July 20, 2016


When I bought my house five years ago, I was thrilled to see that it had two T-bars to hold a clothesline. The bars are iron and there is one by the house and one at the end of the yard. When I lived in the UK, we didn’t have a clothes drier and because it was so cold and damp, I never felt like my things were completely dry.image

But here in Maryland, where it can get quite humid, we also have lots of sun. So I take advantage of this by drying as many things on the clothesline as I can. Even on a humid day, if there’s a little breeze and some sun, things dry pretty quickly – even bath towels! Of course, there are some items that don’t go on the line – mostly my unmentionables, and knits which need the heat and agitation to pull the knit back into shape.IMG_1912

As I have said before, I barely use paper towels. Instead, I take advantage of my large collection of linen or cotton tea towels. I use them a couple of times, depending on whether I am cleaning up spills, wiping my hands or drying a pot, and then I put them in the bin for washing.I frequently find brand-new linen tea towels at yard sales and thrift shops. They need to be washed several times (just throw them in with your regular laundry) so that the sizing that makes them stiff can wash out.

Recently, friends brought me back the most fun tea towels from Portobello Road in London to add to my collection.image

After some trial and error, I began using plastic clothes pins from Muji, the amazing Japanese store. I found that if I didn’t take the wooden ones in after I used them, they became stained, which in turn, stained my clothes. Ugh. Although this one looks a little grubby, there’s an incredible little Potter Wasp’s nest that I found built into the end of a pin. image

A friend recently told me that when we were kids, living just a few blocks from each other, both of our mothers hung clothes on the line. His mother got anonymouse notes from the neighbours telling her that it was trashy to hang laundry outside. Apparently, this is still the case in some suburban subdivisions. Really? It’s not trashy, it’s smart.


But when you think about the time and energy it takes to run a clothes drier, and how effortless it is to let the wind and sun do all of the work, why not hang your things on a line? And as an added benefit, they smell great!

July 12, 2016

Portobello: A Pigtown Pop-Up

One of my favourite things to do in the UK is to poke around small antique sales, places like Portobello Road and Spitalfields Market, and of course, car-boot sales. In the spirit of Portobello Road, I am having a pop-up sale in September, hosted by my great friends at Halcyon House Antiques.Portobello Logo

As you know if you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for any length of time, I have a broad love for English antiques. My Etsy shop always features beautiful English silver, incuding teapots, pitchers, serving pieces,image and of course, mother-of-pearl handled silverware. imageIn addition, I’ve assembled a great collection of individual English transfer-ware both in blue and white and polychrome, perfect for expanding your collectionsimage

Everything in this sale is something that I’ve found in my travels, and have personally selected as something I’d like to have in my own house (and in many cases, I do have duplicates).

One of the things I like to do is use pieces in ways other than their original intention. For example, this salt shaker is now a wee bud vase, image

and this egg cup is now holding some fragrant honeysuckle blossoms. image

Please stay tuned for more details as we move closer to the date. And if there’s anything in particular that you’re looking for, do let me know.

July 5, 2016

Instagram: Early Summer Edition

After a very cool June, July and the summer heat have arrived with a vengeance: temperatures in the 90’s and more than 1.5 inches of rain over the past 24 hours. Here’s my past month or so in Instagram images.

I can’t tell you how much I adore this little gal! Figue has so much personality and she’s quite funny. I loved Connor and my other Lab, but Figue is totally different. Here she is in front of my small fig plant.image

Get this book! A combination of great recipes and funny stories, with great images.image

I was taking a different route someplace and spotted this on a building. It’s on a long-closed printing plant. image

I attended a party at Ladew Gardens on a perfect June afternoon. The roses were just finishing up, but still beautiful.image

Hydrangeas. Always a favourite.image

Summer supper at a friend’s farm. image

I’ve been admiring the broken pediment on this house for a while now. Finally remembered to take a picture.image

Potter wasps’ nest on my clothes pin. The nests are less than an inch long. Nature is an amazing thing.image

I saw this little guy taking a walk the other day. I stopped to take a picture and he turned in a circle for me, so I could see his rig!image

Figue has clearly made herself at home. She loves lying on the sofa surrounded by pillows…image

and sitting on her ottoman looking out the window, watching the world go by!image

Thanks for taking the time to read Pigtown*Design! Be sure to follow me on my Instagram account!

June 30, 2016

MADE: In America

For the past several months, I have been working on a project called the All-American House, sponsored by MADE: In America which works to promote American made goods. This year’s All-American House was the Carroll Museums in Baltimore, a 18th century townhouse once owned by the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence.carroll museums  (24)

The rooms of the Carroll Mansion were redesigned and furnished with iconic pieces from MADE: In America award-winning companies to showcase the new look in American design. Each piece will carry a Certificate of Authenticity verifying that it was featured in theAll American House 2016.IMG_0279

Now that the three month All-American House exhibition is coming to an end, many of the selected pieces are being offered to the public at greatly-reduced prices. The sale will benefit the programs at the Carroll Museums and MADE: In America. IMG_0288

Interested buyers are invited to the Carroll Mansion at 800 E. Lombard Street during regular open hours starting Friday, July 1 at 2pm through Sunday, July 10, 2016 to view and purchase pieces, which will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.IMG_0310

A complete list of items with prices is available on-site or for PDF download. Admission fees will be deducted from any purchase made from July 1 to July 10.IMG_0308

This has been a great project and I’ve been delighted to be a part of it. Hope you can come and get a great bargain!

June 28, 2016

Flying the Flags

I might be slightly biased, but I think that Maryland has the best flag of all of the 50 states. It is the only one of the state flags to be based on English heraldry. The design comes from the Calvert and Crossland families who settled Maryland in the early 1600’s. It is only one of four state flags not to include the colour blue. The black and gold represent the Calvert family and the red and white, the Crosslands. image

We love our flag and use it everywhere including the UnderArmour-designed lacrosse and football uniforms for the University of Maryland’s teams. However, I think that many of the pieces are completely hideous. imageBut there are some not-so-hideous renditions of the flag, although its use in clothing is still dubious, fashion-wise.

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It’s not unusual to see cars sporting Maryland flag stickers in the shape of crabs, image

labs, image

horses, image

and everything between.
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A month or so ago, I needed to whip up some decorations for a friend whose step-brother was graduating from school here in Maryland. I played around with making some paper banners which worked out really well. I printed them out on 11x17 paper, cut them out, folded them in half, ran a jute string between them and applied a dab of glue to keep them from sliding. image

I decided to play around with the flag on fabric and designed some pennants at Spoonflower. I started out with the second iteration of the paper design, and had it printed. But once I had gotten the sample, I made a few changes. image

I changed the size of the flags to 11x14 inches and got rid of the white space. I designed the fabric with very light cut lines, so people can make their own flags. And then I made the fabric available for sale, here. Each yard makes about 16 flags. You can play with the layout of the flags, too.image

They make a great host/hostess gift if you’re visiting friends for dinner at home or at their farm. image

I’ve been making cheerful pennants for years, and often have them on my Etsy site, including some I just made with a great Lilly Pulitzer print. imageAnd of course, the dozens of pennants I made for the Cirque Balle event about two months ago which have already been borrowed by friends! Since I have access to great fabrics from some of the top houses, including Schumacher, Victoria Hagen, Colefax & Fowler, Designers Guild and others, the pennants I make are pretty extravagant!image

Although we don’t use pennants as much as in the UK, I’ve been noticing them in stores more and more, and even saw some burlap pennants at World Market.image So cheap and cheezy… and Chinese-made.

June 22, 2016

Dollhouses & Murder

About a year or so ago, I had the chance to visit the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore and see their fascinating collection of dollhouses… of a sort. Actually what I got to see were the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of 19 small dioramas handmade in the 1940’s in 1:12 inch scale. IMG_0823[3]

The detail in these houses is extraordinary, and their creator, International Harvester heiress Francis Glessner Lee, handmade many of the pieces herself, having been taught the womanly arts of sewing, knitting and decoration as a young women. Pieces were knitted on straight pins, fabric was washed and dried dozens of times to creat the wear patterns, drawers open, cabinets are filled, and calendar pages are not only correct, but show the subsequent months. chairs

All of this is a way of letting you know that my office is hosting a lecture on Wednesday, July 13 in Baltimore on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Tickets are $5.00 per person and can be ordered here. IMG_0828[3]Although the Nutshells won’t be there because they’re part of a permanent exhibition at the Medical Examiner’s office, there will be plenty of fascinating information and amazing images of them. For more information on the lecture, please check my MedChi Archives blog, here.

June 16, 2016

The Tivoli Tea House at Ladew Gardens

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that one of my favourite places is Ladew Gardens, a spectacular topiary garden about 20 miles north of Baltimore. I generally get up there several times a year, usually once a season. IMG_1347
I headed up there this week for the opening of the Tivoli Teahouse. There’s a funny history behind this little space. It used to be, or was modeled on the ticket office at the Tivoli Theatre in the Strand in London. image
It sits at the far end of the gardens, secluded in its own little world. It was a place where Ladew’s owner, bon vivant Harvey Ladew could take some time to himself, away from his numerous and constant guests. He could sit in an easy chair in front of the fireplace and make notes to himself about what he’d noticed in the garden. And because he was Harvey, there was a secret bar for tête–à–tête cocktails!
I decided to walk down to the tea house via the garden paths, rather than through the big bowl. IMG_1335
Many of the gardens are planted according to colour or variety, so I started out in the pink garden, IMG_1423
headed through the rose garden, IMG_1351
stopped to chat with a frog, IMG_1349
checked on the bees, IMG_1375
watched the late afternoon sun in the yellow garden, IMG_1371x
and finally spotted the cocktail tent. IMG_1357
Ladew was serving some of the 1950’s food that they found in some of Harvey’s cookbooks, and the cocktails were from the same era. One of the best hors d’oeuvres was a butter cracker, some parmesan cheese on top and a piece of bacon wrapped around it and baked. YUM! The cocktails were served in glasses with a fun pink elephant copied from those that they had found in the secret bar. IMG_1427
The flowers on the tables all came from the gardens, and since Ladew is north of Baltimore and on a windy hill, they’re about a week later in flowering than in the city. IMG_1362
I LOVE pink peonies!IMG_1385
After a few words and some of the history of the Tivoli Teahouse, it was opened!IMG_1364
Harvey had a great and sly sense of humour and the teahouse reflects some of that. The window on the rear of the house looks out over some spectacular rolling hills, so he framed the view.IMG_1404
He was an amateur artist, so he painted the walls in a pale pink with a chinoiserie theme. The staff knew that he had some china for tea, and spent ages looking for it, until they realized that it was the china they used for their lunches every day!IMG_1406
During an earlier renovation, the original walnut floors were removed, but someone on the staff had the foresight to keep them, and they were refinished and reinstalled!
Harvey had cleverly hidden a bar behind a mirror, and my friend, Emily, who’s the Executive Director at the Gardens, was equally clever and had a picture of Harvey printed out at 50% halftone and adhered to the mirror. I might have to do that with a picture of our ghost!
As I wandered back to the car, I noticed the amazing detail in the garden, IMG_1416
how beautifully everything is situated, IMG_1412
and how incredibly lucky we are to have Ladew Gardens in our back yard!IMG_1440
And I took time to smell the rosed. Literally.