Monday, October 27, 2008

Top Designer Talent In DC

There are many secrets in Washington DC. Usually they are the kind made of the knowing handshake or perhaps the scandal kept hidden til days before the election and oh is the atmosphere ripe these days. We here in the nation's capital are but days away from a change in power and unlike our former supernova, the Big Apple, to the north, here power is all.

A new Administration brings new people and new ideas and new needs to Washington. Come January, many new folk will come to town. They'll need advice on who to greet, where to go, how to make an impression on the natives and how to show that they are arriving with new ideas and a new style. That is what makes it such an exciting time and perhaps an historic one.

So you've arrived, and you need some expert advice on putting your new home together. Some in the new Cabinet and many another newly minted Assistant Secretary might think they need to turn to New York for such advice, but for those of us in the know, that's just provincial thinking. There is plenty of design talent right here in DC and today Homer's Odd is going to start showing you what and who is available.

Let's start with a who. For freshness, style, professionalism and a can do spirit you can't go wrong with Sally Steponkus.

Sally is the kind of gal, and I use that term in the highest respect, cause I love gals, who approaches life and projects with a grin, grit, and determination. She reminds me of that scene from The Mary Tyler Moore show when Lou Grant said to Mary in their first meeting, " You've got spunk," to her reply, " well, yea," and he said, " I hate spunk." But who prevailed???

I sat down recently with Sally to discuss her background, thoughts on design and her recent projects. While the discussion took place over coffee I couldn't help but feel a Marguerita would have been better. It's that spunk thing.

Let's start at the beginning: Sally is a native Washingtonian growing up in downtown Foggy Bottom and then in McLean, Virginia where she graduated from the Potomac School and then from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Her first exposure to design came from her parents hiring her mother's college roommate's husband, Roger Roman to help decorate the house the in Virginia. " I remember Roger and my Mother taking me to the Design Center downtown to help pick out wallpaper and carpet for my room, I'd never had so much fun and I thought I was pretty good at it."

Sally got her start working for the Robert Allen showroom at the Washington Design Center during her college vacations and for 8 months after graduation. She explained, "I was then hired by Ann Kenkel of Kendridge Designs, where I worked for 2 years. When I left I opened my own business while also working for Lavinia Lemon. Before going out completely on my own I worked with Kelley Proxmire, working 2 days a week for almost 2 years, while still running my own biz the rest of the time."

What is your favorite room either from an emotional standpoint or design. You can choose from anywhere?

"I had a really hard time with this question! If we are talking about decorating-wise, then I’d have to say that I love going to lunch at the restaurant that Kelly Wearstler designed at Bergdorf’s in NYC. I adore her light, clear light blue palette and her use of funky, vintage-looking chairs and preppy but chic window treatments. If we are talking about my favorite room for sentimental, non decorating-wise reasons, then I’d choose my late grand-father’s screened in porch in Rochester, NY. He had a beautiful backyard and garden that he tended faithfully, which provided a lovely view from the porch, and he had this rattan furniture that I wish I could have inherited – it went to my aunt’s summer place in Maine, so at least I still get to enjoy it when I’m up there – but I suppose it’s the feeling of being there with him that I remember most. My grandfather was as fastidious a homemaker as any woman. He raised my mom and aunt on his own after my grandmother died (my mom was 5 at the time) and he was a wonderfully kind and gentle person with superb homemaking skills and a crazy sweet tooth: he gardened, he cooked, he baked and he was lovely to everyone and his house was very peaceful and simple. I remember what the grass smelled like after he cut it (the windows were always open in the summertime) and I can still feel the sheer fabric of the window treatments. It seems to me, his house ran in a quiet, organized, metered way – it was perfect.

What project are you most proud of completing?

I am equally proud of all of my projects, as well as the several showhouses I’ve participated in. But I’m most proud of MYSELF for starting my business at age 24. Fortunately my first client was a huge one so starting out wasn’t so bad and I had lots of support from my parents, who always knew I could run my own company. My father is self-employed as a public relations consultant so growing up and knowing that he was in charge, he did all the work, he set his own schedule, etc. wasn’t intimidating, it was just how it was and there was never any question in my mind that I’d work for myself just like him. It seems more normal to me than working for a big company.

Who is your favorite or most respected Decorator?

I adore Kelly Wearstler and really respect her taste and achievement for single-handedly bringing back Hollywood Regency and promoting refinishing old pieces of furniture and reusing them in updated, fun fabrics. She has inspired me to shop even more at flea markets and on Craigslist to find old, cool, cheap stuff to redo and resell!

What is your first question is when meeting a potential client about decorating their home?
I like to know how clients want to use their spaces and what feeling they want to exude from them. If someone wants something casual but funky that is helpful to know, but if someone wants more formal but still family-friendly, it is important that I know that to create the right mood.

What do you find is a client's biggest mistake? Many a client’s biggest mistake is not defining how much money they want to spend and setting a budget. A lot of clients also get bogged down by the money stuff – once they see it in print on a proposal, it gets very real and they often hesitate or stall because they haven’t defined their budget for themselves or to me ahead of time. If a client doesn’t start out with an amount they want to spend, whatever I show them naturally ends up being “more than they want to spend.” "And hey! like they say, you get what you pay for."

What do you find are the most common problems on a project and most common mistakes in dealing with a client?
The most common problem on a project is communication with clients. I try to be very open and not intimidating so they feel like they can approach me and ask questions, or ask for other choices. Often people don’t ask questions or don’t follow up on decisions, which slows down the process.

What is your best fabric source?

The Washington Design Center, specifically Cowtan & Tout for Jane Churchill & Manuel Canovas, J. Lambeth for China Seas, Hinson for great grasscloth wallcoverings.

What object or piece of furniture should every living room have?
An ottoman. You should always be able to be comfortable and to put your feet up.I have to be lying on a sofa or in a chair with an ottoman to get truly comfy & relaxed.

What object or piece of furniture every bedroom should have?

Lovely lamps. Lighting is important in a bedroom,and having some special lamps that are crisp, clean, serene and quiet and not ordinary make a great impact on the room. They are obviously practical but also can often be sculptural and make the room the cherry on top of the sundae.

What is your favorite Lamp or lighting source?
I have been crazy about Christopher Spitzmiller forever and his lamps are certainly the best of the best. When clients don’t have as big a budget, I get lots of lamps from the Kellogg Collection which always has a great collection.I also adore Jamie Young, Currey & Co. and Circa Lighting for basics.

What are your favorite paint colors.

Blue Ground from Farrow & Ball

Manchester Tan from Ben Moore

Hancock Green from Ben Moore

What are your favorite sources for new information and your favorite websites?

Recently I’ve been reading the following blogs: Peak of Chic, StyleCourt, An Aesthete’s Lament and of course you Homer. I am constantly shopping on Crate and Barrel’s website as well as West Elm and Pottery Barn. I always click on the link to the blogs that Terri Sapienza lists in the Home Section every Thursday on

Also, I look at almost every day to see what new has been posted. Recently I purchased chairs for myself and recovered them in a wonderful Sea Cloth chocolate zebra print on the front with China Seas ivory linen and chocolate polka dots on the back. They’re very fun & unexpected!

Thanks to Angie Seckinger for the photographs, except for the picture of Bergdorf's which comes from Girl in the Pearl Blog.

That is Sally, fun and unexpected.Here's to you Sally.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

FYI Free Appraisals

Tuesday, November 11
Perhaps a good time in these days of uncertainty to see what you hidden treasures are worth.

Doyle New York holds regularly scheduled free appraisal days in the Mid-Atlantic area. Our team of appraisers, most of whom are featured on the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow, will provide free verbal evaluations for collectors seeking to auction jewelry, paintings, furniture and decorations (photographs are acceptable).
For information or an appointment, please call Doyle Washington, DC Regional Representative Reid Duanvant at 202-342-6100, or email

An English Country Stylist, Unrepentant..NYTIMES

Photo by Phil Mansfield.

A wonderful story of an old time decorater. Full of whimsy and fun but with great style to boot. I espcially would have loved to have seen the protrait of Queen Victoria. Full story here.

A Tremendous Commercial from the Hovis Bakery UK

You have to see this! A commercial for bread from the UK. You'll watch it once and then maybe three times more to catch everything. As they'd say across the pond, Brilliant!

A Better Way To Cross The Pond

I've recently seen a number of articles and blog comments from personal experience on the new British Airways Service. "OpenSkies." It seems to be getting some rave reviews. A pleasant air travel experience with some old world style at a reasonable price? I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried it out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Christmas Idea

For watercolor fans, my good friend and talented artist Joan Brady has published a collection of her work entitled, "Between Brushstrokes," in time for xmas giving.Luckily my copy is signed by the artist. To order click here.

A Masterpiece

One of my favorite painters, Duane Keiser has produced his masterpiece, but you won't find it available for your collection or a museum. She is truly beautiful. Cheers Duane.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Missed This One

I'm a fan of Roxanne Steed's work from a painting a day. She resides in Mystic, CT. where I spent my summer's sailing on the Long Island Sound. I love her work and folks the price is right for a small oil painting. This painting struck a bone which made me look at her work once again and I encourage you to do the same.

A Way Cool Auction

I got home early last Saturday night after the first cool autumn dinner party of Fondue. I KNOW!!!!It's back, but it was tasty with a nice bottle of Il Bastardo. Slumping into my favorite chair and pressing the remote, I got to catch the last half of "The Great Escape," every guys favorite movie.

Lo and behold Bonhams is having an auction of McQueen memorabilia. All a part of the "Bruce Willis Muscle Cars, Steve McQueen Effects to be Featured at Annual Petersen Museum Sale."Already highlighting the sale will be effects once belonging to the King of Cool, Hollywood mega star Steve McQueen, from the private collection of his former wife, Niele McQueen Toffel. Way Cool.

It Is The Only Way to Go

My Oh My. This story from today's New York Times hits this native New Yorker right between the eyes. It has given me a true appreciation of the Lady and the right way to call it a day. It is a great story, that's all I can say and she was a Washingtonian to boot. And at the End, All the Comforts of the Carlyle.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whitney Museum Presents a New Look at Alexander Calder

I have always been a great fan of Alexander Calder and will surely make a visit to this exhibition. The Whitney Museum. From Art Daily.

A Fall Find

In an upcoming interview with a top DC Designer, to be published soon, the question of "What every living room should have?" was answered with, "an ottoman." Those close to Homer will know where to find it. For starts, it is big. 41"w x 31d x 17h. Secondly it is about as goodlooking as anything I've seen in months. At the moment it is a one of a kind. Lastly it is well under $2,000.00. The fabric is French. If your in DC or not as this is the internet, you can find it arrived freshly today at the Kellogg Collection.

A Worthy Fundraiser for NSO in DC

The Women's Committee for the National Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce its second annual Celebrations fundraiser: Beyond Dragons: An East-West Fusion of Interior Design. This five day Asian-inspired interior design show features innovative room designs created by some of Washington's top noted designers. From the subtle to the dramatic, Beyond Dragons offers inspiration to those who are seeking to create spaces in their homes which reflect the Asian concepts of balance and harmony, color and texture, simplicity and richness while maintaining the comfort and familiarity of western classic and modern traditions. The event also features seminars on entertaining and decorating, feng shui, special cultural presentations and hosts some of the area's most coveted shopping boutiques. Full link here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Expensive Halloween

I don't know what scares me more, the object, the price, or that anyone would want it! Damien Hirst's Diamond Skull. For the right price it might be yours. Story here.

I Don't Bake But This I have To Try

A Reeses Peanut Butter Cup ranks high in one of my favorite food groups. I found this tonight. Oh my, a new site has joined my food list. Finding La Dolce Vita

National Design Awards

With less than 24 hours left to vote, take a look at The People's Design Awards, part of the National Design Awards from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, are happening as we speak — with public voting for a single winner open until only Tuesday 6pm, October 21st.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where to See Movies in DC

Of course its only the Uptown for me but yes, there are other venues. DC's Silver Screens.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Daily Painter Duane Keiser

Love this piece today. Its a nice way to start the weekend. You can find his work in my Daily Painters department on the right. I think he's great.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Steuben Glass and Still Life Art Combined

I have been a life long fan of the artistry that Steuben Glass has produced. There have been few times in the last few decades while strolling down Fifth Avenue that I haven't walked into their display center. Alas I have only a few inherited candy dishes, okay they're ashtrays, but I still love them. Here is a very interesting story on a collaboration between the artist Beth Lipman and Steuben to create pieces in the style of Still Life paintings. I can see people collecting pieces for years. Artichokes, Lemons, Tomatoes oh my. I love these pieces. Story here from Cool Hunting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Wise Look At NYC After Last Week

Notwithstanding today's market rise, I liked this piece from on E. B White, probably my favorite writer since I'm still just a little kid inside, despite the lines that betray that. It shows his true love and knowledge of the city and the reason I miss him and my native town. I know its morbid or such but I still have his obit from the NYimes in my desk and read it from time to time. Here Is New York, by E. B. White

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weschlers Fine Furniture and Decorations Sale October 11, 2008

Yesterday was as beautiful a day as we can ask for here in DC. There was nary a cloud in the brightest blue sky. After a week of turmoil in the financial markets and meetings here in town of money minister potentates, I thought Weschler's big fall auction would tell me a great deal about our state of well being.

Auctions are by their very being,for us amateur economists, our closest venue to how the marketplace is behaving. It is the true place to see what is worth what. What is being sold? What is wanted? Does anyone have the cash to buy it? Is it the time to buy or is it the time to sell? My thoughts on yesterday are these.

The house was empty. When I arrived there were perhaps thirty people in the room. This struck me immediately as I have been there many times before with a much larger crowd. The lots being offered at the time were mostly Meissen porcelain and I watched the sales. 90% of the buyers were online and bidding through the internet. Without the internet I don't think anything would have sold. I'll admit my disinterest at this point as porcelain just isn't my bag. Luckily there was plenty of time before the pieces I wanted to see came to auction so it was off to the new McD's next door for a quick lunch.

Upon my return there might have been a few newcomers but nothing to talk about and there were some great items about to be sold. Bottom line, the buyers were not there, they weren't on the phone, they weren't online, they weren't in the room. I'd have to guess that 30% of the lots did not meet their minimums. I watched great deal after great deal go unanswered. I saw some great pieces fall into lucky hands.

I have listed below what happened to the pieces I was particularly interested in. The market was flat if not depressed. Thank God I had a sunny afternoon to walk away in. Like I said last night, if you had $10,000.00 to spend, you would have walked away with at least $40,000.00 in valuable goods. I don't know what this says about our day to day lives in the coming months, but it made me pause.

Tiffany & Co. Sterling Chocolate Pot
New York, 1907-1938
Having a fluted, urn-form body with beaded swags and oak leaf panels enclosing an engraved conjoined script monogram. Impressed with factory mark and 19131.
Height: 10-1/2 in (26.7 cm)
Gross weight: 26.2 oz
Estimate $1,000-1,500

Lot 236
Set of Four Gorham Silver Plate Column-Form Candlesticks
Providence, Dated 1902
Each with a removable beaded-edge bobéche. Each impressed with factory mark, date cipher and 0135.
Height: 8-1/4 in (21 cm)
Estimate $400-600

Lot 342
Charles X Tôle-Peinte Tea Urn
Second Quarter 19th Century
Gilt decorated with an acorn and leaf banding on a black ground above a flower filled basket raised on cabriole legs ending in ball feet. Some wear and blistering to paint.
Height: 15 in (38.1 cm)
Estimate $400-600
SOLD FOR $250.00

Lot 369
Biedermeier Walnut Writing Table and Side Chair
Circa 1820-1830
The writing table having a green baize inset panel over a frieze drawer; the side chair having an olive green, black and white floral needlepoint upholstered seat. Each with some repairs to veneer; top of desk with plugged holes.
Height of desk: 30-1/2 in (77.5 cm); Width: 39-1/4 in (99.7 cm); Depth: 25-3/4 in (65.4 cm)
Estimate $500-700
$600.00 - THAT WAS A DEAL!

Lot 374
Regence Style Walnut Banquette
Circa 1900
With brown and white honeycomb printed upholstery.
Height: 20 in (50.8 cm); Width: 43 in (109.2 cm); Depth: 17-1/4 in (43.8 cm)
Estimate $1,000-1,500
SOLD FOR $900.00

Lot 377
Louis XV Style Ormolu Mounted Parquetry Tulipwood and Kingwood Bureau Plat
20th Century
The top having a silver-tooled tan leather inset writing surface above a frieze, the opposing side with false drawers. Scattered losses and blistering to veneer.
Height: 32-1/2 in (82.6 cm); Width: 71-1/2 in (181.6 cm); Depth: 37 in (94 cm)
Estimate $1,500-2,500

Lot 383
Pair of Louis XVI Style Ormolu Mounted Mottled Black Marble Pedestals
Circa 1900
Height: 44 in (111.8 cm); Diameter of top: 11 in (27.9 cm)
Estimate $1,000-1,500

Lot 399
Charles X Brass Mounted Tulipwood Lit d' Alcove
Circa 1820
Each lacking one brass rosette to the end posts.
Height: 37-1/2 in (95.3 cm); Length: 73-3/8 in (186.4 cm); Depth: 42-1/2 in (108 cm)
Estimate $1,000-1,500

Lot 456
Group of Four Meissen Reticulated Dessert Plates
Circa 1756-1780
Each having a latticework border with three floral decorated cartouches centering a lattice and basketweave molded center polychrome decorated with various floral sprays. Each with underglaze blue crossed swords mark, one above a puce painted line; each with various impressed and incised marks.
Diameter: 9 in (22.9 cm)
Estimate $800-1,200
SOLD FOR $850.00 - FAIR

Lot 493
William & Mary Satinwood Inlaid and Oyster Veneered Walnut Chest of Drawers
Late 17th Century
Some losses and repairs to inlay; top cracked with some restorations to veneer; brasses probably replaced.
Height: 32-1/2 in (82.6 cm); Width: 37-1/2 in (95.3 cm); Depth: 23 in (58.4 cm)
Estimate $7,000-10,000

Lot 502
George III Mahogany Barber's Chair
19th Century
Lacking adjustable headrest.

Estimate $500-700

Lot 518
George III Mahogany Tray-Top Tea Table
Circa 1770
Some knee returns replaced; three pad feet restored.
Height: 27-1/4 in (69.2 cm); Width: 34 in (86.4 cm);Depth: 20-1/2 in (52.1 cm)
Estimate $2,000-3,000

Lot 534
George III Style Harewood Crossbanded and Satinwood Inlaid Mahogany Serpentine Sideboard
Last Quarter 19th Century
Some repairs and losses to inlay; brasses replaced; rear legs probably replaced.
Height: 35-3/4 in (90.8 cm); Width: 76 in (193 cm); Depth: 27-1/4 in (69.2 cm)
Estimate $3,000-5,000

Lot 539
George III Style Brass Mounted Mahogany Bookcase Cabinet
Last Half 19th Century
In two parts; the removable cornice above a pair of Gothic arch glazed panel doors enclosing a champagne moiré cupboard interior with three shelves; the lower section panel doors opening to view one shelf. Minor imperfections.
Height: 90-1/2 in (229.9 cm); Width: 49-1/4 in (125.1 cm); Depth: 20-1/4 in (51.4 cm)
Estimate $1,500-2,500
SOLD FOR $3000.00 - WORTH IT.

Lot 549
George III Style Mahogany 'Cockpen' Armchair
Late 19th-Early 20th Century
The seat with black leather and brass nail studded upholstery. Repairs to back rest.

Estimate $600-800

Lot 552
George III Style Red Japanned and Ebonized Pine Two-Pedestal Desk
Late 19th Century
The removable black lacquer top above three red japanned frieze drawers, over two similarly decorated pedestals each with three graduated drawers. Probably redecorated; distress to back corners of top; scattered wear and losses to decoration.
Height: 29-1/2 in (75 cm); Width: 54 in (137.2 cm); Depth: 27-1/8 in (68.9 cm)
Estimate $2,000-3,000

Lot 571
George II-III Mahogany 'Porringer' Top Folding Card Table
Circa 1750-1760
The hinged top opening to view a green baize lined playing surface with four concave money pockets and four candle stands above a secret frieze drawer. Some repairs and cracking to veneered skirt; green baize lining with some staining and wear.
Height: 28-3/4 in (73 cm); Width: 33 in (83.8 cm); Depth: 16 in (40.6 cm)
Estimate $4,000-6,000
SOLD FOR $2600.00 - A GREAT DEAL!!

Lot 658
Federal Style Mahogany Triple Chair-Back Settee
Late 19th Century
Having a curved tablet crest carved with bowknot-tied olive branches above a blue striped upholstery seat flanked by wing-carved arm supports and raised on animal paw outer feet. Restorations.
Height: 33 in (83.8 cm); Length: 71-1/2 in (181.6 cm)
Estimate $1,000-1,500

Lot 686
Queen Anne Satinwood Inlaid Mahogany Highboy
New Hampshire, Circa 1760
Scroll pediment added at a later date; brass finials replaced; inlay possibly of a later date; repairs to front right foot.
Height: 85 in (215.9 cm); Width: 39 in (99.0 cm); Depth: 18-3/4 in (47.6 cm)
Estimate $6,000-8,000