Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stress Free Christmas Decorating Using Antique Collections...Well Almost!


Every Christmas many of us look forward to holiday home tours.  It is a treat to visit homes bursting at the seams with decorating ideas.  Often the homeowners have enlisted help in order to be ready.  They have a deadline and their goal is to be ready for the tour.   Though most of us have set a deadline in our minds for our decorating we do not have the pressure of groups of people wandering through our homes and gardens that have paid a fee in exchange for holiday ideas.

Quite a few of us are still trying to finish decorating a mantle or dining room table with company just a few days away.  I have complied a some pictures that require a few of your favorite things, some greenery, and flowers.  For those that collect antique sterling silver or silver plate you are fortunate to have a items that sparkle with the season.  Remember to always use some form of liner in your silver when using it to hold flowers or greenery.  The decay of green leaves or stems can damage to silver.
Group collections of wooden boxes, tortoise shell items, mother of pearl items on mantles with pine branches tucked around them.  Copper food molds, pewter chargers, and antique wooden bowls gathered together in the kitchen need only a bit of greenery to unify them.  I have been collecting copper for years.  Copper anything!  I have quite a few small copper food molds and miniature items.  For years I have used them along with a growing collection of cookie cutters,some new some old, on a garland surrounding a kitchen door.  It is a tradition that my grown children still ask about.
I always am asked " Are you doing the garland with copper this year?" 

Merry Christmas and Happy Antique Collecting
                                                      Tea pot collection and red flowers                                                                
Red flowers and greenery
 Southern Accents

                                                             Silver bowls and trays
                                                                         Southern Accents

                                                           Silver cups, greenery, and flowers

                                                               Simple window boxes
                                                                     Martha Stewart

My copper food molds and cookie cutters
More of my garland and copper
My favorite copper molds...found last year in England
Shaped as a Horse foot with shoes


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Decorating a barn bathroom

It seems like forever since I posted on my blog.  The weeks have flown by as my husband and I have been busy landscaping, building a barn, and nursing an injured horse.  My big gelding Ben took quite a bit of my time for weeks.  The time was worth it and it is nice to be have him healthy again.  We have been able to take a few long walks in the fields and on the trails recently.

So now I am back focusing on the barn which is very close to being finished.  We decided that a small bathroom was a must for the barn.  So many friends and fellow riders have offered input for my small "water closet".  I needed to take space from my tack room for the bathroom and did not want to give up too much space nor did I want it to be impossible to turn around once one walked in.  We finally took chalk and drew lines for the walls on the concrete floor.  Work crews, my builder, my husband, and friends all took turns moving around within the chalk lines.  At last a decision was made and the walls were framed.  One small room......hours of decisions.

Fortunately the decision on what to use in the stable bathroom was not as difficult.  I chose a wall hung sink that will be skirted with burlap.  Baskets of supplies will be kept behind the sink skirt.
I found this great light fixture for the bath. 
The fixture is by Minka Lavery

The tack room will follow the classic lines of a Ralph Lauren advertisement from several years ago but the green walls will be replaced with chocolate brown.  I will of course forgo the white floor!

An antique weather vane that was used in my gardens in past houses now rests atop the barn.
Hopefully it will be finished in about 2 weeks and I can move onto the final finishes including landscaping


Friday, July 5, 2013

Antique Sterling Silver-Collecting & Investing

Over the past year one of the top selling items for my store has been antique sterling silver. Sterling silver is in the top ten best selling items for several  popular on-line auctions.  I have also noticed at recent estate auctions, bidding on antique sterling silver requires real stamina.  Some weeks the items on the "Wish List" for my shop at are almost entirely sterling silver.  In recent months, I have sold pierced baskets, bowls, a tea caddy spoons, calling card cases, fish knives, serving spoons, and several chargers. Most of my buyers have purchased these pieces to add to their collections; however, some buy to present as gifts.

Sterling silver has been part of most people's lives in the way of wedding gifts, baby gifts, anniversary gifts, Christmas gifts, and gifts for major milestones in their lives. Memories of holiday dinners with the table set with family silver.  Memories as a child having tea from your Grandmother's silver teapot.  Memories of our children in pictures captured in silver frames collected over the years bring a smile. Memories, of a race that first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, and a cool Mint Julep in a silver cup. Memories and tradition add layers to our lives. Sterling silver adds a nice layer! Or lining, as some would say!

One area that is really "hot" today is sterling cocktail items. The resurgence of the "cocktail hour" has motivated this interest.  Cocktail shakers, trays, servers, stirrers, picks, and ice buckets are receiving a fair share of the attention.  Claret jugs, though from another period of time, also enjoy popularity. Wine funnels, labels, and mint julep cups also command attention.

The allure of silver has endured since civilization began.  It is second only to gold as a precious metal. Silver has a long history. It has been mined for over 5,000 years. The Greeks minted the drachma; the Romans the denarius; and the British their English shilling (sterling). Alexander the Great had an elite guard on which he bestowed silver shields. Imagine the opposing army facing those shields on a sunny day. The Lavrion Silver mine in ancient Greece provided funds for the Athenians.  The funds helped them defeat the Persians and build the Acropolis and other monuments. In the Medieval period through the seventeenth century spoons were a personal item and presented at baptism.  Horn, pewter, brass, and silver were used to craft spoons.  Normally, only wealthy families presented silver spoons at birth.  People took their spoons to banquets (none were provided) so your station in life was revealed by your spoon.  There really is meaning behind that old saying "Born with a silver spoon in your mouth".

Silver's great strengths include reflectivity, malleability and ductility.  Silver reflects a high percentage of light that falls on it.  Photographing silver for Internet listings can be a challenge! Malleability and ductility refer to the ability to shape and mold.  These two characteristics have made it a favorite for craftsman through the centuries.  Their creativity is almost unlimited when working with silver.  Silver is also an excellent heat conductor.  One additional interesting note: bacteria cannot survive on silver.  Some early surgical instruments were crafted of silver.  Today antique silver surgical items from the 1800's are highly collectable.

Other popular items I see collectors buying include serving pieces such as asparagus servers, tomato servers, candelabras, candlesticks, trays, condiments, salts, mustard pots, stirrup cups, boxes, nutmeg graters, card cases, vesta boxes, cigarette cases, picture frames, napkin rings, tea/coffee services, tea canisters and tea caddy spoons.  These items always seem to captivate collectors.

A silver collection can be built over time and can take as little space as a table top.  Once you have decided what will be in your collection; spend some time reading and researching.  The Internet is a great source for research and there are also many good books on the subject.  My personal favorite is "Antique Silver" by Ian Pickford. I have included in this article information from his book.  Begin to familiarize yourself with hallmarks.  Again, you can find sites on the web and books to help identify marks. One of my favorites is Miller's "Silver & Sheffield Plate Marks" by John Bly.

It may help you to first choose a style, period or era.  Some people prefer to collect only by maker, such as Tiffany, or country of origin.  Decide what you want to invest in your collection.  It is also important to collect what you like and what appeals to you.  I have a collection of silver creamers and sugars.  I use these for flower arrangements; they are great for floribunda roses, which have many blooms but short stems.  I love to use them next to guest beds, in bathrooms, or all of them as a centerpiece for my table.

Once you have made a decision on style, period, and price you are ready to start.  Keep these four things in mind: Quality, Condition, Maker, and Marks.  Regarding quality, buy the best you can afford in your price range and consider design and workmanship. Considering condition, ask yourself: will it need repair, what kind of wear does the piece have; and will it need restoration?  What condition are you willing to accept?  Also consider monograms. Some people approve of monograms and some do not. Evaluate the maker.  Is it known to be a quality maker?  For a quality maker there may be an extra cost.  Is it worth it?  Familiarize yourself with marks. You may pay a premium for rare marks.

Important Terms When Buying Antique Silver

Sterling Silver Sterling silver is 92.5percent pure silver and 7.5 percent alloy metal. American sterling is simply marked "Sterling", sometimes followed by 925, and a makers mark. British sterling bears hallmarks that include symbols and letters to indicate the standard (Lion Passant which indicates sterling), town, date, duty marks, and makers mark. It may seem confusing at first, but after you decipher the system it is easy to use. After you have been collecting for a while, you will begin to notice the leopard's head mark and you will know the town is "London" and the anchor mark will register as "Birmingham". In time, you will be able to pick up a piece of silver and recognize the marks. Other European countries have systems in place for identifying sterling. One web-site that is most helpful is:

Britannia The legal standard for all silver pieces produced between 1697 and 1720. It contained 958 parts pure silver - 33% more silver than sterling.

Coin Silver Coin silver is 90 percent pure silver and 10 percent alloy metal. It was used to produce U.S. currency during the 19th. Century. It is no longer used, but highly collectable.

Vermeil Sterling silver electroplated with at least 100 millionths of an inch of karat gold.

Old Sheffield Plate The object is made from metal already plated. Unlike other forms where the object is made first then plated. Today the term Sheffield Plate is used rather broadly.

Electroplated The name given to articles coated with pure silver by electrolysis.

EPNS (Electroplated Nickel Silver) and EPBM (Electroplated Britannia Metal).

Things To Consider When Buying

Study the period you are considering. There is a wealth of information both on the Internet and in books. Consider damage.  For a rare piece damage will not be as big an issue as for the less rare piece. Repairs and dents can be repaired by a silversmith.  Keep in mind repairs mean added costs. Tarnish can hide wear or repairs.  Be wary of items that are not cleaned; scratches are not as easily seen due to tarnish.  Also be aware that some damaged items may have been modified, especially in flatware, such as damaged spoons cut into forks.  When buying on the Internet, do not hesitate to contact the seller for more information and pictures.  Most reputable sellers invite questions and request for more pictures.  Today the Internet has many reputable sellers with quality merchandise.

I will close with two reminders.  As I mentioned earlier, I frequently use silver sugar and creamers for flowers.  Always use a liner of some sort before placing flowers inside sterling.  The flowers as they decay and can cause damage to the silver . I keep an assortment of paper cups in different sizes for liners. Second, sterling silver that is used and washed more often does not need polishing as frequently. Antique sterling silver achieves that beautiful patina (new sterling just does not have it) after years of handling and use. Use and enjoy your silver. 

The above was an article that I wrote for Ruby Lane; if you wish to use information or quotes from the article; please contact me first.  Copyright protected.

       Below are some of my favorite pieces from my shop; some have been sold                           to collectors and some are still available:


One of my favorite pieces of all time; a stunning French silver
and vermeil ice cream service

Service for 12 including a fish service and
oak storage chest

A set of four Gucci stirrup cups

A set of four Puiforcat serving trays

One of my favorite customers has this French silver and crystal
confiturer on layaway.  She uses my layaway plan frequently which
helps her continue to add to her collection.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

“Garden as though you will live forever.”

William Kent is quoted as saying “Garden as though you will live forever.”  I will embrace his words as I undertake the acres surrounding Chesapeake’s Cottage.  William was a highly regarded English architect, landscaper, and furniture designer in the 18th Century.  His accomplishments include; The Temple of Ancient Virtue, Stowe; Badminton House; Houghton Hall; along with other distinguished homes and gardens in England.

As I begin the fine-tuning process of my stable my thoughts race ahead to the surrounding landscape and inevitably I think about how it will relate to the entire property.   I trust Mr. Kent and will forge ahead knowing that it will take time to see my landscape reach maturity.   

Today I came across some breathtaking English homes with glorious gardens that just happen to be for sale.  These were highlighted in today’s Telegraph UK.  I will be looking for ideas and hope you will find some also. 
Four photos from Telegraph UK
Just had to include one of my all time favorites!
Photo Veranda Magazine
Sunrise on a foggy blank slate...
quite a bit of work ahead of me

Friday, June 7, 2013

Antique Papier-mâché

Papier-mâché,  paper mache, or papier machie?  So close, yet just a letter or two apart.   If you collect papier mache you may have a preference for the spelling.  The origin dates back as far as the invention of paper.  Paper was developed in China during the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.- 220 A.D.)  Examples have survived from ancient Tibet and Persia along with China.  The use spread to France and England where in each country craftsmen perfected methods and materials.  The term “papier-mâché” means masticated or chewed paper.   I will need to do a follow-up on the ways and methods; however, my horses are waiting to be fed or they may masticate the pasture fences.
I am always drawn to examples of papier mache.  Rich glossy black pieces inlaid with Mother of Pearl and treated to gold pen work always capture my attention on a buying trip.   My inventory normally includes boxes, trays, ink stands, and desk accessories.  Below are a few I have available now and a few others that hopefully will capture your attention also. 

         Papier Mache Tea Caddy Mother of Pearl Abalone Inlay~Bird & Floral C. 1850
                                                             Photo by D. Hartsook

      Antique Victorian Era Papier Mache Blotter, Folio with Floral Design MOP & Abalone
                                                                 Photo: D. Hartsook 

                      Antique Papier Mache Ink Well Inkstand Victorian Mother of Pearl
                                                                             Photo: D. Hartsook

One of my favorites; a stunning letter box which has sold
Photo by D. Hartsook

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Muddle that Mint!" for Kentucky Derby

"Muddle that Mint" for Race Day

It has been awhile since I last posted.   I have been busy looking at barn plans and trying to decide what will work best for me and my horses.   Spring has passed so quickly and it is now early May.  So thoughts and plans are turning toward this Saturday’s race; the Kentucky Derby.

I wanted to share some ideas that I and several of my riding friends used just recently for day at the races here in Aiken.    We hosted a rail side picnic and everyone brought their favorite recipes.   One of my riding partners made Mint Julep cupcakes from a recipe that is quite popular on-line.    It is worth the time and effort; the flavor of a Mint Julep in a moist cupcake. 

To cover our tables we used long runners of khaki burlap.  These were actually recycled from my son’s wedding rehearsal dinner just a few months ago in St. Petersburg, FL.   For the dinner they crisscrossed round tables of white linens and were piled high with bleached white shells and starfish interspersed with candles and votives.   Well back the races! I mentioned the runners to a very talented riding partner.  We decided to do a jockey theme for the tables and then headed off to shop for fabrics that were bright and eye-catching.   My friend, Karen, turned the fabric and runners into custom made “linens” for our picnic.   Each end of the runners had a different pattern for the jockey silks.  Wicker baskets, pink topiary roses, and horseshoes added the final touch.


My mint plants have taken off in the last few weeks!  Just in time for me to gather a large bunch and prepare my own recipe of Mint Juleps for Saturday.   Just be sure to “muddle the mint” for the best tasting drink.   That’s what we do in the South! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


It has been rainy and foggy for two straight days here in South Carolina.   Thursday was the last I was able to ride and the weather was so very nice that I went on a long ride with several of my friends.   I stayed way too long at the barn afterwards.  Yesterday, I spent more time getting acquainted with my new computer which was easier to do since I could not ride due to the heavy rain.   Change can be very good; however, I find myself more resistant to change when it involves computers, cameras, and phones.  Today, I decided to take a break and focus on a future barn design for my property.  I could just use the search feature on my new computer and not worry for several hours about  all the more detailed features of the new computer.  What type of design, stalls, type of roof, flooring, lighting, tack room, feed room, wash stall? So many things to think about and of course every barn looks better with the right landscaping.   The rain? The new computer?  They are still here; I just forgot about them for awhile.
I am ready to have the pastures green again!  My friend Karen and her horse Bandit enjoying
                                     the final lush days of  the pasture in late fall.  My photos
Good design buts needs some lush landscaping
I could be happy with this garden at one end of the stable!
Veranda Magazine