the scrapbook: a valentine vignette

The white flower stand_Patrick W Adam

The White Flower Stand (1924) is by the Scottish artist Patrick William Adam (1854-1929) who lived much of his life in a beloved house called Ardilea on Dirleton Road, North Berwick, and was known for his light and airy paintings of sophisticated interiors.

I wish you a lovely St. Valentine’s Day filled with favorite things (like red tulips and purple irises and silhouettes and a fine French mirror and gilt picture-frame molding and gold silk curtains and a white flower stand).

the scrapbook: the garden in winter, rue Carcel, Paul Gauguin, 1883

Onthresholds_the garden in winter_Gauguin_IMG_0171

A garden in winter. Why look? Let alone go to the trouble of taking a photograph or painting a picture? What is there to see other than the barren and bleak hauntings of what used to be? What is there to feel other than cold, emptiness? Perhaps Gauguin suggests that we look closer. Perhaps he means to say that the garden in winter is not lifeless, but only standing still for now. Perhaps he means to say by way of composition and color that the garden in winter reminds us of the strong bones that hold things together. I think that the two women in their scarves with their baskets know there is something to behold (as well as chores to be done), and that, yes, civilization looms in the background, the smoke stacks of the factories and the pitched roofs of the houses are undeniable, but they do not tamper the spirit of the garden, even snow covered, even in the dead of winter.

the scrapbook: interior, flowers and parakeets, Matisse 1924

Matisse interior flowers and parakeets IMG_0066 2

This painting by Matisse is one of my favorites at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I could look at it forever with its layers and layers of textures and patterns and light. I love the plain wooden table with the embroidered runner and the lovely pale flowers in the china vase alongside a simple cup and saucer and two lemons. Then, there is the exotic birdcage of parakeets, the shadows on the strips of mix-matched wallpaper, the pulled back curtain, the blue and white screen, and the undressed window offering a glimpse of the world beyond this room. It has been noted that this was Etta Cone’s favorite painting of those that she and her sister Claribel collected. And their own apartment in Baltimore looked something like this—with rooms that pulled you in like a story about the art of living.

the scrapbook: near-black green

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In Edgartown proper on Martha’s Vineyard it is called “near-black green” and in the South it is commonly referred to as “Charleston green.”

It’s the deep, inky green found on shutters and doors in many historic homes in historic towns, and what I love about it is how it gives a house a classic, clean, slightly formal look with a hint of mystery: is it black? Or is it green? At the moment, I’m on Martha’s Vineyard, but reading about Southern style, so this color that intersects both worlds and is part of each regions vernacular is quite intriguing.

In Charleston the story goes that residents added hints of blue and yellow to a government issued black after the Civil War as an act of independence. And in the New England area, I am told that it has to do with the harsh climate and the Puritan heritage. Neither of these tales can be officially verified, but it doesn’t really matter to me…lovely stories, lovely color.

onthresholds_edgartown near-black green

Happy Hump Day!

the scrapbook: chinoiserie


chi·noi·se·rie | noun | the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.

In a new book about timeless Southern style (more on that soon!) there is chinoiserie everywhere, and I have to admit that I have often confused it with toile. Toile is a pattern that is French and often depicts the French countryside, while chinoiserie means “Chinese-esque” and includes all different kinds of Chinese images which can be found on fabric, wallpaper, furniture, folding screens and so on. I have been calling my foyer wallpaper toile when it is actually chinoiserie—so thank goodness I’ve gotten that straightened out for us (and now to actually pronounce it correctly…).

If you are a little bit afraid of something like this, the pattern above is a removable wallpaper from

the scrapbook: hello August

onthresholds_sunflowers in blue and white pitcherIMG_3052

Sunflowers are everywhere now—I’ve seen patches of them in gardens, fields of them in the countryside, and buckets of them at the farmers’ market this past weekend. And I think I like them best that way—together as a group, not mixed in with other flowers. There is something about how tall they stand, how bold they look in the blazing sun, how of-the-earth they seem that suits their appearance in August, when the days are still hot and summer is still with us, but there is a hint of autumn in the air…

the scrapbook: Queen Anne’s lace

onthresholds_Queen Anne's laceIMG_3014

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)

“It is a very pretty chandelier of a flower fit to adorn the forest floor…The common carrot by the roadside, Daucus carota, is in some respects an interesting plant—for its umbel as Bigelow says is shaped like a bird’s nest, and its large pinnatifid involucre interlacing by its fine segments resembles a fanciful ladies’ workbasket.”

                              ~ from The Journal of Henry David Thoreau (July 3, 1852) Read more

the scrapbook: espalier

onthresholds_espaliar trees at LadewIMG_2900

Espalier | noun | es-pal-ier : a plant (such as a fruit tree) trained to grow flat against a support (such as a wall).

They always catch my eye—even before I knew what to call them, I thought they were very attractive. I’ve learned that they have ancient roots and were a prominent feature in medieval monastic life because they could be grown in small spaces. And while most espaliers are fruit trees, roses and other plants with woody stems can be trained in this way as well. There are, also, many designs and patterns used in the art of espalier.

The ones pictured above are at Ladew Topiary gardens, where topiary, another art form for shaping trees into ornamental shapes is prominent, but where some espalier are also found.

Here is a link to an excellent article about how to master the art of the espalier.

the scrapbook: Margaret Mitchell House

onthresholds_ MM house bwIMG_2944

Very soon we are heading down to Atlanta and then Americus, Georgia. We will be attending a wedding and doing some work for a larger project, which we will be sharing parts of on the blog.

In Atlanta, our focus will be on the Margaret Mitchell House, where the author lived in an apartment on the lower level of the house from 1925-1932, and where she wrote the iconic novel Gone With the Wind. Read more