March 3, 2015

World Book Day 2015

March 5 is World Book Day, and if you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for any amount of time, you know I am a total bibliophile. The houses where I grew up had great libraries and I’d spend hours in there, poking through my father’s books. And in my houses, I’ve always had bookcases filled with the books I’ve collected over a lifetime. 387

The earliest book I remember we hand-me-downs from my cousins, my siblings and I being the youngest set of 28 first cousins. There were poetry books by A.A.Milne, including Now We Are Six, and When We Were Very Young. I can still recite bits and pieces of these poems that I learned all those years ago. These were the books with the beautiful evocative illustrations by E.H. Shepard, not the hideous Disney ones. image

When I got old enough to read on my own, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and I still do. I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and all of the other serial books that were popular. One of my favourite books was Harriet the Spy. imageAnother one I loved with the crazily-named From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. image

Since my father worked in a museum, and we had the run of the place, this book always resonated with me.

There have been periods when I’ve read less than at other times, but if I am sitting still, I am probably reading something. I love sitting at breakfast on Saturday mornings reading the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, both of which have excellent weekend sections. image

Of course, I have dozens of great decorating books, which I love to slowly peruse and examine the details in each of the rooms. imageI am not much for styling my bookshelves, although it does happen!

You can’t even imagine how happy it makes me to work in a place with a stacks library with more than 50,000 books. Each time I venture up there, I find something new… and it’s not always books. Our ghost occasionally leaves me things to find like portraits and old picture frames. image

In honour of World Book Day 2015, I hope that you will share your best-loved books in the comments!

March 1, 2015

Happy St. David’s Day (A Wee Bit Late)

St. David’s Day is the Welsh equivalent of Ireland’s St. Patrick’s day, although celebrated in a much more restrained way, with some singing of Cwm Rhondda, the Welsh national song, otherwise known as Bread From Heaven and maybe drinking the local brew, Brains Beer.

It’s ten years this month since I moved to the UK, first working in London, and then in Wales, a country that’s not well-known, but can be described as the Appalachia of the UK. For many years, it had a strong coal mining economy, but during the Thatcher years, that all ended. As in Appalachia where there are hills and hollers, in Wales, families live in the Valleys, deep in the hills, where Welsh is still the preferred language. IMG_6718

Right after I arrived, Wales was playing Ireland in a massive rugby game, and we had tickets. Picture this if you can – a stadium filled with 70,000 rugby fans who had come from all over Wales and Ireland for this final match. And then picture the vast majority of these fans singing hymns and Tom Jones songs, while waving inflatable leeks and daffodils. They sing nearly the entire game, and it’s actually pretty fabulous to hear.

image image

Wales has a huge history of singing. Every colliery, or mine, had its own men’s choir and at the end of the summer, there’s a huge festival of Welsh language and culture called an Eisteddfod where groups come from all over Wales to compete and sing. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “How Green Was My Valley” about a Welsh mining town, you will see how the men sing all the time.

Wales is surrounded by the “Ring of Iron” a series of more than 400 castles which protected it from the sea to the west and England to the east. Funnily, the most comprehensive list is maintained by someone in Baltimore. While most of these castles are now ruins or gone completely, some still remain, including the castle where I worked, St. Donat’s Castle, a 12th century castle on the top of cliffs overlooking the Bristol Channel.imageimage

It was owned by newspaper mogul William Randolf Hearst, who expanded it to about three times its original size by buying buildings across the UK and Europe and glomming them onto St. Donat’s. You can see pictures of St. Donat’s here and here. You can see pictures of my ten favourite Welsh castles here.

On my last trip, I only visited Castell Coch, a 19th century Gothic Revival castle, just outside Cardiff. Andy, the children and I zipped up for a quick photo op, racing the setting sun. IMG_6900IMG_6907IMG_6924

If you’re in Baltimore, you might see this symbol of Wales on the back  of my car.image

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

February 26, 2015

I’ll Take This: Canal Boat in Little Venice, London

When I was in the UK in November/December, I stayed on the most delightful canal boat. It was cozy and snug and I loved every minute of it. The canals in London are filling up, which is somewhat of a problem, because canal boats and moorings are much less expensive than any London flat. IMG_6600

I saw a listing for a canal boat in the Little Venice section of London, which is close to Maida Vale, one of the very posh areas of town. Although someone was a little too enthusiastic with the HDR setting, you can get a good idea of its location. image

Lots of bright bead-board wood in the forward berth, but I’d probably slap a coat of bright white paint on it. image

Cozy fitted kitchen. The boat where I stayed had a great Ikea kitchen.image

This looks like the aft berth. I am sure there’s a way to pull out something to make a full-size bed.image

Nice bath and shower room. image

All very ship-shape, indeed. The boat where I stayed was much larger than this. It was about 18’ wide and 50’ long, bigger than my first house! image

This looks like it’s a public canal path. The side of the canal where I stayed was private and accessible only to the residents and their guests. The other side was public. I would also check to see if this is moored two abreast, since that could be a problem.

This canal boat is £155,000 ($239,000) with a £5,320 ($8,200) mooring fee. If you lived in the country, it would make a nice pied a terre in town!

February 24, 2015

Think Pink!

In the 1957 movie, Funny Face, there’s a great musical number called Think Pink. The character, played by the brilliant Kay Thompson, is supposedly based on Diana Vreeland, and proclaims that pink is the new colour of the season.

Suddenly, for some reason, I’ve become enchanted with the palest shade of pink. It may have been inspired by a beautiful Valentine’s bouquet with a pale pink David Austen rose in the middle of it, or that it is such a flattering shade for most people. roses (2)My bedroom is painted in Martha Stewart’s Magnolia, which is no longer made. It’s got red, a drop of yellow and a drop of black, so it avoids being a sickly bubblegum shade.

It is the pale, pale ballet pink that I am thinking of. image

When I saw this image, I thought it would be fun to go back and buy the huge linen tablecloth and make it into a sheet and then dye it the palest of pinks. Hopefully, it will be drastically reduced when I go back!image

As one does these days, I started a Pinterest page called “Think Pink, Think Pink” after the song. How about this? It could stray over the line to orchid, but if it faded enough, it would be perfect.image

One of my favourite summertime coolers is pink grapefruit sorbet from Wegmans. Since I only go to the “local” Wegmans once or twice a year, I stock up on it. It’s actually not even this pink!image

This might be too much pink, but the wall colour is just right. image

I love pale pink flowers! Halcyon 5-31 (6)

peonies (2)

What’s your thought on pale pink? Yea or nay?

February 22, 2015

Monogram Madness!

The Baltimore Junior League does a Treasures & Trinkets sale every so often, so I stopped by to see what they had. I had missed the preview party on Friday evening to have dinner with some friends in town, and Saturday’s unexpected snow storm kept me close to home most of the day. By the time I got there, late Sunday afternoon, most everything was picked over pretty well.

Except the linens. IMG_8820I love linens! Before I moved to the UK, I had a huge collection of damask napkins and tablecloths, which you could pick up for nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. Sadly, my collection was distributed to far corners, as it was impractical to take it with me. Clearly, the linens weren’t very popular with the shoppers – no one wants to iron or care for them anymore. Such a shame.

I sorted through the hundreds of napkins, huck towels, tablecloths, sheets and more, looking for pieces with my monogram on them. I wasn’t holding out hope for all three letters, but thought at least I’d find one with an M on it.

Some of the monograms were so interesting, I started taking pictures. Here are some of them.

O U J (Hard to tell!)IMG_8805

K M S  Love the little details.IMG_8804

A M S in classic Olde EnglishIMG_8816

I know the first letter is an M, but I can’t quite decipher the rest. Any ideas?IMG_8822

E N B  Seriously wanted to get this for my niece whose initials are ENB, but B is her last name.IMG_8826

R ? L Another indecipherable monogram.IMG_8827

Here are a few single letters, all of which are so different.IMG_8818IMG_8803IMG_8806IMG_8807IMG_8808IMG_8809IMG_8811IMG_8812IMG_8813IMG_8814IMG_8817

The sale at the Junior League’s Wise Penny is on all week, and the linens are already 50% off!

February 19, 2015

I’ll Take This: Classic English in Baltimore

Guilford is one of the premier neighbourhoods in Baltimore, about 100 years old now, with stunning architecture, wide open spaces, and gorgeous gardens. I’ve written about it here, here and here. It seems like I’ve managed to take a picture of almost every house in the neighbourhood, except one. It’s situated a little higher than the rest and has a wall and some foliage surrounding it, so it’s hard to spot. image

But it’s a fabulous house! It was designed by the famous Palmer & Lamdin architects of many of Baltimore’s most beautiful houses. It’s done in the English manor style, and was last on the market in 2005. image

From the exterior, you can see the great brickwork in a Monk bond and Jacobean-style chimneys. The details in this house are a hallmark of Palmer & Lamdin. Ohhh, please tell me they don’t have replacement windows! I can’t imagine the architectural review committee approving that!image

At the entrance, there is some beautiful wood work and iron-work. image

More gorgeous old wood, especially the timbered ceiling. image

Notice the small panel in the front door so you can check to see who’s there without opening the massive wood door!image

Massive staircase with more beautiful wood. Although I might be tempted to lighten things up a bit… At least this side of the house, which faces west, gets a lot of natural light.image

This room is to the left of the entrance, and then there’s a sun-room beyond that.image

From another angle: image

Here’s the sunporch, which looks like it’s got a fireplace backing up to the one in the room above.image

The formal dining room: image

The sitting room, with another fireplace!image

Not a big fan of the kitchen.image

My guess is that these are the stairs from the 2nd to the 3rd floor. But I can’t quite figure out that window placement unless it’s the top of the double-height window to the left of the front door.image

I am guessing this is the master bedroom, and you can see the four-poster bed peeking out from the far corner.image

Am I the only one who is bothered by the brown wood in the black and white bathroom? I know from experience that these houses had amazing bathrooms, so it’s a shame the original is gone.image

Same bath? Different bath?image

Another one? Do you think they got a good deal on the wooden pieces?image

Here’s the rear of the house, imagewith some detail of the gardens, the brick wall and what’s probably a big garage.image

When you live in an old neighbourhood, most of the trees are old, too, and that makes for a great yard.image

Here are some of the particulars of the house: 7 bedrooms, 7 baths, 7 fireplaces, 10k square feet, built in 1917, priced at $2.45 million. Details here.