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.
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.
Happy Hump Day!
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 tempaperdesigns.com.
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…
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
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.
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
I love a good party, but I like what comes after a party too—when quiet and stillness replace the laughter and long stories (in this case it was the 4th of July, which is huge around here and we are on the parade route so you can imagine…), and there is the putting away, the folding, and finding (a lost pink flip flop?). There is a different slant of light now and people have moved on—some just up the street or upstairs and some far and some even farther…a simple old chair with linens and scraps of fabric and favorite espadrilles underneath are what remain. Until next time…
Sybil Connolly (1921-1998) built one of the first Irish fashion houses with her exquisite ballroom dresses and skirts made of pleated handkerchief linen, which was hand-crafted in cottages along the Irish countryside. She became well known for her romantic style that reinterpreted traditional Irish textiles into haute couture for clients like Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.
The first floor drawing room of her Georgian mansion in Dublin, 71 Merrion Square that she used as a boutique for fitting clients and for fashion shows, was also wallpapered in Irish pleated linen.
Connolly is one of the women featured in How They Decorated by P. Gaye Tapp (see previous post).