Category: design history

Monograms for the Home

Personalizing an item with a monogram dates back to the 19th century when ladies hand stitched their married initials onto their trousseau pieces.  It fell somewhat out of favor during World War I when women needed to work out of the home to support the war effort.  In the mid 20th century though, with the invention of the embroidery machine, monogramming came back into fashion.  Then and now, it is de rigueur for Southern brides to receive some some type of monogrammed item when they marry.

Peacock Alley

Monograms can incorporate multiple names or just a single letter and are either embroidered, etched, embossed, or painted onto home items.  Whether plain or intricately interwoven patterned, monograms are an ideal way to embellish your home.

Table linens

Julia B.
Julia B.

Always versatile monogrammed pillows

Eastern Accents

Chair back with elegant single initial monogram backs

Ethan Allen

A wide variety of personalized china can be found at Sasha Nicholas

Sasha Nicholas

Flatware is embellished with a simple script initial

River Ridge

Glass and bar ware are ideal for monogramming

Williams Sonoma

The fur kids enjoy personalized items too!

Felix Chien

Mr. H says: There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort-Enjoy!

Tromp L’oeil Illusions

The ability to trompe-l’œil or “deceive the eye” was a highly prized artistic skill of ancient Greek and Roman painters.  The ability to fool one with a painted illusion is a practice that continues in today’s modern interiors.  Whether to expand the visual size of a room, add decorative elements, or introduce a bit of whimsy, decorative painters and designers collaborate to create fantastic tricks.

The Ducal Palace in Mantua c. 1470 by artist Andrea Mantegna


Fashion designer Martin Margiela added faux architectural details in his hotel room design

La Maison Champs Elysees by Martin Margiela
La Maison Champs Elysees

Expansive light and space is created in a powder room with a trompe l’oeil garden

Andy Eccleshall-The Mural Works trompe l'oeil door way
Andy Eccleshall-The Mural Works trompe l’oeil door way

A bedroom shrouded in luxurious drapery

Artist Mariani Affreschi trompe l'oeil bed curtains
Artist Mariani Affreschi trompe l’oeil bed curtains

Trompe L’oeil can be trans formative as evidenced by artist Janie Atkinson’s garage doors.


Janie Atkinson

Tromple l’oeil allows for a touch of whimsy: look closely in the Paris Musee de la Chasse for the painted mouse lurking about.

Carol Gillott

This restaurant floor was turned into a coral reef complete with the illusion of water and sea life.

Trompe loeil ocean floor
Epoxy 3D Flooring

Faux marbre, faux boise….

Artist Caroline Woods faux marble column
Artist Caroline Woods faux marble column
Artist Jill Biskin faux marble wainscot
Artist Jill Biskin faux marble wainscot
Artist Arthur Morehead faux boise wood panel
Artist Arthur Morehead faux boise wood panel
Fauxto Finish faux boise garage doors
Fauxto Finish faux boise garage doors

Dogs are a favorite subject for trompe l’oeil artists

Artist Lara Meissirel
Artist Janet Fadler Davie
Artist Janet Fadler Davie

Mr. H says: Through a painting we can see the whole world-Enjoy!

Big Cat Fabrics

Inspired by this surprising photo of adorable bobcat cubs, captured on a Kiawah Island home security camera, I felt compelled to explore the Big Cat fabric trend in interior fabrics.

Kiawah Island Bobcats kitties at play

Humans have been covering their bodies and floors with animal fur since we began walking upright.   Around the 18th Century, fabrics with patterns and colors emulating animal fur were made fashionable in home furnishings.

Touted as the worlds first interior decorator, Elsie De Wolfe crafted trend setting rooms during her entire career.  In the sunroom of the Villa Trianon, her French country house near Versailles, she opted for a double dose of leopard print applying the pattern on both the loveseat and the rug.

Elsie De Wolfe Villa Trianon

21st Century interior designers, continue to use the classic leopard spot in their room schemes.  Designer Tobi Fairly, covered the Elle Chair from her CR Laine furniture line in the iconic fabric.

CR Lane Tobi Fairley chairs

A John Richard bench upholstered in a leopard print.

John Richard

While often confused and misnamed leopard, cheetah spots actually resemble polka dots on the animal’s fur.

Kravet’s “Baby Cheetah” velvet fabric

Kravet Baby Cheetah velvet fabric

If it’s color you prefer, cat fabrics need not be neutral or natural, as this Robert Allen velvet in lacquer red proves.

Robert Allen Soft Cheetah in Lacquer Red

Thibaut “Panthera” fabric in Navy

Thibaut Panthera fabric in Navy

While leopard fabrics dominate the market, majestic tiger stripes have their appeal in home decor.

Milo Baugham’s Mid-Century teak recliner with tiger velvet upholstery

Midcentury Teak Recliner with Tiger Velvet Upholstery by Milo Baughman

Don’t forget that dogs like big cat prints too!

Mr. H says: Cats follow the principle that it never hurts to ask for what you want-Enjoy!

The Inn at Middleton Place-Charleston, SC

I was fortunate to play tourist in my own town this week at the beautiful 18th century Middleton Place plantation.  Listed as a National Historic Landmark, it is home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens.

Middleton Place terrace garden Middleton Place

We took advantage of the weekly Spring wine stroll along with dinner at the restaurant and an overnight stay at the Inn.

While the gardens are the main attraction, The Inn at Middleton Place, is an extraordinary destination in its own right.  Secluded among tall pines and live oaks along the banks of the Ashley River, the 55 rooms are just a short walk away from the plantation grounds.The Inn at Middleton Place Lodge

Built in 1987, the Inn was designed by W.G. Clark and Charles Menefee of Charleston, SC.  Lead architect W.G. Clark eschewed the typical Southern vernacular of white columns and wide porches with rocking chairs.  Instead, the team channeled the architectural ruins that are found throughout the Low Country, emerging out of abandoned fields and ancient forests.  Once completed, The Inn at Middleton Place was recognized for its outstanding concept and design by the American Institute for Architecture (AIA) with its Honor Award, the profession’s highest accolade for individual buildings by American architects.

The Inn at Middleton Place

The rooms interiors, while spare, boast floor to ceiling windows, cypress paneling and wood burning fireplacesThe Inn at Middleton Place interior

The large bathrooms feature marble floors, innovative cypress storage and a two person tiled roman soaking tub.

The Inn at Middleton Place bath

Mr. H says: History never looks like history when you are living through it-Enjoy!

Marvelous Marseille

There was much to enjoy on a recent visit to the ancient port town of Marseille, France.  Considered France’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast as well as the largest French commercial port, this bustling city cultivates a relaxed feeling along its waterfront.

Marseille France

Wedged between the Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges and the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is the second largest French city after Paris.

View of Marseille France

Notre-Dame de la Garde, which translates as “Our Lady of the Guard” has stood watch over the city since 1864.

Notre-Dame de la Garde, Marseille

The Byzantine-Roman style Cathedral of Saint Mary Major was built between 1852 to 1896 on the site used for the cathedrals of Marseille since the fifth century.

Marseille Cathedral of Saint Mary Major

Marseille Cathedral of Saint Mary Major

The arcaded galleries of the La Vieille Carité once functioned as a workhouse for the city’s poor.  Located in the old Panier quarter of Marseille, this Baroque style complex was designed by the architect Pierre Puget and was completed in 1749.

Marseille France La Vieille Charité

With its distinct ovoid dome, The central Puget chapel was erected between 1679 and 1704.

La Vieille Charité

A charming alleyway lead to an impromptu art gallery

Marseille art alley

Le chien loitering outside the patisserie

Le chien Marseille France

Cold beer can be found tucked into to surprising places too!

Marseille alleyway

Mr. H says: French is the language that turns dirt into romance-Enjoy!

Santa Fe Travel

At a recent interior design conference in Santa Fe, I was able to carve out some time to enjoy the unique offerings of this enchanting, high desert city.  Home of the New Mexico state capital, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States as well as the oldest city in the state having been founded in 1610.

Santa Fe New Mexico

Architectural styles range from Adobe, Pueblo Revival and Territorial.

Adobe architecture-Inn and Spa at Loretto

Santa Fe Pueblo architecture

Pueblo revival Santa Fe

Territorial architecture Santa Fe

Territorial architecture Santa Fe

Santa Fe, meaning “holy faith” in Spanish, has a history with Catholic missionaries that founded numerous churches in the city.

Built between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi was designed in the Romanesque Revival style.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Santa Fe

At the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail stands the Loretto Chapel.  Completed in 1880, this Gothic Revival structure is now a museum and wedding chapel.

Loretto Chapel Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a well-known artist enclave where numerous galleries and art installations can be found around the town.

Santa Fe art galleries


Glass sculptures Santa Fe

Mr. H says: Travel is fatal to narrow mindedness-Enjoy!

History of the Bathtub

Nothing is more relaxing than soaking in a hot bath.  Throw in some essential oils and a few aromatherapy candles and you have an inexpensive at home retreat.  With the current home spa trend reaching a fever pitch,  the bathtub certainly as come a long way from the tin vessel that had to be hauled in and filled with buckets of water heated over a fire.


Early bathing plumbing systems have been dated to 3300 BC,  when copper water pipes were discovered beneath a palace in Ancient India.  It was during the Roman Empire that daily bathing became the custom and both public and private baths were commonplace.

Water Color of a Roman Bath House by Leon F Nowak

Before indoor plumbing became the norm, portable bathtubs, were used.  These large, relatively light containers made of tin or copper were usually positioned by the fireplace and filled with hot water.  Legend has it that the phrase “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” originates from the idea that an entire house hold would share the same bath water starting with the head of the house and ending with the baby.  Since the water would be so dark with dirt that the baby could be accidentally tossed out.

baby in tin bathtub

The wealthier the home, the larger and more elaborate these vessels became

Antique copper bathtub

By the mid-19th-century, some larger homes became equipped with water heating devices allowing the bath tub to be permanently built in usually surrounded with a wooden box.

Built in metal bathtub
The Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House

The iconic clawfoot tub, originated in 18th century Holland.  With it’s signature ball and claw design, this cast iron tub became the height of fashion bathing in the 19th century.


Most early bathtubs were fabricated from cast iron with a porcelain glaze fire on top of the metal.  Cast iron had many drawbacks as it is very heavy, remained cold even after hot water was added, and rusted easily if any of the glaze chipped away.  In the early 1900s, manufactures began producing the solid porcelain tub in both freestanding and built in forms.

Porcelain tub

White porcelain was the norm as it appeared disinfected and hygienic.   That changed around the 1930’s when color pigments were applied to the unglazed vitreous finish.   Pink, blue, and green bathrooms were wildly popular through end of World War II.

Pink bathtub

Today, bathtubs come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, materials and functions.

Kohler whirlpool tub
Mark Brand Architecture

Freestanding tubs have enjoyed a resurgence over the last few years, with designs to fit all design styles.

Photo by Jared Rice

Mr. H says:  You can never have too many bubbles in the bath-Enjoy!

Languid Lake Como

Italy’s Lake Como has been a prominent vacation retreat for the fabulous and wealthy since Roman times.  With miles of picturesque coastline, charming villages, and historical treasures tourists flock continue to this Northern Italian gem.  Even after a brief visit, it is no wonder that Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.

Lake Como

Handsome Roman villas dot the banks around the lake

Lake Como villa

The waterside villages Menaggio, Verenna and Bellagio form an incomparable trifecta of beauty, magic and grace.

Menaggio sprawls along the Western shore of the lake

Menaggio, Italy

Narrow passageways connects Menaggio’s piazzas

Menaggio, Italy

Nestled below a soaring mountain with a hilltop castle, Varenna’s pastel waterfront is captivating.

Varenna, Italy

The Castle of Vezio, an ancient Roman fortress offers unparalleled views of Lake Como to those that brave the steep climb up.

The Castle of Vezio, Varenna Italy

The fork of Lake Como as seen from the castle’s keep

Lake Como

Beauty is the top attraction as even the ceiling in Varenna’s tourist office conjures an ethereal feeling.

Varenna information office

Bellagio has long been a favorite summer retreat for the Milanese nobility and is known as the “Pearl of the Lake”.  The flower filled waterfront promenade with it’s medieval stone stairs running uphill from the water to the central shopping area is enchanting.

Bellagio, Italy

Bellagio, Italy

Flowers and fruit trees flourish in the temperate climate of Lake Como

Lemon tree on Lake Como

Bellagio lake side dining

Mr. H says: In Italy, they add work on to food and wine-Enjoy!

Blended Boston

At the recent ASID Chapter Leadership Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, we were able to carve out some time from the training sessions, to visit with this modern yet historic city.

Boston, MA skyline

Brookline artist Janet Echelman’s ethereal spider web rope sculpture “floats”  between it’s supporting buildings over the  Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Janet Echelman’s aerial rope sculpture

A personal tour of Boston’s hip North End by a local architect and developer highlighted some of the unique structures around the area.  The Skinny House is the narrowest house in Boston, measuring a mere 10 feet at its widest point.

Skinny House Boston

The North End lays claim to being the city’s oldest residential community, having been continuously inhabited since it was settled in the 1630s.  Red brick tenements housed the waves of immigrants that flooded the city at the turn of the 20th Century.

Boston North End

Built in 1723, The Old North Church, is the location from which the famous “One if by land, and two if by sea” signal is said to have been sent in Paul Revere’s midnight ride, on April 18, 1775.

Old North Church, Boston, MA

A histrionically Catholic Italian neighborhood, the North End of Boston is home to many elaborate pop up shrines.

Boston Catholic shrine

And of course, cannolis can be found around any street corner

Boston Italian Bakery

Mr. H says: You see a lot of things in Boston when you’re dancing in the streets-Enjoy!

Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church

Through the years, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church has endured slavery, laws to prevent members from worshiping, and the destruction by white mobs.   It appears that nothing can keep this congregation from persevering as it opened it’s doors on Sunday after last weeks shooting deaths of nine members.

Founded in 1816, by abolitionist minister Morris Brown, it is the oldest AME church in the South. Known as “Mother Emanuel”, the wooden 1872 two-story church that was built on the present site on the north side of Calhoun Street.  After the Civil War, blacks were not welcome on the south side of what was then known as Boundary Street when the church was built.  That structure was destroyed in 1886 by the devastating Charleston earthquake.

1872 Wood Mother Emanuel Church

The present day Gothic Revival-style church with its impressive steeple was completed in 1891. With seats for 2,500, it is the largest African-American church in Charleston.   The brick church retains its original alter, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures and is one of only a few unaltered Victorian religious interiors in Charleston.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church circa 1910

Between 1949 to 1951, the magnificent brick structure with encircling marble panels was restored, redecorated and stuccoed.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston SC photo Cal Sr

Mother Emanuel AME Church Charleston photo: Steven Hyatt

Stained glass Emanel church

Many prominent figures have spoken at the church throughout the years, including Booker T. Washington in 1909, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962 and Coretta Scott King in 1969.

King Center Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Emanuel AME

Mother Emanuel was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and in 1989 lost its steeple when Hurricane Hugo battered the Charleston peninsula.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church 1989

Today, while a solemn testament to its recent horrors, be certain that Emanuel AME Church will persevere once more.

Emanuel AME Church

Mr. H says: We are twice armed if we fight with faith.