Let’s Go Visiting: Ruth

We haven’t been visiting in a while! I love to visit other people’s homes. It’s so much fun to see how people choose to organize and decorate their spaces – to see what is important to them – what they see as beautiful or memorable or comfortable or functional or fun and how they put it all together. Luckily, last week I was invited to Ruth’s house to check out her home and studio. Ruth is a painter, sculptor, collector and estate sale junkie. She lives with art all around her. Like Ruth herself, her home was intriguing and fun and full of humor and inspiration.

Ruth’s front hall is filled with mirrors and butterflies. It looks amazing! She collected countless mirrors at estate sales and painted them all gold with a white wash. The butterflies are cut from paper and hand applied. The overall effect is stunning.




(Insider tip: Ruth uses www.estatesales.net to find sales near her!)

Her home is filled with her sculptures and paintings. In her sculpture, found objects come together in marvelous ways. Each piece tells its own story.







Her art mixes beautifully with the rich wood dining room furniture she inherited:






Ruth also has some wonderful collections displayed throughout her home. I love the way she groups pottery together by color.




I loved this humorous touch – a cricket on a branch mimics the art on the wall:


Her studio is a treasure trove of orphaned objects waiting to become something amazing:



There were also stacks of Ruth’s paintings in her studio:


We unrolled the giant canvases in the above photo to reveal this:



As you can see in her studio, Ruth collects countless objects at estate sales for use in her art. When she showed me these vintage games she had been collecting, I was so inspired. What a cool wall decor idea for a child’s room or a game room!




Ruth, thanks so much for letting us visit!




Choice Chairs

In London over the holidays, I paid a quick visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum to check out their furniture collection. I say it was a quick visit because no amount of time is long enough to fully appreciate the wonders of the V&A. On the top floor in the far corner of the museum, with the rain and wind literally howling above us, I got to be in one room with more original iconic chairs than I’ve ever seen in one place. It was a little piece of Chair Junkie Heaven (despite the weather). The V&A furniture collection is curated in the most amazing way – where an IKEA chair sits next to an Eames that sits next to a Chippendale. A $1 folded cardboard chair is given equal billing with priceless antiques. They were ALL wonderful – which ones inspire you?






















This last one was actually in the gift shop, not the exhibit!






I wish I would have bought this fabulous vintage Telechron clock when I saw it last weekend. I love a square clock – and the vivid color and smooth sweep second hand on this one made it really stand out. Silly me – I was thinking I had nowhere to put it because it plugs in. Now I look around my house and see that I actually have plenty of places to put it. Regret!

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Spotted at:

Rust and Feathers, Leesburg, VA

Field Trip: Design by Harry Potter

Before I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour, I never thought it would be an outing that would turn into a blog post. But, oh wow, is it an amazing place. And I’m not really a Harry Potter person. I read the first three books to my daughter at her request (she then read the rest on her own) and I saw the first two movies way back when they came out in the theater with my sister in law, who was a big fan. So although I’d been exposed to H.P. and enjoyed it, I wasn’t into it the way lots of folks are. I’d also never visited a movie set before. The Studio Tour is located in Watford, just north of London, and is on the actual property where all 8 movies were filmed. I was there because I thought my daughter would like it. I had no idea how much fun it was going to be. I was able to see the actual sets, props and costumes – among other things – used in the film. They are amazing. I was totally blown away by the astonishing level of detail of every item and every set. It was a design junkie’s dream (except that none of it was for sale!). And once again, I was the crazy lady photographing the floors and the silverware…


Dining table in the Great Hall, which was decorated for Christmas at the time. I loved the fiddlehead details on the flatware, the boar’s head pitchers and the lovely worn tables and benches.


Beautiful floors in the Great Hall:



Although the Great Hall was breathtaking when you walked into it, Dumbledore’s office was my favorite space:


His cabinets were filled with captivating things:



They even had the blueprints for his chair and the architectural model of the office on display:



There were a zillion other things to see – here are a few of my favorites:


The Hogwarts clock. Enormous and stunning in person! I felt tiny standing next to it.


The Weasleys have a Thonet chair too! (See mine here.)


I adored the wonky stained glass windows in the Weasley’s kitchen. (And the self-washing dishes!)


Gorgeous deep green tiled walls in the Ministry of Magic.


Umbridge’s Ministry of Magic office.


Gringotts vault door.


The tattered elegance of the Gryffindor common room.


The Potions Classroom had so many things to look at. The immense round table and ancient looking marble floors were both wonderful.

The Bridge had fantastic detail:


Miscellaneous props and decor…





Most of the faces in the paintings displayed at Hogwarts are of the people who worked behind the scenes on the movie!


The scale model of Hogwarts takes up an entire room (a really big room!) and was covered in snow for the winter. Amazing is an understatement! See the clock?


I took so many pictures of so many wonderful things but to share them all would make this post ridiculously long – this is really just a small fraction of what I saw. So let me put it like this – if you’re in London, go check it out. The amount of creativity that went into bringing this story to life is beyond belief. I connected to it all from a designer’s perspective, but every person can find something that amazes them. (I didn’t even mention parts of the tour like the walking down Diagon Alley or peeking into Hagrid’s hut or the Creature Shop or Quiddich Special Effects or drinking Butterbeer!) You may not be a Harry Potter fan when you walk in, but you will be one by the time you leave! I certainly am.

For More Information:





Hanging With Our Shelf

Hello! I know I’ve been sharing a lot about my recent trip to London, and I’m not done yet, but I wanted to show you a project that I  did before I left.

We had a big empty wall in our living room:


The wall is between the laundry room (where we enter the house via the garage) and the front hall (where guests enter the house). I wanted a place to drop the mail, and a mirror so we can see our beautiful selves and also to give some depth and interest to the space, which is right next to the new kitchen. I started out by shopping for console tables, but was having trouble committing to one for some reason. Then my husband suggested the idea of using a shelf instead. I turned to my trusty friend, Etsy.com, and found something that fit the bill perfectly – a thick substantial shelf of reclaimed wood with amazing industrial chic hardware. The wood was reclaimed fir, just like our dining table, which you can see here. I emailed the craftsman (Kevin Anderson of Silicate Studio) and he agreed to make me one in the custom length I was looking for. I love working directly with craftspeople – not only do you support small businesses and get unique products, you can get exactly what you need because things can be easily customized.

And now comes the part where I am so grateful for my husband, who has hung one zillion things for me over the years. I could not make any of my ideas come to life without him!



Using one of our adjustable kitchen stools to hold the shelf at the perfect height!


Installing the hanging hardware.


Here it is! (Before cleaning up the drywall dust.) It doesn’t show too well in my pictures, but the wood has a lovely sheen and beautiful depth of color. It also has wonderful markings – great reminders of its previous life. I just love reclaimed wood.


After the shelf was hung, we added the mirror, basket, and hurricanes.


The basket is a vintage industrial wire basket, and it’s where we now put the mail. The hurricanes are filled with black glass beads, which hide the battery packs for the lights!





We could not be more pleased with how it turned out!


Shelf: www.SilicateStudio.com

Mirror: Pottery Barn

Glass Hurricanes: Homegoods

Glass Beads: Michael’s

Lights: Starry Lights – Restoration Hardware

Wire Basket: East End Trading Co. at Lucketts Store

Kitchen Stool: Design Within Reach

If you’d like to see how we covered up the black hole in the wall in the first photo, see here.




The Way My Mind Works

The first time I saw the TV show Scandal, I could barely focus on the plot because I was so in love with the conference table in Olivia Pope’s office. I ignored the dialogue and looked past the characters so I could get a better look at the table. When I mention the table to other people who are fans of the show, they stare at me blankly. What table?

In London over the holidays, I took a million pictures and I had to laugh when I realized that other people were taking pictures of the items on display at the museums, and I was taking pictures of the floors and doorknobs. I even walked into a travel agency to take pictures of their waiting room chairs that I had noticed through the window. Thankfully no one seemed to care – maybe it happens all the time? I guess interiors and architecture are everything to me – I notice the interesting details  before I notice the people.

So here’s a quick look at my trip as seen through the Alexandra filter:


The chairs in the travel agency – I loved their oversized, Windsor chair inspired look.


This is the amazingly beautiful mosaic floor at the Museum of Childhood. After I took the photo, I learned this enormous floor was installed by female prisoners in the 1870’s (before the building was a Children’s Museum)! I think there was at least 4,000 square feet of it.


Worn wood plank floors upstairs at the same museum:


These are the awesome striped stairs at my stepmother’s house – they made walking up to our bedroom on the third floor a lot of fun.


Doorknob at the British Museum:


At a Paddington Station restaurant – loved the orange color and visual lightness of these chairs:



Vintage Hovis bread tins holding utensils at a fish and chip stand:


House number:


Shiny blue door with bright brass hardware – and a mail slot – love those!


Mosaics on the tube – Tottenham Court Road Station:



Here are the floors at a very fun place – check back next week and I’ll tell you all about it!




Field Trip: Skandium – Brompton Road, London

In London, I went to the most fabulous store. If you ever need to buy me a gift, go there and buy anything. Honestly – just close your eyes and grab something and I guarantee I will love it and probably write a blog post about how wonderful you are. There was inspiration in every nook and cranny at Skandium, mecca of modern design. I also learned that midcentury favorites are not the same around the world (see below). There’s no way I can show you everything, but here are some that caught my attention:

Trays – I am a huge fan of trays. On an upholstered ottoman, they make a great place for remote controls and coffee cups. On shelves or side tables, trinkets and framed pictures and candles seem more thoughtfully arranged if they’re on a tray. A tray is perfect to hold napkins and salt and pepper on your kitchen table. They are great for holding mail or just on their own. Of course you can also use them for serving too.



These colorful modular trays can be arranged in any number of ways:


There were also great stools and side tables:


The top of the tray table at the front of the above photo can be flipped over to turn it into a stool. How cool is that?


Amazing lighting:


The Ribbon Pendants by Tom Raffield above are true show stoppers!



And other fun and beautiful decor:







And fabric and table linens too! Mostly by Marimekko – I love, love , love their fun colors and prints.



And of course there were chairs. You know how I love chairs! Which is your favorite? The grey sheepskin one is on my wish list. My husband loved this colorway of the Eames rocking chair:



Here’s a close up of the cozy graphite sheepskin on this Swedish Lamino Easy Chair:


The curves of this GJ chair are impossibly wonderful:


Here’s the newest design by Tadao Ando – the Dream Chair:


I almost missed it because it was in the corner of the window display and I didn’t see it until we had already left the store!




The thing that surprised me the most was this:


(Sorry it’s not the best photo – there was a lot of stuff around the chair!) I saw this chair and immediately it looked different to me than my Eames Lounge Chair. (See mine here.) My daughter sat it in and declared that it was smaller than ours. I learned that this chair and several other Herman Miller items are manufactured by the Swiss company Vitra for the European market, not made in the US and imported to Europe as I had assumed. According to my research, there are indeed differences between the Herman Miller and Vitra versions in finish, materials and manufacturing methods (and also price). This Eames Hang-It-All is another example. This cool green colorway is not available in the US:


And neither is this red/wood one:


All the more reason to go back to London!



A Bit of a Confession

I may have mentioned how we are sort of neat freaks around here. We have our messy moments, of course, but generally things are pretty tidy at our house. Things look better that way. And then a while back, I read an interview with a famous architect (possibly Robert A. M. Stern, but for the life of me I cannot recall exactly where I read it and who in fact the architect was)  in which he was asked what the average homeowner can do to make their home more beautiful.

His advice? “Get the windows cleaned.”

I was immediately shamed. I had been a homeowner for 15 years (of various homes), but never once had I gotten the windows cleaned. And I was considered the biggest neat freak of all my friends! As soon as I read that, I really noticed how dirty the windows were. How had I missed it?

And so I got the windows cleaned. He was right! Every single room looked amazing. It was a transformation – without changing a thing. Every room looked cleaner, brighter, more beautiful. Call me converted.

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Spotted: Coffee Shop Cool

Hello! I still have several “big” posts to write about design adventures in London, but I wanted to share some little things that caught my attention as I was out and about. Inspiration can be found everywhere if you keep your eyes open! Here’s the first in a series:


This was a coffee shop that I happened to be walking by near St. Paul’s Cathedral – I loved the grouping of mismatched vintage lanterns and also the reclaimed wood patchwork wall. I saw them out of the corner of my eye and had to stop and take a picture! Either of these ideas could easily be a great design element in a home. The patchwork wall idea could be a done as a whole wall like this one but it could also be scaled down to be more like artwork. This picture is also a great reminder of how much fun chalkboards are! This one with the aged wood frame is wonderful.