhaps of all the “might have beens” in my life as well. Krista over at Cloth & Kind wrote a really personal blog post the other day about showing more of herself on her blog and it made me think a lot about mine and myself too. I majored in history – which was the right choice – because the department allowed the most cognates and I could squeeze in all my art and language courses. But the might have beens stack up after that – what if I had actually pushed to write my thesis on a topic that really engaged me and not my advisor? what if I had actually gone back to grad school after my daughter was born and now had all the right academic credentials after my name? what if…

Instead I have found an outlet through this blog and my personal relationships with friends, clients and readers in which we bond over visual and material culture. Sometimes there is meat in the conversation and other times it is a lot of candy. I’m not always sure whether you all want more nutrition or just snacks, but I think I need a balance of both. And perhaps the best part about what I do is not the academic part, but the actual finding, touching and using the art and artifacts I find along the way and sharing that adventure through stories and sales with you all.

There are some folks out there – Steven Gambrel being one of them – that have the link down pat in the interiors they design. In probably one of his most popular rooms ever (does anyone not have this one pinned?) featuring a slew of traditional botanicals framed and hung in a grid, Gambrel creates a space with just the right mix of science and art.

S Gambrel botanicals

Gambrel pushes the envelope and succeeds in the bathroom of his 1810 house in Sag Harbor, lined with pages from a reprint of Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, a famous tome of detailed engravings commissioned by the 18th century Dutch naturalist Albertus Seba.

Steven Gambrel Cabinet of Curiosities ED pc WW

Katie Leede uses the same book to paper the walls in her beadboard clad bathroom, a standout in her standout home featured here. This much science seems to need a vintage home to feel right.

Katie Leede World Travelers Abode curiosities bathroom

A version of this on a grand scale, scientific teaching tool charts, both original and reproduction, are a huge trend right now.

botanical poster twin beds organic block prints via loft and cottage

botanical poster art

Lauren Liess of Pure Style Home used them so prettily in her old home – I am curious to see if they resurface in her new one?

Botanical marsh marigold Lauren Leiss

botanical prints oversized lauren liess repros

Steven Gambrel used traditional botanicals in the room at the top of the post, papers a bathroom as a cabinet of curiosities and also manages to get in on the wall chart trend. He always has fun using unexpected works on paper in many projects – you can see some other choices here.

Steven Gambrel botanical chart ED pc WW

Fern prints are another kind of botanical that never seem to grow old to me, whether in this fairly recent Markham Roberts designed hallway (in my mind’s eye I had remembered it being Gambrel as well, which would have been more fun for the synchronicity of the post)…

Markham Roberts fern prints HB1008 pc Francesco Lagnese

…or this forever room from Jeffrey Bilhuber, featured in a 1997 issue of House Beautiful. I went looking for this image digitally, but of course no luck, and as my scanner is out of commission, I’ll have to make do with this photo of a photo.  There is also a short video featuring this room of Bilhuber’s, among other of his notables, here.

Jeffrey Bilhuber ferns HB 0697

Japanese katagami, or fabric printing stencils, are usually pretty thematically Japanese as they were used predominantly for kimono fabrics.  But I recently found this extraordinary set – I am not sure what they printed and/or what it was for – that approximate very closely a traditional Western fern botanical.


I am thinking of sandwiching them in modern plexiglass frames and hanging them I have no idea where!


Herbiers, the pressed live botanicals which I have so recently written about, are just a way for average folk to get in on adding science to their own art collections if you ask me. Of course right after I wrote that post the new February House Beautiful featured this gorgeous herbier covered bedroom by Will Merrill

Will Merrill-HB0213-herbiers pc Simon Watson

…and in researching another post I remembered writing about this Victoria Hagan project here from a 1999 House Beautiful, that also showcased herbiers…

Victoria Hagan HB 06-99 pc William Waldron

…which led me to this farm sink/bridge faucet combo on that same project. As an aside, remember that this project is almost 15 years old  – so those sinks are definitely not a trend.  And the whole space still feels fresh and I’ll be featuring another room from this project in an upcoming post.

Victoria Hagan HB 0699

Getting back on tangent, I also happened to be reading The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (gotta love that cover!). The story of the novel didn’t catch me, but the back drop of the history of evolution playing out against the politics and mores of the time did.  It makes me want to read another of her books – Darwin’s Ghosts – which chronicles those they came before and influenced and inspired him.

The Coral Thief61212-review.jpg_full_600

Which made me think this might need a re-read…

Angels & Insects

…and a re-watch. Although it is moths and butterflies, not botanicals. But I could write a whole post about those too!.


The more I worked on this post, the more I realized how many botanical prints and works of art I had, from 18th century European to modern-day Japanese.  These are late 19th century Japanese from the Antique Jamboree and the now defunct Nogi Shrine sale:

framed Japanese botanical prints

I think that may be why I am drawn certain hanga artists  – for their botanical accuracy – such as Shinji Ando…

…and Rise Hirose.

rise hirose

In the beach house I’ve gone with more traditional 18th and 19th century botanical prints, gleaned from the local New Jersey antique shops I am always raving about, like this one below (can’t remember what folio it is from) which I bought as much for the French mat and frame as anything else. I’ve got two others framed the same hiding in the closet because I have no room for them!

botanical print bennison roses swedish

Remember that pair of sister Maund prints I found last summer?

Maund Prints

They are each safely ensconced in the correct sister’s room.

Maund printIMG_0350

So the questions for you are the following…More meat and potatoes? Or lots of cotton candy? And do you also sometimes dwell on the “might have beens”?

There are more related posts than I can possibly list – the links to them are found throughout the text wherever the subject is mentioned.  But if you liked this post you might want to read the one below.

Related Posts
The Life of Objects…Stories of Paintings, Pottery and Netsuke in Edmund de Waal’s “The Hare With Amber Eyes”

Weaving in Global Antiques…Katie Leede’s World Traveler’s Abode

Sorry for the radio silence – it has been almost two weeks and the longest break I have taken from blogging in these past two years! But summer and family time took some precedence which I am sure you can all understand. I’ve been busy catching up on my blog reading myself, so thanks to Krista at Cloth & Kind for sending me over to see this wonderful project. Today’s post is eye candy of the purest kind –  a detailed pitch-perfect home designed by Katie Leede – that has tons of lessons to impart, particularly to my readers trying to achieve that eclectic meld of East and West. I usually only post a few photos and send people to view the designer’s own link, but I found that I could barely get myself to leave any of the fabulous images photographed by Lisa Romerein out!

In addition to many of the usual Asian pieces, there are lots of great antique Anglo-Indian pieces throughout the home. Anglo-Indian furniture is another favorite of mine because like everything I love, it was created from the mix of two cultures, the colonizing British and the local Indian craftsmen. Victorian details ended up stylized and simpler, particularly in the dark rosewood and ebony, making it perfect for modern interiors, the entry bench below being a great example. Mixed with a well-worn Persian on the floor, some suzani pillows and a modern painting, it certainly says “hello.”

The living room has some fun pieces like the elephant head (and tusks!) side table and what looks like Brigitte Singh’s “Poppy on Cream” Indian block print on the windows.

A pair of Anglo-Indian plantation chairs with a Chinese style drum between them anchors another corner.

Who doesn’t have a traditional Colonial Revival sideboard or dining table like this – or at least their parents or grandparents have one? Updated here with Chinese style chairs, the ever popular Italian-style wooden chandelier and that fantastic looking Japanese screen (which I wish I could see more closely).

And this combo seen up close from the photo above – European painting, Imari bowl, prayer hand, and painted serpentine front chest.

The King Kong poster makes me chuckle every time I look at it and really enlivens this darker space.

The expansive family room has bits from everywhere and looks divinely comfortable.

The bedroom has another of those bold Anglo-Indian pieces, in this case the bed, but it is the furniture and textiles at the other end of the room that really grab my attention.

The painted Scandinavian cupboard, block printed curtain and to quote Krista, “that bench!”

Is the daybed South East Asian? Balinese? Thai? And I have no idea what the art really is, but it sure reminds me of work by modern Japanese printmakers like Shuji Wako.

This photo might be the dearest to my heart as it a more colorful and busy version of the woodblock print “wallpaper” I have been long planning for my master bathroom. In fact, as I type, my trusty contractor is working on installing the long-awaited pocket door! Yeah! More on that soon.

Who doesn’t love this witty fabric covered headboard? Does anyone else see Hokusai’s masterpiece The Great Wave off Kanagawa or is it just me? Add in a small painted Chinese chest, a Madeline Weinrib indigo rug, some Japanese prints and those fabulous reticulated lamps and this bedroom is amazing.

Love the details in the kids room too – I could write an entire post with the number of fabric canopied bed photos I have in my inspiration files.

I am always suggesting and selling screens and ranma for use as headboards, but love the novel ideal of upholstering one for comfort. Another amazing textile mix in this guest room too.

And I can’t resist including this final image of what I believe must be the pool house bathroom, papered as a cabinet of curiosities with antique (or antique looking) botanical and specimen prints. Yowza!

For more on Katie, check out her interview over at Cloth & Kind. Enjoy!

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

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