Blogging about a variety of things I enjoy. Also peddling my wares at Thicket and Thistle on Etsy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

miniatures in the big city

The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago is a collection of meticulously constructed living rooms from different eras of British and American history, commissioned by Mrs. James Thorne of Chicago in the 1930s. The 68 rooms silently tell all sorts of stories of the inhabitants of noble British drawing rooms in the 19th Century and more humble Puritan multi-use spaces.
I love the arched alcoves and all the molding in this drawing room:
A23: Virginia Drawing Room, 1754, c. 1940
And the shocking orange of the airy curtains in this bedroom:
A32: Louisiana Bedroom, 1800-50, c. 1940
And the tonal ambers and saffrons in this dining room:
A14: Pennsylvania Drawing Room, 1834-36, c. 1940
And the neutral zen of this foyer:

E-11: English Entrance Hall of the Georgian Period, c. 1775, c. 1932
Seeing the Thorne Miniature Rooms a few years ago struck a serious chord for me. I cherish the dollhouse that my mom got me for Christmas in 1993, the painstaking construction of which my older brother took on as a hobby when he was in high school. He stained the wood floors and layed them strip by strip, added electric wiring for the chandeliers, wallpapered the hallways in my favorite cream-and-gold fleur de lis pattern, caulked the brick apron that runs the perimeter of the house, and carefully painted each spindle of the porch (which my niece has subsequently knocked down). The house is still a work in progress (yes, still) but once the "construction" is done, it will be filled with all the beautiful pieces my mom has purchased over the years, on business trips and in our favorite little shops around DC. She splurged on gold leaf-trimmed living room furniture, traditional swaths of greenery bedecked with faux fruit to hang over the mantle at Christmas, a set of "wicker" furniture to mimic the Wicker Room in my grandparents' old house, a butcher's block for the 1950s (or so) kitchen, a coat rack complete with little cane hat. It was sometime still in the 1990s when my favorite aunt gifted me an enormous, exquisite collection of miniature food--a tin of loose bisquits, jars of lemon curd, a copper pot full of boiled potatoes, another dish of beef stew, ice cream sundaes, canned goods, and my personal favorite, tacos.
The saga that is the evolution of my dollhouse makes me appreciate all the more Mrs. Thorne's attention to detail and the imagination involved in her project, even when building with such historical accuracy. And if there's one thing I can really appreciate about the Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute, it's the lack of miniature people. If you've ever seen the tiny dolls meant to fit into dollhouses, you know that they always fall short of the images in your head. There's no reason to complete the daydream. All images - Art Institute of Chicago

Monday, April 6, 2009


I just this very second purchased a set of prints I have had my eye on for some time. They are prints of original papercuts by Mon Petit Fantome. They are haunting yet whimsical and they're titles make them all the more mysterious.
"There Is Something about You"

I wonder if that fox is as friendly as I want him to be. Or maybe the little boy is more cunning and less innocent than he appears. His is a full-on top hat, not the Tom Sawyer straw flop we expect from the looks of his idle pose.
"I Do Not Know Where We Are Going but at Least We Are Together"

The relationship between the rabbit and the deer is also intriguing. The rabbit assumes a serene slouch that makes him appear older than the deer, perhaps a fawn, whose straight neck is youthful and almost carefree. The title belies the evident servitude of the reins. The image is wrapped in botanical antlers, making me feel as though I'm peering through a clearing in the woods of Narnia.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

blue hawaii

The Hawaii Five-O spread in the spring 2009 issue of Wall Street Journal Magazine was a standout (in addition to the lengthy but continuously intriguing article on the dapper luxury brand megastar Bernard Arnault). This $1,520 bathing suit by Emilio Pucci is gorgeous. The perfect creamsicle hues, draped block-color torso, and vintage cut make for a classic look with modern spunk. The model reminds me of Joan Blackman (a.k.a. Elvis's girlfriend) in Blue Hawaii.
Image 1 - WSJ Magazine
Image 2 -


Domino Magazine may be a thing of the past but the retro game is renewed in the form of bright, near-edible confections at Pottery Barn. Were I free of rent and car payments, I just might splurge on a set. And take a refresher course on the rules of the game.


I'm currently obsessed with the TypeRacer online typing game. It's really quite upsetting when I don't get first place. Despite that I have never played a competitive (or even friendly) sport in my life, maybe I'm more competitive than I thought. One day I'll make it to the ranks of the 150 words-per-minute players.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

dame mas

I finally convinced my significant other to take a day trip to Charlottesville with me yesterday. It was grey, cool, foggy, and on the verge of rain - often the standard Cville weather, so a rather appropriate day for his first time. The drive down 29 is lovely. Ramshackle dwellings on the side of the road, green hills being nibbled out by brown and black cows, silver silos blending into the grey sky.
We started with a walking tour of my alma mater. The school was quiet on a Saturday morning. We stopped in at Finch, a small town version of Anthropologie, where he bought a t-shirt by Southern Proper with a black lab (wearing a red bow tie) on the black, underneath which appeared "Haberdashery for the Southern Gentleman." I bought a pretty little mint julep cup, one of which I have coveted ever since I saw them being featured in magazines as vases. My budget doesn't afford for weekly fresh peonies, so I'm considering going the fake route...I've heard if they're good, it doesn't really matter much that they're fake. A big hydrangea bloom would be lovely, too.
Next stop, Feast!, a gourmet local foods shop that has become one of my favorite stops in town. They bottle the tastiest olive oils, always have plenty of samples of chutney and Virginia cheeses (including the amazing, creamy, onion-y Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, VA), and offer the most wonderful, pungent, spicy molasses cookies that I have tried, tried again to replicate. I usually buy them out of their stock; this weekend I only bought four. Feast! is part of Main Street Market, a little collective of local stores, including an organic butcher, wine bar, and bright flower shop. It has become an increasingly popular stop since I first started making my weekly pilgrimage in 2006.
A quick drive down the street led us to the Downtown Mall, where I decided we'd grab a cheap but decidedly delicious lunch at Marco and Luca's dumpling stand. Seven dumplings and a steamed pork roll later, I dragged my reluctant Southern gentleman into the expansive and ever-intriguing Caspari gift shop, which never fails to attract me with its brightly colored dishes, notecards, napkins, teacups, and seasonal decorations (this spring: blue and green robins' eggs). He decided stores like that should have speakeasies in the back for male shopping companions only.
On and just off the Downtown Mall are unique shops selling antiques, vintage clothing and jewelry, and beautiful things for the home (like Quince, Posh, 2 French Hens, and, formerly, Rock Paper Scissors, which has since moved to Barracks Road).

Shopping for me was cut short so we could make the short trip up to Monticello, where we toured around for about two hours. I've only ever been on grey, rainy days but the grounds are still fresh and the air pure. I love the octagonal spaces and especially the tea room, which is on the north side of the house and therefore a bit chilly but yesterday was set for a very yummy looking tea.
We left shortly after five with the explicit intention of arriving at Mas--one of my all-time favorite restaurants, which serves some of the best tapas I've ever had (and I studied abroad in Spain)--by the time it opened at 5:30. We weren't the only early birds waiting for them to unlock the doors. The wait sometimes reaches two hours for the maybe 20-table restaurant, nestled into the Belmont neighborhood, which is mixed but undergoing a renaissance.
We started with a delicious collection of olives, followed by homemade bread and olive oil. We checked off our tapas selections on the paper menu (T for tapas size, R for a racion) and awaiting the slew of dishes. First, a platter of thinly sliced jamon serrano and manchego. Next, patatas bravas with aioli, salty and hot. After that, the tenderest gnocchi with simply the freshest pesto I've ever had. Bread with lavendar honey and melted cheese, bacon-wrapped dates, carne asada, chicken and pork meatballs, Wagyu and rice-stuffed poblano peppers followed in rapid succession. We were stuffed and I was happy. Oh--I mustn't forget the blood orange margarita. Mas alone is worth the two-hour drive.
Charlottesville is quickly gentrifying and catering to wealthier students and residents, eager to enjoy chic boutiques and foodie hangouts. It's even better now that I don't have homework....
Image 1 -
Images 2 & 3 -
Image 4 -
Image 5 -
Images 6 & 7 -

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

see: urchin

Sea urchins abound! Last night I had on my mind two original prints I saw about a year ago in a custom framing shop, each of three plump sea urchins, in pink or taupe. The perfect strings of dots cascading down its ovular shape were so pretty and simple. I regret not spending the $15....A search has turned up several promising manifestations of my mental image. This seems like a theme that J.Crew could capitalize on. I can imagine a summer catalogue advertising enamel cocktail rings in pop colors with shiny gold protuberances (technically, the tubercles).
This ring and brooch are made from real, live (well, dead) sea urchins collected from the beaches of Turkey. Coveting this shiny sterling silver ring.... The simple print on the cards and rather wild envelope liner make me think of the 1970s, Paper Source, and my perfect, forever lost urchin prints. And wouldn't you know it, on a walk in Georgetown this evening I happened to spot a pale blue-green enamel sea urchin decorative box in the window of an antiques shop. It must be a sign. Image 1 - Flickr Images 2 and 3 - Star of the East Image 4 - Nafsika Made Image 5 - Pixel Impress

Monday, March 23, 2009

stairway to heaven

These two staircases, and the little feet whizzing up the first set, make me think of unbridled, joyous youth. These are unapologetically youthful stairs. If I were old enough to have kids (actually, I'm old enough...let's rephrase: if I were ready enough to have kids) I would gather the gang for a stair-painting party. When I showed these pictures to my sister today, she seemed less taken by them as I was but she thought of another fun idea: a tonal staircase - one color, graded hues. I think it would be fun with orange, or maybe taupe.
The big, jolly numbers remind me of hotel rooms, which reminds me how much I used to want to work in a hotel. My cousins set up a receptionist desk in my grandparents' old bicentennial Victorian in New Jersey and would make my parents, aunts, and uncles sign the guest book upon arrival. Instead of numbers on the many doors, each room developed its own name and identity over the years. On the second floor were Ocean 1 (ocean views), Bay 1 (bay views), the Wicker Room (home to a little wicker chair), and my great aunt's and grandparent's rooms. Way up on the third floor were John Patrick's Room (eldest of many grandchildren), the Tower room, and the Studio (a six-bed, long room for girls only).

Numbered Staircase - Pink Wallpaper via The Happy Haven via Flickr
Rainbow Staircase - Domino Magazine Online

Sunday, March 22, 2009

brass fixtures

One of my favorite pasttimes of late is typing in key words into the Etsy search box and seeing what pops up. (This is how I found my coveted chandelier print, below.) This evening, after seeing what was most likely a pricey brass starburst wall piece on, my mind fixated on the earthy metal. Etsy delivered loads (2300+) of unexpected charms, such as this fun masquerade ball necklace by SimplyChacha:
I also found this funky brass bow headband on mylavaliere's site, which is oh-so-"The City" now that New York is in a rapture over vintage 20s meets hippy chic headgear:
But my favorite shop discovery is KimBDesigns, the poster behind which backdrops all of her pieces with organic chartreuses. Her stackable series of bracelets and rings remind me of the Sundance catalogue but without the unnecessary pomp and price. This "Tide Pool" ring would make a pretty every-weekend-day accoutrement. It reminds me that I'd one day like to collect ancient jewelry. (Apparently the Greek and Roman Empires were so prolific that small accessories and pottery aren't exhorbitantly expensive. If the collection at the Met is any indication, there's no shortage in the world supply.)
These cheeky earrings are from GlitteryBlue. I own a pair of similarly shaped danglies that encase lots of little cogs and wheels, almost as if it were a window into a clock, and always get me compliments. The shop was present at an otherwise lame "Girls Night Out" jewelry/clothing "fair" I went to last year in DC. The only worthwhile shop I found there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

iso: beautiful things

Of the many beautiful, ecclectic finds that pop up and out on Australian designer Anna Spiro's lollipop blog, Absolutely Beautiful Things, is an inspiring bedroom by Mrs. Howard Personal Shopper. Thank goodness the light catches the high gloss midnight paint, otherwise I might not have noticed its unusual texture. The shiny upper of the wall is like a patent leather stiletto above the creamy carpet of Pantheonic molding.
I love Mrs. Howard's appreciation for comfy couches, the stabilizing effect of neutrals, and symmetry. The imposing, disproportionate mirror here is looped in to the rest of the warm room through color.
Wherever did she find an octopus triptych?

revolutionary design

This post title is perhaps a bit dramatic. Ever since I saw Revolutionary Road, I've wanted to post on the amazing set and costume design. For their work on the film, Kristi Zea and Debra Schutt were nominated in the Art Direction category at the Oscars (ultimately the gilded statue went to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). No one had to guess at April Wheeler's quiet beauty or her home's muted, simple elegance. I was particularly taken with the little pale blue chair hanging out in one corner of the living room. A trim, tautly upholstered seat in a robin's egg tweed would look just as "in place" now as it does in the 1950s Connecticut home that is the scene of such love and loss in Revolutionary Road. The blue sofa and tri-legged table are almost cheery for a movie that in the end leaves us with such confusion and pain (see second image of the best pictures I could find of my favorite chair, unfortunately caught amidst desperation).

Mid Century Modern can looked dated in the 21st Century if not properly integrated. But that little blue chair and its devil-may-care me they call out for a flirtatious companion at a cocktail party. Someone, perhaps, like the young woman below. Albert Wolsky, also nominated for an Oscar. kept the costumes believable. April Wheeler is a housewife who owns the obligatory button-downs and chore-adaptable skirts as well as a few knock-your-socks-off shifts for special occasions (like drinks with the neighbors and visits to the travel agent). She's not a glamazon; she's not a model; she's a suburban housewife yearning for some glamour and adventure. If only she had reached Paris. Images: (1); (2); (3); (4)

Friday, January 16, 2009

argo, you go

Sometimes it's nice to take the evening off and surf the Internet in bed - a much different feeling than surfing the Internet from any other locale, whether it be work or a busy swift-service eatery. The most inspiring finds come from relaxed surfing. Tonight I took a look back at the history of my web puddle-jumping. Evidently, I am a fan of saving random discoveries in my favorites list. At times I forget why the hell I ever cared about x and my mind starts picking up the pace when I see a recipe I wanted to but never did try. This evening one of my favorite links tapped my memory on the shoulder. Two years ago, a trip to Chicago got me hooked on a local franchise of tea cafes by the name of Argo Tea. I went to a different location every day of my trip, loving every sip of my chai lattes and anti-winter milky specialty drinks. The vibe at Argo Tea is chill. The soft but noticeable beats playing on the speakers and clean, "organic" interiors draw a Mac-tapping hipster crowd in dark-rimmed glasses. The service is unfailingly friendly, the selection of tea flawless, and the packaging artsy. The place makes you feel good. A must-sip for tea loving visitors (the locals already sip). For those of us on the East Cozy, far from the pleasures of an in-house cup, Argo ships their tea. I will surely sleep easy tonight having learned they stock a rooibos vanilla, which I discovered and fell in love with at my hotel in Budapest in October but could not find in stores here at home. This isn't me hyperbolizing - the place really is that awesome. Which reminds me...I cannot vouch for super-hip artist Moby's nifty tea cafe, Teany, in NY, but it certainly looks like a fun place to hang out and make some cool friends. They claim to stock 98 different kinds of tea. With an ambitious stock like that, I would most certainly ask for a recommendation. Tea havens are made for branching out. One itty bitty tea cafe in The City that I can vouch for is SubtleTea at 121 Madison Avenue #3. The interiors are in shades of Argo - snappy lime greens and bright whites joined with wood tones. The communal table (and communal magazines) help ward off New York's occasionally stay-away-from-me-you-stranger rep. More friendly staff can be found here. Hip, hip for brighter lights and wider selections than some of the country's better known coffee houses! Coffee can't compare to the charms of tea lattes, hot chocolates, and warm ciders. If only DC had better representation from the only kind of party I care about....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

chandeliers and the color orange

Of late, I have developed an obsession with orange. In my middle school youth I called it my favorite color and made a naive attempt at wearing it. Now I appreciate it much more as a decorative element. My dining room chairs from West Elm are bright orange and paired with a chocolate brown table. I aimed to paint an accent wall in my bedroom bright orange but decided it would be too much in my small-ish space. Today on Etsy I discovered a brilliant artistic pairing of orange and one of my favorite design idees fixes - the chandelier. NestaHome creates funky, slightly off-kilter prints of chandeliers on bright, bright backgrounds. The artist kindly offered to go bigger and bolder when I asked if she could do 16x20 prints. Chandeliers are meant to be big, in my book. A white chandelier on a gold-orange background will be the perfect next best thing to an orange accent wall, and something I can triumphantly hang when I achieve my next interior design goal - painted brick in the bedroom (or anywhere, really).