Our Daughters, Our Selves

  • May 19, 2010 4:53 pm

Even though my daughter is a thoroughly independent young adult with a  job and apartment I still harbor the idea of having her around as much as possible.  Towards that end I’ll attempt to lure her with food and a lovely room overlooking the swimming pool.  And feeding this fantasy is a bit of Our Daughters, Ourselves-making the room as an IDEA of a daughter’s room, a daughter’s room say from between the wars in a comfortable English house.  Something for us both (yeah, who am I kidding?!!!).  Her room and my son’s room have been carved out of a larger space to fit in the new bathroom between them, the bathroom of the Ming green sink and toilet.  The rooms are now identical in size with a hallway that opens left to her room, right to my son’s and center to the bathroom.  A  sweet little Jack and Jill situation.

Swan Lake


I’m going to paper the walls with a new Nina Campbell paper called Swan Lake.  I fell in love with it in this particular hue.  Thrillingly, there is a companion fabric; how’s THAT for a fabulous nostalgic look. On both the paper and fabric the silver color (look closely at the trees) are actually metallic; on the fabric the silver has even a glittery look.  I love how the pattern is reeking of nostalgia but has a sly modernity to it.

I’ll be using a turn of the century white painted faux Louis bed that I bought for $25.00 in the 70’s and a couple of assorted  vintage tables I’ve picked for their splendid shapes and wonderful white painted finishes.

There are also two cool old chairs, one dating from my childhood, a real Little Miss Muffet slipper chair and the other another white faux Louis piece ( so beloved by Ogden Codman, Edith Wharton, and ME).  To view the best of this charming species of furniture  take a tour of the cottages in Newport, R.I.  The  bedrooms are filled with great examples. Somehow they speak to the fancy French side of things with a distinct cottage accent. Lastly there will by an item that’s always included in both my and my daughter’s decor, a dressing table.  When she was a small child I loved the fact that she called her dressing table her “beauty desk”.

Beauty desk plus Louis and Little Miss Muffett chair

So where to use that matching fabric?  Not sure I want to smother the room with matchy/ matchy.  But the beauty desk could surely look fab with billowy curtains of Swan Lake.  I also love the idea of valances on the three wide windows in her new room, so old-fashioned but yet could  catch what Nina Campbell did so remarkably well with her Swan Lake pattern, tweaking the frumpy with a wink.

Indoor Plumbing

  • May 14, 2010 2:41 pm

Recently, on a beautiful spring day I visited Walter Parker at his shop in a converted schoolhouse in Dudley, Mass.  Walter is a prodigious enthusiast, plumber, and collector extraordinaire of old plumbing fixtures.  A visit extended itself into a three hour show and tell and tutorial on his fixtures in his shop, which included every kind of sink, toilet, faucet, shower, towel rods, and gas stoves. We clambered up to an attic chockablock treasures and into dark crawl spaces, all filled to the gills with tempting stuff.  I asked him about finding some fittings for my kitchen sink-I have in mind a faucet, a filtered water tap and also a spray and he conjured up a variety of magical old faucets that could be customized and adapted to the various uses.  For instance for the spray he produced a lovely curved neck faucet and then found an original piece of black rubber hose and a selection of exquisite old spray nozzles.

One to be converted to spraying, the other for filtered water

I also fell in love with a  1920’s sink and toilet colored in what he called “Ming” green, a perfect cloudy green forming a sort of demi-parure.  I’d love to use them for the bathroom we’re constructing between my childrens’ two bedrooms.  The sink even has the original Ming green faucets.

Demi Parure

There was an intriguing wood and galvanized metal garden sink that I thought could work for the laundry room and also a selection of inexpensive marble topped sinks to set upon another vast collection of decorative sink brackets.

Rare Rib Cage Shower

And then, on the dearer side, are the major pieces, possible thoughts for the master bath, and and all too possibly only in my dreams.

Thoroughly Talented Neisha

  • May 11, 2010 2:37 pm

For those of you who have never encountered the wallpapers and fabrics of Neisha Crosland you’re in for a treat.  I stumbled upon her store, then in one of the nether pockets of design that seem to be planted around London. She could only be English;  you could say that there’s a bit of a 20’s influence, perhaps some nod to the 40’s or even to the 60’sbut really she’s a true English designer, galloping off to her own delightful drum roll.

I just love English design in all its forms and all its eras:  there’s almost always hints of irony, informality, a carelessness, a drunken quality of design in free fall that is beholden to no one.  So different from our American dogged adherence to good taste.

Good taste in the US sometimes seems to have become another acolyte of fundamentalist religion.  Austerity, uninformed adherence, and a herd mentality seems to deform our design sense.

To the left are some of the Mauny wallpapers I’m considering.  First contender is the teal parrot paper but I’m starting to lean towards the green parrot with the mauve background.  I like the possibilities of using that wonderful green.  Pictured below is Neisha’s Moire Lurex which in person looks metallic silver with flashes of green.  Might be quite interesting covering the seats and backs of these 50’s Thonet-like chairs.


The scheme would be too sick-making ( I quote Evelyn Waugh) if the fabric were really this green.


More examples of Neisha’s unabashed aesthetic:

Hand-Painted Silk

Upstairs Library

  • May 8, 2010 2:35 pm

Definitely, not yet, a pretty picture

At One End
And at the Other End

These were two small bedrooms, one hogging the fireplace.  With great good fortune the engineer discovered  that the stars were aligned and that the beams were running in a propitious manner.  It was no big deal to tear down the long wall between them to create a long elegant rectangle of a room.

On the left side of the right photo I’ll put the sectional sofa I had made some years ago for lallygagging about while we watch TV and I’ve determined that we’ll have a projection TV system with as big a screen as feasible for the geometries of the room, possibly  using simply and elegantly a piece of canvas applied to the wall as the screen.

On the other side of the room, lying languidly in front of the fire in the picture on the left  I’ve settled a beautiful long chaise I’ve had by a triple window in our current master bedroom. I love the idea of covering it with Designers Guild’s Maitland Nabucco, a velvet with a cut pile in the pattern of alligator.  The colors are a dream of lushness.  Hard to choose…maybe mix the black and the lime green.

The Long Chaise

Long Chaise

Designers Guild Maitland Nabucco-Too Beautiful to Make a Choice


Adding to the my fantasy mix is a Victorian ceramic mantel that could be a devastating coup-or not.  How would it look to substitute that big beefsteak of an existing mantel with this?

Simply Irresistable?


Shiny pitch black enamel paint walls and bookcases, a great backdrop for all this?


NB-To all those lovers of over-the-topness with high notes of post modern cool- get to know the work of Tricia Guild, the brilliant designer behind Designers Guild.

Breakfast Room

  • May 6, 2010 2:42 pm

Aren’t we lucky to have this lovely  place for a breakfast room?   The exposure is a perfect Southeast.  The casement windows long to be opened in warm weather.  Attracting birds is in order.

Search and destroy a wall on one side now occupied by dispiriting pantry shelves and close up a space leading to the dining room

and there will be a small room which will create a light-filled T shape with the kitchen. It’s quite a skinny little room so one needs to think carefully about scaling the table and chairs to make the room feel as expansive as possible  and comfortable to move around it.  I am strongly considering taking out the radiators here, as well as in the dining room and kitchen and installing radiant heat. It will release precious floor space (banish those radiators and their ridiculous covers) and provide that delicious enveloping heat only radiant floor heat can provide.

And it’s just above the basement! Easy peasy access.

I have been holding on to an Edwardian rise and fall lamp that a client didn’t want-a gain for me. Adding a flimsy silk “curtain it will resemble this:

Or perhaps a cottony fringe will look the best, the old-fashioned kind that doesn’t have that nasty acrylic sheen that so many modern fringes have.  I prefer the dry look.

Mauny Wallpaper for breakfast room

There is, most fortuitously, a flowering magnolia right outside.

Elegaic Magnolia

New Look

  • May 4, 2010 4:29 pm

A new look for an old house;  cobwebs gone…

Kitchen Anchor-This Old Stove

  • May 1, 2010 5:02 pm

The Stove and what will be its final resting place

I’m an unabashed old stove nut. I’ve found two for myself and scored others for friends. And there have been others still I’ve met in passing, that are, I’m sure, long gone but not forgotten, and never by me. For instance, how could I forget the aqua blue mid- century model with the oven control a replication of a speedometer, still housed in the original aqua kitchen.

Many years ago there was a behemoth of a stove parked inside the entrance to a fabulous thrift store, tragically gone. Clearly very old, I was told it came from a brownstone in Manhattan. I already had a six-burner Magic Chef but this was too amazing to pass up and if I wanted to buy it I had to get it out of there, quick. I found a genius stove restorer, David Erickson,  in Massachusetts and he came and fetched it. A couple of years later he had finished restoring it, and brought it to my garage where it has resided for a couple of years,  waiting to be installed in the new house.

The stove is a joy to behold.  Dave had re enameled it in luscious black and white, applied nickel plating and added as a touch or whimsy, brass controls. I love the brass touch;  now I’m wildly researching polished brass faucets for the sink.  Mixes of metals can work so well together, and I love the thought of the patinated copper gramophone ceiling lights contrasting with the gleaming bits.



Kitchen Dreamin’-Crumbs along the path

  • April 28, 2010 1:50 am

I am a very fortunate woman indeed. My husband who understands the better part of valor, has ceded the field long ago and left all house decisions entirely up to me. For better or for worse. I know he is somewhat (no, correction-entirely) discomfited with the Schiaperelli pink walls in the hallway of our 200 year old house on Cape Cod but he has learned that it’s a far far better thing that he holds his tongue.Last year I came upon this photo of a kitchen featured in British House and Gardens and was gobsmacked by the fabulous gramophone horn lighting. After finding our new house I was naturally obsessed with finding some gramophone horns of my own.

Nabbed two similar horns on French Ebay, struggled with many complexities dealing with unwieldy French postal system. One  day it arrived  in an enormous box. Huge and delightfully rusted-a gem!

Being a fan of the concept of the unfitted kitchen I’ve been looking at various salvaged cabinets to fit, or rather, not. These lovelies in the photo below left looked just the ticket. I could see covering the lower cabinets with a long group of simple curtains made from antique French bedsheets, the kind that

German Silver Sink

German Silver Sink

swoon from their sheer weighty drape.

Stored in my garage are two treasures that I have been saving for the moment when Mr. Right House came along; a German silver sink (another Ebay piece of serendipity) and a Quality stove from about 1915 or so, originally from a brownstone in New York but purchased  in a local thrift shop and restored to a fare-the-well of black and white enamel, nickel, and some accents in brass.

We’re in and the deconstruction party begins!

Promiscuous Assemblage

  • April 25, 2010 3:19 pm
  • This installation was commissioned by the Yale Center for British Art to accompany the exhibit Mrs. Delaney and Her Circle

    A recent exhibit at the Yale Museum of British Art, Mrs. Delany and her Circle, tells the story of Mrs. Delany, a highborn lady from the 18th century and a masterful designer, collage artist, embroiderer and wonderful friend. The exhibit was gloriously produced but what stopped me in my tracks was an art installation in a room at the very end by Jane Wildgoose, a British artist, which celebrated the friendship of Mrs. Delany with her great friend the Duchess of Portland Ms. Wildgoose pulled together what was called in the 18th century a promiscuous assemblage, a name this diary proudly bears.The room contained on one side handpainted floral wallpaper with a few butterflies attached to the flowers, one side a set up of an 18th century auction viewing, one side wood boxes with collections of shells and butterflies. The last side was the largest source of amazement. Yes, an assemblage in a large wooden case that filled the entire wall. Beautifully arranged curiosities: faintly marbled elephant eggs, stuffed songbirds, a small picture by an Indian artist who sewed with human hair, real coral and garlands of flowers made from tiny shells. Wonder at the natural world, a desire to own a piece of it, haunting sentiment, a love of natural beauty and its opposite: all these were encompassed there.


Mrs. Klein Found Herself a House

  • April 23, 2010 9:59 pm

After years of fits and starts I have found a wonderful new house which meets all my requirements. For many a year I searched for a house that was large and roomy, with beautiful details and many fireplaces, plenty of bedrooms, and that was basically left unremuddled (a term I love from The Old House Journal). A house in a state of deshabille, in short, a house that needs a rescue.The kitchen is everything I dreamed of : a mishmash of the past with remnants of the original kitchen, the butler’s pantry, subway  tiles and a white hex tile floors living companionably with cabinets from an indeterminate age, possibly circa Mrs. Cleever.Happily, none of this is worth saving and I feel no compunction about tearing into it with a chain saw and ripping out its guts. Two sun porches, one huge one with the most glorious exposure (Southwest), and a small one off the dining room (Southeast exposure).The latter is begging to be a breakfast room. The kitchen is asking me to break the wall down that separates them and join them together as God intended.

And there’s so much more. I can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re that kind of person (and you know who you are), a house can be a fury of obsession.  The wonderful Tabula Rasa that invites you in and you listen, and ponder, and seek, and meditate, all until you make your move and seize the day: choose a paint color, consider a lamp, whatever to do with the floors. And it’s not quite a Tabula Rasa because there is already ones furniture, and books and all those things.

Behold, the object of my affection:

Sleeping Beauty, shrouded in cobwebs, slumbers on.

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Visit Victoria Klein's site at victoriaklein.com

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