Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Gentleman's City Called Edinburgh

I visited Edinburgh for the first time last year. I can honestly say that after years of visiting much of what I considered the world's great cities, I was blown away. It is not Paris, it is not Rome, it is Edinburgh. I was immediately enchanted. This is an architect's city and a city planner's learning center. The buses and trains run quickly and on time. There's no need for a car and the fewer the better. This is a city of beautiful Georgian and Victorian homes and buildings.

It is green, wet, hospitable, old and completely new. I wandered the Royal Mile where every corner is worth a picture, recounting the steps of Robert the Bruce and Queen Mary and yet it embraces the new and needed functions of a city that wants and welcomes outsiders seeking to explore its charms. I stayed just out of the city centre of Princes Street at the charming small Channing's Hotel off Queensferry Road. Channing's usually gets a three star rating, but if your a veteran traveler its a four plus. It's small quiet, peculiar and just the kind of place I love. There's no Hilton, Sheraton corporate personality here. It's a pure welcome to Edinburgh and a "here's what we are atmosphere." The downstairs bar, earnestly trying for that trendy look; instead found me quietly chatting with the bartender and guests about our day's adventures while Old Joe from down the street walked in with his two beloved but worn in the tooth springer spaniels. Without a request, a good glass of Scottish whiskey was poured and all three settled into a corner seat for a bit of fortification. I loved it and the staff were great for such a small enterprise.

Buses run at most five minutes apart on Queensferry Road, into town, which is walking distance from Channings and is the best way to get around town.

Now of course there are a some truly great Hotels in Edinburgh. If your budget allows for extreme comfort and true Scottish hospitality, I've picked two,to keep in mind if your lucky enough to visit this charming city. The first being, The Balmoral and the second being The Howard. Either will be a first class visit.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Brilliant Idea

After spending just thirty minutes viewing Decorati , I am green with envy at the pure brilliance of putting this site together. All I can say is BRAVO. To the rest of us in this internet age, I'm sure you'll see the leap that Shane Reilly has made. I added just a few pictures from her site from the Paul Montgomery Studio of Chinoiseri Wallpaper that is incredible. There is a vast resource here that will be a huge jump in the the designer field. Can I buy stock? Shane, do you need staff??

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Easter

The Cherry Trees are about to burst their beauty as are the many spring flowers that make DC such a beautiful place to experience at this time of the year. It being Good Friday, I thought a few pictures of the the buildings we hold dear on this "early" but special holiday weekend appropriate. A very Happy Easter to all. Let's hope Sunday is a bit warmer than predicted.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

DC Spring 2008

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A few Treasures from Indonesia

It has now been a decade since I made the the year long trip around the world. Of course I'm ready to go again but that may have to wait a bit as life's responsibilities always get in the way. Over the weekend I brought out a couple of treasures from the trip to show some top design folk here in Washington DC. To my pleasure these plates drew many an OOH's and AHH's.

Ten years ago on a very hot day I was wandering the alley's of a beautiful island in Indonesia when I came across this dinnerware. The Southeast Asian markets were in turmoil at the time and prices were incredible. That being the case I purchased a huge amount of this china. Most of it is still wrapped in its original packing material which I retrieved from a warehouse in Jersey City nine months after its purchase. The time has come to let some of it go. I have these two patterns in Chargers, Salad bowls, Tea Cups and Saucers, Coffee Mugs, and even a few charming salt and pepper shakers. I'd love to see if there's any interest in them and to get your comments on their appeal. Ebay may be their final destination but for the moment I hold on to the collection for the expert eyes of the design field. FYI the plates are charger size as I was a neophyte bachelor when I bought them. additionally the yellow pattern comes with all the different animals that are on the yellow and green pattern. And yes, if the pattern looks familiar, like from a store whose name begins with an "H", I think the locals took that idea.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A beautiful watercolorist and person

I just received this watercolor painting from an old friend and very special person. Joan Brady has worked in this medium for years and her work hangs in some of the great American homes. She always has just the right picture and thoughts to put things into perspective. You can email me if you'd like to see some of her other works.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Fifty Greatest Works Of Art

The Telegraph UK has an interesting post highlighting it's view of the Fifty Greatest Works of Art and how easy or hard it is to see them in person. Well worth perusing but of course not the definitive list.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Birds, Bees and Blooms and Turtles

I recently stumbled upon the University of Glasgow's Special Collections website and proceeded to spend a few hours gazing at the most beautiful old prints. Here you will find a selection of groundbreaking and wonderfully illustrated natural history books, from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. All I could think of was covering my walls with some of these fantastic illustrations. I've selected just few to give you an idea of what a great resource this collection is for ideas and an appreciation of truly great art.Though I must say that I've always loved Turtles.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Economic Sensibilities and the Auction House

The evening news is over and the martini has put Monday behind me. Between the stock market's continuing plunge and aside from Wall Street's collective Champagne corks popping over Governor Spitzer's transgressions, its time for seekers of value and finds to return to one of my true loves, that being the Auction House.

Just a few years out of college and with very little money to my name, a lovely British lady married into a fine Washington family introduced me to the world of auctions. I found myself out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in three huge fields of human debris and valuables. Those days of watching and learning instilled a life long love of the auction business. I freely and with pleasure admit that a majority of the furniture I now own came from the auctioneer's gavel, and what fun it is!

I have found over the years that most people are intimidated by the auction process. We Americans are used to walking in and paying the price on the sticker. But we're one of the few people on the planet that operate this way. I've learned in my journeys to Southeast Asia, Turkey and beyond that the asking price is only entering the starting gate. As a matter of fact you're considered to lose face if you don't bargain, but thats another story.

Lets start simply by reviewing a local auction house and Washington institution known as Weschler's at 909 E Street behind the FBI Headquarters. In operation since 1890 its a great source for furniture, art, ceramics and everything in between here in DC. While they hold five or six major auctions a year ( which is the really good stuff) they also hold weekly auctions where I have found great finds.

If you get the opportunity, visit them on your lunch hour on Mondays to see what will be auctioned on Tuesday. If there's something that catches your eye but you can't come back for the auction there are staff that will take your bid and try and get you the piece. True auction hounds frown on this practice as it tends to up the bidding price from the start.

The most important piece of information however is what you will pay for the honor of bidding and what you must always remember. That is the Auction House service charge and sales tax, to be added in, which according to house rules can add 25% to the final price. Thats why when bidding on a piece you always have to have a number in your head at which point you drop out of the race. And a race it is. The auctioneer moves and speaks very quickly, don't let this deter you from your quest. That's part of the fun. Your heart will race, your hand will be jumping up. Its great fun and very addictive after you've made that first great buy.

If your a complete beginner I urge you to attend one of the six yearly major auctions, always on a Saturday. Just walk in and take a seat and watch the process then wander around downtown for a nice lunch. Its a great way to spend a weekend outing and learn about a great deal. Here are a few pictures from their last major auction which shows some beautiful pieces that you'll be hard pressed to ever find in a store.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Good Way to Face Mondays

To the uninitiated, an example on why Youtube can beat watching that large old box in your living room. Time and technology will bring this all together. I give you a taste of Nalts. To see more, which the kids go crazy over, just go to Youtube and type in Nalts. He's my kinda guy. And so here is a video on facing Mondays. /

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Washington Home Furnishing Part Four

Before I turn to another subject, I would be remiss in not covering John Rosselli on Wisconsin Ave. A part of the Rosselli Antiques and Home Furnishings Company based in New York City this store is also a must see in the tony part of Georgetown. You'll walk in and want everything and if your purse strings are loose you can walk out singing. Its also a great source for fabric. If you love Monkeys and Turtles and beautiful wooden pieces this is well worth a visit. Don't miss Peter Quinn's warm welcome and his beloved Jack Russells resting in the warm window.