Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Antiques-French Polish

French Polish~~~French Polishing

Some of us just like the use of the word French in front of our favorite things, wine, cheese, bread, chateaus, and more.  Now what about French polish or French polishing?  It is actually a technique for finishing wood and not a material or product.

It involves the use of many layers of thin shellac that eventually yield a glossy surface on wood that is not only time consuming to acquire but breathtaking to view.  Some collectors of fine furniture refer to the technique as “the icing on the cake”.   It is costly and also time consuming; yet the richness that is captured with the process produces a piece that captures the eye. The technique was perfected by a Frenchman or so I have read around 1820.  I have also seen credit given to Viennese craftsmen during the late 18th century.  Next time we will go into more about the process and the little insect called Laciffer Lacca that is part of the process.  Yes, a little insect.  Below are some pictures of antique boxes with that little something extra….French Polish.

                    From the Victoria & Albert Museum-18th. C Knife box

                             Two Rare Tea Boxes-Antiques.com

                         A Stunning Cave à Liqueur  from my Innentory

                       A closer view of that beautiful technique called
                         French polishing; the wood is resplendent

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Antique Silver -Monteiths

Monteith.  Not a word you hear often or an item you hear much  about.   Ok...  What is a Monteith?

 They are considered a wine accessory.  Monteiths were vessels or large footed bowls with notched rims  that were used to chill drinking cups.  The scalloped rims were removable on some examples.  This offfered the option of a punch bowl or in the case of very large examples they became spacious cisterns for chilling bottles.  So named after a Scotsman called Monteith (or possibly Monteigh) that had a fondness for ruffled edges on his cloak.   

 These vessels were made from various materials including wood, copper, porcelain and silver.  Silver was the predominate material for the bowls.  Monteiths have been used for almost as long as wine coolers and buckets.    A silver Monteith with English hallmarks has been documented with a date of 1684/1685.   
Popular through the last two decades of the 17th Century; cups were suspended by the foot from the scalloped edges in ice water in order to chill them.  Large and ornate with decorative scalloped edging; the bowls held court on grand carved sideboards at parties of the affluent.   After all, it was only the affluent that could afford them.

As customs and fashion ebb and flow; the use of silver cups faded and glass became the choice for serving wine or other spirts.   The use of the grand scalloped bowls diminished.  Today, Monteiths are mainly seen in museums; however, fine examples can be found at major auction houses and a few well known antique shops.  

Below are a few examples from the  Albert & Victoria Museum in London.   Their website makes a visit so easy, no plane tickets or hotel reservations, just click the link. 

                              Farrell, Edward ---  Albert & Victoria Museum
                                                       Silver Gilt 
                          Creator, unknown---Albert & Victoria Museum

                        Leeds England Pottery---Albert & Victoria Museum

                                                           Jingdezhen, China (made) Porcelain
                                                 Date:ca. 1700-1715
                                         Albert & Victoria Museum

Monday, November 5, 2012


Back home from Florida where my son was married on St. Pete Beach.  This was our second wedding in less than four months!  Our youngest daughter was married in Manhattan over July 4th weekend.  We have been keeping family and friends very busy these last few months.  From now on they get to choose their vacation destinations.  It has been an interesting six months; finishing our cottage in Aiken,  moving in, and two weddings.

Wedding favors, specialty items, and wedding ideas abound on the web today.  One word of caution; you may become sleep deprived in a short span of time once you begin the search.  I found myself checking out website after website then glancing at the time..oh dear 2am…well just a few more pages…oh  dear 3am…well one more page.   If only I could have convinced my husband and dog to sleep just a bit longer on those mornings.  They are both early risers and showed me no mercy.

My daughter introduced me to Etsy and Pinterest when she was planning her wedding.  Yes, I am quite behind the times, most everyone has heard of the two sites.   So I thought I would share some items I came across while planning the rehearsal dinner for my son and his fiancée which was held at the Don Cesar in St. Pete.  The dinner was in an outdoor pavilion and the wedding was on the beach at sunset.  The Don is quite pink and known to locals as the “Pink Palace” so we went with all white linens accented with sand colored burlap runners.  We ordered gallons of sea shells and starfish which were bleached wedding white.  Piles of shells, starfish, and dozen of glass votives decorated all the tables.  Before saying goodnight to our guests we passed out favor bags and encouraged everyone to fill them with shells and starfish.   If yo u decide on a beach wedding; happy shelling on the web!

                                 The Don Cesar from their website

                           The beautiful ocean front from their website

Beautiful Shell Seating Place Cards on Etsy

                                      The Bride's Beach Slippers


              Luscious white and dark chocolate shells with brown sugar sand


Friday, October 19, 2012

Cottages & Creatures

Thursday was definitely a creature day! I spent several hours on horseback then viewing pictures of wildlife in Tanzania.  There is always more to do in Aiken than I have hours to do it!  Aiken is well known as a “horse town”.  Yet it is also a vibrant small town with residents that are passionate not only about horses, but the land, arts, and history.

I went with my horse and three other friends and their horses to Hitchcock Woods.   The “Woods” as it called by the locals is one of the largest urban forests in the US.  There are over 2,100 acres of forestland with over 70 miles of trails.   One of the local hunt clubs,
The Aiken Hounds hunts in the “Woods”.   Riding through the longleaf pine forest is both beautiful and relaxing.   To me, it was as relaxing as a massage with my favorite therapist.  A bit more expensive though, considering hay, horse shoes, vet bills, and all those things horses need!  Thanksgiving Day, November 22, will be the annual “Blessing of the Hounds” in the Woods.  This is a tradition in the Woods and is also the formal opening day for the Hunt with other clubs invited to join along. 

The Aiken Hounds
                                           (photo by G. Southworth)

                                         The Horse Show in the Woods
                                               (photo S. Mcmillan)
Afterwards I rushed home with just enough time to wash my face, comb my hair, and then it was off to the open house for the wildlife photos.  Fortunately, one can go almost anywhere in Aiken in boots and britches.  It really cuts down on the need for other clothes!  Who knows, maybe a reduced clothing budget might offset some of the equine costs!  The pictures were taken by Michael Beckner who spent nine years in Tanzania working in wildlife conservation.  Michael is also the son of neighbors.   His photos captured these noble animals along with the essence of the land.  I have trouble just handling a point and shoot camera, so I began to ask questions about his camera, lens, etc.  I decided that it would take me nine years to understand…… 

 Michael is passionate about his work with these animals and it shows in his pictures.  Below are a few pictures of Michael with his some of his photos.  They are on display for sale at Aiken Art & Custom Framing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mother of Pearl

I am drawn to Mother of Pearl....Are you?  Each buying trip that I go on I find myself always drawn to anything with Mother of Pearl.  Sterling silver flatware, serving pieces, boxes, small chairs with MOP inlaid, and my list could go on.  Recently I have noticed that when it comes to the home more products are available with MOP.  I came across a few that were specifically for bathrooms.  Hope you enjoy them. 

                                          (source HGTV C. Bauman)

Bowl from Thompson Traders

I have this bowl for a bathroom without the Mother of Pearl
How did I miss this one?

                                            Love the use of multi colors!

                                     Mother of Pearl Tiles-Maybury House

                               More luscious tiles from Maybury House

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Antique Silver

Do you collect antique silver?  Have you been thinking about it?

I have customers that collect a wide range of items. Vesta cases, snuff boxes, nutmeg graters, tea caddies, tea caddy spoons, master salts, candlesticks, card cases, wine/spirit labels, servers (asparagus, tomato, etc.), christening cups, trophy cups, napkin ring holders, timbales, and more.  Some of these items are a bit more challenging to collect.  Let’s look at nutmeg graters and yes they can be a bit more of a challenge.  Especially if you are looking for graters from the Georgian Era and you want to collect those that are whimsical in design.  I never ceased to be amazed at the details that a quality silversmith could impart to items that were both useful in form and function yet amusing in design.  Why nutmeg and why a nutmeg grater?  Here are a few facts behind theses interesting items, their purpose, and nutmeg in general.

The nutmeg (Myrstica fragrans) tree produces two spices. The spice nutmeg comes from the egg shaped seed of the tree and the spice mace comes from the covering of the seed.  It was used to flavor both food and drink during the Roman Empire,  Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Period.  The Dutch and English fought over control of group of islands that was the main source  for the spice during the 17th.  Century.   It was expensive, yet highly desirable. 

 By the late 17th Century warm drinks were very popular on both sides of the “big pond”. Brits and Americans were drinking, coffee, tea, and chocolate.  Warm punches followed and the other warm drinks and became very trendy.  Brandy or rum mixed with strained fruit and sugar with nutmeg being used as the “final touch”.

To add that final touch; a grater was necessary to rasp the small brown seed.  Small decorative “pocket sized” graters became a fashionable item.   No different than fashionable trends today; the desire to match or exceed one's peers helped to fuel the creativity we see today in these items.   Graters were created in wide range of whimsical or novelty shapes.  It is these that are most desirable and highly collected today.  Egg shaped, melon shaped, strawberry shaped are just a few of the creative designs used.   Graters were also created using other materials such as coquille nut and enamel which are also highly collectable.  Another collection…another day.

For more information and to view some of the "novelty shapes"; visit this  site which is devoted to silver collecting:

                    A nutmeg grater from my inventory that is egg shaped
                                          with engraved details (my photo)

                                          Notice the star shaped grater
                       Room for the nutmeg seed and a removable grater
                                                (photo my me)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The weather has been great for the last week.  So great that it has had an impact on my schedule and work.  I find it so difficult to think about leaving the barn and coming back to my desk.  Very cool mornings that warm up to  comfortable temperatures are my ideal for riding.   Once out in the fields and bridlepaths it is hard to head back to the barn and reality.

To add to the distractions the weather causes; the fall polo season is in full swing.  The past weekend I left the barn then headed over to watch hunter trials and then a polo match.   Far too many choices are coming up over the next weeks...might have to start taking my Ipad and try to fit some work in there somewhere. 

I have new inventory for my antique business that needs to be photographed and listed.  A buying trip that needs final plans.  Well, maybe tomorrow.

            My friend Kate and her Belgium Paint, Cracker Jack leading the way

                               Beautiful blue fall sky at the hunter trials
                                                    (photo by me)

                                     Action packed fall afternooon
                                            (photo Aiken Polo)

                                      Who can resist a face like this?
                                                (photo Aiken Polo)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For the Love of Auctions

It is a raining Tuesday morning here in Aiken.  My morning ride has been moved to early afternoon and hopefully confirmed with a glance at the local radar.  The delay has given me the opportunity to wade through my emails.  As I quickly scan for those emails that I always look forward to opening andI see one from Christie's.  It is for an auction on October 9th to be held at Aynhoe Park in England.   Ah, the perfect delay from reality; I quickly open the link to view the house and some of the collections that will be in the auction.   Below is a link to the website for the house; be sure to take the grand tour!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Antique Silver

As the days grow shorter and the fall shadows grow longer we all turn our thoughts to the upcoming holidays.   This past weekend my thoughts turned out to be two day re-do of the cottage.  Am I ready for the holidays? No not yet, there will be more "re-doing".  I am sure of that.  Time to pull out some favorite items that have been stored and work them into my rooms.  Especially silver.  Antique silver and silver plate add that little "extra touch" to most any room.  Pile all your silver napkin rings in a big silver bowl for an instant centerpiece.  Fill large urns, coffee pots, or champagne buckets with hydrangeas or fall branches for impact.  To reduce your time cleaning silver; just wipe on a good quality polish and let it dry.  When dry buff with a very soft cotton rag. I love old flannel sheets or fabric that is cut into 8' x 8" squares.  This method requires much less time and polishing.  In my silver cleaning basket along with my flannel pieces I also have a container of cotton swabs and a soft baby's toothbrush.  These pieces come in handy for small areas, handles, and detailed designs.   If you have sterling silver pieces where the hallmarks are no longer easy to see; try dipping the end of a wooden match (the square end) into polish then place over the marks twisting slowly.  You may need to do this several times to fully clean the marks.  A cotton swab can help finish the job too.  Below are so pictures of antique silver I enjoyed; hope you will also!

                                           (photo by Jennifer Jordan)

                              (Designer Toby Marks--Southern Accents)

                            (Designer J Betancourt & P Sherrill--Veranda)

               Pale pink roses, evergreens, and one of my silver French timbales
                                                    (photo by me)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The official day for the beginning of Fall this year is Sept 22nd; however, this morning I felt it had arrived.  I went for a ride through the woods and bridle trials with a friend this morning and we could just feel it in the air.  Cool and crisp the temperatures were 20 degrees lower than just a few weeks ago.  My faithful mount, Ben, seemed pleased with the change in weather and moved briskly along on a loose rein with ears forward.  I felt he enjoyed the change in the weather as much as I did.   My friend is getting her new horse ready for the upcoming fox hunting season here in Aiken.   Next week he gets to “meet the hounds”.   As we talked about the hunt season; I began to think about my equestrian inventory…..time for my late fall trip to England.  Below are a few items that I have shipped this past week or two to fellow equestrians. 

                                                   (photo by me)

         Fine leather case with silver plate sandwich box and drink flask

(photo by me)

Fine English Sterlin Silver Napkin Ring Holders Horse Shoe Shaped

                                                 (photo by me)

       Exceptional English Inwell with Pen Wipe in Form of Boot & Crop

                                                   (photo by me)

                           A set of four  Gucci stirrup cups; still available

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cottages & Creatures

At last! A touch of Fall is in the air.  We have actually had a few nights in the 50's and the weather has been lovely for watching the sunsets on the back porch.  Though each season has its own special charm; fall might be my favorite of all!  Turtlenecks and flannel shirts make me happy after a long hot summer.  Pansies and pumpkins also!  As I begin to plan my fall gardens my thoughts turn to the inside of my new cottage.  Chesapeake's Cottage is in need of a coffee or cocktail table.  My favorite pine table is too big for my little cottage and other pieces I have are...well just not right.  One day I think round maybe an overstuffed ottoman.   Maybe 2 small storage cubes, maybe a wicker trunk on wheels, maybe a glass top iron table.   I keep looking around my storage room thinking surely an antique dealer would have something that would work....especially for her own house.  So as of this post....no firm decision has been made.  But the journey has been fun!  Have a great weekend!

                                          (photo from Country Living)
                                              Perfect for little ones! 

                                        (photo from House Beautiful)

                                           (photo from HGTV)

(photo HGTV)

                                                (photo Simon Uption)
I love this table but it needs to be lower!

(photo Veranda)

Such a peaceful room and great table too!

             (photo Veranda)  

                     Another great table!             

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gardens, Doors, Fences, & Gates

Just returning home from the North Carolina coastal area where I went to visit my sister.  She had surgery recently and I went to help out for awhile.  Her gardens had been calling out for attention.  I spent 3 full days just weeding and trimming shrubs.  Somehow weeding can be so satisfying; however, my back and knees do not necessarily agree.  But I do love to see a clean and tidy garden.  As I worked my mind raced back and forth about my new property in South Carolina.  Most of my property is pasture and my cottage will require a different style of gardening that my last two homes.  One was French and one was Georgian and both had formal gardens.  On my buying trips to England and France I always take time to look at gardens, front door entrances, gates, and fences.   I thought I would share some pictures that I have taken. Hopefully others may find some inspiring ideas to use.  After all, it is time to start thinking about our fall gardens and designs.

                                                 (photo by me)

                                                  (photo by me)

                                                       (photo by me) 

                                                       (photo by me)

(photo by me)
                                                    (photo by me)
This door was so beautiful!  Just will not work for my cottage....maybe I need a townhouse in town.   Below is a closer view of the trim 

(photo by me)

     And finally one more beautiful set of doors.  I love double doors and did do two large double front doors for my cottage.

                                                  (photo by me)