Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wonderful George II Little Chest of Drawers--Roy Aldridge Antiques

George II Chest of Drawers

This morning when I arrived at the Pasadena Antique Center (after dropping Jones off at Day Care--yes, he is spoiled. And yes, he has poodle best friends who were arriving at the same time as we did) I went immediately to my neighbor Roy Aldridge's shop. And there, up front, was one of the most charming English George II (c. 1730-40) little mahogany chests that I have ever seen. I was more than a little green with envy.

George II Chest Side View
George II Chest Back
Beautiful Top Surface Detail
This little beauty contains all of the bells and whistles that call to me when I look at period 18th century pieces. The chest is small in scale and in beautiful condition. Although someone slathered a finish all over her, the piece had not been stripped and retains its great patina underneath the newish stuff. This means that with care, the surface can be returned to its desirable patinated condition. It appears that almost all of the veneer work is present and in fairly good shape; there are a couple of losses to the top, which is to be expected when dealing with a piece of this age (over 270 years). The chest features beautiful cross banding and overall excellent veneer work. More importantly, the drawers retain their original modified bat wing brass hardware which is secured to the drawers with iron butterfly straps; on later pieces, the hardware is attached with hand turned screws and hand cut nuts. There is very little shrinkage to either the case of the piece or the drawers and the backing wood slats are also original.

George II Chest-Replaced feet

THERE IS ONE MAJOR PROBLEM WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL CHEST:  It's feet have been replaced. With period antique furniture it is extremely important to have all elements of the piece be original to it when assessing value.

But even with the replaced feet, I think that this little chests of drawers is a definite winner. The size is great and the decorative value is fantastic. And when I rest my hand on the piece, I can feel its deep, centuries old soul.

Roy's George II Chest of Drawers--LOVE

Roy Aldridge is located next to me in the Pasadena Antique Center. In addition to specializing in antique furniture and decorative objects, Roy is recognized for his knowledge of 18th and 19th century boxes and caddies. He has a great inventory of boxes in his shop. But Roy's true passion is fine art--his eye travels from Old Master works to Abstract Impressionism, highly desirable antique posters and other works on paper and oils.  He really inspires me to keeping learning my metier--well, I guess that we inspire each other.  It is so important to have great colleagues in this crazy business and I truly treasure Roy. Besides, he is English with that crazy British dry and raunchy sense of humor--so I am in stitches many times a day.

(I have spent an enormous amount of time attempting to position the photos -- does anyone have any ideas regarding what I am not doing??)

Oh, well--I think that I'll load the photos differently next time--but don't you just love this chest?????


Friday, February 17, 2012

Me and Mariano Fortuny

MJH Designarts Vintage Fortuny Pillows

Yesterday I picked up a few new vintage Fortuny pillows and a pair of Scalamandre "Le Tigre" pillows from Pam, the principal of Fine Details, Inc. ( my amazing pillows creator/fabricator. I have been collecting antique and vintage Mariano Fortuny fabrics for many years with the intent of creating a line of fine decorative pillows for MJH DesignArts. For several years I had searched for just the right pillow creator (and it takes a very detail oriented person to create these perfect pillows), my first creator is located in Texas, and although her work is exceptional--truly every pillow was a work of art.

Add caption

 Wonderful Texas Fabricator

Note the beautiful tiny stitches and the mitre work!!

I had to find another fabricator because of the high cost of shipping everything back and forth to Texas. Second creator did a wonderful job, but communicating with her was a bit of a problem and she lived in a section of Los Angeles where parking is almost nonexistent (trekking around with the heavy down inserts and heavy fabrics really was a challenge with my dealer-back situation)--but her pillows were perfection and Maria was a joy to work with. Unfortunately, Maria retired and moved back to Guatemala (and that would really be a schlep). Next up was a professional upholsterer and pillow maker in Fullerton, where I live.........she seemed great when I spoke with her and also when I brought in the fabrics and custom 30% down to 70% pillow inserts. Of course, I use a very special and tiny welt to detail the pillows (which I explained and showed to Victoria). She said that she would have no problem. END RESULT: she used my custom fillers on pillows that she was making for another client; she couldn't attach the antique Houles trim; her stitching was too large; the welting was too large and wrinkled, etc. (I ended up eating these pillows)....Next. I tried a high-end tailor in Pasadena. He happened to be Korean; so we had a slight communications problem. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY-----he didn't center the pattern when he cut the pillows AND he stitched the vintage Fortuny with the GOOD SIDE ON THE INSIDE--plus HE BLAMED ME (I ate some of these pillows, also)!!!
                                 AND NOW I HAVE PAM!!!!!!!
Fortuny "Peruano" Pattern--right side

Fortuny "Peruano" Pattern--reverse side
"Peruano"(right side) tiny, tiny welt

(I've been trying to move the photo up -- but can't----HELP). But, at least the font has stayed in Verdana (?) the entire time--definitely improving on the posting technical end.

"Peruano" (right side) detail

I chose to create a pair of pillows in Fortuny's c. 1970's "Peruano" pattern with the "right" facing out and a second pair of pillows in "Peruano" with the reverse side facing out. I loved the more intense, moody and dramatic presence of the reverse side, as well as the soft muted grays and crisp white of the right side. The pillows are backed in a high end Kravet charcoal silk strie that adds wonderful texture without detracting attention from the Fortuny itself. See that little tiny welt--Pam does a beautiful job--no wrinkles!!!  I formed a deep bond with this particular Fortuny pattern and colorway: being raised in Central Mexico surrounded by Aztec symbolism there was a definite deep connection to the symbolism of the pattern. Additionally, charcoal and gray are my preferred accent colors (but please do not get me going on what red and cinnabar do for rooms). And I love the interplay between refined and ethnic or rustic/rough elements--these pillows look great on Madame Victoire who is the epitome of refined detailing. 

The "Peruano" pillows are for sale on my website (

Have a great week-end. Be well........

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ruminations on "And The Winner Is..." (Grammies, Oscars, Little League Titles, Olympic Medals...etc.) etc.


I didn't watch the "Grammies" Sunday night (and I didn't watch the Golden Globes, neither) because  TV was rotting my brain (so I no longer have one). But I am left with my usual sense of unease following these immensely expensive endeavors at self-promotion. I feel the same way when I see bumper stickers regarding someone's child being an honor student somewhere or a Little League Team (and I was a team mother for many, many teams), a high school football. soccer. volleyball....track team being No. 1 in LEAGUE. (And just how big was that league)
I usually come away from such designations wondering who really remembers, in the larger scheme of life and years down the road, whether Vince Gil or Lady Gaga or The Black Eyesd Peas won a Grammy (besides, doesn't Grammy mean grandmother?) in 1975?
I'm showing a picture of Jones--because he is a No. 1 winner in my book, but I am biased and the pond is relatively small for such a broad designation. I will never show Jones (at 8 months he was more than I could handle; so off he went to get snipped) and I will never need outside verification to know that he is awesome. And more to the point, Jones is happy being a happy dog who loves to go to work and greet everyone--I don't think there are any awards for being a greeter........
The same is true of so many areas where participants are forced into artificial categories of competition. Is it possible to rank competitively the love shown by parents to children??? No. Can you measure quantitatively the joy of discovery between individuals? No--and the minute you would attempt to quantify joy--it would disappear into the "me first" ego race.

I have been blessed to have a child who would never fit the standards of "And the award goes to.."--he has always walked with a different step and fought valiantly for his own path. Through him I have learned compassion, tenacity in the face of many up-hills battles, and most of all, I have had to learn to remain silent (this is still a lesson in progress). Would having a child who consistently came in No. 1 have given me the same invaluable gifts? (And I also have one of those) No. But this creative being who started writing poetry in the ninth grade while getting a D+ in English, still carries the scars of not being able to fit into the role of "No.1" from his first and second grade teachers. What are we teaching our children about who is valuable??  I hope that the love that is represented by St. Valentine becomes the measure of greatness--who wins No. 1 lover?  Can't be measured or judged because love is what exists in our hidden hearts. It is overflowing love for all of creation that will propel our world forward.
Anyway, I'm spending Valentine's Day with and baking brownies and lemon bars for this very special gift of a unique son....and finally it feels good and right.  He will be off--back to living in Thailand, and yes, TEACHING ENGLISH. And writing poetry and music and he will be missed.
Happy Valentine's Day to all Mothers and Fathers!!!
Be well, Mary 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


My glorious Madame Victoire has been sold to my favorite clients and I'm sure that she will have a great home that will continue to care for her in the way her many previous owners have. Below are photos of Madame Victoire after being french waxed and having her bronze hardware buffed just a little. I'm really going to miss her.........Ah, Hah---now the hunt starts for another exceptional pieces of 18th c. furniture.

Have a wonderful week-end.
Hint: antique decorative arts make superb Valentine's Day presents.......

Be well. Mary

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Perfect Chests

Perfect Chests

This has been a week, ten days to be exact, of several serendipitous occurrences...including these super Brown & Saltman chests...combined with several non-serendipitous (and very frustrating) events.

Before I go into details I thought I would quote Wikipedia and Webster's definitions of "serendipity"--apparently one of the most difficult words to translate in the English language (who knew??) Wikipedia states that Horace Walpole (1719-1792) coined the word fom the Persian fairly tale "The Three Princes of Serendip" whose heroes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity of things they were not in quest of."  Wikipedia further states that a PREPARED and OPEN mind is required on the part of the scientist, inventor (or "whatever" -my interpretation) to detect the importance of information received accidentally. And Websters defines serendipity as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."

By now you are thinking "this lady is really boring"--but hold on... how many of life's events are simply random and how many seem to orchestrated by an unseen hand. I have been deliberating these concepts for most of my life and still haven't come to a conclusion regarding my role in this mystery. But I do know that when I put myself "out there" things start to happen...If only I could control the sequence of these happenings or nudges that move me forward--or if my vision included God's unlimited perspective, life would be considerably more easy.....but then I guess I would never be force to stretch and extend my horizons.

...I'm looking for a new location for my humble shop--definitely want to move back to West Los Angeles as that is where most of our great Los Angeles designers are located (it is a bit of a schlep over to Pasadena) and West LA is definitely where most of the action is. I called my friend Carlos (Carlos knows just about everything regarding any question you might have) and he told me that there was a retail space available in the next block up from him. On the way over, I kept thinking that it would be great if Carlos and I could join forces. We arrived to check out the available location....but it appeared to have been leased as there wasn't any real estate signage. Of course, Carlos, knowing every one, goes next door to inquire..........after two months of negotiations, the agreement to lease had fallen through the day before. (And this space is perfect--large, airy, great location, no work needed, and not expensive.)  Ah, Hah!  Not only this little bit of serendipity: after checking out the space Carlos asked if he could join me??? Now, please explain this one?  I do not know if I will lease this particular retail space, but there was definitely some sort of non-me communication occurring and which was leading me in the direction in which I set my heart.

Now, as for the "Perfect Chests" (above)--one of my favorite designers called me to ask if I had another pair of chests--he had been looking at the great pair of mid-century chests (below) that I had put into inventory about 6 weeks ago, but he thought that they were a bit small and feminine.....

Of course, he happened to call the day I was picking up "Perfect Chests" from the auction house......and I could happily SERENDIPITOUSLY tell him that I had a pair coming in that were a bit bigger and definitely more masculine. Now, please explain how these events could have played out without divine intervention?? And the story gets even stranger: when he came in, he decided to buy "Perfect Chests", but when he measured the height of the intended space at his client's home, only the chests shown above would fit. And he would not even have given them a second thought if he hadn't come in to see "Perfect Chests." I'm not sure how this is going to play out---but it is an adventure... (a bit stressful as you just never know...and there is that thing called "rent").

Thanks for joining me on the ride.


Monday, February 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Beautiful Chests of Drawers

This is the gorgeous chest (with it's pair sitting behind) that I thought  I had lost the bid on a few weeks ago. As it turns out, when I voiced my concern to the auctioneer (I've bought from him for many years) that my bid had been ignored, the chests miraculously appeared on my bill. (I think that I need to learn how to speak up more often) When I was bidding on the chests, I did not realize that they were designed by John Keal and crafted by Brown & Saltman, a highly desirable mid-century Los Angeles furniture manufacturer. The chests are in almost mint condition and did not require any restoration. The proportions of the chests are perfect: not too heavy and not too light. 

                 Brown & Saltman Mid-Century Chests of Drawers

Notice the perfectly shaped and proportioned front feet with a bevel edge adding just a bit more lightness to their feel. 

Brown & Saltman Chest/foot

Next up on my list of perfect features are the beautiful custom pulls. The oxidized minimalist backplate together with the polished nickel "arrow" is a unique design element and perfectly complements the classic design of the chests. This is really SEXY hardware!!!

Brown & Saltman Chests/Custom Hardware

In the photo below take note of the fine booked* veneer work applied to the sides of the chests. With cases pieces, usually the fronts and tops of the piece are given the most attention, but with this pair, the sides were deemed to merit as much detail as the front. This is a further indication of outstanding quality. *Booked veneer is when the wood is sliced finely and then applied to the piece so that the slices appear to have been opened as one would a book.

Brown & Saltman Chest/booked veneering

And here is the last photo of my perfect mid-century chests. What more could a dealer ask for?.........Some one to come in and buy them tomorrow before I become too attached.

Brown & Saltman Chests/Side view
Because these chests are classically proportioned (think small Louis XVI commode or Georgian bachelors chest) and are of the highest quality they could be integrated into a room that featured mainly period (18th c.) antique furnishings.

I have listed these chests on my website ( giving more detailed specifications.

Thanks for visiting and sharing the adventure. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012


For the second time in about 2 months my Yahoo email account has been hacked!  I hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else--but it is a huge problem. I have no idea why I have been singled out for this adventure in frustration and inability to get an appropriate response from Yahoo--it is as if my requests for help, forwarding the offending violator's (as in rapist) email (etc.) to Yahoo were going into the void of internet black holes. 
For a while I couldn't access any of my contacts to attempt to apologize for the emails sent from London (Yes, I would really like to go to London--Paris, even more so) requesting money because my passport and wallet (or some crazy misadventure) had been stolen.
One thing I did learn is that I really do have friends who care for me enough to check and see how my London trip went???!!!! Have I ever written to anyone  (ever) asking for an emergency handout?
So the last week has been spent canceling or changing email addresses for the newsletters and blogs that I subscribe has been a multi-hour endeavor and it's still not completed.
Next it is onward to sending emails apologizing for the spurious emails and notifying everyone of the email address change................
Net week will definitely be a better week.