Saturday, January 11, 2020

LATE START TO 2020--AMERICAN 18th C. BACHELORS CHEST OR Wonderful George II Little Chest, Part II

Isn't she pretty?

First auction of the year.......and we get another 18th century chest of drawers!!
Remember this guy from just a couple of months ago?

And this sweet little late 18th c. Italian girl from the last auction of 2019........

I think my spell of not winning chests of drawers has been broken.

Heather of "Habitually Chic" blog recently posted about Fleur Cowles' London Apartment in the very desirable address within Albany house where she entertained the Queen Mother and many British notables of the past century. Here's a photo of Fleur Cowles' living room

Notice the pink Louis XV-style side chairs?  They look a lot like  my pair of French Louis XV-style slipper chairs/chauffeuses......... (I think mine are cooler).


Way, way, way back in February 2012, when I first started blogging, I wrote a post about an English George II Bachelors Chest....the link is given below:

In it I said that I was a little green with envy regarding the chest.....

I think it's time for a little tutorial on American Chests vs. English (I'm not an expert; but I do know the basics). Sometimes it's hard to tell because many times the craftsmen came directly from England bringing their traditional wood working and construction methods with them. Of course, American Furniture of the 18th century derived its main inspiration from English Furniture.

This sweet little bachelors chest at first glance, although smaller and more vertical, appears to be very similar to the English bachelors chest, above--it's veneered in a costly burl wood **notice that it is booked veneer--great care was taken to mirror left and right sides of the drawers and continue the grain pattern vertically. Both chests have similar original hardware (most hardware was imported to the Colonies from England).

A closer look reveals that the American chest is less refined than the English example which has beautiful cross banding on the drawer fronts; whereas the American example does not. Neither of the chests have cock beaded drawers. The top of the English chest has cross banding; the American chest also has cross banding on the top.


Both chests retain their original deeply (oxidized) patinated back boards. And also retain their wonderful bracket feet.

The interior of the drawers reveals the pine secondary wood of the American chest. Although I do not have photos of the English Chest drawers, I assume that the secondary wood is oak, which was the customary secondary wood for chests of this quality.

As shown in the photo of the American Chest's drawer bottom, American drawer bottoms are nearly always chamfered--the edge is cut on a 45* angle to fit into a groove at the 90* angle formed by the front and the bottom. This  feature would be unusual in English  drawer construction.
For me, there's another consideration when deciding attribution: doesn't the American chest feel like it has a unique identity? (A little Rebel in the making?) It has great character without following a set formula for it's design--not so with the English chest. The English chest is wonderful, but just a bit boring when compared to the American Example of about the same time frame.
Unfortunately (but fixable), the English chest has had its original surface covered over with some sort of varnish or product. The American piece has not been stripped and retains its old, perhaps original, finish.
I hope this little tutorial is a first step in your  researching the differences in American and English case furniture.


We also acquired this great pair of French glazed ceramic lamps---can't wait to see them paired with the new little chest. The shades will need to be replaced, as those square guys are way to clumsy and disproportionate. 

It's hard to believe that we are already into our second week of 2020..........yikes! I think that 2020 will be an amazing year for me. Hoping that 2020 brings you tons of growth and blessings.

Mary & Cole

***** I can't help it---next post will be totally about the small narcissistic "t" that inhabits the White House very temporarily, if I can help it.

Friday, December 20, 2019


I've been adding to my Noah's Ark Christmas tree for years on end. This year I added Adam and Eve to the multitude of animals that have come to roost on  the tree.

I haven't counted the beasties, but there must be close to 100 by now. And I know that I'll find space for a few more next year.

Well, I'm ready--presents are bought and wrapped. Major grocery shopping is almost done. And I'm so grateful that my family and those close to me are well.

Yesterday was the last auction of the year.....and just when I thought that I would never be able to acquired an Italian chest of drawers..........I got one.
Blessings come to those who wait.

It's pretty cute. Not the more elegant form that I was looking for, but this guy has great personal integrity:
solid walnut, two-board top, original back and old surface. The hardware is old, but not original. This type of chest didn't normally have drawer pulls, but a key (with tassel) was used to open the drawers. The chest needs Roberto's magic touch and then, it will be all set to go to its new owner.
I love country neoclassical pieces like this one--the old finish is smooth as silk and begs to be touched. You can mix this style with almost any design aesthetic (except frou-frou). And you really can't hurt it, because the wood has already acquired a deep natural patina. Best of all, you can place the chest just about any where.

Well, I'm off to bed--no sugar plums just yet. Tomorrow is baking day.

Sending blessings for Christmas and beyond.
Mary & Cole

Monday, December 16, 2019


I am so proud of myself: I have wrapped one present. I still have a few more to purchase.

Now------the new Fortuny Pillows:
This is a very unusual c.1920-1930 "Ucelli" pattern antique Fortuny textile. I have never seen this color used in very early Fortuny--it's a rich tomato red with a gold-tone overlay. The original "Ucelli" wood blocks were still sharp and crisp when this fabric was created and this particular piece had never been used.

I chose a textured Clarence House gold silk strie (visible in the first photo) for the backing and micro-welt.
Here is a photo of a pillow created with c. 1970-80 "Ucelli"--there are subtle differences. One of the

most noticeable differences between early Fortuny and post 1940 Fortuny is the width of the textile. Early Fortuny is printed on cotton that is no more than 30 inches wide; whereas latter Fortuny is printed on cotton that is the standard 54 inches wide. The width of the top pillows is 29/30 inches.
"Melagrana" Pillows: these two pairs of pillows were created using the "Melagrana" from the tunic that I bought at auction a couple of months ago.

The pair with the antique metallic braid decoration was crafted with the front section of the tunic where there was a center seam. The antique braid covers the seam and I think it adds more interest to the pillows...thoughts?
And now for a a couple of fun (not serious Fortuny) pillows. I bought the 1940s/50s tropical bark cloth from a fellow dealer--it was, miraculously, in mint condition..

I had a lot of catching up to do at the shop (I had a little accident and had to spend a few days at home); so I didn't go to auction on Thursday. That does not mean Gerry stayed home. We had agreed that we didn't have any room for new stuff (it's all just stuff). Famous last words: Gerry bought 18 chairs--yikes!!! Fortunately, Roberto and I hustled and just about everything fit (squeed in tight). By the grace of God and His perfect timing, I sold the large French weathered oak and pine farm table exactly when I needed to and it was delivered last Saturday, meaning that I had a few extra inches to space.
Here's what one (very congested) section of shop looks like:

Those pagoda-top chairs sitting on the lacquered table are amazing....they are 4 of the 18 chairs. Here are another 6 of the 18:

These chairs are pretty good, too. They date to about the 1980s and are in great condition, don't even need to to be reupholstered. There are several reditions of this type of faux bois chair--and these are the better, more highly detailed iteration; are super comfortable and all arm chairs.
Now, for the best of the 18.....set of 6 (all arms) Chinese Chippendale faux bamboo in a yummy green

All of these 6 chairs are in great condition, also. The green needs a bit of touch up in a few spots, but my miracle worker, Roberto, will have them spiffed up in less than an hour. They dovetail with the new 1950s/40s bark cloth pillows! (And Gerry didn't even know about the pillows until after he bought the chairs)
Christmas is closing in on us. This year has been filled with growth and love and increased sales. Growth, by it's very nature, tends to be a bit uncomfortable. This year was no exception, but this time, growth came with a bit more tenderness and to a stronger me. I'm wondering what 2020 holds--I've been approached by some one to start another venture involving antique/vintage furniture. We'll see. I love the serendipitous nature of stepping forth without exactly knowing the future.

Sending blessings for this last busy week before Christmas. Some times I forget that this is the day we celebrate the Light of Christ coming to all. It's good to remember that Light leaves no room for darkness if we choose to focus on the light.

Blessing for the day.
Mary & Cole

Thursday, December 5, 2019


November has been a very auspicious month. Lalo did himself proud with the upholstery on the little sofa and the French Chauffeuses.

The new 1920s Fortuny pillows are ready and I'll pick them up tomorrow. Can't wait to see them.
......The piece de resistance and the most important blessing is the George I bachelor's chest with secretary section.

I was having a bit of trouble firmly assigning a date to the chest, and then, this popped up on 1stdibs this week........

I think I need a professional appraisal. My chest is very similar, but larger. Of course, it has the secretary section (original design) added to the traditional bachelor's chest form. I don't know if the unusual secretary section adds to or detracts from the value of the chest. Both chests retain all of their original c.1720 elements and are in very good condition. I listened to that little voice inside my head when I purchased the chest and am grateful.
I love this set of Chinese early 20th century quartetto tables--the wave design of the skirts (instead of a highly carved skirt) is what drew me to the set and Roberto made them shine (he always does).

This week-end this little French etagere is coming up at auction. Both Gerry and I love it--we'll see. I'm about finished with buying for 2019, but the hunt must go on.

The stand is in very good condition--no more projects, please--and has unusual detailing, just my style.

The San Gabriel Mountains received their first blanket of heavy snow and Big Bear Mountain was open for skiing this past week-end. My drive up to Pasadena all week was breath-taking. I love the chill in the air and being back to wearing cashmere--my favorite second skin. We are getting ready for of the trees is in place and ready for the decorating party with the girls tomorrow. I'm planning what to bake. Miraculously, I have even purchased some presents... I do not like shopping. We usually have about 18-20 for Christmas Eve--this year, it's only going to be family, which still adds up to a lot of people. 

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas season. I fully intend to focus on my blessings. 

Mary & Cole

Sunday, November 24, 2019


"Auction Sleepers" can be defined as those items that come to the block that are very good, but just don't garner much attention on that particular auction day. And that is precisely why I love auctions and why I will faithfully sit through boring hours waiting for those one or two items that I think I can buy at an affordable/great price. Most of the items that I highlight in this blog are "sleepers." I guess my love of "sleepers" stems from my conviction that with each "sleeper" that I acquire, I know that God is directly blessing me. All I am responsible for is being prepared and present.
Case in point is this very unusual early 18th century George I/II chest. When I previewed the chest on Wednesday, I had a hunch that it would go low. To begin with, the chest was identified on the ticket as American--it's most definitely English burl walnut.

The conformation of the chest was strange/unusual with the off-center two side drawers countered with the the larger and deep drawer. The more I studied the piece, I came to realize that it is a normal George I/II Bachelors Chest with a superimposed secretary structure.

The larger drawer revealed a sweet drop front little secretary with a beautiful serpentine (baroque influenced) cubby-hole section. Looks like it's the original leather writing surface, too.

The back look as good as the front with just a little restoration to the support of the original bracket foot. That tape is newer, but doesn't detract from value as age cracks are to be expected.

Roberto can restore the small sections of missing banding on the front, clean the surface and apply a couple of coats of hard paste wax and the chest is set to go! I'm not sure of the value of this little beauty, but it is definitely a gift.
More gifts on Thursday:
I have absolutely no extra room to squeeze in any more furniture (or so I thought)..........but how could I resist this 20th century Japanned/Chinoiserie games table?

Which was hammered down and goes into shop on Monday.
Now--I'm really pushing it: This Portuguese early 20th century mahogany 2-drawer side table came to the block--this is a super Belgium/Dutch design element piece and these tables do not show up very often.....besides, I'd been patient waiting for the bachelors chest and wasn't sure that I would get it and needed to pay for my two days of auction time.......I got it! It didn't go super high, and  was definitely within my range. More, importantly, the table is very saleable and multipurpose and doesn't need any work except Robert's magic touch.

I lusted after this large English Regency-style partners writing desk.

Gerry and I had discussed it, but decided not to bid as it is really big and we have no room--besides, the monthly cost to cover sq. footage in shop would be about $200/month (a lot). When the table came to the block my heart was beating in anticipation.......the bidding started at $300 and slowed down and then stopped at $1000---up came my hand (all by itself)---at $1000, the table would be the buy of the century. It was not to be: I stayed in until $1700. But the table eventually sold for about $2500 + fees and I was saving my budget for the unusual campaign chest.

New Clarence House Belgium Linen Zebra--it turned out just as I had imagined--Love it. The nail heads were being applied when Lalo sent me the photos.

Before: pretty, but very pink and a bit "Grandma"

I also had this pair of early 20th century chauffeuse upholstered in the Clarence House Zebra...

And before--very boring and unsaleable 1990s upholstery (which was still perfect)

Thanksgiving is nearly here and I am counting my many blessings--my wonderful family and Roberto come first and of course, my friends and business cohorts that add so much flavor to my life......the stuff that I sell, is truly only stuff. My joy comes from having a thankful heart, my relationships with my clients and... the HUNT=following inspiration.
Wishing everyone a blessed and thankful Thanksgiving.

Mary & Cole

I've been poodle-shopping. But not quite ready, yet.

Monday, November 18, 2019


Thursday seemed like it was going to be another (ho-hum) uneventful day at auction---boy was I wrong. The Chinese Hard stone plaque shown below fetched $55,000 plus fees. There were two Chinese groups bidding against each other........

I did not pay any attention to the Plaque at Preview. It just shows that no matter how much you know in this business, there are still pieces about which you are totally ignorant. I had never seen a piece like this, so when the bidding started to escalate past $5000--I started taking notice. Up and up and up went the bidding war. I can't remember if the phone bidder or the group on the floor won out, but at that altitude, it didn't seem to matter. Remember, on top of the bid amount there is a 15% buyers fee. Yikes.
As for me.....well, there was a gorgeous English Secretary Campaign Chest that I really, really, really was not to be. I bid it to the very limit of profitability. Unfortunately, Fred didn't seem to care about his profit margin.

I did not come home empty handed......

This sweet Tuscan bench dates to the end of the 18th century and I was determined to have it---little could I have suspected that no body else would be paying attention and the bench came home for a ridiculously low price point. 

Life at the park next door to my home:

I did a rough count of the Pelicans: there was a small group of 4 (they are usually at Park); there was a larger group of about 12-15; and then there was a huge group of about 24-26 in front of the pond. And no one was fighting or getting their feathers ruffled--i.e., good birds.
And it's off to bed for me!

Mary & Cole