Le Décor: Green With Envy

April 13, 2015

As spring moves gloriously into the neighborhood so does a renewed appreciation for all things green. We’ve curated a list of products that are undeniably chic and environmentally stylish that pay tribute to the colors and materials of the outside world.

1. African Kuba Cloth Pillow
Bring a touch of Africa into your home with a vintage Kuba Cloth pillow from One Kings Lane. These cloths are made from woven raffia palm leaf fibers and linen and accented with shells and other cultural treasures.

2. Pottery Barn Jasmine Bamboo Mirror
This classic mirror echoes sophistication and natural beauty thanks to its clean bamboo pattern. Measuring 34’’, the mirror has an aluminum base and is hand-painted with an antique finish that will be right at home in a foyer, a bedroom, or hanging above a small vignette.

3. Proteak Cutting Boards
Proteak Cutting Boards are built from sustainably grown teak wood and make an excellent addition to both residential and professional kitchens. Teak has been used throughout history on boats thanks to its strength and water resistance. Each board is unique and has its own individual beauty.

4. Teak Wood Hanging Planters
These handmade teak hanging planters, each unique from the next, are great for both indoor and outdoor use. Simply fill them with the succulent or plant of your choosing and hang them in a special place.

5. Bamboo China Collection
This elegant ceramic china by Juliska features hand painted bamboo detailing that can be served from day to night. This dishwasher safe collection would be ideal for a spring to summer party in the garden.

6. Restoration Hardware Outdoor Wood Furniture
The outdoor wood furniture collections at Restoration Hardware combine sustainable teak materials with Sunbrella outdoor fabrics. These cloths are certified to be low-emitting by the Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI).

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Storage Solutions in Early Homes: One Size Fits All

March 23, 2015

The earliest Americans lived in simple, one- or two-room structures where space was meager and life was rough. By the 18th century, prosperity brought towns and great cities and more comfortable homes, rivaling those in Europe. Yet, for country-dwellers, who were decades behind the trends in the cities, farming provided the basic provisions and farmers made the furniture. Benches, tables, chairs, boxes and chests were fashioned from local woods into versions of city furniture.

Well into the 1800s, as houses grew to be a bit more ample, rooms were few, still relatively small and set up to multitask. Consequently, each piece of furniture was made to serve multiple functions as well. People got as much out of a room as possible, since heating smaller rooms was more efficient and furniture scarce. It was common for beds to be set up in the parlor and for dining tables to be placed in the center of a room on sawhorse-like trestles, then tucked into a corner when not in use.

Chairs were a luxury, since they were a bit more complicated to make; most people made do with benches. If the family owned any carpets, they used them on tables, as fine rugs were – too valuable to be thrown on the floors. Storage space was at a tremendous premium and a variety of specialized chests were made to store everything from food to textiles and documents.

One of the oldest forms of furniture, the chest was relatively straightforward to make and could serve many functions for early Americans, storing food, clothing and valuables. Plus, a well-made chest was a safe place to keep critters from munching, or nesting in, precious items.

There was a blanket chest for holding clothes or linens and a sugar chest for storing that very precious commodity. The pie chest, typically called a pie safe (though neither a padlocked safe nor a true chest), is another important piece of early storage furniture.

The blanket chest, in its simplest form, was a large wooden box with a hinged lid that was popular from the 17th to the 19th century, since neither attics nor closets were typical in homes of this period. It served as a receptacle for linens and sundry storage, and also provided extra seating (since chairs were a luxury). In colonial America, blanket chests were commonly constructed of pine, walnut, pecan or cherry. Some had short bracket or bun feet. Wealthy folk used imported mahogany for more elaborate chests.

Painting furniture was a way to retard rodent or insect damage, so many early pieces show remnants of old paint washes. The Pennsylvania Dutch painted their chests with traditional decorative motifs.

Over the years, drawers were added and the height was increased. Many period chests will have a “till,” or candle storage drawer. Often, these chests took on the names of the items they safeguarded. They were many times known as dowry chests, or hope chests – since brides often brought their worldly goods with them to their husbands. They were also called mule chests, since they were the repositories of slippers – “mules,” as the early settlers called them. Since few homes had a source of heat in the bedroom, it was the blanket chest, generally found at the foot of the bed, that held the extra bedcovers for frosty winter nights.

In the early days of the rural south, supply shipments were scarce. In some places, people waited up to a year between deliveries. Sugar was a prized and valuable commodity that had to be shipped up river from New Orleans, usually in a loaf or cone form, then carted over land. During a time when a pound of sugar could cost more than an acre of land, families had to have a way to store large quantities of sugar for long periods of time and to guard it against humidity, insects and rodents. Hence, the sugar chest – a southern form found mostly in Kentucky or Tennessee –was a locked chest, often plain in decor, yet a symbol of the family’s social and economic standing. In their heyday, sugar chests were not relegated to a hidden pantry, but proudly displayed, along with their costly contents, right out there in the parlor.

Four boards of virgin timber, glued together to make all four sides, ensured that there were few gaps for insects and humidity to penetrate. Only virgin timber produced boards wide enough for an entire side or top to be made from one log. The chests were usually built on legs to further insulate the sugar from the moist floor. Sometimes different grades of sugar were separated into compartments. There could also be one for the ledger used to record when small bits of sugar were added or removed. Often there was a small drawer at the bottom or an inside compartment where the knife (or nipper) for cutting the sugar would be kept.

Sugar chests are not found as often as blanket chests. As a predominately southern form and a unique one, they command higher prices. Since both sugar chests and blanket chests are long and narrow, it is relatively easy for blanket chests to be reworked to look like original sugar chests. Both chests open from the top, but blanket chests were often constructed from a series of connected boards, not four-board constructed. Would-be buyers should be aware of this distinction to be sure they are buying a legitimate sugar chest.

The pie safe, also called a pie chest, meat chest or kitchen safe, was the predecessor of the icebox and an important piece of furniture in American households starting in the early 1700s. It was used to protect pies, of course, but also meat, bread and other perishables, from vermin.

The Pennsylvania Dutch probably introduced the concept of the pie safe to the U.S. It was typically tall and narrow. The interior would have shelves to hold food items. Kept as far from the stove as practical, on the farm it might be kept on the back porch to catch as much cool air as possible. Southern pieces were often made of pine with poplar interiors. Many times the interior wooden shelves would be perforated to aid in ventilation.

A pie safe normally would have two hinged doors on the front. Screening or pierced-tin panels on the doors and the sides also provided ventilation. The holes in the tin sides were often punched to produce an image such as a church scene, eagles or stars or a simple shape. The image often determines the value of a particular piece.

Although some old country pie safes made do with plain, screened panels, some have elaborate hand-punched designs. An early piece with unusual or elaborately designed tins could fetch thousands. Pie safes made after 1900 most often have machine–punched tins, and are less valuable. Unusual height, finely turned legs and original paint and hardware also add value for collectors.

Last August, a 19th-century Shenandoah Valley pie safe that had been commissioned in 1824 – not only to keep pies safe, but also to promote Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign – sold for $102,500 at auction. Its date of origin was early for a pie safe, it had old blue paint (a color favored by collectors) and it featured a punched-tin portrait of Jackson and a panel that declared him Hero of Orleans. Whether Jackson ever saw it is anybody’s guess, but since the equivalent in 1824 dollars would have been around $2.5 million, he no doubt would have been flummoxed by the price.

An antiques dealer for more than 25 years, Michelle Galler owns Antiques, Whimsies & Curiosities, based in Georgetown and in Washington, Virginia. Contact her at antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com to suggest a topic for a future column.

Le Décor: Winter Lighting to Warm the Home

February 12, 2015

Good lighting is universally appealing and vital for warding off winter’s gloom. We’ve rounded up a mix of stylish contenders, from classic to whimsical, playful and sophisticated, that will warm up your home in all seasons.

1. This vintage birdcage chandelier, complete with hand-wrought iron and faceted crystal glass, exudes whimsy and fantasy. Starting at $1,850. Restoration Hardware.

2. This sculptural Moravian star has gilded iron details and frosted glass, delivering a playful yet stylish sentiment. $1,495. Serena and Lily.

3. This atrium glass lamp is crafted of mouth-blown glass and can be filled with all your favorite objects, from corks to flowers or sea glass. $159-$179. Pottery Barn.

4. The original George Nelson bubble lamps have been a mark of contemporary cool and simplicity since 1947. Starting at $269. Modernica.

5. Evoking fields of golden grain blowing in the breeze, these bundled wheat sconces bring a touch of refined, natural glamor into the home. $395 for the set. Neiman Marcus.

6. Sleek, sophisticated and masculine, this “grasshopper” lamp is equipped with a powder-coated steel shade, a solid brass frame and a fabric-covered cord. $495. Design Within Reach.

7. A handmade Wyoming antler chandelier by Russell Johnson Imports is a vintage objet that will hang beautifully above large dining tables, kitchen islands or in libraries adorned with treasures from around the world. $2,879. One Kings Lane. [gallery ids="118266,118240,118247,118231,118253,118272,118260" nav="thumbs"]

Design Central

September 10, 2014

Summer in Georgetown. The trees and flowers are in full bloom. Earlier this spring, the annual House Tour allowed us a glimpse behind the closed gates and doors of Washington’s oldest neighborhood. Founded in 1751, Georgetown lives on as a charming historic village that is thriving and attracting a new generation of Washington urban dwellers.

As Georgetown resident, councilman and recent mayoral candidate Jack Evans says, “This is the golden age of Georgetown.”

If you are reorganizing your household or moving, the ideas and suggestions below may help you. Downsizing is a subject that we all encounter throughout our lives. It is closely linked to change. A change of job may lead to a change of address, sometimes even a change of climate. A change of family structure — blending families, maturing children, retirement, the loss of a spouse — may all lead to a change in the square footage we occupy. There are so many factors that can trigger the need to downsize and reorganize.

Regardless of the reason, as it relates to living space, change offers us an opportunity to refresh or reset the organization of our lives and also to examine our relationship to the things we hold on to along the way. It offers a chance to take inventory of our lives and to decide what holds the greatest meaning for us with respect to memory, personal history, beauty and value.

Our willingness to meet changes in a positive way will allow for transitions that keep us current with the realities and routines of our lives. Furthermore, it will allow for outward expressions of our own personal style and our need for beauty and order in our surroundings.

Practical questions to consider when downsizing (especially if you are moving):

How long will it take? Your move is imminent, your lead-time is a year or less, your lead-time is three-to-five years. Spend a little time devising a strategy before acting. Have a recipe for success.

What should remain and what should go? Choose one room at a time and look at the objects in it. Rate them according to how much you have used, cherished and enjoyed them in the past year or so.

How much space will I actually have for the things I choose to keep? Is it wishful thinking? Do I love it? Do I use it? Can I live without it? Can it fit and/or be repurposed in my new space? Identify those things and sell, consign, donate or give the rest away to friends, family or charity.

REMEMBER: Sort not by the space you are in, but by the space into which you are moving.

If you get stuck, you can get more information on the internet or hire a professional space arranger. The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) is a nonprofit association with more than 3,300 members throughout the world.

Create a place that actually represents how you live now. Consider the following criteria:
size, condition, value, comfort and aesthetics.

Size: Will the size and proportion of your furniture overcrowd your new space? Edit by removing, consigning, selling or donating furniture that is taking up valuable living space. Establish its value, and if collectible, make sure it finds the most appropriate sales venue, be it consignment, auction or direct sale.

Condition: If a piece of furniture is broken, damaged, worn out or threadbare and you decide to keep it, have it cleaned, repaired, refinished or reupholstered. Otherwise, you will always be reminded of its shortcoming

Value: If the things you own have intrinsic value — such as antique furniture, art, objets d’art, carpets or collections of any sort – make sure that you have appraisal information in your important documents files. While you live with your valuables, keep them in top condition. The information on file will save future generations from opportunistic buyers or, worst-case scenario, having valuables end up in a garage or yard sale.

Comfort: Those chairs in the living room and that sofa in the guest room are beautiful and my grandmother gave them to me. However, they are very uncomfortable. Your justification may be that you rarely sit in the living room or only occasionally have guests. In every instance, ask yourself if you have the luxury of displaying furniture that you avoid using because it is uncomfortable. Everything in your living space should have a useful and aesthetic purpose attached to it.

Aesthetics: Each of us decides for ourselves what we consider beautiful. If a framed poster is more beautiful to you than a dark, brooding oil painting with no value other than that it came from a family member, get the painting out of your space. If you inherited three sets of china and you rarely set a formal table, choose the one that is most pleasing to you. Sell, consign or give away the rest. Unless you have the luxury of unlimited storage space, not choosing sends you down the path of boxing things you like but will rarely (or never) use.

Lastly, we suggest to our readers that good professional help is always available and well worth the expense when measured against the successful results. In the age of the internet, there are endless resources and much shared knowledge at hand.

We spoke with Georgetowners Fran and Ankie Barnes about their experience in downsizing and changing their home and lifestyle.

Q. What advice would you offer someone who is downsizing?

A. Start early and be very organized as to where all your belongings will go. If you know measurements ahead of time, there won’t be unnecessary surprises on moving day. Downsizing makes one really analyze how many things one owns and how many things one can comfortably live without.

Q. Did you have any professional help or advice?

A. I had some design help from my husband’s architectural office Barnes Vanze Architects. We also hired the services of Orchestrated Moves. We had many books to sort through, and we used Book Bliss Online.


For questions or inquiries:
Alla Rogers and Dena Verrill,
principals at Dena Verrill Interiors – DenaVerrillInteriors.com [gallery ids="101772,141171,141179,141175,141181" nav="thumbs"]

Design Central

Displaying art is an opportunity to express your individuality through the beauty and inspiration art brings into your home. You choose a particular piece of art because it gives you pleasure and reflects who you are. It does not need to meet anyone else’s standard of “an important work” or have high monetary value. What matters is that it gives you pleasure and enhances the quality of your life.

Unlike anything else, art allows intimacy with an object. Although the piece may be static, your experience of it is not. Your perception shifts depending on the light at different times of day and season and on your mood. In turn, the art work influences your emotions and state of mind. To fully reap the benefits of surrounding yourself with art, you want to display your pieces in ways that enrich the viewer’s experience and enhances the environment (surroundings).

Displaying art is an art unto itself. In fact, museums and galleries employ design specialists to ensure that the display of their art enhances the work itself. These specialists have four basic concerns: lighting, background, framing, and hanging. The principles of display design apply equally to the home environment. By understanding these principles, you can speak with confidence with your own designers or create harmonious displays of your own.


Art needs proper lighting to be appreciated. If possible, hiring a lighting designer is an excellent investment. Good lighting enlivens art, allowing the richness of colors, contours, textures, and other details of the work to attract the eye and awaken interest.
Commonly used design solutions are track lighting and small recessed fixtures. The distance of the light fixture from the wall on which the art is displayed should be approximately one third of the ceiling height. The lamps should “wash” the wall, avoiding the creation of concentrated hot spots of light or shadows on the art work.


Wall Color. Although museums and galleries often use shades of white as display backgrounds, at home you need not feel so confined. Just as the art you select reveals what you consider beautiful and meaningful, the color you choose to complement it and your other furnishings is a personal expression. Black, white, and neutral shades of beige or grey have an architectural neutrality that work particularly well with black and white art and photography. Color photography and paintings or posters can be supported by warm neutral terra cottas and sandy shades, celadon, full saturation greens, and even red or black.


Simply stated, the frame contains, focuses, and enhances the art. A frame should not overwhelm the art itself. A commercial framer with an experienced eye is an ally worth cultivating. Friends may provide references and, since most shops have samples of their work on display, you can judge for yourself as well. Such a framer can provide you with a selection of mats, framing styles, and molding and advise you on any special requirements for the particular piece. For example, a valuable photograph or work on paper should be framed with only archival materials and museum glass to provide protection from ultraviolet light, prevent fading, and eliminate glare.

If you are framing expensive art, you will not want to spare expense in framing. A frame provides protection for the work as well as enhancement of its visual affect. For less expensive art, ready-made framing may suffice. Reasonably priced frames and mats are available in standard sizes.

Hanging Art

Ideally, you hang art so the center of the picture is fifty-seven inches above the floor. The fifty-seven inch standard represents the average human’s eye height and is regularly used as a standard in galleries and museums. By using this method you create a harmony among all the pictures in your home as they will hang in relationship to one another from their centers, not their sides, and you will also avoid the single greatest error, that of hanging art too high.

Other considerations for hanging art:

• Hang the correct scale of artwork on a wall so that it is seen but does not appear stuffed into the space. Art needs to “breathe.” For example, don’t hang a large painting on a narrow hall wall.

• Allow six to eight inches of space between pieces horizontally. You may take advantage of a vertical wall and double or triple hang art on it with a few inches of space in between. The art pieces should be of the same relative strength in color saturation and composition, yet not overpower one another. Create harmony among the works by ensuring that the subjects, colors, and sizes relate to one another.

• To make your environment beautifully personal as well as aesthetically interesting, show various art forms together in the same space: painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, textiles.

Above all, remember to relax and enjoy your art, one piece or ten, whatever style or medium, let it inspire and teach you.

(202) 333-3551

Design Central

August 6, 2014

A trend over recent years has the indoors moving outside to create inviting spaces on patios, terraces or in the garden itself. Expressed lavishly, an outdoor living room might have an outdoor flat screen television and fully equipped kitchen with grills and refrigeration. A simpler design could feature a furniture grouping for cocktails and dining.

The availability and wide selection of all-weather furniture, fabrics, rugs, screens, trellises and lighting enable Washingtonians to enjoy the outdoors from early spring to late fall. In addition, present-day outdoor furniture and accessories are so attractive they can move inside and complement your indoor pieces.


Your choice of furniture sets the design style for your outdoor space. If the space is visually adjacent to the indoor living area, you will want the two areas to be compatible in style and color. Here are some options to consider:

Teak: Teak furniture continues to be a classic design style for outdoor living. Its golden brown color can be preserved throughout its lifetime with annual coats of outdoor wood oil, or you may allow it to slowly age to a soft gray.

Aluminum: Originally made for kitchen furniture, new tubular designs are stylish and modern. The durability and light weight of aluminum combined with outdoor fabric pillows make this material an easy-care way to go.

Outdoor Wicker: Outdoor wicker is woven from synthetic hard fibers to have a textured look similar to natural wicker. Whereas teak furniture may be too heavy and aluminum too casual for indoor use, wicker easily makes this transition. The quality of outdoor wicker varies so check out the anticipated lifetime of the furniture pieces and buy the best quality wicker your pocketbook will allow. It will pay off in the long term. Kati Pope, manager of Janus & Cie on M Street in Georgetown, offers advice on caring for outdoor wicker: “Our handwoven synthetic and combination fibers require minimal maintenance. Simply vacuum loose dirt and apply a mix of dish detergent and lukewarm water with a soft sponge or cloth and allow to air dry. The fibers are colorfast, UV and stain resistant and 100-percent recyclable.”

Outdoor/Indoor Fabrics

Top quality fabrics, resistant to rain and sun fade, will serve you years longer than cheaper brands. Sunbrella has long been the standard for outdoor fabric, offering variety in patterns beyond the solids and stripes of the past.
Perennials, a relatively new brand in outdoor fabric and furnishings, is becoming another popular choice with a selection ranging from faux suedes and velvets to playful, casual patterns. Myra Hines, owner of Hines & Co. showrooms and a resident of Georgetown and New York, says, “Beyond its durability for outdoor use, the Perennials fabric selection has become just as popular for indoors as it is for patios and gardens.”

Outdoor Rugs

Outdoor rugs act to define the space and make it more inviting by adding a splash of color and texture. Rugs reduce noise and slippage and simply feel good underfoot. The durability of an outdoor rug depends on the type of material used and how the rug was made. Ben Tabar, manager at Georgetown Carpet, recommends synthetic fiber rugs such as polypropylene for unprotected outdoor areas. “Any outdoor rug should be made of a material that will allow hosing down,” says Tabar, who also warns that natural woven fabrics, such as sisal, seagrass and coir, show water marks and are not stain resistant. He recommends the natural fiber rugs for indoors and protected areas only.


Don’t underestimate the impact of outdoor lighting to create an intimate and enchanting atmosphere. Lights can be permanently installed on tree branches, screens and trellises in a variety of designs. LED technology allows you to select the hue of light from white to pink, yellow, blue and green that best complements the furnishings.

Privacy Screens and Accessories

Whether used for defining space, shielding your outdoor room from prying eyes or protecting people and furnishings from sunlight, privacy screens are an invaluable accessory. You can choose screens that match other furnishings or that provide a needed contrast of color, material or texture.
Adding live or dried plants arranged in antique or reproduction urns or pots soften the décor. Overhead fans provide a cooling breeze and deter flying insects while adding a stylish accent to the room.

For Questions or Inquiries:
Dena Verrill and Alla Rogers, principals at Dena Verrill Interiors

Le Décor for Summer

July 16, 2014

Take your kitchen outside with fun and festive outdoor tools and grilling gadgets. Entertain guests this summer with colorful dishware, useful utensils and fun lighting. Find all of these stores in and around Georgetown and happy grilling. [gallery ids="116179,116145,116151,116168,116174,116163,116157" nav="thumbs"]

‘Design@+’: Unique Take on Present and Future of Design in D.C. and Beijing

July 14, 2014

To celebrate of the 30th anniversary of the sister cities relationships between Washington, D.C., and Beijing, China, “Design@+” will run tomorrow through July 11, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., in the Powerhouse at 3255 Grace St., NW. The show, along with workshops, will present unique designs that resonate two distinctively different cultures.

“Design@+” — organized by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, State-Owned Cultural Assets Supervision and Administration Office of the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality and other organizations — will feature 80 contemporary designs by D.C.-based and Beijing-based designers, covering a wide variety of designs including furniture design, product design, fashion design, graphic design and digital and interactive design.

The Design @+ Initiative — the initiative that this exhibition is built upon — is an attempt to build a platform for designers to share their ideas, concerns and opinions. It also serves to provide an educational experience for future generation of designers who are looking to stay up-to-date with the contemporary designs.

**Some of the highlights for the exhibit include:**

• Designers’ talk: Design Matters – Tuesday, July 8 (10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.): A dialogue session between designers and curators on the different practices, marketing and educational aspect of the design industry.

• Roundtable Discussion: City Level Dialogue—Tuesday, July 8 (1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.): A discussion between officials from the two cities, Washington, D.C., and Beijing, on how the two cities can help in carrying out effective cultural exchanges.

• Google Art Night Talk: What is the Role of Technology (such as 3D printing) in Industrial Designs? Wednesday, July 9 (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.): This conversation aims to focus emerging technology in industrial design will feature co-founder of 3Doodler (the world’s first 3D printing pen). It will be broadcasted live through Google Hangout.
More information on this exhibit can be found [here](http://a585620891.oinsite.yh.mynet.cn/design.htm).
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Le Décor for Dad

June 30, 2014

This Father’s Day, give Dad a gift he won’t throw in a closet and forget. These gifts give back, in and around the house. Toast Dad on his special day and get him something memorable – to be shared with family and friends alike.

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Georgetown Garden Tour Has Banner Day

May 15, 2014

Despite a downpour and drizzle — something every garden needs — the Georgetown Garden Tour enjoyed a busy day with visitors checking out gardens, each with its own noteworthy and high qualities.

While the Pyne garden got top attention, across town there were nine gardens for lovers of horticulture and home with arrivals at most place continuing right up to 5 p.m.
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