Monday, August 27, 2012

Tears.....And Anatomy of a Restoration Update

These beautiful "Tear Drops" by Flavio Poli for Seguso walked into my shop on Saturday.


The coloration is so ethereal, as if colored water were captured in the moment of dropping miraculously into a larger body of water.
Are these the tears that God weeps when we choose to hurt ourselves, another or our amazing home-earth?  I look at the beauty captured here and am reminded to walk a more thoughtful path, noticing what has been given.

Note: The sculptures, dating to the late 1950's, measure about 11 inches by 5 inches and are in perfect condition. The photos aren't great; so I will be retaking them in appropriate lighting. I just listed them on

Anatomy of a Restoration II

Here is a side-by-side of the mirrors. The proportions are a bit distorted for both mirrors, but this is what my girl will look like next week.

Thanks for joining me on my quest. Jones thinks that the mirror smells divine: I wonder what that means? My former most amazing dog, Buddy (huge rott/lab), loved antique furniture more than my family and loved checking out new finds.

Have a wonderful serendipitous week. September is on its way and I can't wait to get back into the swing of things.
Mary, Jones (and Mini/Cole) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012


I know, she doesn't look like much now--but just wait.

Thursday started off as just an ordinary day--planned to go to my auction, then up to work and then off to acupuncture. I had not previewed the auction--I have not one extra inch of space, Roberto and I barely squeezed the sofa in--so I truly did not anticipate purchasing anything.  For the first half hour or so nothing seemed to be very appealing; and then my antena started moving around. Up in the less pricey section I spot what appeared to be a 19th c. Dutch/Flemish style mirror, but in ridiculous condition: the black had been painted over with a silly aqua and the molding around the edge had been stripped, but I felt if I could buy her at the right price and put a hundred or so into her restoration it would be a good buy. I had to struggle to get the bid and almost decided not to continue, but I listened to that voice and went for the bid.
The pictures above are what she looked like (not very good); and she was expensive for a 19th c. mirror in that condition...I was kicking myself for buying her.

But look at her identical twin that I found in restored condition on exact size, also.


When I bought the mirror, I didn't have time to check her out thoroughly, but with a quick glance at the backing and judging from the uncommon dimensions, I thought it was a 19th century copy of a late 17th century baroque Dutch or Flemish mirror.
When I picked the mirror up this morning, I was able to carefully assess the details. When judging antique pieces, many times the most information is gathered from the back of the piece, this is especially true for chests of drawers and other case pieces and mirror and picture frames.
Look at the thick hand hewn timber wood on the back of the frame, the old worm holes, and of great importance, the hand forged hooks are retained together with the original hand forged nails. (Notice how some one has screwed the new hooks into the opening of the original hooks.) On more careful inspection, I could see square holes where additional hand forged nails had once been.
Now let's look at the front of the frame: the frame itself is about 4-5 inches in depth, projecting from the wall (that's a lot); there are several levels of carved molding which when combined with the banded figured walnut strips give a total frame width of about 7.5 inches. These details all are good indications of a period frame. The next detail to consider is the  overall condition of the frame--this one definitely needs some help (and luckily for me the condition hid the truth of the piece pretty well as there was only one other bidder who recognized the mirror), but this degraded condition is also a good indicator of age. The final detail is the mirror plate itself. Unfortunately, this piece has a replaced mirror plate (very sad face); the 1stdibs mirror appears to have retained its original 17th century beveled mirror plate which does increase the value of the mirror.

Fortunately, the beautiful walnut banding is in good condition and apparently retains its original finish. There is one small section of veneer loss that has a centuries old restoration which I will leave as is as I think that this old restoration adds character to the mirror.
Roberto in coming the first week of September to start work on this beauty. He will remove the paint from the moldings--hopefully retaining the original  ebonizing (carefully taping out the walnut banding); fill the worm holes; re-ebonize the moldings and then we will put in a new 3/4" beveled mirror plate to be historically correct. I am only going to use hard paste wax on the walnut banding as it is beautiful with its old patina.
I'll be updating the mirror's progress from Plain Jane to Bombshell in a couple of weeks.
To check out the listing enter "dutch mirror" in the search window.  (I do believe serendipity was in play yesterday)

Mini is once again calling me, holding my hand and not letting me work; so it's off to bed.
I am so grateful that our cool SC weather has returned as I was about to check out moving to Maine.
Have a wonderfully serendipitous next-to-the-last week-end of summer.

Mary and Jones (and Mini)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Update--Dog Days


Isn't she gorgeous? Low, slinky and sensuous--look  at the profile with the bottom edge following the curve of the low arm.  And I listened to that still small voice that said "go".  
I married the sofa to a pair of Michael Taylor for Baker late 1950's lamp tables, 60's gilt wood Italian lamps and the back of the sofa highlights the red lacquered pedestal table with a pair of period deco rosewood benches. And, of course, the Peruano Fortuny pillows.
The miracle is that Roberto and I could squeeze in one more piece of furniture.

Our weather has cooled a bit and Mini Beast decided to help me write this post........

I kept attempting to get Mini off the computer, but he insisted that my loving him was more important--I gave in. That is 20 lbs. of siamese.

Have a wonderful Wednesday. Remember it is all in the listening and then taking action-I wish that I listened more often.

Be well,
Mary and Jones (and Mini)


I have started several posts over the past few days...none of them were what I really felt inspired to continue. One was negative (re:Restoration Hardware); one was boring; one was off in left field. I think I'm suffering the effects of the Dog Days of August. It has been unbearably hot here (being only second generation Irish, my genes do not support heat) and the shop air conditioning has gone spacey. Not good for inviting customers to come shopping. Perhaps I have "cellular memory" resulting from the many years of those last few days before the kids went back to school (as much as I loved my children, by the end of August, I never wanted to see them again)--so much to be organized, new clothes, shoes, volleyball, the stress of new teachers and classmates. (All that driving) Yuck.
Well Roberto is coming today to reorganize so that I can squeeze in one more sofa.......
I didn't mean to.......I really couldn't help it......yes, I know, more seating for the shop which I do not need.
But how could I pass it up? I sooooo intended to take it home--I actually do need a new sofa.
I won the bid at such a ridiculously low figure that I'm embarrassed; but there have to be winners at auctions and if no one else is paying attention......Not only that, I managed to fit her into the Explorer (2 inches to spare).
The sofa is amazing--I think it's late mid-century Danish!! Top of the line design and leather and in excellent condition (serendipity-I had not previewed this action) with the perfect and very   desirable patina for its age (c. late 60's/70's) and TUFTING of the back cushions.  So how can I take her home? Nope--into inventory.
Roberto will spiff her up and she'll be set to go.
I'll post photos tomorrow as it's a little cramped in the Explorer.
Jones will look stunning and elegant  on her.
Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride.
Stay cool.
Mary and Jones (and Cole)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


We have had a week of heat-- 95* to 116* in the valleys (and Pasadena is in a valley) and the humidity has been up there also. You might think that California is all heavily air conditioned, but we are not. We are blessed with great weather along the coast and up to the first range of mountains; so many of us do not have central air (and that includes me). 

GRATITUDE:  This morning the sea breezes had returned with a bit of a cloud cover and we are again back to our gorgeous California weather. In fact, this early morning sky looks like an East Coast sky with banks of purplish (word ?) clouds against a pale blue gray.

But back to the earlier heat conundrum. Although I hate using the oven when it's hot (and my kitchen faces west and becomes unbearable when it's hot), I made my over-the-top brownies to take to a friend as a hostess gift.  Yes, the kitchen temperature shot up to way over 90*, but these brownies are worth the heat.

(If you count carbs, calories or fat content PLEASE go no further as these guys are not diet food)

Mary's Ghirardelli Brownies
  2 packages Ghirardelli Brownie Mix***
  1 stick of butter
  1/2 c. oil (I use Virgin Olive Oil for everything-it
  1/4 c. water
  3 extra large eggs
  1/2 package (5 to 6 oz.) Ghirardelli bitter sweet
  chocolate chips 
***Ghirardelli Brownie Mix is essentially preservative and chemical free except for artificial vanilla and soy lecithin (not too chemically) and the quality is infinitely superior to all other mixes. You can get the 6-pack at Costco, my second-favorite store after Trader Joe's.        

Follow the directions on the box, substituting with my additions. Watch the brownies carefully, making sure not to over-bake them.

ENJOY. I bet that you can't eat just one. And remember: dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and feel good hormone-like nutrients. I'm guessing that the 1/2 cup of virgin olive oil counteracts the stick of butter???
Jones says he likes the corners of the brownies (chocolate is not good for dogs), but he's a big guy; so he can have a little.

Relish the last of summer--I can't believe that it is already the 16th of August. For Southern California, summer lasts until the 20th (or so) of October.

Mary (and Jones)

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I just thought I'd update my last post with a couple of photos of the Red Lacquer table with a little added jewelry. 

I paired the table with my Marbro Chinoiserie lamps. The contrast of the white with the red table is great. (I managed to reduced the reflection on the table, too.)

***Note: When dealing with newly lacquered pieces it  is extremely important to let the lacquer breathe for about 10 days to 2 weeks before placing anything on the surface.

Wishing ya'll (I used to live in the South; so it's allowed) a great week-end--those of us in Southern Cal. need to make sure that we (and our pets) stay out of the sun and keep hydrated.

Thanks for joining us.
Mary (and Jones)

Friday, August 10, 2012


Remember this photo taken from the new Ralph Lauren furniture line, Rosecliff? This charming white painted pedestal table which copies c.1940-50 mahogany pedestal tables (but is new, of a lesser quality wood and is super pricey at over $2000.00) inspired me to create a similar table using a 1940's mahogany table and redoing the surface. 

Ralph Lauren "Rosecliff" furnishing

My goal was not only to create a table with an equal or higher level of detailing, but also to offer the table at a much reduced price.

I found this sweet 1940's mahogany pedestal table at a little antiques shop around the corner--it had all of the elements that I was looking for (plus the table is 8-sided) and was in great condition. Fortunately, my son was staying with me; so Andrew did the time-consuming work of stripping and sanding that thick early 20th c. finish. (Using green products)


Next I spent over an hour at the paint store picking the perfect Swedish-inspired chalky off-white paint. And Roberto finished up the paint job. Looking good.

Yep, I did it! The table looks great.The RL table has a pie crust edge, but mine is more unique in that it is 8-sided and my 1940's table has crisper carved detailing......but this poor little table has sat in my shop because I got stuck.........very stuck!

I wasn't happy simply creating a pedestal table that was equal to or slightly better than Mr. Lauren's table. Oh, no--I had to up the anty. I also bought a larger (31" diameter), top of the line 1940's Chippendale-style mahogany pedestal table with a gorgeous shell carved baroque edge. And this table was what got me stuck.


The old finish on this table was super thick and it took many, many goings over to finally strip the table completely and then sanding all of the carved elements took forever (Andrew returned to Thailand before the table was finished).  On top of this detour, I decided that the Swedish chalky white  surface as inspired by Ralph, was a bit too boring for this super table. So I became even more entrenched in my  hole trying to decided what to do with Mr. Chippendale.  He had to strut his stuff.

Finally, last week I spent another hour (more) at the paint store and handed off the table to Juan, my fantastic lacquer person.


What do you think? I love him..  Chinese Red high gloss multi-coat lacquer!! Not quite the look that Mr. Lauren was going for.... And I wasn't able to reduce the price by 50% (my goal), but boy does this guy make a statement. (I had trouble taking photos because of the high gloss reflection--I'll try again) I might have to keep this guy--he would look great against my antique Grisaille Dufour wall paper screen. Paired with my tufted black leather sofa??
So now that I'm unstuck, I have finally posted both Ralph Lauren tables to my website. My flights of creativity usually take a bit longer than planned for, but I'm happy with the outcome.

Note: Any time you choose a high gloss or matte lacquer finish the price escalates. The finish sanding has to be just about perfect and a minimum of twelve coats of lacquer (with sanding in between coats) are required to attain the visual depth.

Jones says "hi"--if you look closely, he is helping to strip the tables and for a couple of days he had white paint on his ears.
Thanks for joining me on this crazy adventure.
Mary and Jones (and Cole)


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Angela Dickerson-Lee (Angie's Latest Work)

Angela Dickerson-Lee

My amazingly talented upstairs neighbor, Angela Dickerson-Lee (I posted about her shop, Bonita Interiors, a couple of months ago) brought in her newest work yesterday. And I have been almost speechless ever since. This a quite large painting (I'm guessing about 5 ft. by 3.5 ft.) and is impressive if size were the principal consideration; what is capturing my eye is the positive energy that is shooting from this piece. Unfortunately, the painting is framed with an acrylic sheet over the piece which hides the actual depth of the work (and distorts my photos). I'm giving a couple of close-ups below in an attempt to show the depth of the technique. For this piece Angie worked in both acrylic and oil on heavy art paper. It is gorgeous.

And finally, not cutting off the bottom of the painting (Jones kept pulling on my arm as he LOVES Angie)

Angela Dickerson-Lee

Please forgive the reflection of the overhead lighting--as you can see in the close-up, the painting has much more depth than the photo represents.

Have a wonderful coming week. I cannot believe than summer is going to be turning into fall soon.... I'm praying that the draught will be coming to an end and that rain is forecast for our parched nation.