April 19, 2015

Thank You So Very Much

I want to send my most sincere thanks for the unbelievable outpouring of love and support after Connor’s death last week. The e-mails, FB messages, Instagram messages phone calls and flowers have made me realize what an impact Connor made on so many people all around the world.image

Even though I knew that it was going to happen sooner than later, it’s gutting me, and it’s hard to get used to days without the dog clickity-clacking across the hard-wood floors, waiting to go outside and generally being present in my life.image

I think of myself as a glass-half-full person, and so am trying to think of the positive aspects of this experience:

  • I can vacuum the rugs and know that they won’t be covered in dog-hair in hours.
  • I can enjoy thunderstorms again.
  • I can repair my window-screens without ordering the heavy-duty screening.
  • I can have after-work cocktails without worrying whether Matt, the dog-walker, is available.
  • I can wear black cashmere and corduroy without fear of having stray white dog-hairs on me.
  • I have more cabinet space for my food, not Connor’s food.
  • I won’t have to buy useless things to decorate him for the holidays.

imageAs I walk through the house, I realize how many of Connor’s accoutrements have worked their way into the household – his rugs and blankets, his selection of pink pigs, only one of whom he really loved,IMG_0387 the useless numerous remedies for his fear of storms and fireworks, and of course, his various food and water dishes. All will be packed away in anticipation of another dog, sometime in the future.

In a little farewell ritual this afternoon, I took a bunch of his hair that I had been accumulating and tossed it to the winds for the birds to take and use for their nests. Connor shed in clumps and when I’d pull one out, I’d add it to a cup next to his chair to scatter for the birds.image

I am greatly cheered by the beautiful images I’ve taken of Connor over the past years, by the lovely paintings by Sam Robinson, and the sweet pencil sketches by Lady Rosie and by the touching and thoughtful comments, emails and messages you have sent. Thank you so very much.

April 16, 2015

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!IMG_2737

This isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing this evening. My dear sweet Connor died earlier this evening after a stroke that rendered his legs unable to move. I am so glad I was there when it happened because he would have been terrified to not be able to move. He’d been declining for a while now, and had fallen a few times. His appetite wasn’t great and I knew he had been in some pain recently, which made me very unhappy. burrito2

I adopted Connor from the city pound soon after I moved back to Baltimore from the UK. He had been at the shelter for six weeks, waiting for the right person. His philosophy in life was “I wish I was somewhere other than here…” as he always wanted to get out. He leapt out windows, both house and car, got out onto roofs, took off at any opportunity and was nicknamed Houdini. IMG_0208

He ate my gutter-guards, my mini-blinds, a windowsill or two, and a door, but other than that, was pretty good. He shed like no-body’s business and even this morning, I was brushing him and letting his hair fly for the birds to use for their nests. IMG_8911

He’s been sleeping so much and so deeply recently, that he doesn’t even hear me come home, and he’s startled when he wakes. When he’s totally and completely sleeping and relaxed, his little pink tongue comes out. And that’s what happened this evening, with his beloved Baby with him. IMG_8795

Rest in peace, my sweet baby.

Architectural Watercolours at Halcyon House Antiques

Two things: You might know that I am the board chair at the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and one of the things I adore is old architectural drawings and watercolours, and even blueprints. I also love Halcyon House Antiques and would cheerfully move into the shop if I could! So when Halcyon House Antiques and its stylish owners, Stiles and Jonathan, told me that they were hosting a show and sale of architectural watercolours, I suggested that Halcyon and the Architecture Foundation partner up on the project. So we did!building

The opening reception took place on Tuesday and the show will be hanging for another month or so. The shop is filled with the most beautiful architectural watercolours, drawings and models, as well as some significant pieces of furniture, brought in specially for the show.IMG_0059

Most of the watercolours were done in the 1800 and 1900’s and are drawings washed with colours. Most subjects are classical studies. IMG_0063

Some of the special pieces included this beautiful inlaid piece by David Linley, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, whose work is collected all over the world. IMG_0061IMG_0080

Another piece, although not an architectural study, was this beautiful drawing room from the 1930’s, painted by Cecil Beaton. IMG_0078

One of the pieces I loved was this wood and glass lantern.IMG_0046

And this fabulous chair with the forced perspective of the trees,IMG_0077

which reminded me of the allée of trees elsewhere on the property. Winter  (37)

And how about this chair? Can you say leopard!IMG_0073

Some of the architectural models included this pavilion, IMG_0106

and this bridge.IMG_0051

And in the center of the hors d’oeuvres was an birdcage, complete with a porch. IMG_0036

In addition to the framed prints, there was also a selection of unframed prints of various subjects, IMG_0067including this elevation and plan of the Maryland Institute College of Art. IMG_0071

One of the highlights of the events was a brief talk given by the eminent architect, and founder of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, Walter Schamu, FAIA. IMG_0123He spoke on the training given to architecture students in the past at places like the Universities of Virginia and Pennsylvania and of course, Yale. Walter lamented that there wouldn’t be drawings like these of contemporary buildings that people would look back and admire in 100 years because everything’s done on the computer.

If you’re interested in the Architectural Watercolours Show, or anything you see here, please contact Eric at Halcyon House Antiques.

April 14, 2015

Petit Post

I was out at a fabulous event this evening and when I came home to download my pictures and write, my computer decided it was the ideal time to install some updates. Grrr. 

So, here is a teaser of both the event and Thursday's post. Enjoy!

April 12, 2015

The Most (In)Famous Cherry Tree in Baltimore

As I was heading over to the Book Thing today for my weekly allocation of books, I passed the historic Union Memorial Hospital and saw that the gorgeous weeping cherry trees out in front of the old main building were (finally) in full bloom. Weeping cherry trees are my favourites, we had some at the house where I grew up and I just adore them. image

While the tree on the far right might not look like anything special, it actually is. The tree dates back to 1939. The date is not in question because of the donor: the notorious Prohibition-era gangster, Al Capone.

Capone had just been released from prison and came to Baltimore for treatment of psychotic dementia, a symptom of syphilis which was affecting his mental health. Johns Hopkins is/was considered the very best hospital in the United States, but because of Capone’s notoriety, they would not admit him.


So the family turned to Union Memorial Hospital for treatment. Capone, his family and entourage allegedly took over the entire top floor of the hospital where he stayed from November until March. He felt like he was ready to leave Baltimore and head towards the warmer weather of Florida.

But Capone and his family were grateful for the care he had received at Union Memorial and gave the hospital two Japanese weeping cherry trees to be planted in the front of the hospital. The one on the west end was removed during some renovations, and the one on the east side suffered a bad break during our Snowpocalypse winter of 2010 and a massive limb split off. The remainder of the tree was saved, and is still blooming.imageimageThe fallen limb was given to a woodworker who then fashioned bowls, vases and wine-stoppers from it, and they were sold and auctioned to help provide care to indigent patients at Union Memorial. imageSeedlings from the original tree have been planted around the hospital grounds and are known as Caponettes.

Stories like this are why I love Baltimore.

All images, except the first one, courtesy of Union Memorial Hospital.

April 10, 2015

The Schizophrenic Castle

As I was paging through the Guardian’s Houses & Gardens section, I stumbled across a listing that captured my attention for three reasons:

  • It was an old castle
  • It was in Wales
  • It was featured on Grand Designs, my favourite UK TV show

I clicked on the link to find this:image

An 1720’s castle with a modern addition. Hmmm… I am not sure what to think.image First, how did they ever get planning permission to do this, and then how did they merge the two styles and make it not look like a frightening mash-up. image

Well, it looks like they’ve kept the original front door and the stair case, but it looks like they’ve stripped out the architectural details in the hall. image

The little sitting area indicates it’s in the tower part of the house, but the furnishings are too jarring.image

It looks like some of the original detail is remaining in the library, but the bookshelves don’t look very original to me, nor do the shutters. imageThis could have been an amazing dining room, especially when you realize there’s a huge view, but they’ve gone and put a TELEVISION in the dining room! Apparently, the husband designed the table, whose legs are far too fat for the delicate Ghost chairs. imageThe inspiration must have come from the Michelin man.image

The kitchen is very modern, not what you’d expect from an old castle. The wife insists that it’s not a custom kitchen, but all off-the-shelf.image

The views from the house are pretty amazing.image But someone needs to explain this space to me. image

I would have like the addition a lot better if they’d used something other than stark white. A shade that blended more with the original stone would have softened this considerably.image

Lovely original windows. Completely charmless everything else. And don’t even talk about the curtains and curtain rods. image

What I don’t understand is why you would buy an old castle tower/folly and then strip out all of the charm and character. The modern furnishings don’t respect the history of the place. image

I managed to find a brief clip of Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs going through the castle with the owners. This is from 2009, when they’d just finished it. The husband is clearly Welsh. Click here to view it (I had trouble embedding it.)


April 7, 2015

A Visit to McLain-Wiesand Studio

I had a late afternoon meeting, so I called my friend David to meet up for a drink at the café next to his workshops and studios at McLain-Wiesand. It had been a while since I’d had a look around the workshops, so after our cocktails, we wandered back to look at what’s new. First and foremost, David’s selling antiques again. He started out in a shop along Baltimore’s Antiques Row, and then eventually opened his current space, which is a treasure trove of old and new items. IMG_9900

As you walk through the shop, you see several sets of Baltimore-style chairs that David has reproduced, sometimes for local museums, and even for the White House. The top set is more in the klismos style, while the bottom ones are more straight-forward.IMG_9905IMG_9919

Everywhere you look something reflects David’s whimsical and quirky sense of humor, and yes, style. IMG_9921

Both David and I are inveterate auction-goers, and have sometimes found that we are bidding against each other on the same items. IMG_9920

When we walked through to the workshops, I was astonished, as I always am, by David’s creativity and what he and his staff produce. This custom table is made to look like old ivory, complete with joins, cracks and small bolts to hold it together. It is really a stunning piece.IMG_9909

This long console table will grace a space here in Baltimore, although much of David’s work is custom-made for decorators across the country. IMG_9910

David is constantly tinkering, and creating new techniques for his pieces. Here’s a mirror that he’s added a school of fish to. Somehow, it’s done on the back of the mirror, so that it still reflects, but you can see the pattern. It’s really unique.IMG_9913

This is a wonderful classic piece which David is making in consultation with the client. The gilding is all done by hand, piece by piece. These are still in progress.IMG_9916

Thanks to David for showing me around! If you’re interested in anything you see, or would like to commission a custom piece of furniture, which will become an heirloom, please contact David, here.