Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Maymont Visit

I was excited when I arrived at “Maymont,” the magnificent Gilded Age mansion in Richmond, Virginia. I had not visited for years and that morning I was going to meet the Curator, Dale Wheary, for a chat about the interiors. Built in 1893 by the Dooley’s, a wealthy family in Richmond, Maymont is a wonderful example of what is called the Victorian “Romanesque” period---the building and decorating of the house spans the years from 1893 to 1925. Within you will find Tiffany windows, as beautiful as any you might imagine, with wonderful plastered ceilings, a charming Swan bed and a well preserved historic house museum which Dale has been the curator of for over 30 years.

Ms. Wheary told me how before the Maymont Foundation took over the house, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department had the job of the maintaining the mansion. As is often the case with Historic House Museum’s, the Dooley’s had left no endowment to care for and curate the museum. She showed me a good example of what happens when well meaning but uninformed “restorations” are done. In the downstairs parlor there is much plaster ornamentation on the ceilings and walls, which was originally gilded. During the period the Parks and Recreation Department had oversight of the mansion the Department simply used gold radiator paint to do the job of the plaster restoration (OMG!). Wisely using this as a teaching tool, Dale decided to leave a small plaster rose unrestored to contrast with the properly restored gilding of the delicate plasterwork on the wall above the mantel. Visually, the visitor is quite shocked to see the contrast.

There are so many things about the house that are fascinating. For instance , there is no wallpaper in the house as the Dooley’s preferred the walls hand painted or stenciled and they did use silk damask upholstered walls in the two drawing rooms . The draperies in the home are amazingly almost all original and on all the windows you will find the original venetian blinds that were an excellent way to control light streaming into the room, in fact you will find the original ventian blinds on all the windows of the house. The opulence in draperies that are associated with the Victorian era especially in a house as significant as “Maymont,” is not really present; certainly the textiles used were of very fine quality, but the window treatments are not excessively lavish. As a designer I can see that whomever choose them had good instincts about the draperies as they frame the windows that look out on a beautiful vista. She seemed to recognize that there is so much ornamentation within the rooms anything more ornate would be way too much aesthetically.

Dale Weary has steered the restoration of this treasured historic house from a much neglected monolith to a jewel. Her passion for detail and “getting it right” is evident throughout and never more so than in the recently restored ‘below stairs” exhibit that is superb. The new exhibit reflects the lives and duties of the many African American workers in the home. With the accompanying cultural material information, this exhibit is a wonderful example of showing the visitor the world these household staff members lived in.

As she walked me through the beautiful rooms, Ms. Wheary mentioned often that the Maymont Council (the preservation support group now in its 27th year that helps fund conservation and restoration projects) are wonderful stewards of the Mansion. She showed me a little booklet that is a wish-list of sorts with objects or future projects listed along with photographs and an estimated cost associated with them. From small requests to those in the thousands it was a great tool to see at a glance what was needed.

Dale Wheary and her staff have done a magnificent job in restoring, maintaining and curating the museum and I can’t imagine the Dooley’s being anything but pleased and proud that Maymont is in such competent and caring hands. Lucky Maymont, lucky us…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Helping Hand...

Recently I spent some time with the young lady who was an intern for me and, as she was talking about her bleak job outlook, I found myself trying to strategize with her about her future---perhaps looking in the “mirror” in a different way, taking control and making her own opportunities.

She and her peers are so excited at this point in their lives and they have just accomplished a great feat---graduation! I would never want to shut them and their enthusiasm down with a curt, “Well, you know, NOBODY is hiring right now, have you thought about the food services industry?” So, I say to those of us who they turn to for advice, help them think outside the box. Don’t say you don’t know anyone who is hiring (that’s probably true in the curatorial field), but tell them to create a job by selling their knowledge to someone who does not usually think they need a person with this education helping them with their business.

Thinking outside the box, as it were, is the best way to come up with a job or business that will match their skills. Real Estate, local government, and Historic Preservation Societies are the first place one would think of that would need the skills of a young historian, especially if they are willing to piece together their jobs in a small “chunk” size that will be more affordable in today’s economy. For example, tell them to pitch to a real estate office that often has historic properties to sell, a service researching the information about what is available tax wise to someone who purchased this property. They could also add a history of the house for another fee---the trick is to keep the fees small and make money by volume. These days a simple, “You know you can get a tax break by buying this house,” does not cut it, people want to see a report or evidence that it can benefit them tax wise to purchase this home. A new graduate could charge a flat fee and work for many realtors. Or how about contacting a set designer or art director through the website, and send a letter offering to do research for them for their next project that features historical interiors, architecture or material culture.

Deciding where their interest lies is a major component in this next piece of advice. The best way to find out their passion and gain valuable experience is to volunteer at a historic site near where they live and get to know the staff so that they will be the first in line when a job does come around. Suggesting that they hone their skills in grant research and writing is something else that is currently very needed and with few people schooled in the proper way to go about the process. They have just graduated with the skills to research and analyze historic properties so connecting with a local appraising office is a place they could give out their cards and sell their ideas.

To her credit she was very respectful and listened as I came up with two or three ideas that she could put into action immediately. I am sure I sounded like I was very naïve as I spun the ideas and tried to get her excited about their potential to, if not make a living wage, at least be something to keep her active and engaged in her quest to find the perfect fit for her.

I have been very lucky in my career and I think it is because I have always done what I wanted to for the most part. I was blessed with an optimistic outlook no matter what befell me. I forget that lots of people do not have an entrepreneur’s constitution, and to be successful you certainly need a strong one.

This being said, I have also learned that when you float an idea that seems “out there” you definitely are blessed to have someone listening to you who takes the idea and without prejudice helps you flesh out the pluses and minuses of the proposal. These people are few and far between and I have found that when you find someone with great patience and listening ear, hang on to them as a friend or contemporary…or marry them as I did.

I have no idea whether or not she has gone on and taken any of my advice. I do know, however, that she knows that she can always find a willing listener in me if she needs one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Aesthetic Interior- 1870-1895

I have many visitors to our site asking about this beautiful period . They will find design elements throughout their Victorian homes especially carved on the fireplace mantels that are expressly Aesthetic in origin and baffle the homeowner as to what inspired this design.

I thought you might like to learn a little about this period overall so I have taken the text on the period from my website, and placed it here on my blog. The text is by Judith Gura, a very talented writer and scholar who also wrote a must have book “The Abrams Guide to Historic Interiors” from which this text is attributed. Hope you enjoy and that this helps you find Aesthetic period details in your home.

The Aesthetic interior is beguiling in its exoticism, and almost dizzying in its mix of color, pattern, and decoration. It resists classification, mixing elements from diverse sources in idiosyncratic renderings according to the designer’s whim and client’s preference, but it invariably provides a surfeit of visual stimulation. It is either the subject of instant attraction, or immediate dislike.

Wallpaper is at the height of fashion for Aesthetic interiors, in coordinated patterns that enable designers to create intricate decorative effects. On walls divided into three sections—dado below, field or filling above, and frieze just below the ceiling—a different pattern and variation of color is applied to each area. The dado pattern is the most intense, the frieze the most elaborate, and the field the most understated, since it also serves as background for hanging paintings or prints. The frieze is often defined by a wood rail that serves also as a shelf for china display.

Colors, in wall covering, textiles, and carpets, lean toward deep, subtly shades, such as dull greens, browns, and blues, with citrine as a frequent accent. Often there are shimmery accents.

Window treatments probably have patterned fabrics, often in motifs that suggest the Asian influence, which is a common theme of this period.

In accessories, Japanese and other Eastern sources provide many of the forms as well as the decorative inspiration for striking ceramics and metalwork—the Aesthetic era produced many objects of exceptional charm and originality.

Chandeliers and lamps are as important, or more important, for their decorative value as for their efficiency as illumination. The concept of “art” furniture, rejecting the commercialism of most industrially made design, is an important contribution of the movement. Aesthetic furniture generally avoids the weightiness of most Victorian-era pieces, and its light-scaled forms reflect the influence of the Eastern aesthetic. The silhouettes of chests, exemplified by William Godwin’s Anglo-Japanese designs, may suggest Japanese cabinetry. Others might be painted or incised with images of stylized birds and foliage. Many items of furniture are painted or lacquered black or, later in the Aesthetic period, made of light-toned mahogany or satinwood. They are often carved with openwork motifs drawn from Oriental objects.

- text by Judith Gura, author "The Abrams Guide to Historic Interiors"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Textile Blog: Interior Textiles of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

I ran across this blog while going thru my notes recently and after checking it out I was so impressed with the scholarship and information that I felt it was important to give everyone a chance to visit it and learn from the authors impressive knowledge base. I do warn you that you need to be prepared for getting lost in the wide breath of information on not only historic textiles but textiles in general. Enjoy!

The Textile Blog: Interior Textiles of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A new look for Locust Grove

I am really excited about the new restoration going on at Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky.

From the looks of the images on our Featured Museum page the work was beautifully done and the symposium on the weekend of June 26-27th sounds like it should not be missed. It is always a daunting task to a museum’s staff to undertake such a large project, and this one was handled by some of the best professionals and companies in the business.

If you have a chance, take the time to either attend the symposium, or visit this wonderful mansion.

I know I’m going to.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Historic Adobe Homes

I want to draw your attention to the beautiful trio of articles in the latest Early American Life Magazine concerning the wonderful adobe homes in Santa Fe, N.M. In celebration of their 400 year old anniversary this year Santa Fe is holding many events to showcase these historic dwellings that are among the oldest in our nation.

Written by Jean Marie Andrews, Honoring His Ancestors”, Larry E. Johnson “Colonial Santa Fe” and Victor A. Walsh, “Preserving Adobe” these informative and very interesting articles do such a good job at shining a spotlight on these historic structures. Early American Life does a great service by giving us an opportunity to learn about a very important part of our American House History. I loved reading about these beautiful homes and their history. I also want to add that the articles are accompanied by very beautiful photographs taken by Peter Ogilvie, Ed Richardson, Larry E. Johnston and Melvin Sweet.

Seek out a copy of Early American Life and read these great articles you will be wanting to book your trip to Santa Fe to see for yourself how America truly is so diverse and beautiful in so many ways

Monday, May 17, 2010

Visit the 1768 Jeremiah Lee Mansion

The historic seacoast town of Marblehead, Massachusetts is privileged to have in its midst one of the finest late colonial homes in America. A flourishing seaport, colonial marblehead was about the tenth largest in Britain’s North American colonies just before the Revolution and the second largest town in Massachusetts. The downtown area includes nearly 300 houses built before 1775 – the largest concentration on this continent, along with Newport, RI – and nearly 800 built before 1840. The mansion built in 1766-68 for Colonel Jeremiah Lee, the most affluent merchant in the province at that time, was one of the largest and most elaborately decorated homes of its time in America, and still retains nearly all of its original structural elements and most of its original decorative finishes. These include intricate woodwork carving in the rococo style and a soaring central stair-hall lined with mahogany wainscoting that is unique in its use as an opulent wall treatment, and two sets of rare original mid-18th century wallpapers: a block-printed pattern with Chinese scenes (the only example of that type still on the walls of its original home) and a set of magnificent hand-painted English grissaille mural papers that were unusual at that time and are the only such wall treatments in the world surviving in place. (The other surviving set is one of only two others known from that time, both formerly in homes in Albany, NY; it is installed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing.) Emulating an aristocratic English mansion built of stone, all four facades of the Lee Mansion are faced with long wooden facing boards, 10” tall, with long beveled edges and vertical scores every two feet that visually simulated cut stone ashlar blocks. To further suggest the appearance and texture of stone, grains of sand in colors ranging from black to almost clear were thrown or ‘strewn’ onto the surface of the paint while still wet, creating a rough surface that would sparkle in the sunlight like cut stone. The grand residence was visited in 1789 by General George Washington during his inaugural tour of New England. Newly elected as the nation’s first President, the Revolutionary War leader came “out of [his] way” to Marblehead to thank the townspeople for their service and inordinate sacrifice during the war, which left the maritime town economically devastated, with failed businesses and nearly 500 widows. The Mansion was preserved because after 1775, no families owned it to make changes, and for a full century it was a bank and commercial office building before the Marblehead Historical Society purchased it in 1909. The Mansion comprises over 10,000 square feet of living space in 18 rooms. All but one are open to the public. They are filled with a museum-quality collection of 18th and early 19th-century decorative arts, paintings and artifacts with Marblehead history and connections. Visitors are captivated by the Mansion’s striking appearance, the magnificent painted wallpapers, the high-quality collection on display, and Col. Lee’s intriguing story.

The Lee Mansion is open June through October, Tuesday-Saturday. 10-4. For further information contact:

Guest Blogger- Former Curator Judy Anderson

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“Boscobel “ an American Federal Treasure

Recently I had the opportunity to visit “Boscobel”, widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Federal interiors in the country. Boscobel was originally located in Montrose, New York, about fifteen miles south of the present site, with views overlooking the Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay. It was built by States Morris Dyckman (1755-1806), a descendant of one of the early Dutch families of New Amsterdam. As a Loyalist during the American Revolution, States became a clerk for the British Army's Quartermaster Department in New York. He and his family returned to England to wait out the War and after receiving a pardon from the new American Govt. they arrived back in New York in 1804. He immediately started the work on his mansion and sadly he died before the foundation was finished. His widow carried on and “Boscobel” was finished in 1809. Although no architect has been identified for the building, it has long been considered to be an outstanding example of Federal domestic architecture in America. One can assume that States was influenced by what he had seen in England, particularly the designs of Robert Adam (1728-1792) and his contemporaries. It is possible that he had the architectural plans for his new house drawn in England since construction was started within six months of his return to the Hudson Valley in the summer of 1804. Boscobel is distinguished by its delicate neoclassical detailing on the exterior, as well as for a unique architectural feature on the front facade--the carved wooden swags of drapery with bowknots and tassels installed between the columns supporting the pediment above the second floor balcony. Several other architectural refinements are used to help convey a feeling of lightness and airiness that make the house seem more elegant and graceful than many of its contemporaries. About one-third of the front facade is glass. The three part windows used on the first and second stories are slightly recessed to accent the central pavilion. Recent technological advances in the manufacture of stronger crown glass enabled the builders to use larger panes of glass and much thinner glazing bars. Another architectural feature worth noting is the closely fitted matched boards on the front facade, in contrast to the overlapping clapboards used on the side and rear elevations. This provided for a smoother surface probably meant to simulate masonry rather than wood on the dress front of the house.

The house was almost lost in the 1950s when it was declared "excess" by the federal government and sold at auction to a demolition contractor for the sum of $35. In a dramatic, last-ditch effort led by Benjamin West Frazier, funds were raised to acquire the remaining portions of the structure, dismantle it, and move it piece-by-piece to its new home in Garrison, New York. It was stored in barns and other vacant buildings until a twenty-six acre tract of land with sweeping views of the Hudson River, West Point and Constitution Island came on the market in Garrison in 1956. An anonymous donation of $50,000 received in June 1956 allowed the newly incorporated Boscobel Restoration, Inc. to acquire the property and begin the restoration. The original anonymous donation of $50,000 received in 1956 for the purchase of the land came from Lila Acheson Wallace, who, with her husband DeWitt Wallace, had co-founded The Reader's Digest. The Wallaces became Boscobel's most prominent and generous patrons. But in addition to her financial backing, Mrs. Wallace served on the board of directors and took a strong personal interest in the restoration. She was particularly influential in the landscaping of the grounds and the furnishing and decorating of the interiors. In 1959, she brought in the Roslyn, Long Island, landscape architectural firm of Innocenti and Webel to provide an appropriate historic setting for the restored house. She also brought in William Kennedy and Benjamin Garber, the interior designers who decorated the offices for The Reader's Digest, to furnish the house. Since both concerns worked for The Reader's Digest Corporation and for Mrs. Wallace personally, they reported to her and her advisors as they proceeded with their plans. The intent of William Kennedy and Benjamin Garber was not to accurately furnish the interiors of Boscobel based upon historical research. Instead, they tried to create elegantly decorated rooms that complimented the beauty of the architecture. The items they selected represented the very best of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries to conform to the taste and standards of States Dyckman as established by his own purchases in London. Because States lived in England for such a long time, they also felt it would be appropriate to The intent of William Kennedy and Benjamin Garber was not to accurately furnish the interiors of Boscobel based upon historical research. Instead, they tried to create elegantly decorated rooms that complimented the beauty of the architecture. The items they selected represented the very best of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries to conform to the taste and standards of States Dyckman as established by his own purchases in London. Because States lived in England for such a long time, they also felt it would be appropriate to furnish the house mainly in eighteenth-century English and European antiques, which they acquired over several years both in America and abroad selecting and assembling appropriate personal and household effects for each room. By the mid-1970s, new information came to light about States Dyckman's original furnishings that led to the decision to totally redo the interiors of the house so they were more historically accurate. Information found in the Dyckman family papers, States Dyckman's recently discovered household inventory of 1806, and from examples of surviving furniture owned by the Dyckman family revealed that contrary to the Kennedy and Garber assemblage of mostly English furnishings, Boscobel was originally furnished with pieces made by New York cabinetmakers of the early nineteenth century. Berry B. Tracy, Curator-in-Charge of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was hired as a consultant to research the new interiors and oversee the installation. Mr. Tracy worked closely with Frederick W. Stanyer, executive director of Boscobel. The English pieces were replaced by an outstanding collection of Federal period furniture made mostly in New York City. The reproduction carpets, paint colors, wallpaper, fabrics and window treatments used were all based upon documented period examples. The objective of the reinterpretation was to restore the house to the way it would have looked while Elizabeth Dyckman lived in the house from 1808 until her death in 1823. When the house reopened to the public in June 1977, after six months of intense restoration work, Boscobel was featured in a cover article by Rita Reif in the Home Section of The New York Times on July 21, 1977. The headline read, "The Tour de Force Of Redecorating Boscobel."

Today, Boscobel is considered to be one of the nation's leading historic house museums. It features an important collection of decorative arts from the Federal period with high-style furniture by Duncan Phyfe and other recognized New York cabinetmakers of the day. Many of States Dyckman's original purchases of English china, silver, glass and part of his library have also survived and are on exhibit in the mansion.

I was so fortunate to be given a tour by the acting curator Judith Pavelock, she was generous with her time and I was enthralled with the amazing history of this beautiful house.

Bosobel is, as all historic house museums, a challenge to fund and operate, from what I experienced, the Dyckeman’s would be so pleased with the stewardship of the staff. I urge you to visit and support this American treasure, it is so worth the effort and if you are a student American Decorative Arts it is a must.

much of the above text was taken from a history written by Charles T. Lyle.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A kitchen full of memories

“A the symbolic center of the home, the kitchen gives meaning to family life. It is a place where parents nurture their children, families gather at breakfast and dinner, share chores, and discuss the world outside. Women especially see it as the space that connects them to past generations.”

“America’s Kitchen”, Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Talbot Nasrdinov

I visit many historic homes and museums and most of them have restored kitchens set up as they would have been, depicting whatever period and station in life of the family represented. As I look over the exhibit I often think about who the family was that lived in this house, what were they concerned with, how old and how many were their children, did they even have any children? What stories would they tell to us if we had the ability to hear the conversations around that kitchen table.

I think I feel this so personally because of my own history of growing up in two historic houses with great kitchens that were the center of life for our large family.

So many of our memories are centered in the kitchen---coming together to celebrate or simply being together around a convivial meal is the stuff that gets us through tough times. All families have their own styles, but the kitchen is where most family traditions begin. Whether it is a favorite requested meal your mom made for you on your birthday or when you get home after a really bad day the crockpot is there on the counter holding something ready for dinner---you hold on to the traditions that worked personally for you, and discard the rest.

I am from a family that does EVERYTHING around food. We use it to celebrate and comfort. Coming from a large family of seven, I think that because our mother had to come up with inexpensive, hearty meals that fed five children with leftovers my mother (we called her “Moo”) would cook with an eye toward something that we would eat with the least amount of fuss. It also would have to be reincarnated into something that could stretch to another meal or lunch for us. We lived in a very old (1780) house that had a huge hearth, and though it could probably still be used for a fire, had an electric range placed inside.

My earliest memories are seeing my mother stir something on the stove with another baby on her hip and no doubt one underfoot. Even at the age of 38 she had very gray hair, which she wore in a bun at the nape of her neck. Being a poor professor’s wife gave her nothing to spend on glamour, yet I don’t remember that she looked anything but beautiful as she bustled about our small house cleaning, doing the wash in the FREEZING root cellar with a wringer washer, or hanging the sheets out on the line. To this day, sheets that are devoid of the scents of added softeners ---that just have the scent of the clean air are sooo sweet, and I much prefer them even though they are “scratchy.”

We had simple celebrations and our birthdays were centered on my parents putting penny candy in a brown bag and hanging it from the branches of our apple tree. We screeched and yelled in excitement as the birthday boy or girl got the first crack at the swinging bag with a cutoff broom stick.

Even when my father was lost in a car accident in the early ‘70s, the atmosphere about the large house (we moved to a very large house in Shepherdstown eight years earlier) was still much like a party instead of a wake. My dad had a great sense of humor and was very witty and the house murmured that day with his friends and students retelling many stories about him. The dining room had many beautiful stained glass windows, and I remember the look of the sun shining through them onto the large dining table gleaming with all the dishes the neighbors brought---all given in love and kindness in the tradition I grew up with.

Many more stories could be told of all the celebrations that my family has had over the years and the meals now are even more important to us as we gather without our beloved parents. Right before Moo died we were blessed to have her live with us and one evening her nurse wheeled her into the kitchen to sit and watch me make dinner. She loved to watch me cook, a pastime she missed very much, and she did not hesitate to let me know that I should “turn down the fire under the chicken” or add more seasonings to whatever I was cooking. This particular evening I remember (in retrospect it turned out it was right before she died ), she sat watching me move around the stove and suddenly she loudly called to me raising her glass with her nightly drink, and said, “Louise, do you know what the great thing about being terminal is?” Puzzled and a little horrified I responded “No, Moo what is it?” She threw back her head and laughed heartily saying, “The great thing about being terminal is that your green vegetable for the day can be the olive in your martini!” Her nurse slid out of her chair laughing and through my watering eyes Moo never looked more gorgeous.

She soon quietly died in her small little room filled with windows and sun and we still call our family room “Moo’s room,” but the kitchen is where I remember her the most and on a regular basis I wish that I could “channel” her grace and kindness that she showed to everyone she met, and her ability to make any leftover into a meal fit for kings or more importantly her beloved children.

As I have often mentioned, your historic house has had many memories formed within its walls. You really need to be aware that you have the opportunity to make memories with your children, friends and family. To this day, I cannot get myself to paint over the Doxology a friend painted for me in the kitchen after Moo died. My friend had performed a really profound act of kindness and comfort for my 45th birthday by painting this around the ceiling of the eating space in my kitchen. She was inspired by hearing me say that I was reluctant to attend church because I could not seem to get through the offering without crying as I had such a vivid memory of my mother in church, and for some reason the opening bars of the Doxology always made her seem so close. So one day I came home to find this beautiful hymn painted around the perimeter of the kitchen eating area, and now everyday Moo is there at my table.

Make your own families memories in your kitchen. Now more than ever, our families need to connect in a space that binds them with memories and traditions that are part of their family’s customs and history.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Victorian Society in America

I wanted to bring your attention to a great resource for those among you who are Victorian Period enthusiasts. The Victorian Society of America is an organization that promotes the understanding of the American Victorian Historical context through preservation, education, promotion and generally the enjoyment of the Victorian period.

This organization was founded as a sister organization to the British Victorian Society in 1966. Since then the society has grown to be THE word in all things Victorian in America.

On the organization’s website you will find a very large resource list, important books about the period, summer schools for the study of the Victorian Period, a list of all the chapters around the U.S., and actually more information than I can relate on this limited space.

I love this site, you should visit and oh, don’t forget to leave your calling card!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take a moment and visit Thistledew Mercantile

There are many great things about this job but one of the best is finding wonderful artisans who are revitalizing the art of the past with talent and innovation. I am so proud to announce a new “Feature Artisan” to the site.

Thistledew Merchantile is a lovely site that sells the historic scissor art by Kim Frey. One of the 2009 artisans featured in the Directory of Early American Craftsman that is published by Early American Life magazine (another one of our favorites) Kim is a very talented addition to our growing list of American Craftsman.

Since 1990, the Freys’ artwork has been shown at local Art Leagues, in traveling exhibits with the Guild of American Papercutters, in special exhibits with Delaware State Museums, and in museum and gift shops across the country. Thistledew Merchantile can produce the “very thing” for your gift list and is a wonderful historical addition to any historic house museum’s gift shop.

The site features the following historic scissor art genres-


…a Pennsylvania German folk craft, literally meaning “scissors snipping.” Scherenschnitte was used to create Valentines, Christmas tree ornaments, cake stencils, artwork for the home, and shelf decorations.


…an artistic form of important documents such as birth, baptismal, and wedding records. Fraktur were also given as rewards of merit for good students, house blessings, and bookplates.


…sometimes called “shades” or “shadows,” silhouettes were the common man’s portrait before modern photography was invented

The Freys live in Delaware with their daughter Katelyn, two goats, a whole bunch of chickens, and Oreo the cat. (Daughter Jordan, son-in-law Luke, and grandboys Jackson and Derik are staking a claim way out west!) Their artwork…and often the Freys themselves…can be seen in person at Hudson’s General Store, in Clarksville, Delaware

I urge you to take a moment and visit this site it is truly a new american treasure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thank You to all Local Museums everywhere

It is that time of year again, every spring there are conferences for national, regional and state museums to gather and learn from noted experts in different relevant subject matter and see the latest from the trade companies that cater to the museum world.

Such an event I just attended in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) held its conference from March 14th-16th and I was privileged to attend and sit in on some of the events. On the drive home I was again struck by the amazing dedication to this professionthat these true public servants displayed. Amid announcements of lost funding, cutbacks in budgets and lay-offs, I heard imaginative ideas to deal with the current events that are impacting them so powerfully.

I thought that I would reprise my blog from last year’s conference experience. I again urge you all to support your local museum with your donations or please find a way to donate your time to help replace in part the lost workforce.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to our local small museum which was in the basement of the local library. We walked down the aisles filled with the odd assortment of objects and memorabilia that are often displayed in such museums. We stopped in front of a large case that had a woven coverlet draped in such a way, so the viewer would have the best look at it they could in the small space it was consigned to. I remember my mom saying something like” President Van Buren gave your Great, great, great grandfather this as a present, they were very good friends”. Now, this sparked two reactions in my young mind. That’s a lot of GREATS, and he must not have liked him that much cause that is one UGLY spread. The point of this little story is that had it not been for that small museum in that little town in West Virginia, I would have never gotten to see something that was a real link to the past, to MY past. I have, as do all of us, a small museum to thank for that.

There are people all over this country that have visited like museums and seen the proof of their ancestry on display conserved at various levels of expertise I’ll give you, but saved nonetheless. They walk through the doors and there is Uncle Joe’s WWI helmet and the letters filled with longing he sent home to his wife or the glove and parasol of someone you vaguely knew you are related to and as soon as you see it you are again determined to call your Great Aunt and not only ask those questions about the family you always wanted to but you are also going to WRITE IT down. Thus a family’s written history is born.

We have the small museum director and its board or if really lucky a curator to thank for this…They are dedicated professionals who work with little or no budgets and constantly fight to preserve the tangible bits of our history that otherwise would just slip away. I recently attended the annual Small Museum Conference and observed some of the most talented and educated people in this profession grapple with the new challenges this economy has given them. Luckily for all of us, I heard enthusiasm and excitement from most, if not all of them that I spoke to. They remain focused, dedicated and determined to recommit, rethink and even redesign the small museums that we as the public entrust to their care. Please support your local small museum or local historical society, they are supporting you every day in preserving our shared history.

Visit the Culpeper Museum of History.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Using Antiques in your historic home

Of course the use of period antiques are the best way to furnish your period home, but how do you know if what you are buying is authentic or period correct. Finding a reputable dealer in antiques of the period that you are interested in is the best way to find your way through the intricacies of appraisal and purchase.

Some periods are more affordable than others And certainly much easier to find. The Victorian period is the most prolific as many of these pieces were machine made and mass produced. The arts and crafts period is next having been fabricated in the early 20th century and there are still many fine pieces to be found. The Colonial and Federal periods are the ones that I feel you will be paying the most for although it is true, one of a kind handmade items will be costly whatever the period. Search the web for appraisers and dealers that have professional affiliation with either of these two organizations.

these organizations will give you the names of antique dealers that are reputable and knowledgable.

The following is a short list for what to keep in mind when shopping for antiques.

Although bargains and good deals may be had when buying certain antiques, the first rule of thumb is to be highly suspicious of bargains when shopping for antiques. This is the initial and sometimes the most costly lesson any collector needs to learn. You must not set out to haggle with the dealer.

Step 2

The antique you buy should never be solely for investment purposes. Most antiques have proven to be a solid investment for most antique collectors. In addition, the items have been historically a wonderful hedge against inflation. The thing to remember, however, is the increasing value of the item is dependent on changing preferences within the market.

Step 3

You must be wary of heavily restored antiques. It goes without saying that most antiques need care as well as periodic restoration. However, an antique that has been excessively restored will show no signs of its age and thus cannot be fairly judged in determining the authenticity and antiquity of the piece. It is therefore advisable to stay clear of items that have been overly restored or excessively refinished.

Step 4

Be leery of reproductions or fake representations. Consider the demand of particular items. When demand rises to very high levels, reproductions and fakes are the by-products of such demand.

Step 5

Do not barter over price. Most dealers consider their prices rigid and firm. Today's dealer marks her prices up according to a fixed percentage in order to secure a profit. Wrangling over price is part of the old business of antiques. Unless you find such a rare situation, it is advised you accept the dealer's price as established with no room for flexible negotiating.

Step 6

In order to attain the best value, it is highly recommended you learn all that you possibly can about antiques. You may do so by subscribing to periodicals and reading books on the subject. Visit museums and well-regarded antique shops.

Step 7

Manage your range of collections. In other words, it simply is not possible for you to collect antiques in every category. Narrow your focus to a reasonable level. Choose one or two eras and one or two preferred collectibles within an era. If you collect too extensively over too broad a range, it will only prove to take away from the enjoyment you'll find as an organized collector.

Step 8

Many times you may be journeying about and find a monstrosity of an antique you greatly admire far from the area of your home. Resist the temptation to purchase it, unless you have access to a truck. Moving such an item can be more of a problem than you may have anticipated.

Step 9

It is important to trust your initial instincts. This step, of course, comes with experience as well as persistence.

Step 10

Collect solely for pleasure. Collecting and owning items of rare or great beauty should be your only motive. Men throughout history have collected antiquities. If you choose to be a collector of antiques, do not resist. There are few hobbies more rewarding--even if you must do so on a budget.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How much fabric, paint or wallpaper do I need?

I thought since many had written me and asked about the basics of what they needed to “do it themselves” for either drapes or wallpaper and also paint I decided to use the blog for this week to give you this basic information. You can find so many fabric sources on the web, either use one of the ones featured under “Textiles and Trim” or “Window Treatments” on our site or use the company’s products as a guide to find similar fabrics at your local fabric store.

I hope this helps you for whatever project you might have, don’t forget to email me if you need any other advice, I am always happy to help if I can

For Throw Pillows:

The general rule of thumb is half a yard for 14 to 18 inch pillows and 1 yard for 19 to 24 inch pillows. If you want to add a ruffle, you will need at least another half yard.

For Upholstery:

CHAIR SEATS: 3/4 yard of 54" wide fabric is enough to re-cover 2 standard chair seats. So 3 yards will be enough for 8 chair seats. Each 3/4 yard gives you two 27" by 27" pieces of fabric to work with. If the repeat is large or a pattern has to be centered, you may need more.

3 cushion with arms 5 to 7 yards CHAIR 5 to 6 yards
6 ft sofa 10 yards Upholstered Back
7 ft sofa 11 yards and Seat
8 ft sofa 13 yards 3 yards
add an extra 2-3 yards
if you want a ruffled skirt
or if the back is taller than usual

6-7 yards 7-9 yards 2-3 yards

For Curtains and Draperies:

For curtain width, measure window or door plus any additional coverage outside of casing. For fullness the window/door width should be, at minimum, doubled. For extra fullness and a custom look, multiply the width by 2.5 or 3. Add another 2 to 3 feet for hem and to match pattern repeat. (The larger the repeat, the more you need to add.) Divide your final width measurement in half to get the finished width for each panel. If the width per panel is wider than the fabric (usually about 54 in.) you may have to sew two lengths of fabric together to get enough width. For example, if you are making draperies for an 82 in. wide window area, you would need 2 pieces of fabric for each panel, and 4 pieces for the pair.

For length, measure from the top of your rod to the point where you want the panel to end. Add approx. 30 in, to this measurement for the rod pocket, heading, and hemming. To measure for the rod pocket or casing, take the diameter of the rod and add 1 inch. To add for the heading, or the part of the panel that sits above the rod pocket, take the height you want it to be, double that and add an extra half inch for seaming. So if, for example, you want a 1 inch header, you need to add 2.5 inches. For a 4 inch header, you would add 8.5 inches.

For Round Tablecloths with 10" drop: For Round Tablecloths with 29-30" drop:

30" diameter Fabric = 1.5 yards Trim = 4.5 yards 30" diameter Fabric = 5 yards Trim = 8 yards
36" diameter Fabric = 3.25 yards Trim = 5 yards 36" diameter Fabric = 5.5 yards Trim = 8.5 yards
48" diameter Fabric = 4 yards Trim = 6 yards 48" diameter Fabric = 6 yards Trim = 9.5


Estimating How Much Paint to Buy

Before you begin painting your home's interior walls, ceiling, woodwork, doors, or windows, you need to estimate the amount of paint you'll use. Estimates require specific calculations for each surface you want to paint.

To estimate the amount of paint you need in order to cover the walls of a room, add together the length of all the walls and then multiply the number by the height of the room, from floor to ceiling. The number you get is the room's square footage. Is that math class coming back to you now?

Now you have to determine how much of that square footage is paintable surface area. Because you use a different paint on the doors and windows, subtract those areas from the room total. No sweat, just subtract 20 square feet for each door and 15 square feet for each average-sized window in the room. You end up with a number that is close to the actual wall area you have to cover with paint.

In general, you can expect 1 gallon of paint to cover about 350 square feet. You need slightly more than a gallon if the walls are unpainted drywall, which absorbs more of the paint. You also need to consider whether to paint more than one coat. If you're painting walls that are unfinished, heavily patched, or dark in color, plan on applying two coats of paint.

When painting a dark color, pros often add a color tint to the white primer. Tints for both latex or alkyd paints are available at most paint stores. For best results, choose a tint shade that's closest to the top coat color.

Now for the clincher of the math problem. Divide the paintable wall area by 350 (the square-foot coverage in each gallon can) to find the number of gallons of paint you need for the walls. You can round uneven numbers; if the remainder is less than .5, order a couple of quarts of wall paint to go with the gallons; if the remainder is more than .5, order an extra gallon. Of course, buying in bulk is usually more economical, so you may discover that 3 quarts of paint cost as much as a gallon.


The following examples walk you through the calculations for determining how much paint you need for a 14-x-20-foot room that's 8 feet tall and has two doors and two windows.

Ceiling paint estimator

Use the following formula to estimate the amount of ceiling paint you need. Double the result if the ceiling requires two coats.

1. Multiply the length of the ceiling times its width to find its area.

14 × 20 = 280 square feet

2. Divide that number by 350 (the estimated square feet covered per gallon) to figure out how many gallons of paint you need.

280 ÷ 350 = .8

For this example, you want to buy 1 gallon of ceiling paint for a single coat.

Wall paint estimator

Use the following formula to estimate the amount of wall paint you need. Double the result if the walls require two coats.

1. Add together the length of each wall.

14 + 20 + 14 + 20 = 68 feet

2. Multiply the sum by the wall height, to find the total wall area.

68 × 8 = 544 square feet

3. Subtract 20 square feet for each door (20 × 2 = 40) and 15 square feet for each window (15 × 2 = 30) to find the actual amount of wall area you're painting.

544 – 70 = 474 square feet

4. Divide this figure by the paint coverage (350 square feet per gallon), and the result is the number of gallons to purchase.

474 ÷ 350 = 1.4

For this example, you want to buy 1 gallon and 2 quarts of paint for a single coat.

Woodwork paint estimator

For this example, you want to buy 1 gallon and 2 quarts of paint for a single coat.

Woodwork paint estimator

Measure the length of the trim in feet, and multiply that number by 1/2 foot (.5), as a rough size for the width of the trim. Include all the trim around doors and windows, at baseboards, along the ceiling, and for any built-in furniture.

As an example, imagine that you have ceiling molding running around a room that is 14 feet wide and 20 feet long.

1. Determine the total length of molding around the room by adding together the length of all the walls that the molding covers.

Round the numbers off to the nearest foot.

14 + 20 + 14 + 20 = 68 feet

2. Multiply the sum by .5 for an estimated width of the molding.

68 × .5 = 34 square feet

3. Divide this number by 350 to estimate the gallons of paint required to cover the molding.

34 ÷ 350 = .09

The result in this example is much less than a quart, but you may paint other woodwork in the room the same color, so buying a full quart may not be terribly wasteful.

Door and window estimator

Use the same figure for estimating door coverage as you use in your wall-area calculations — 20 square feet = one door. Multiply the number of doors by 20, doubling the answer if you plan to paint both sides. Wall paint estimates allow for 15 square feet for each window. Use about half that window area to figure trim and inside sash — the glass isn't important to the calculation.

For the room in this example:

1. Multiply the number of doors by 20.

2 × 20 = 40 square feet

2. Multiply the number of windows by 7.5.

2 Windows × 7.5 = 15 square feet

3. Add these numbers together.

40 + 15 = 55

4. Divide the result by 350 (the estimated square feet covered per gallon).

54 ÷ 350 = .16

Often, you end up needing to buy only a quart of paint, which goes a long way on doors and window trim

How much wallpaper do I need?

1. Step 1

Determine the square footage of the room. Measure each wall in the room and multiply the length times the width of each wall to determine the square footage. Subtract the square footage of the windows and doors to determine the actual square footage of the room.

2. Step 2

Determine the square footage of a single roll of wallpaper. The square footage of your wallpaper roll will depend on the width of the roll with varies from designer to style. If you order your wallpaper from a design center, they will be able to tell you how much square footage each roll covers. If you are purchasing stock rolls of wallpaper, the square footage will be on the label of the wall.

3. Step 3

Divide the square footage of the room by the square footage of the wallpaper to determine the number of rolls you need.

4. Step 4

Consider the pattern of the wallpaper. The pattern on your wallpaper roll will determine how much extra wallpaper you need in order to ensure pattern match from panel to panel. A subtle or small pattern means you will need just the normal 10 percent extra wallpaper. A large-scale pattern or bold plaid or other pattern will mean you need another 10 percent of extra wallpaper

1. 5

Remember that wallpaper is always sold by the double roll. This is important when you are ordering wallpaper from a design center. If you determine that you need 11 rolls of wallpaper, you will need to order 12 double rolls.