Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This is the second in my series of gift guides, composed entirely of picks gathered from my favorite museum gift shops! Part I in the series, posted yesterday, is here.

Today I've rounded up some adorable things to dress up your desk. Whether you work from a cubicle or the couch, dressing up your workspace can't help but make the day go by a little faster!

clockwise from upper left:
The Fly Push-Pin by Donata Paruccini, Cooper-Hewitt shop, $23 for 24 
Meissen Floral Ceramic Travel Cup, Met store, $20
Baldessari 'Wrong' Eraser, LACMA shop, $5.95
Vera Butterflies File Folders, Met store, $12.95
Telephone Dial Smartphone Case, Met store, $18.95
V&A 'Waterfall' iPhone Skin, V&A store, £12
Frank Lloyd Wright clock, Met store, $75
William Morris Morning File, V&A store, £15
Junghans Table Clock, Cooper-Hewitt shop, $360

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Yes, I took another unannounced little hiatus from the blog. Despite working all the days that most people were on holiday last week, I had an entirely lovely time showing the fiancĂ©'s family around Boston for the first time. Getting back to everyday reality is never fun, but the holidays are sneaking up on us and I'm beginning to get excited for finding the perfect gifts! There have been so many amazing gift guides in blogs and magazines this year that I'm not even going to try to compete. So I decided to narrow the playing field and use a resource that's close to my heart. 

As some of you know, I majored in Art History and have spent most of my college and post-college years working in museums. I'm passionate about expanding museum audiences, and a lot of museum shops have been trying to support that goal - often tapping into their collections' design highlights. So here's the first of my four-part gift guide, collected entirely from ... museum shops! Not only have I found a ton of fabulous things, but they all support the wonderful cause of keeping museums afloat and vibrant in this difficult economy.

First up: a fabulous collection of baubles and beads.

Clockwise from upper left:
Gold Bow Brooch by Sarah Cavender, £75, V&A Museum store. 
Portland Vase Scarf, £35, British Museum store.
Gold Half Penny Coin Purse, $38, V&A Museum store. 
Egyptian Snake Drop Earrings, $65, Met store. 
Sterling Bow Studs, $50, ICA store.
Waterfall Earrings by Alexis Bittar, V&A Museum store.
Ice Crystal Tree Earrings, $55, Met store.
Turquoise Tassel Earrings, £55, V&A Museum store.
V Dip Dye Scarf, £40, V&A Museum store.
Egyptian Chevron Ring, $33.75, Met store.
Vera Abstract Scarf, $60, Met store. 
Icon Watch by &design, $70, Cooper-Hewitt shop.
William Morris Persian Watch, $70, Met store. 
Ribbon Scarf, £10, V&A Museum store.
Boulder Ring by Helveta Vyotlag, £50, V&A Museum store.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Some new things in the Etsy shop, just in time for setting your Thanksgiving table! Terrible, grainy pictures brought to you by my ancient point-and-shoot because the good camera is at the repair shop...

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I have some Craigslist for you tonight, by request of Brandi in Dallas, TX. She's looking for a mid-century credenza under $200, and not only did I find plenty of options for her but I also found lots of other fantastic pieces!

We'll get to the credenza in a bit. First up, I set myself a unique challenge: create a board made entirely of pieces under $100. We all know that Craigslist is a great place to find great values on things, but even if a piece is cheap for what it is, that doesn't mean that we can afford it. Most of my friends balk at spending any money at all on furniture, so here's proof that the broke twenty-something need not resort to IKEA...

curtains, couch, rug, end tables, mirror, trunk, chairs, table

Yup, that's a long one! I'm imagining this as the living/dining space of a little one-bedroom apartment. Next up, a space with much more pedigree and elegance: a cozy bedroom filled with gorgeous antiques:

headboard, chair, dresser, lamp, rug

The next was vaguely inspired by the eclectic, exotic Hollywood Regency aura of Charley's dressing room in the movie A Single Man. I know this one went around the blogs, and who wouldn't want to get dressed here every morning? (Those of you who haven't seen the movie, btw, should absolutely go rent it, and prepare to cry a lot.) 

My version is for those of us who live in the real world and don't have the luxury of a separate dressing room. Use the chest as one nightstand and put the desk on the other side of the bed to use it as a vanity/nightstand/desk!

desk, stool, headboard, chest

Last but not least, Brandi's request: a CHEAP mid-century credenza with plenty of storage. Here's one option in this set, and look for some more links below!

chairs, credenza, benches, cocktail table

More credenza options (with some dressers and sideboards and other storage pieces mixed in): one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. It all depends on what sort of storage you're looking for...

Which room would you love to transport into your home if you could? And what city do you want to see next?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


As fall all too quickly threatens to turn into winter, I always find myself drawn to muted colors, antique finishes and interesting textures. Perhaps that's the reason for my recent mini-obsession with shagreen. For those of you who haven't heard of it, shagreen is a type of leather made from the skin of sharks and rays (or from traditional horse's hide treated to resemble it). It has a naturally pebbly texture and greyish tone, and is often dyed to produce vivid colors and ground down to create a smooth surface with a complex pattern of tiny dots. Commonly used in China and Japan to cover the handles of weapons, it became extremely fashionable in the eighteenth century and has recently seen a revival in luxury goods. Today, since many species of rays are now endangered, most shagreen goods are made from leather or manmade materials.

photograph of a man in Central Asia
shaping shagreen leather, c. 1865

I've divided this rather massive roundup into three categories: antique, aspirational, and affordable (yeah, I hate the term "aspirational" too, but what can I say, I like alliteration). First some gorgeous eye candy, then a whole array of items under $100! These examples of antique objects made from shagreen come from auctions, dealers, and museum collections, spanning the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. 

clockwise, from upper left:
Maitland Smith Stingray Tusk console table, 1stdibs
French Deco shagreen and gold leaf vanity, 1stdibs
Movado "Ermeto" hermetic travel clock, Aspire Auctions
Set of drawing instruments in shagreen case, the Met
Jean Michel Frank style coffee table, 1stdibs
Asprey shagreen and ivory clock, found here
Chinese ox horn glasses in shagreen case, 1stdibs
shagreen and ivory stationary box, Christie's
pair of stools, 1stdibs
Chinese eyeglass case, $150 at Requiem Antique

Go ahead and zoom in on that set of drawing instruments - the detail is amazing. (Plus, it's actually on view in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts galleries, for those of you who live in NYC!) The tendency to use shagreen for small objects that had to take some abuse is evident - and understandable, since shagreen made from the skin of rays or sharks is a tough but beautiful material. Nowadays, shagreen is commonly dyed in bright colors and used for a wider variety of objects, from fashion to furniture to home accessories.

clockwise from upper right:
Rebecca Minkoff "Alaina" handbag, $595
Kara by Kara Ross stingray earrings, $119 at Saks
Karen Bizer "Tree of Life" cuff bracelet with gold and multicolor diamonds
Kara by Kara Ross narrow stingray cuff, $290 at Intermix
Chrissie Morris suede and stingray ankle strap pump, $1273 at Luisa Via Roma
Genevieve Jones clutch, image found here
Yves Saint Laurent "Stingray" cuff, $603 at Farfetch
Kara by Kara Ross stingray earrings, $122 at Saks
Anya Hindemarch box clutch, $1595 at Net-a-Porter
Pink pill case by Lotus Arts de Vivre, $225 at Vivre

clockwise from upper left:
Custom shagreen desk with bronze base by Galart International
Fyn shagreen box top and side table base by Hickory Chair

Side table by Lyle and Umbach
Desk Set by Linley, £295 - £395
Pair of side tables, $4995 at Area iD
Nickel etagere with shagreen by Vaughan, to the trade
Lawton grey table lamp, $550 at Clayton Gray Home
Williams Sonoma Home carousel box
Custom shagreen hardware by Turnstyle Designs

Which of these luxurious pieces would you choose if you had unlimited resources? I think I'd have to choose the desk – or perhaps the desk set – but the shoes are pretty tempting too! For those of us who don't have a few thousand to spare, here's my favorite part of the roundup: a variety of pieces under $100 for our realistic wallets!

clockwise from upper left:
Wedgwood "Shagreen" plate, $17 on Ebay
Fitz & Floyd "Shagreen" plate, $15 on Ebay (or $5.57 in teal)
Round box, $20 at C.S. Post & Co.
Vintage tasseled perfume box, $75 at veraviola on Etsy
Bangle bracelet, $40 on Ebay
Small box, $40 at Cobble Court Home
Boxes, $19-24 at West Elm (also available as a frame!)
iPhone 3 case, $39 on Ebay
Cynthia Vincent "Lotus" sandal, $77 on Amazon
Calvin Klein "Arielle" peep-toe pump, $77 at 6PM
Desk clock, $16.99 at The Source Collection
Pocket journal, $70 at Papier d'Amour
Mousepad by Dransfield and Ross, $18 on Ebay
Pencils with matching box by Dransfield and Ross, supposedly $27

And if you want something that makes a bigger statement, this line of faux-shagreen tables gives you lots of bang for your buck! They come as a console, desk, and side table (the desk comes in black and ivory). I haven't seen them in person but they look lovely in the images (anybody want to be my guinea pig and hire me for a design board using one of these?)

console $280, ivory desk $315, black desk $331, side table $170

Are you loving the textures and colors of this material as much as I am, or does the thought of shark and ray skin freak you out? Do you prefer the traditional forms of the antiques or the vibrancy of the newer accessories?