Let’s Go Visiting: Quirky Artsy Cool

The best thing about having an interior design blog is that everyone wants to talk to you about their house. Even better than that is when they invite you over to show you their fun stuff. This week you and I get to check out Heather’s house. Heather is an artist and a happy happy person and the owner of Norman, the biggest dog in the neighborhood (or possibly the state). Her house is full of her artwork and other interesting stuff and her personality shines through everywhere you look.


Old family photos and letters are the foundation of Heather’s artwork.

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This is a tribute to Heather’s grandmother – her photo is superimposed over a letter she wrote, and doors open to reveal little bits about her life – this one shows her passion for sewing. Amazing piece!

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Heather also made this glass topped table for her kitchen. She changes the decorations inside with the seasons. Here it is decked out for fall with leaves and pine cones.

There’s also a lot of other fun and interesting stuff – like this chandelier in the dining room:

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This lamp is made out of salt (perhaps to scare off those glowing spiders)?

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Vase from recycled magazines. The amount of patience that must have been required to construct this is mind-boggling!


Love all these unique accessories – the heavy clear and blue glass pieces in the foreground of the last photo are insulators from old telephone poles! Heather puts tea lights under them. I had so much trouble/fun photographing the little silver table because her dog thought me being down on the floor meant that I wanted to play. My first attempt to take a picture of it turned out like this:


And then after all that, I forgot to take a picture of him. But take my word for it, he is cute!

Thanks for letting us visit, Heather and Norman!

**All the fun and interesting handmade stuff above is a great reminder that tomorrow, November 30, is Small Business Saturday! Please support a small business tomorrow. If you don’t feel like going out to shop (or eat), remember that everyone selling on Etsy.com is a small business who would love your support. Let me know if you see any great Design Finds while shopping on Small Business Saturday!**


Hole in the Wall

Here’s a great little side project we did during the kitchen remodel. The return air vent for our house’s HVAC system is in our living room – right next to the kitchen. During the remodel, my husband took the cover off and taped a disposable filter over it to keep dust from the project from getting sucked into the HVAC unit and spreading it all over the house. Instead of putting back the old cover at the end of the project, we bought a new one. It looked like this:

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It was just as ugly as the old one, just not painted over quite so many times. We couldn’t bring ourselves to use it. We decided we wanted something better, so we made our own instead, inspired by the radiator covers in a house I lived in as a kid.

First we painted the metal sheeting on the inside of the hole a matte black so it would disappear behind the new frame:


Then we built a simple wooden frame and used perforated sheet metal for the center. It was attached to the wall with two screws so that it would be easy to remove for HVAC repairs if needed (hopefully we won’t need to!).

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And then we painted the wooden part of the frame with the same paint as the wall (Benjamin Moore Misty Gray):

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A close up of the “Union Jack” metal pattern we picked:


Love how the finished product turned out!



All building materials from Home Depot.



Field Trip – Carbon Industrial Design

I love to decorate my home. But I don’t ever buy anything just because I like the way it looks. What always hooks me is the story. Where something came from, why it was made, how it got here, its history and how that history connects to my own. I kept running into Carter Anderson at flea markets and admiring the amazing goods he was selling. When he invited me to visit his showroom and studio, I learned there was more to the history of those items than I had realized. It made me really see why they kept catching my attention.

When I walked into to Carbon Industrial’s Showroom, it was like walking into a room full of stories – every single thing had a life before it got here. Anderson and his business partner Glen Stone and the other amazing folks at Carbon bring things back to life, take the best and save them, remake others into new and better versions of what they were.




Jet propulsion gears become mirrors, bowling lanes and factory machine legs become tables, industrial metal baskets become light fixtures. Signs get saved, factory furniture gets cleaned and upgraded and made new again (just new enough, never too new).

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The heart and soul and creativity of the folks at Carbon is evident everywhere you turn. By hand, they take down barns and factories and save the pieces, preserving history and breathing new life into it all at the same time. Their custom work is seen in the showroom and in bars and restaurants and homes around the metro area. They are one amazing Design Find.


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Although I wanted many things I saw, I only brought one home with me. Believe it or not, this beautiful thing is slag – a leftover from the glass making process. It looks fantastic in my kitchen – like a giant gem.



Carbon Industrial Design

128 S. Royal Street, Alexandria VA


Shopping with Chickens

Just a quick ‘n’ dirty post to tell you about all the fun I had yesterday attending my first ever barn sale. They weren’t actually selling the barn, lovely as it was. Ekster Antiques fills their amazing historic barn with a mix of antiques and new furnishings and decorations and has a big sale once every few months. I was in as soon as I heard they had brought over multiple containers from Europe! The barn is down a gravel road, and the bucolic scene is complete with chickens and hound dogs moseying around outside. Inside was full of everything – tables, chandeliers, huge leaner mirrors, dishes, accessories, armoires  – you name it. One could easily furnish an entire house there in a heartbeat. People were walking out with armloads of lovely things! The pictures below probably don’t do it justice, but hopefully they will give you an idea. If you are in the DC region this weekend, do check it out – they are open all weekend. Would be a great way to finish getting the house ready for the holidays, or find some great gifts you won’t see elsewhere.

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In addition to having a great time, I learned a valuable lesson – chickens are really hard to photograph – they are in constant motion. But I tried:


The dogs were easier:


Ekster Antiques, 38532 Pheasant Hill Lane, Hamilton, VA 20158



Let’s Go Visiting: Inspired by Wire

My favorite Partner in Finds has a great looking house. The last time I was there, I noticed that she has a lot of furniture and accessories made out of wire. They all have an amazing eye-catching sculptural look, without taking up too much visual space in her not-so-big rooms. She was gracious enough to let me share:

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This chair is a stunning spin on a classic style. It’s perfect in front of this floor to ceiling window because you can see right through it. Although it doesn’t look it, it’s comfortable too!


This green sphere adds interest without adding weight to the arrangement on PIF’s front hall table.


A wire globe peeks out from behind a Fan Palm.


This side chair provides seating next to PIF’s bamboo desk in her home office while the red side table below adds a pop of color to the room. I forgot to sit in the chair to see if it was comfortable, but sometimes being lovely to look at is more important than comfort. (I own a few pairs of shoes that fit that description!)


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The lightness of this wire basket looks fabulous with the color and texture of these Osage Oranges (which are not actually oranges, despite the name!).


PIF uses this large vintage wire basket with handles to carry glasses and dishes to her outdoor dining table in summer. In winter, it houses magazines.

Thanks for letting us visit, PIF!

The Family Table (and Chairs)

When we decided to remodel the kitchen and dining room, I knew that it was also time for a new dining table. The Danish Modern look of our old table was not going to work in our new space. (We did repurpose it as a homework/craft table for our kids, but that’s the subject of another post!) My husband and I have always loved the beautifully worn look of wood farm tables, but we were also hoping to add a touch of industrial chic to the new dining room. I wanted an aged wood top with an industrial metal base. I looked at many furniture stores, and quickly determined that we needed a handmade one from reclaimed wood. Every table I saw in a furniture store was made of wood that lacked character or was too dried-out looking. Nothing I saw had any soul, any personality. I spent hours upon hours looking at handmade tables online and found this:



And this:



And this:


I fell in love with the look and texture and thickness of the wood of the dining tables. I also loved the unfinished metal base of the coffee tables. I reached out to Bryan Black of Concepts Created, the craftsman who made all of the tables above, and he told me, much to my disappointment, that he was no longer able to acquire any more of the amazing 3″ thick wood used in the dining tables, which had been reclaimed from a 1901 addition to James Madison’s house. But I could tell from talking with him that he completely understood my vision. In the many photos on his Facebook page, I could see that the woods he was using and the his style of craftsmanship were just what I was looking for.  So when he suggested I come to his workshop to see the other woods he had available, I decided that the two and a half hour drive was worth it. One day in late July, my oldest daughter and I took a little road trip to Staunton, Virginia. (Side note: if you ever have the opportunity to road trip alone with just one of your kids, do it! It turned out to be one of the best days ever with my daughter.)

We drove up to this lovely workshop next to a picturesque Victorian house to meet Bryan and his family.


We looked at wood that looked like this


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while his daughter and mine went out back to look at the chickens.

Seeing what the wood looked like “before” was amazing. The piece next to the blue notebook in the bottom photo had been charred in a fire, during its previous life as a ceiling joist in a warehouse in Manhattan, built in the 1880’s. This was the wood we ended up choosing.

I had brought along samples of everything – my countertop, tile, hardwood floor, even one of my dining chairs- so that I could choose the right finish. I vacillated for a long time (Bryan was very patient) and ended up choosing a finish called “Early American” – maybe it was the name that sold me.


As the kids played, we worked out all the details. We decided on a Parsons style table with a 3 inch thick wood top and an unfinished steel frame. The perfect mix of rustic and industrial. Bryan assured us that the tabletop would have the personality we were looking for – knots, variation in color and grain, saw marks and other indications of the history of the wood, all while being a functional table for my family.

After that, my daughter and I went off to explore Staunton, a wonderful small town. I even got to try on wooden shoes at the Frontier Culture Museum (they are surprisingly comfortable!)



Then, in early October, Bryan arrived at my house with this. I could not have been more thrilled. It is everything we dreamed it would be. It is our family table. It will outlive me, I am quite sure.

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The center boards are a darker color from having been charred in the fire in the warehouse they were part of. Bryan also showed us the end of each board and helped us see where it had been in the tree. The board that is second from the right was from a tree that Bryan (judging from the number of very closely packed rings) estimated was 6 feet across! If the warehouse was built in the 1880’s, the trees that made these boards were planted quite a while before that, making this wood 200+ years old.

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The chairs are an assembled set of vintage Good Form chairs from the 1950’s. I have two that were purchased from the Georgetown Flea Market in DC about 8 years ago, and had been on the lookout for more ever since. This summer, I had the good fortune to come across six more on Etsy. (Check out the picture below of them posing in a Chicago alley before they made their way here.) They are quite possibly the best chairs ever. Originally designed for the military, they are super strong (perfect for standing on to change lightbulbs) and comfortable. They are also surprisingly lightweight and look amazing despite their age. They are the perfect companions to the table.


Here is Bryan’s signature brand on the underside of the table. The shell motif is from his family crest – he is a descendant of the ship’s carpenter on the Mayflower. I love it – it is a reminder to me that Bryan and his family and their history are a part of the history of the table. I am as grateful for the wonderful experience of having the table made as I am for the table itself.


Table by Concepts Created (Bryan and Susan Black), www.ConceptsCreated.com

The Kitchen – It’s in the Details

It’s always the little details that make any project special. I spent an outrageously long time looking for the perfect knobs, lights, faucet, tile – you name it. As a result, when the right option came along, I absolutely knew it was the right thing.

The cabinets have bin pulls in different lengths so that they are in proportion to the door and drawer sizes. I chose a rectangular bin pull because it had more of a modern vibe than the classic rounded ones. Pulls like this are great in the kitchen because the way you open them keeps fingerprints and dirt off the doors.

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The knobs on the dining room cabinets are large in scale and have a wonderful concave surface. Notice how the drawers in the kitchen have a solid slab front, and the ones in the dining room have the Shaker detailing. I thought this, along with the different hardware and countertops, would help differentiate the kitchen from the dining room just a bit.



With all that black, white, and gray, a little bit of color is important (since we can only have that Halloween pumpkin out for a little while!). Here’s our fab orange teakettle and a close up of the backsplash. We are coffee people, so it’s pretty rare that we use the teakettle, but I love the pop of color it provides.

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One of the coolest things we used were these screwless switch plates:

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photo-2 (2)White plate on the wall. Notice this one also has a double switch on the right side – using one opening for two switches allowed us to use a smaller (4 opening instead of 5 opening) plate, so the wall is less cluttered with switches.

photo-3 Black plate on side of tall black pantry cabinet. (This is solid black, but photo shows glare from patio door next to switch!)

Once you see that clean look, the switch plates with screws in them are so hard to look at! Eventually I’d like to switch all the plates in the house over to this screwless style.

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The pendant lights in the dining room have Edison-style filament bulbs, a black cloth cord and shades that are mirrored on the underside. They look beautiful at night!


Here’s the dining room wall, complete with the mercury glass vase and Elk antler mentioned in my last post. The aged iron window-style mirror makes up for the fact that there’s no window on that big wall. The handsome fellow in the photo in the corner is my late grandfather, lifelong Boston resident. Every time I look at it I can just hear him say, “It’s awfully nice to see you!”

UPDATE: After I wrote the above post but before it had been published, my daughter upgraded the Elk antler by adding lights. I just had to share – it looks great!

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The details of the details:

Kitchen Pulls: Duluth Pull, Satin Nickel, 4″, 6″, 8″, Restoration Hardware

Dining Room Knobs: 1 1/4″ Asbury Knob, Satin Nickel, Restoration Hardware

Backsplash Tile: AlysEdwards Mod Rocks collection, 1×1 Mod Dot Mosaic blend  in Ebony, Flannel, Carrera. Purchased at Country Floors. (Grout Color: Delorean Gray)

Teakettle: Rachael Ray 2 qt. Curve Teakettle, Amazon.com

Wall Plates: Claro by Lutron, www.lutronstore.com

Pendants: Reflector Filament 7½” Pendant in Polished Nickel, Restoration Hardware

Dining room mirror: www.wisteria.com

Antler lights: Starry String Lights, Diamond Lights on Silver Wire, 10 foot strand, purchased at Restoration Hardware Outlet.





Oh My Stars! And Other Finds at Lucketts

Once again, my Partner In Finds and I had a great time at Lucketts Store during their Holiday Open House Market last week. We spent the entire day there without even stopping for lunch.We saw so many fun and inspiring things. It was my favorite kind of day – beautiful weather, great people, tons of Design Finds, and of course coffee. I can do without lunch, but not without coffee. Here are some of my favorites:

Beautiful stars made out of reclaimed barn wood – a great spin on the metal stars you normally see.

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Frames as art – I also loved these barnwood frames by the same maker as the stars. Wouldn’t it look great to hang a lot of them together, or even to cover a whole wall in them? Would be fun to add some mirror glass or just leave them empty.

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These made me smile. A fun way to display magazines or store file folders on your desk:


Great console table with reclaimed metal grate top:



All items above: Chamberlain Antiques, http://chamberlainsantiques.weebly.com


These vintage locker baskets or these great green tip-out bins would be fun ways to store hats and gloves in a mud room. Or crafting supplies. Or kids toys. Or pantry items. Or office supplies…

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Both items above: Winter Wheat Antiques, nurseheather2627@yahoo.com


This painted side table with maps decoupaged on top caught my attention. I could see it in a cottage-style living room, a beach house, or even in a child’s bedroom. (I loved looking at maps when I was a kid!)


Map table: TotallyVintageDesign.com


Found these great lights made from galvanized buckets inside the Lucketts Store itself. I imagine them over a rustic farm table, or over an island in a kitchen with a country feel or even one with an industrial chic look. Would also be fun in a laundry room.

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Bucket lights: www.luckettstore.com

I was really, really inspired at the booth for East End Trading Company – so many lovely things!

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Above: industrial wire baskets, zinc mirror, mercury glass vases. I bought one of the wire baskets and one of the taller vases.

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I also bought one of the beautiful whitewashed Elk antlers shown above. It was so hard to choose one! I laid them all out on the ground to check them out, and when I did, every person who walked by stopped to look at them with me. Each antler has its own unique shape. The fact that Elk grow a new set every year is simply amazing – they are big! Carrying it back to the car without injuring anyone in the crowd was a challenge. Check back next week to see it in my home!

All items above, from wire trays to antlers: East End Trading Company, 412-310-7712.


But my favorite Design Find of the day was this:


These letters were part of the exterior signage from a manufacturing facility in Massachusetts. It’s so rare to find a complete word like this, and the letters themselves were beautiful. If I had a big enough wall in my home, I would have most definitely brought them home with me!

Letters: carbonindustrial.com

Believe it or not, that’s not all. Will include a few other finds in a future post!

In the Box

Remember this box?

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Let’s open it up…


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Do you recall the chair obsession I mentioned earlier? As soon as I had the Eames Lounge Chair in my possession, I knew this was my next conquest – it’s the Womb Chair and Ottoman by Eero Saarinen for Knoll. (Saarinen is perhaps best known by Americans as the designer of the St. Louis arch.) He designed the  Womb Chair in 1948 in response to Florence Knoll’s request for “a chair that was like a basket full of pillows, something I could really curl up in.” Saarinen somehow managed to make something that looks like sculpture in the room, but is indeed that comfortable.

My darling husband has been trying to surprise me with one for years, but I always seem to inadvertently find out. The stars aligned for us this summer and we ordered this one together – and then I waited not very patiently for 12 weeks for it to arrive. It reminded me of how hard it is to wait for Christmas to come when you’re a kid.

The fabric is the Classic Boucle in Aegean. This chair is most often seen in red, but I decided to take a risk on this teal color and I’m so glad I did. I also got the black legs instead of the more commonly seen chrome. I saw the black legs at a family friend’s house this summer and was sold. We have so much chrome/silver in the house that I thought the black legs would be a great counterpoint to all that. Once I get the window coverings hung up I’ll be able to photograph the whole wall behind it, which is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Baby Seal Black. It’s actually a dark charcoal color, but it really lets the chair stand out.

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So what am I dreaming of next? Believe it or not, I’m not exactly sure. Any suggestions? What do you covet for your own home?

Chair: www.Knoll.com