Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Being Martha's Daughter

Mothers and daughters have complicated relationships - period. Here's a fun article on Alexis Stewart and her mum, Martha.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Smallest Calendar

Start your new year with a paper gadget - high style, low tech and very small. This diminutive treat offers the entire year in less than 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/4 inches. Click here for the free download from an Italian graphic designer at Grafish Design.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Green Christmas Trees

Again this year we struggled with the concept of a green Christmas Tree and what it should be. As much fun as it sounds to find a vintage white or aluminum tree that we can save and make our own - it's just not happening in time this year. We couldn't find that old artificial tree looking for a good home. But we did enjoy the hunt. Instead of a tree, we happened upon some fabulous retro vintage ornaments and dazzling decorations long forgotten and still quite fabulous. But I digress.

We toyed with a living tree, root ball intact, but it seemed harsh to subject it to our indoor climate, then expect it to adapt again to a garden and thrive after all that excitement.

A tree of recycled paper seems environmentally thoughtful. And some may argue a tree of green bottles is sort of responsible, too.

We're still most enchanted with the trees we featured here last year and think they offer the eco-conscious style and classic beauty we admire and respect in a green holiday tree.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Green Wrapping from Japan

Ms. Yuriko Koike, former Japanese Minister of the Environment, recommends the Japanese practice of wrapping things in a furoshiki, a large piece of fabric, to transport purchases and gifts and help reduce waste from plastic bags and wrapping papers.

"It would be wonderful if the furoshiki, as a symbol of traditional Japanese culture, could provide an opportunity for us to reconsider the possibilities of a sound-material cycle society. As my sincere wish, I would like to disseminate the culture of the furoshiki to the entire world."

The furoshiki can be used to wrap purchases and gifts of almost any shape and size. Here are some traditional folding and wrapping styles. Click here and here for more instructions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Color of the Year

It's not surprising that the color Pantone, the professional color standard, has selected for its 2010 color of the year is: sort of green. But it's green made better, with a blend of blue and called Turquoise or 15-5519. It evokes the calm image of tropical waters and the vacation we so desperately need at this time of year. (Okay, well maybe I should only speak for myself).

For more info on this or any color, visit Pantone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Green Wrapping with Paper

Looking for green wrapping solutions often brings me to patterns in eco-friendly inks on recycled paper or tote bags that can be used again. For sources closer to home, recycling a sheet of newspaper or a map works nicely as an eco-wrapping choice, especially when it's brightened with a colorful bow made from a magazine.

Jessica Jones of How about orange... shares her brilliant and green (well, orange) bow made from a magazine page in a tutorial here.

May your wrapping be inspired and fun!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Personal Art Gallery

Need a quick decorating fix or just want to bring some of your favorite drawings, photos or clippings out of boxes and into view? Here is a great idea for hanging your choice of two-dimensional art on the wall. With inexpensive and cool looking bullnose clips, you can put together a gallery in little or no time. Start with a handful of clips and make your choices, then hang the art with relatively uniform space between them. For a small collection, try hanging them in a row - horizontally or vertically.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Make Your Own Pipe Cleaner Wreath

Feeling the pinch this holiday season? Here's a beautiful art project to easily craft. With a lot of pipe cleaners, a pair of scissors and a little patience, you can create your own masterpiece of lightness and design.

Make a wreath of green and red to hang on your door, or in front of a mirror. Try a silver design near a dark painted wall. Or maybe a graphic statement in black pipe cleaners on a white wall.

Many thanks to Kate Pruitt and her DIY projects at Design Sponge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

If you need a few extra turkeys to put around the table this Thursday, here's a quick and charming idea for DIY place cards.

Thank you for being our guest at 973 Third Avenue. Have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Green Walls

If you're already a fan of green roofs, green walls seem a logical next step. But creating a vertical garden that stays where it's intended to, is considerably more challenging. That, of course, is what makes it so interesting.

Living walls are fascinating outdoors and in. It's magical to enter an interior space with a green wall. As you get closer you can't help but feel healthier. The planted wall is reducing the CO2 while adding oxygen to the room. All that good energy and it is visually enchanting, too.

Here's a New York Times article on edible walls and here are more examples of living walls.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Food Safety

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are getting stuffed with recipe ideas and images of table settings and seasonal decorations in all forms of media. Equally as important is holiday food safety. I wanted to share this clip I just learned of today. I hope you'll find it interesting. It's part of a Holiday Food Safety Success Kit put together by the non-profit group Partnership for Food Safety Education.

May your meals be safe as well as delicious!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Countdown to Christmas with a personalized Advent Calendar. Here are a few beautiful ideas to get you started. Carrying on with our matchbox theme - start with 24 matchboxes, cover in holiday patterns, number the ends in different styles and glue them together somewhat erratically, then fill with tiny surprises.

Collect two dozen envelopes in holiday colors, apply gold self-adhesive numbers, tuck in little notes of holiday memories and string on a bulletin board or across a window.

Wrap small boxes of chocolates or sweets in holiday paper, add bows and embellish with round numbered tags to display on a tiered dessert stand.

Collect messages of hope from family and friends and wrap in ribbons with small numbered tags and then pin onto a long wide ribbon.

Gather baby socks in bold patterns and number with stickers or iron-on patches to hang in a swag with mini clothes pins and stuff with tiny treats.

Recycle old holiday card images to fill the windows on the charming house template from here.

The top four images are from, the bottom two images are from

Monday, November 9, 2009

Matchbox Packaging Treats

Maybe it's my attraction to diminutive things and maybe it's the economy, or what my grandmother referred to as living through the Depression, but matchboxes offer so many possibilities. Sure, they are handy for lighting candles or starting a stubborn pilot. They are also cute little containers just waiting to be upcycled and restarted.

Here are a few examples to inspire your own little matchbox world.

Martha shows how to create a mini advent calendar from 24 matchboxes decorated on both ends. As each numbered box is removed and reinserted backwards, a holiday tree is revealed.

A Tiny Traveling Doll's House is thoughtfully refurbished inside and out at Coloured Buttons.

Top: B is for Baby, a lovely book of gifts to make for new ones, shares this sweet announcement idea in a matchbox via Craft Stylish.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Close Before Striking

Great re-design ideas may come in small matchbook size packages. Here are a few to admire, have and hold.

Make a wish upon a birthday candle or set-up an impromptu candlelight celebration with 5 minute candles from here via here.

Make your own teeny matchbook notepads with the tutorial here from Design Sponge.

Make your own party favors with the mint matchbook tutorial here from The Artful Crafter.

Next up, we'll share some great re-design ideas we've spied on matchboxes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

October Wrap Up

October has flown by at this address. That may be partly due to a wave of illness some call the H1N1. Here the symptoms were pesky, but mild, compared to what we've heard from others. Fortunately, it has passed and maybe the exposure will keep us out of harm's way for the rest of flu season.

This week there has been some scrambling to track down hand-sized pumpkins and organize a holiday craft for 30 kids. After visiting the area grocery stores and coming up short, I was saved by a sympathetic young farmer. She completely understood my dilemma and gathered together a box of Jack-Be-Little pumpkins, stems intact, for me to pick up even though her farm stand (in a wonderful old barn) was closed that day due to inclement weather.

My hands are still speckled with splotches of stubborn black paint and there are spots of black paint on the basement floor that didn't use to be there. But, my young crafters will never know the excitement leading up to their party. They will be transforming the now black pumpkins into spiders, complete with googly eyes and pipe cleaner legs. Maybe a little glitter for extra fun.

Before the month wraps with a weekend of Halloween haunting, I wanted to include a reminder that it also marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month. While it's been refreshing to see the NFL players wearing pink this October, I hope they'll continue to show their support through the end of their season. It's not like anyone is going to stop thinking about this scary disease and the women we know whose lives have been affected. We'll continue to post pink.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Packaging - Best in Show

Fall allergy and flu season sent me running out last month to stock up on tissues. I was looking for something a little more attractive than the shoe box size container covered in sad looking floral or wave motifs. A few new designs and graphics stood out on the shelves, including the surprisingly attractive and fresh triangular prism shapes in fruits and cheery colors. I was impressed.

Apparently, judges in the world of packaging design were too. I was tickled to see the slice of summer tissue boxes from Kimberly-Clark, won Best in the Show for this year's international packaging design contest from Pentawards. Click here to see all the winners, including the cool Coke cans of summer featured here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Style in Your Seat Pocket

Starting a little holiday flying across the ocean has just gotten more stylish. The free amenity bag from Virgin Atlantic has brought an old standby into the realm of cool design. When I was a child and before I had ever flown overseas, my uncle would bring me lovely treasures from his adventures in Asia and Europe. Among the carefully selected souvenirs I was equally enthralled with the fabric or vinyl airline bags he offered still packed tightly with diminutive containers of toiletries nestled among the footies and eye covers.

In Virgin Atlantic's take on this transatlantic tote, the cozy socks and eye shade are helpful when you try to get a head start on your arrival time zone or just want to dress up like a red footed mummy. And the translucent red toothbrush with matching cap looks like a design winner. But it's the plastic zipper pouch with drawings of everyday things that you'll want to reuse throughout your itinerary. Maybe to keep your travel diary, or a little snack safe and dry or keep your cellphone moisture free on the sandy beaches in the south of France or around the streets of London?

As flyer bags go, the VA contents are not that different from what airlines have offered international guests for decades. But in this world of diminishing amenities, it's refreshing to find something useful in such a good-looking and simple reusable design.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Italic Handwriting

The back to school season is as good a time of the year as any to re-evaluate your handwriting. A recent op-ed in the New York Times challenged writers to stop mumbling on the page and drop the loopy cursive letters of the Palmer method or Zaner-Bloser style we were taught at small school desks with chunky pencils.

The new preferred style is Italic, in which letters do not always have to be joined. It's a matter of comfort and personal choice. The success of handwriting is its legibility. Oh, and closing the gaps on the tops of your letters, that's the part we read.

Click here for the NYT piece and a chance to try Italic.

For extra credit, take a free Italic handwriting lesson online here from

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Make Your Own Silhouettes

The art of cutting paper into outlines of shapes and figures is a traditional practice in portraiture. In the 18th century, it was a proper amusement for both men and women to recreate a person's likeness by tracing or freehand, then cutting it out from a thin black paper. Sometimes an entire scene of figures would be trimmed out and mounted on paper with a background drawn to create an interior or landscape around them.

Today you can use your likeness as more than a traditional decoration and as something practical, too. Here are some suggestions from a few of my favorite blogs to fit a silhouette into your home collection.

A personalized bulletin board in the shape of a silhouette would be a striking addition to a front entrance hall or a spot above your desk. Click here for the instructions from Country Living.

Homemade cards are a greatly appreciated gesture and such fun to receive. Embellish them with a silhouette cut from a charming patterned paper for a handsome looking card. Click here for instructions from a new book via Design Sponge.

Portraits of family or friends look terrific in profile and resting on the sofa. This is a clever idea for a decorative pillow that's easy to make. Click here for the instructions from Mrs. Blandings, a blog I recommend visiting, anyway.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Domestic Design: Significant Parts

Victor Hugo's Banister from Maison de Victor Hugo6, Place des Vosges, 4th Arrondissement, Paris

Sir John Soane's House, Pitshanger Manor, Walpole Park, Mattlock Lane, London

A shrine is a place preserved for history. A shrine may be where someone important and worth remembering once lived. A shrine is usually preserved to remember a place in time - a long time ago.

I recently came across a book of beautiful photography of everyday objects. The handsome and utilitarian objects are things like architectural details, teapots, clocks, and writing sets. The objects were selected because they were touched by great men.

These objects were touched by great women, too.

Photos from Dr. Johnson's Doorknob and Other Significant Parts of Great Men's Houses by Liz Workman, published by Rizzoli, 2007.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Initially Marked

Initially, I was crazy for monograms on objects like pillowcases, men's shirt cuffs and canvas tote bags. Now the sky is the limit as we can have our personal marking on almost anything imaginable. But, how fun and simple to have your initial on your coffee mug. The mugs would also make nice gifts for family and friends.

Lettered mugs: top, from Fishs Eddie, center, from Rosanna, bottom, from Heal's.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mid-Century Kitchens

Vintage advertisements featuring interiors are so delightful. This stylish, fantasy kitchen featured bright white cabinetry trimmed in saucy red, boldly trellised wallpaper and open cabinetry. You can imagine what the dreamy adjacent rooms could have looked like.

An advertisement from a gas company. Don't miss the backyard view through the low windows.

An advertisement for appliances. The second and third images appear courtesy of See Saw. There are more vintage kitchens ads over there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today's Top 3 Favorites

1) For some serious second-hand book shopping, start saving for a trip to Hay-on-Wye, Wales. This magnificent photo is from here.

2) Wouldn't it be fun to find an envelope in tangled script in your mailbox this afternoon? The calligraphy of Anna Beckman is more than an art. See more here.

3) This garden path is so beautiful, it's a destination in itself. The pods of grass invite us to hop from one onto the next over a sea of stones. Path inspirations from here.

I hope you enjoy these, too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Writing Well, Part II

When you find an old and well-used leather bound book, you know there are pages to explore and a proper education on something to be gained. In my treasure book of social and business etiquette from 1882 there is much discussion of the proper position of the writer. It is "a matter of the greatest importance" and "exercises a powerful influence upon his general health." Further into this subject, the reader is admonished that no one should be satisfied with "a bad handwriting" when it is in his power to improve it.

Any one can procure a copy-book, and can spare an hour, or half an hour, a day for this effort at improvement. Remember that a good hand is not acquired in a week or a month; it takes long and diligent practice to produce this result.

The advantages of writing well are numerous, and will readily suggest themselves. In the first place, it is always a pleasure to prepare a plainly and neatly written letter or paper. The writer is then never afraid or ashamed for his friends to see his writing.

A good hand is also an invaluable aid to a young man seeking employment. A merchant in employing clerks and salesmen will always give the preference to the best penman. A young man applying by letter for a situation can scarcely offer a better reference than the appearance of his letter.

More late 19th century tips to follow soon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Make Your Own Embroidered Tote

There is no reason not to have a beautiful tote bag to carry your groceries or library books. Here are the instructions to embellish an ordinary looking store bag with a little color and style. Thanks to favorite crafter, Perri Lewis for another fabulous idea to brighten the day.

Click over for more help deciphering the necessary needlework and links for a refresher with your chain stitch(1), French knots (2), fern stitch (3), or lazy daisy (6). I especially like the addition of the various buttons.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dover Castle Redone

King Henry II spent a fortune in the 1180s creating this castle above the white cliffs of Dover. Now English Heritage has completed a restoration of medieval interiors to help modern visitors envision life in this colorful royal showplace. Click here for more details.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Very Old Packaging

Revisiting: Old containers featuring beautiful and noteworthy designs

The effective branding of these early 20th century household products is evident in the unique logos, graphics and information on their packaging. How fortunate they've been saved and preserved, some with evidence of their original products, others as re-purposed.

Faultless Starch was a breakthrough product from its introduction in the 1890s for its simplicity of use and no need for lengthy boiling. It claimed to give a finished look to embroidery and lace, and was commonly used as baby and bath powder. Between 1895 and the 1920s the Kansas City company produced 36 illustrated booklets and attached them to the boxes. They included familiar stories for children with the added twist of always mentioning the product. In Little Red Riding Hood, for example, grandmother's starched apron is so pretty to the wolf that he stays for tea. The books also included riddles, games, helpful hints and useful facts.

Kingsford Silver Gloss Starch was started in 1848 in Oswego by Thomas Kingsford, a chemist. He developed it from corn and later improved and marketed it for culinary use as well. A tiny cookbook distributed by the company in 1876 boasted, “The experiment which first gave to the world this Laundry Starch made from Indian Corn, and the skill which perfected it, have been productive of still more notable success in furnishing this new article of food, which is adapted alike to the taste of the epicure and the wants of the invalid."

Not much to share on the Louse Killer to keep your poultry safe from lice. But it's a great looking design.