Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Favorite Posts of the Year

As I was reading my People magazine this morning, with its year end recap and the favorite movies, music, and shows of the year, I was inspired to come up with my own year end favorites list of blog posts (I did not discover design blogs until this summer, so the list only reflects postings from June-December).

These are a few that come to mind right away, without any research or review. There are many blogs out there that I read every day, and all of them are inspiring in so many ways. The following posts are but a small sampling of the many wonderful posts I have read this year.

Patricia Gray Interior Design did an amazing post on the color gray, which is so chic right now. Not only did she have wonderful and varied pictures, but she also explained the psychology of the color and other practical ways to incorporate the color into one's decor.

Brilliant Asylum did an amazing post on the stately home that served as one of the sets for the movie Atonement. I had seen the movie the day before she did the post, and it was very much on my mind. I am also an Anglophile an an architecture buff, and love to tour the stately homes in Britain that are open to the public. BA's post really struck a chord with me.

Me, Myself, & I did an amazing post on the color turquoise. Her examples were varied: art, jewelry, accessories, fabrics, interiors, architecture. It was truly a magnificent post, and probably took a lot of time to create! Well done, Me, Myself, & I.

La Dolce Vita did a great post on the Sex and the City girls and the decor of each character's apartment. She combined two of my favorite things: Sex and the City, and interior design! I loved this post SO much.

Miranda's apartment, Sex and the City

The Peak of Chic
did a great post on something that I have seen in homes, but never knew the name of: the jib door. Read the post to learn more about this intriguing architectural element.

Peak of Chic also did two fantastic posts on tablescapes - part I and part II. I liked these posts so much that I did my own tablescape post this week!

Maison21 did an informative post about the proper lighting for a successful party. I truly learned a lot reading his post, and when thinking about all of the holiday parties I attended this month, realized the truisms that he shared.

I thoroughly enjoyed the post that Jackie Blue Home made about 'snaking': the process of copying a design in its entirety. Jackie posted pictures from a Domino feature on the home of Barrie Benson, then posted pictures of the original design by Tom Scheerer. The comments on this post were so entertaining!

I could not pick just one entry from my favorite blog, Cote de Texas, so I picked three! One of my favorite posts was on sconces. I had begged Joni (via e-mail) to do a post on sconces, because so many of her own designs had such wonderful sconces featured. She did an excellent post on the topic!

The second post that comes to mind is the slipcover post. I truly saw slipcovers in a whole new light after reading this post!

Finally, I loved the post on the hallmarks of true French style. This post had such a big influence on how I see French stule, and I am thankful to Cote de Texas for sharing her vision.

Mrs. Blandings did a wonderful post about the first impression of a home: the entry. In the post, she had some beautiful and unique pictures of the entries that have inspired her through the years. It was the right post at the right time for me, and was possibly nudge that got me to refocus on my own unfinished entryway.

Another post that had a great influence on me this year was from The Inspired Room. It was a post on 'Authentic Living', and in the post Melissa says, "One of the things I crave most of all in my home is a cozy atmosphere for my family. A respite from the outside world where we can be together. I like comfy places to sit down with a book, places to light a fire or a flickering candle, inviting places to dine together and play games. Yet even if I find the time to create those surroundings, the reality is I need to set aside time to actually use them. That is the heart of authentic living for me. I need to create the spaces I want to use, and then I need to carve out the time to live in the moment. Otherwise the moment will pass on by in the blur of my to do list". Great words to live by.

From The Inspired Room

Edit: How could I have forgotten Style Court's magnificent posts as a guest on Design Sponge? They were among my favorites!!! I loved the post on Betsy Burnham; it was great interview with a great designer, written and researched so beautifully. (The Louis XV post was also fabulous!).

Finally, my favorite post from my own blog this year. I would have to say the art and design post, because art and design are two of my favorite topics and I love it when the two are combined beautifully. The pictures in this post are so inspiring to me, and I remember being particularly proud of that post.

Thank you to all of the readers out there who take the time to read my blog! I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and best wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


As I put away my Christmas decorations and reorganize the house, I usually take the opportunity to make a change in my decor. I rearrange some of the furniture, edit out some of the tchochkes (most of them are packed away at this point, to my husband's great relief), move around the artwork. I also tend to redo the 'tablescapes'. I was first introduced to this term through the Peak of Chic blog, when she did some wonderful posts (part I and part II) on the art of tablescapes.

The details of a tablescape, by a master of the tablescape, Jim Beebe Hawes of Caldwell-Beebe.

Tablescapes have been a topic of great interest to me this year, mainly because I am in the process of completely changing everything in my entryway. When I was trying to decide what kind of piece to put in my front hall, one of my fellow bloggers commented that I seemed to be more interested in the tablescapes of the pictures that I posted, rather than the specific furniture piece in the picture. There was wisdom and insight in that observation! Perhaps this is because tablescapes are really like little still lifes, which appeals to the artist in me. I really think that the creation of a beautiful tablescape is a true form of artistic expression.

Another beautiful tablescape, from the Ethan Allen catalog. The variation in height, the bowl, artwork, and arching branches create a beautiful composition.

The term 'tablescape' is attributed to the British designer David Hicks (1929-1998), and he was a master at artfully arranging and grouping everyday objects, works of art, and accessories. In Hicks' words: "What is important is not how valuable or inexpensive your objects are, but the care and feeling with which you arrange them.” Patricia Gray did a wonderful write-up of David Hicks and his timeless interiors, so no need to replicate that here, but make sure to check out her post. It is very well written and well researched, with lots of pictures of Hicks work.

A tablescape by David Hicks, from Peak of Chic

In my usual style, I did some research on tablescapes. I found an excellent guide in the principles of creating a tablescape on the website of a realtor/designer. Here are some of the basics that the author, Sandra Tuell, shared in her article.

  • Select items for your tablescape based on the size and scale of the table surface
  • Select an odd number for your composition; an old rule of thumb is that groupings of 3, 5, 7 or 9 is more pleasing than even number groupings.
  • Use hardcover books as pedestals to elevate objects.

A Suzanne Kasler tablescape. I love the little sculptures, resting on books that have been made into stands of varying levels. Kasler employs the odd number rule very effectively, with five sculptures, and seven total items on the table. The scale of the table is small, so Kasler has selected small scale items for the surface: a delicate lamp, small sculptures. Even the intaglios displayed above the table are small in scale.

  • Layer items as an artist creates a scene, with a background, middleground, and foreground.
A beautiful Michael Smith tablescape. This is also one of my favorites from my inspiration files. The tallest object, the branches and vase, form the background. The bust forms the middleground, effective because of its shape. The linear form of the books provide a constrast in the foreground.

A David Hicks masterpiece, from the Peak of Chic. This one certainly has great elements of arrangement, and all three planes - background, middleground, and foreground.

  • Creat highs and lows to give dimension and depth
A tablescape that emphasizes varying heights. From Better Homes and Gardens, via the Newhomes blog.

Barbara Westbrook Interiors. The whole arrangement has a great variation in heights with the mirror, sconces, and all of the items arranged on the console.
  • Vary some of the textural elements in the tablescape - light/dark; shiny/matte; curves/straight lines.
Another Caldwell-Beebe tablescape. The variation in line, texture, and tone is masterful.

A high impact tablescape from Anne Coyle Interiors. There is a lot going on here, but it works for me! This tablescape beautifully illustrates the concept of varying textures and lines.

The final recommendation from Sandra Tuell's article is a good one: use all of these points as guidelines, not as rigid rules. The most important guideline is to use your own personal treasures, things that inspire you, to create your own tablescape masterpiece.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Today is Christmas Eve; it is my favorite day of the year. I love the anticipation, the excitement, the happiness in the air. Our family tradition is to have a lovely meal over candlelight, then go to the family service at church and celebrate the true meaning of the season. After church, we come home and have dessert in front of the tree, then the children get to pick out one gift to open. It is such a peaceful, wonderful evening.

This image is from my favorite Christmas card this year. The friend who sends this card always purchases cards that support a charity, and this year's card supports a hospice in her town.

To me, peace and hope are really the heart of the matter, the true spirit of Christmas. It is a theme that is central to so many of the traditional Christmas hymns, many of which were written in times of war and strife:

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven's all gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear


I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

All glory be to God on high.
and to the earth be peace.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

O morning stars together,
Proclaim the holy birth.
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to all on earth!
O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Come, Desire of Nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid every strife and quarrel cease,
And fill the world with heaven's peace.

O Come O Come Emmanuel

Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let There Be Peace on Earth


I hope everyone has a peaceful and joyous Christmas! I would particularly like to extend special thoughts and prayers to all of the military personnel serving our country, including my brother who has spent the majority of the past four years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Magnificent Chandelier

I spent some time in the mall this week. I am finished with my shopping, but I love the energy of a mall during the Christmas season. In one of Atlanta's more upscale malls, Phipps Plaza, I looked in the window of the new Tory Burch store. The design of the store is really beautiful; it is a little jewelbox of orange and gold, with mirrored walls and a fireplace in the middle of the store. Although there were many amazing things for sale, my eye was caught by the stunning chandeliers. There are two chandeliers, in fact, one in the front of the store, and one in the back on the other side of the fireplace.

You can see the bottom of the front chandelier in this picture; on the other side of the mirrored column is a fireplace, and you can see some of the shades of the back chandelier on the far left. The shades are trimmed in the same orange the dominates the decor of the store, and it is so effective.

It looks like the Dallas store has the same chandelier.

Greenwich apparently has it too...I see the shades on the far left of this picture.

I e-mailed the company to see who makes this chandelier, but have not heard back yet. After all, in the busiest selling season of the year, responding to a question about the chandeliers in their stores is not really high priority! However, as soon as I saw the chandeliers, I suspected that they are the magnificent Nancy Corzine Balthazar chandelier. A friend of mine showed me a picture of this chandelier recently (thinking I would like it, and she was right), so it was gratifying to (possibly) recognize it in person.

Hopefully I will hear back from the Tory Burch web site at some point, and get confirmation whether my suspicions are correct. The Balthazar chandelier is very expensive, but it is so unique and beautifully crafted.

Edit: I found this picture of the Tory Burch NYC store on the Peak of Chic blog. It gives a better view of the chandelier. After seeing the detail in the picture, I am not so sure that this is the same chandelier. The arms of the Burch chandelier are longer and project more. I will have to figure this out!

Edit #2: Mystery solved, but not entirely to my satisfaction! I am not sure if they are available to individuals. The manufacturer of these chandeliers is Garrison Rousseau, a company in the Philipines that crafts custom furniture and does special commissions for companies and individuals such as Armani, Nina Campbell, Holly Hunt, the Four Seasons, Vincente Wolf, and so on, and so on!
Click on this picture to enlarge. You can get a good detailed view of 'the chandelier'.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Progress on the Chairs

A few weeks ago, I posted about a pair of semi-antique chairs that have been sitting around my house, waiting for a makeover. The post on my blog (and all of the great comments) spurred me into action! The chairs have just returned from the woodshop, stripped and sanded, and are going to the art studio today for a specialty finish!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sargent's Studio - Part II

One of my readers, and the author of one of my favorite blogs, Brilliant Asylum, saw my post last week on John Singer Sargent's studio. As she was reading the new copy of W magazine, she admired the window in a beautiful London flat featured in an article, and recognized that it was the same window that she had seen in my post about Sargent's studio. According to the W article, Sargent's former studio on Tite Street has been converted into a modern residence, but the owners retained the footprint of that grand, North facing window.

Sargent's studio on Tite Street, 2007. It was purchased by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, and is now a residence.

What a lovely coincidence. I had been planning on a John Singer Sargent post for a while, and just got around to it last week. I was not aware of the W magazine article, but I am so thrilled to see a current picure of this wonderful and historical piece of London property! Please check out BA's post, and the W magazine article. I love it when things come together like this! Thanks, BA, for connecting the dots. You made my day!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The fishscale design

In the suburbs of Atlanta, there is a neighborhood that is comprised almost entirely of Victorian and Queen Anne style houses, most of which are painted very bright colors. These are houses that were built in the 1980s, so they are an exaggerated vision of typical Victorian style characteristics: gingerbread styling, intricate filigreed trimwork, towers, wings, wrap-around porches, steeply pitched roofs with gables. Fishscale shingles adorn many of these homes. Years ago, I went to a Christmas party in this neighborhood, and most of the homes were decked out like miniature gingerbread houses, with yards full of decorations and lights everywhere. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of this neighborhood, and the holiday traffic in Atlanta makes a journey out there a bit impractical!

A real life 'gingerbread house' in Elgin, IL. Note the fishscale shingles that form the siding, which gives it the characteristic gingerbread look. From springsun on Flickr.

Couberg, Ontario. A Victorian style home with fishscale shingles on the upper fascade.

The fishscale pattern is very characteristic of homes in the Victorian era, in shingles and/or the siding on the homes. It is interesting that many gingerbread houses are often Victorian in nature, and in fact many Victorian houses are often called 'gingerbread houses'. I may need to research the link between the two when I have more time, but for now it seems reasonable to assume that the extensive details and fairytale nature of the Victorian architecture style makes it a good subject matter for a detailed gingerbread house.

A Victorian style gingerbread house, complete with a wrap around porch, gables, and a fishscale roof made with lifesavers. From the Better Homes and Gardens website.

A beautiful gingerbread house with fishscale shingles made out of Necco wafers. From the Crafting Jen blog.

A mall in Manila, creating a gingerbread masterpiece with fishscale shingles on the roof.

The fishscale pattern is not as common in furniture, but Julian Chichester mkes a beautiful chest of drawers using this design. I have seen this in person, and it is striking.

Stone carving with the fishscale design, from Didyma, an ancient temple in what is now Turkey. From h savill's flickr pictures.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Artists Studios - Part I

This is the exterior of a great artist's studio. I will give you some clues, and see if you can guess the artist's name.
The studio is located at 31/33 Tite Street, in the Chelsea area of London.

The artist first took a lease on this home in 1885, and it would remain his home the rest of his life.

The above three pictures are from the artist's studio on Tite Street. The large window in the last picture faces North, which is ideal light for many artists, as it is pure and not too strong.

The artist was considered the most accomplished portrait artist of his era. He was born in 1856 in Italy, to American parents, so he was an American expatriate even though he lived his entire life in Europe. He returned to America many times throughout his life, usually to paint commissioned portraits, and many of his best and most important works are part of American museum collections.

Portrait of Madame X, 1884, collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

The Portrait of Madame X is often considered this artist's best work, and it was his personal favorite. It caused quite a scandal when it was unveiled at the 1884 Paris Salon (a juried art exhibition for the top artists of the time), and received extremely harsh criticism. So stinging was the criticism that it was the impetus for the artist's move to London. There is a whole story behind this, and there are several fictionalized accounts of the story of Virginie Gautreau, the real 'Madame X'.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Painted 1885-1886. Collection of the Tate Gallery, London.

This is my favorite painting by this artist. It is indescribably beautiful in real life.

So who is the artist? It is John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).

The exterior of the studio in current day. An English watercolor artist lives here, and occasionally rents out the studio to fellow artists. It is here that Nelson Shanks painted his famous portrait of Princess Diana in 1994. Nelson Shanks also painted Margaret Thatcher at the Tite Street Studio. Nelson Shanks is considered one of the greatest living portrait artists.

Princess Diana, 1994, painted by Nelson Shanks at the Tite Street Studio. Part of a private collection.

Most of the information for this piece came from the John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery. Please visit this site for much more information on Sargent.

Edit: Brilliant Asylum recognized the window from the picture of Sargent's studio, and realized that she has seen it in the January 2008 issue of W magazine. I was not aware of the W magazine article, so it was quite a coincidence that I did this post! Please check out BA's post, and the W magazine article. I love it when things come together like this! Thanks, BA, for connecting the dots. You made my day!

Sargent's studio, 2007. It was purchased by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, and is now a residence.

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