Tag Archives: antiques

As Dashing as Downton

Were you as excited as I was for Downton Abbey’s season 3 premiere on Sunday? 7.9 million Americans tuned in and frankly, it’s the only thing that some of my friends can talk about.

Imege: Gregory Han

I’m really not surprised that Downton has become such a hit. In addition to the often scandalous plots, every frame is a feast for the eyes, filled with luscious Edwardian fashion and décor.

Image: Tulle & Trinkets

Image: What the Frock

Fashion blogs have exploded with posts on how to incorporate little touches from the Teens and Twenties for a retro yet forward-thinking wardrobe inspired by Lady Mary, Edith, and Sybil.

Image: The English Room

And don’t think that designers haven’t taken note of the fashionistas’ interest in vintage. Don’t believe me?

Image: My Grace

Image: Fab Sugar

Take a look at Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2012 collection. He readily admits that he is a fan of the show and both his couture gowns and menswear-inspired separates clearly reflect its influence.

Image: Haute Indoor Couture

The Abbey is also starting to influence the interior design world. While no one is recommending the over-the-top decadence of Edwardian décor, the addition of a few key pieces can be quite chic.

Image: 47 Park Avenue

I adore this Edwardian Sheraton mahogany dentist’s cabinet placed in 47 Park Avenue’s dressing room. It has the exquisite craftsmanship characteristic on the period and balances the otherwise stark modernism of the room.

Image: fanpop!

Authentic Edwardian furniture can be hard to find (and incredibly pricey).  Thankfully, furniture designers are also getting caught up in the excitement and producing knock-offs and modern interpretations.

Image: Anthropologie

I can just imagine moping like Mary in Anthropologie’s Marjorie Chair, though it would be difficult to stay sad with such a perky colour choice. There’s nothing old-fashioned about this cheerful terra cotta!

Image: Living in Color

If investment pieces aren’t in your budget, consider a trip back in time via local antique or thrift shops. Small antique perfume bottles, vases, and other trinkets will help to instill your space with a little Edwardian glamour. And don’t forget colour! Living in Color finds some Downton-appropriate hues in the Benjamin Moore Historical Colour series, while Gregory Han mimics the manor with Farrow and Ball paints.

Image: Your 4 Walls

It seems like almost every inch of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, is covered in Damask wallpaper. However, in less grand settings this choice can look dowdy. Unless, of course, you pick a thoroughly modern palette; then it just looks awesome.

Are you in love with Downton? Enough to embrace Edwardian in your personal style? I’d love to hear about your take on this trend.

Posted in Design, Fashion | Tagged , ,

The Design Tree’s Guide to Flea Markets

Photo from Panjiayuan Antiques MarketPanjiayuan Antiques Market image via blood rice and noodles

My grandmother is an antiques dealer; she once owned her own shop and now she sells primarily online. From an early age she instilled in me a love of old things and a hunter’s instinct for a good deal. As a little girl I often went with her to auctions and flea markets looking for inventory for her shop. Sometimes I was even designated the haggler, because who could say no to an eight year old when she’s offering you a quarter for that mint condition, highly collectible vintage doll? To say I enjoyed these trips with my grandmother would be an understatement; I absolutely loved them.

Flea markets, both close to home and when I’m travelling, can still fill me with the same excitement today. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my grandmother and from my own experiences that will hopefully make your next flea market trip a successful one.

Antiques Market in PanjiayuanPanjiayuan Antiques Market image via blood rice and noodles

Do Your Research Beforehand

The atmosphere in a busy flea market can be frenzied and often you don’t have much time to decide on purchases. It helps to do a little research beforehand. If you have your heart set on original art or local collector’s pieces you can research signs of authenticity, markings etc. so you’ll be able to come to a decision speedily and move on to the next booth.

Kitschy finds from a flea marketImage via Thompson Family Life

More Tourists Equals Fewer Deals

Flea markets abroad can definitely be tourist traps where you won’t find the deals and quality goods you are looking for. If you can, try to find out where the locals go in order to get the best finds. Locating a market off the beaten track will also usually lead to better deals than one in the centre of a big city.

The Junction Flea MarketJunction Flea via Love it A Lot

Only Buy What You Can’t Live Without

Faced with a box full of cheap and beautiful trinkets it can be tempting to just buy everything, but when you get home you might discover those precious purchases look a little bit more like junk than jewels when you can’t figure out where to put them. Try to evaluate each potential purchase individually: Do you love it? Have you ever seen anything like it before? What will you use it for? These are all good questions to ask yourself to ensure that you will be satisfied with your buys long after the thrill of the hunt has worn off.

Junction FleaJunction Flea via Love it A Lot

Come Prepared

If you know you’re going to be doing some serious shopping you don’t want to have to take multiple trips to the car, so bring a collapsible shopping cart or some large shopping bags to carry purchases that you pick up along the way.

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Rose Bowl Flea Market image via sfgirlbybay

The Go Early or Go Late Dilemma

First thing in the morning you are likely to get the best selection, but don’t expect to score many deals. Conversely, if you go at the end of the day the selection may be narrowed but as people are starting to pack up their booths they may be willing to cut you a deal, they’d rather sell it than carry it back home.

Flea Market in ParisParis Flea via Velvet and Linen

Haggle Respectfully

A little bit of “price negotiation” is often expected at most flea markets but depending on where you are in the world you will find that the protocol varies significantly. The best thing I can recommend is to haggle respectfully. The person selling the item you want to buy wants to make a living, and they have a good idea of what they can afford to let something go for. It never hurts to suggest a lower price or ask for a deal, just do so without being a bully.

Paris Flea MarketParis Flea image via Velvet and Linen

That’s all for today’s flea market guide. Have you been to any amazing flea markets around the world? Any one-of-a-kind finds? I’d love to hear where you’ve been and what you’ve found on your travels.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Boxed Up

Antique boxes from Tibet featuring hand painted tigers

Hand painted antique storage chests from Greentea Design

My partner is King of Clutter.  It can be so disheartening because while I don’t like a mess, the stuff can be hard to battle as it piles up and up and up.  But I am happy to say that I think I have finally won the heart and mind of the king vis-a-vis this crap,  and together we waged war against it, tackling the clutter pile by pile.  Several trips to Goodwill later, many hours at the shredder, this place is looking fresh!

Here’s how we did it:

The Closets

organized closet via Simplified BeeSuper organized closet via Simplified Bee

boxes in a closetImage via BHG

Clothes ClosetImage via I Heart Organizing

We started by cleaning out the closets which seems counter-intuitive.  But it’s a step I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re like us and stuff your closets with the stuff you rarely use.  We set a stale-date for the closet discoveries:  if it hasn’t been used (and in many cases even thought about) in a year, can we really make a case for keeping it?  So this is how we started the giveaway pile: toys, books, CDs, furniture, clothes, kitchen gadgets.

The next step was to get on with organizing the closets, which included putting up extra shelving so to best maximize space.

While this closet purging created waaaaay more chaos in the already chaotic apartment, it was necessary.  Not only do we have more storage space in the closets, it got us in the right Get-Rid-Of-It frame of mind, which is how you want the stage set. No namby-pamby sentimentality about that TTC transfer from that “special day”.

The Do-We-Need-It? Box

The next step, which we return to in a couple of weeks, was to go through the kitchen drawers, the “miscellaneous” drawers, the counter and renegade surface piles.  We filed what needed to filed, returned home the articles that had a designated space.  The rest we boxed and will return to in 4-6 weeks.  If in that time we don’t go in the box for it, then it gets tossed. Whatever we do use gets a permanent home.

Organizing The Rest With Pretty Boxes

It turns out that boxes are my best friend! (Or at least in the inanimate category.) Lidded ones and decorative ones especially.  They are beautiful and functional and hide the crazy so perfectly.  Greentea Design has the most amazing collection of antique storage boxes from all over Asia.  I’ve got one that sits prettily in a display nook, hiding of all things, tools, lightbulbs, tape and batteries (hey it’s out of reach of tiny curious hands, but still easy to access).

Here are some others in the showroom right now:

Tibetan fur chest

Tibetan chest adorned with fur

Antique Tibetan Box

Handpainted antique storage box

Tibetan Skin ChestChest from Tibet adorned with leather

We stocked up on boxes of various sizes from IKEA, office supply places, etc.  There seems to be no better time to find this stuff then during this Back-to-School season. Many of the things that were sitting out now have permanent homes in these boxes that are stored neatly on top of our bookcases, in closets, and the loveliest of them in plain sight.

It’s been a lot of work, but well worth it.  Home should be relaxing, the place to recharge, and your environment needs to reflect this.  And finally ours does.

How do you control clutter?


It’s Foodie Tuesday

fancy lacquered chopsticsImage via A La Mode

Chopsticks really are an icon of Asian culture.  It’s easy to see why when we stare down at our own place setting. Two tapered sticks to replace both fork and knife. Chopsticks seem to embody grace and exoticism for many in this neck of the woods.

It’s believed that chopsticks made their appearance about 5000 years ago in China, born out of necessity in the woods, two slim twigs were broken from a tree and used to remove food from a pot cooking over an open fire.  But it was when a very popular vegetarian named Confucius proclaimed that knives had no place at the dinner table, linking their use with aggression, 500 years ago that their use and place in Asian society was permanently elevated.

Chopsticks made from silverImage via Etsy.

In the days of yore chopsticks were often a marker of wealth, some fashioned out of precious metals including gold and silver or emblazoned with beautiful calligraphy or carvings. Emperors in China even used their silver chopsticks to test foods for poison, believing that the silver colour would tarnish in the presence of toxins.

Antique chopstick holdersAntique Chopstick Holders from Greentea Design.

Shape and decoration  evolved by country and today there are lots of conventions, from culture to culture, that dictate good manners and proper etiquette around the table.  And that evolution continues today with all sorts of modern design and expanded functionality.

The chopstick spoon combo

The combination spoon and chopstick

Chopsticks that dispense sauce - ingenious!

Sauce dispensing chopsticks for the perfect amount of soy sauce!

Images via Toxel

chopsticks shaped like twigs

Beautiful reimagining of the original chopsticks

Image via Anthropologie

And it’s not just modern designs that have emerged.  Fascination with chopsticks have led designers to use chopsticks as a building material.  Here are some transformations of this ubiquitous eating utensil:

Tina Baine's Chopstick Fruit BowlOver at Ready Made, Tina Baine posted this beautiful fruit bowl she fashioned out of chopsticks.  It’s striking and sculptural.  It’s also collapsable when not in use, for quick and easy storage.  Directions to make your own can be found here.

Chopsticks are used to make these Sea Urchin LightsOver at Weirdomatic I saw these Sea Urchin Lights fashioned from chopsticks by LaCor Furniture.

collapsing and expanding chopstick sofa called sofa xxxx

Image via Curbly

And finally the piece de resistance: the expanding contracting chopstick sofa-chair, called SOFA_XXXX by Yuya Ushida, made from 8000 chopsticks.  Visit Freshome for a video of this sofa’s transformation.

If you’re among the many here who haven’t quite mastered the use of chopsticks, perhaps one of these projects is for you.  Put those takeout chopsticks taking up all that room in your drawer to good use!

A Love of All Things Asian: The Freer Gallery’s Peacock Room

I tend to think of the influence of Asian art on Western design as being a recent trend but in fact it has had a significant impact for over 150 years.

by Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai, South Wind, Clear Sky (1830-1833)
Photo: The British Museum

In the 1860’s, Japan opened up to international trade, which provided Europe with greater access to the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints that were gaining popularity in France. The style of artists like Katsushika Hokusai was completely different from the realism found in traditional European painting at the time.

Painting by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt, Maternal Caress (1891)
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Artists of the Impressionist and later movements emulated the clean lines and bold colours of the Japanese masters, as well as the scenes of everyday life and landscapes.

Japanese inspired Van Gogh painting

Vincent Van Gogh (after Eisen), La Courtisane (1887)
Photo: Hokusai Online

People in Paris and London went crazy for all things Japanese, including ceramics, bronzes, and clothing items like kimonos and fans. As interest in the East grew, so too did an interest in the art of other cultures, like China.

Kimono fabric in European dress

19th Century Dress Made from a Kimono
Photo: The Dreamtress

Perhaps the greatest example of this fascination with incorporating elements of Asian culture in 19th century design is The Peacock Room. Originally created for British shipping magnate Frederick Leyland to showcase his Chinese porcelain collection, it was redecorated in blue and gold by James McNeill Whistler in the 1870’s to reflect the patterns of Leyland’s ceramics. Whistler even installed one of his Japanisme paintings, The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, above the mantle.

The Peacock Room

The Peacock Room
Photo: Picturing AmericaMIAC

In 1908, Charles Lang Freer purchased the room and it shipped to America and installed in his house in Detroit. Like Leyland, he used the space to display his collection of Asian and Islamic ceramics.

The Peacock Room
Photo: The Freer Gallery

The room has once again been transported, this time to the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., complete with its ceramics just as it stood in Detroit. I recently visited the Freer to view its collection of Islamic art but ended up spending almost an hour in this room. I was mesmerized by the rich gold and bluish-green colour scheme; it was both overwhelming and comforting and if I didn’t have a train to catch, I could have spent the rest of the day there taking in the many wondrous details.

The Peacock Room
Photo: Smithsonian Studio Art Blog

Since then, I have found myself a little obsessed with this space, wondering if a modernized version might be possible. Peacock blue has been a popular paint colour in recent years, and that would be the easiest fix, with added touches of gold and a few Asian accessories.

Photo: House of Turquoise via Vignette Design

If you want to go really bold, you could use vintage-style wallpaper, like this damask print.

Photo: Kaboodle

I think the Victorian horror vacui wallpaper/painting is a little much (and who can afford to have someone like Whistler come and paint their living room?) but a screen with a peacock design would help to evoke its spirit.

Photo: Whitehaven Interiors

Perhaps the easiest way to replicate the Japanisme décor of the original room is with groupings of Asian ceramics or other collectables.

Photo: Greentea Design

These don’t need to be precious antiques and in fact I think it would be far more interesting to use modern items, perhaps set on gold lacquered shelves against a bold blue background.

Photo: Greentea Design

If you are in Washington, I urge you to visit The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery. If you can’t, you can at least take a virtual tour online. But what I would really like to see is your interpretation of this Western take on Eastern style. Have you mixed East and West in your décor?