DC Design House Opens Oct. 1 on Foxhall Road

August 10, 2016

A fundraiser for Children’s National Health System, the premier provider of pediatric services in the metro area, the DC Design House has become an annual affair that has attracted more […]

Gifts for Mom & the Home

May 4, 2016

Sometimes shopping for mom is a tough task. Here are some ideas for every type of mom in your life. From beautiful decorative accents to cute keepsake boxes, these gorgeous home gifts for moms are a great way to say, “I love you.” [gallery ids="102224,130469,130505,130489,130477,130494,130499,130484" nav="thumbs"]

Everything’s Coming Up Lilac & Lavender

April 8, 2016

Shades of lavender and lilac can breathe life into an otherwise dull or bland décor. A dash of purple can alter your home’s vibe, giving it a chic, modern, exquisite, elegant, sophisticated — or even cozy — feel.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
? Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” [gallery ids="102402,122657,122660,122673,122633,122640,122667,122652,122645" nav="thumbs"]

Home Is Where the Hearth Is

February 10, 2016

The hearth is both the focal point of a room and a handy functional element on a chilly night. By incorporating pops of color and unique accessories, any owner can express her (or his) passions, hobbies and style.
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Gifts for the Home

January 11, 2016

Gift ideas for the kitchen, the office and every other room in your home. Happy holidays! [gallery ids="102172,132352,132341,132334,132328,132320,132305,132347,132362,132312,132357" nav="thumbs"]

The Utensils: From Eating to Dining

Early Americans were close to medieval in their dining habits. Even though people have been sharing communal meals with their families and friends from the beginning of civilization, early meals in Colonial America were more a matter of crude survival.
Most foods in the colony-building 17th century consisted of one-pot dishes like stews, porridges and puddings, meals that are suited for cooking over an open fire. Tableware and dining utensils were scarce; hence, meals were eaten from shared utensils, bowls and wooden cups, called noggins, passed from mouth to mouth. Although using communal tableware was borne of necessity, it was also customary, as the Puritan ethic espoused frugality and simplicity. It was related that a newcomer to one New England town brought individual trenchers for each member of his family and was admonished by the town magistrates for being too extravagant.
A typical family ate off trenchers, a 10- or 12-inch rectangular block of wood about three inches thick with a bowl shape carved into it. After the main course, the trencher was turned over and dessert was served on the clean side. A poor, rural family might eat from a trencher that was actually a table of sorts made from a long block of wood with a “V” shaped trough cut through the center into which the stew was poured and shared by all. Some families dispensed with trenchers altogether, and ate “spoon meat,” roasted meat served on thick slices of bread.

Prior to the American Revolution, most Americans ate with spoons made from shell, horn, wood or gourds. Sharp knives, also used as weapons, were initially used less to cut meat, than to anchor it down while people tore off a piece with their hands and shoved it into their mouths. The blunt-tipped knives imported to the colonies were the precursors to the fork and often food was brought to the mouth on the flat edge of the knife. Until the late 18th century, forks were still uncommon in the colonies and deemed a curiosity. Since the new blunt knives made it difficult to spear food, the two-prong fork was used to hold meat while being cut — but still not so helpful for holding bites of food.

By the middle of the 18th century, early Americans began to acquire more wealth and mass-produced dining utensils were becoming more available and affordable. A sign of refinement was the appearance of individual place settings. The simple fork significantly refined table manners, as hands were no longer used to reach for food and greasy fingers no longer wiped on the tablecloth.

Although forks had been used by the French court as early as the 14th century, they were used only when eating exotic foods or foods that could easily stain the hands. By the 17th century, travelers had spread the word about this eating invention. It became commonplace throughout Europe, but the colonies still refused to use the fork. They looked upon it as an effeminate and useless curiosity. Finally, by the early 19th century, the three- and four-prong forks, developed in England and Germany, were becoming the primary eating utensil in America and marked the real beginning of civilized dining by Americans.

Meanwhile, fewer middle and upper class folk ate from a common serving bowl. Pewter plates began replacing wooden trenchers, and many affluent households did not use woodenware at all. However, people living far out in the newer settlements, away from transportation centers used it for about 200 years. China first made an appearance in the early 18th century, but was found only in wealthier households — and it rarely came out of the china closet.

By the middle of the 19th century, dining in America was not just about eating. Victorians, with their love of making any simple gathering an event, were the first to identify a specific room for dining. They introduced a bewildering assortment of silver flatware, a far cry from the simple knives of their ancestors. There was a specialized utensil for every conceivable use. There was a spoon for cream soup, a special spoon for clear soup, luncheon knives, dinner knives and coffee spoons, dinner spoons,

dessert spoons and so on. There were so many dining accoutrements that it seemed there was scarcely room on the table for the food.
Even though the United States was one of the last regions to adopt spoons and forks, we still tuck into great fried chicken using our most efficient eating tools — those located on the ends of our arms.

Michelle Galler (antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com) is an antiques dealer, design consultant and realtor based in Georgetown. Her shop is in Rare Finds, in Washington, Virginia.

The Art and Fashion of Mourning

October 29, 2015

Thanks to Halloween, this is the month of the macabre, which makes it a perfect time of year to discuss antique mourning jewelry.

Death came early and often in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In Colonial America, or the Georgian era (1714 to 1837), the specter of death was persistent. Much art and jewelry design was focused on the concept of Memento Mori: the medieval practice of pondering mortality and the salvation of the soul. Through the 1700s, jewelry of this type often featured ghoulish images of skulls, gravediggers and coffins.

Although people had made jewelry to commemorate death for centuries, it wasn’t until the reign of Queen Victoria that pieces were made to remember a dead individual. Before photography, the only way for people to remember a loved one was to create a touchstone that could be carried every day as a reminder.

In 1861, after the death of her beloved Albert, Queen Victoria went into perpetual mourning. The queen’s epic sadness over her loss was a major catalyst for mourning fashion. Her reign marked the height of the mourning industry.

For decades, Queen Victoria wore only black clothing and matching mourning jewelry, popularizing the tradition both in England and in the U.S. During her reign, mourning grew into a respectful, yet fashionable practice. Women became quite interested in wearing attractive mourning dresses and jewelry.

The etiquette for mourning fashion became so stringent, elaborate and confusing that magazines published guides and schedules, describing, for example, how a widow’s mourning was expected to last two years. During the first year, she was allowed to wear only black clothing and jewelry, which led to a tremendous rise in the popularity of jet — black, fossilized coal — in jewelry design.

Although black was the obvious color for mourning jewelry, certain distinctions were made about the piece’s surface. Since the earliest stages of mourning were strictly regulated, it was considered poor taste to wear highly polished jet too soon. So matte-finished pieces were made for early mourning.

Black enamel, along with jet, was the hallmark of most — but not all — mourning jewelry. Pieces that used white enamel meant that the deceased woman was unmarried and pearls signified the loss of a child.

During the Victorian period, symbols of death softened into angels, clouds, weeping willows and urns. Phrases like “in memory of” and “lost but not forgotten” were frequently used in jewelry designs along with gemstones.

As the middle class rose and desired more affordable options, bits of the deceased’s hair were worked into more pieces. Hairwork refers to jewelry and art made from woven human hair. The intimacy of preserving someone’s memory by using a lock of his or her hair appealed to many.

The popularity of hairwork created a large market for mass-produced gold fittings for specially commissioned items using the deceased’s hair. People made wreaths, men’s watch fobs, bracelets, necklaces and brooches out of human hair. During the mid-1800s, with the increased demand for hairwork as mourning jewelry, there was widespread distrust of jewelers who neglected to use the deceased’s hair in “custom-made” pieces. In fact, more than 50 tons of bulk human hair were imported to England annually to be used by the country’s jewelers.

The high mortality rate of the First World War led to a decline in the formality of mourning. This period of mass human attrition blurred the lines of mourning regulations. Families felt personally impacted by the Great War. Death was closer, a part of day-to-day life. Public mourning codes became a burden. So many people were trying to cope with grief that mourning fashion and strict codes were increasingly viewed as affectations.

By the 1920s, people were tired of drab mourning clothing and even the concept of a regulated mourning period seemed antiquated. The fashion of mourning was soon abandoned.

Our own Tudor Place has an extensive collection of hairwork mourning jewelry, including a gold-edged locket containing locks of George Washington’s hair. In 2010, curators discovered a locket from 1845 in the Tudor Place archives with a lock of child’s hair that belonged to an ancestor of the Armisteads, the last owners of the property.

Michelle Galler, a specialist in American primitives and folk art, lives in Georgetown. Her shop is in Rare Finds in Washington, Virginia. Reach her at antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com. [gallery ids="102333,125767" nav="thumbs"]

Love of History and Home: Georgetown House Tour 2013

September 21, 2015

The country’s oldest house tour, often called “the glue that holds Georgetown together,” comes again this Saturday, April 27. This year, longtime supporters and Georgetown residents Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell open their historically preserved home, five years in the making, for this year’s Patrons’ Party.

The Georgetown House Tour is a celebration of what makes our neighborhood great. This Saturday’s annual tour will provide the best opportunity to experience what Georgetown is all about. This year, ten Georgetown homes will be open to the public to view their interiors as a benefit for St. John’s Church’s outreach programs. The homes range from contemporary to traditional, but all are beautiful examples of what is here.

The preservation of these historic Washington homes is one of the things this community safeguards. An example of the importance of this devotion is the home of the hosts of this year’s Patron’s Party, Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell.

Anderson and Schappell have had a love affair with Georgetown for the better part of their adult lives. After his undergraduate studies, Schappell moved to Georgetown to attend George Washington University and completed his Ph.D. Anderson was drawn initially to Georgetown to help his friend Sam Pardoe start a real estate company in Georgetown, but instead opted to move to New York City to become part of the founding group of Sotheby’s International Realty, when it was under the ownership of the art auction house bearing its name.

Both flipped back and forth between New York City and Washington and Georgetown several times over the next decade for various positions: Anderson with Sotheby’s; Schappell in various general management consulting roles, before settling into New York City for almost 25 years. Anderson became the executive vice president for Sotheby’s International Realty, while Schappell became co-head of the United States, and Managing Partner of New York for Egon Zehnder International, one of the “big 5” executive search firms globally.

Then, back to Georgetown they came again: Anderson in 2005 and Schappell in 2007 to join a firm they had helped found in 1999, Washington Fine Properties, one of the premier residential real estate firms in and around D.C.

“Coming back to Washington in 2005 was in many ways like coming full circle,” Anderson said. “I had always loved living in Washington, and we had so many great friends here.” Schappell agreed: “We had incredibly fond memories of having lived here before. So, we were really excited about it.”

In moving back, their first house they bought sight unseen — thanks to their partners at WFP Dana Landry and Bill Moody. That home hardly had its paint dry before their current home came on the market, which they bought immediately. “It was one of three homes in Washington that I had admired most since my graduate school days, never dreaming that I might live in it one day,” Schappell said. “It just spoke to both of us,” Anderson said.

Then came the restoration, all five years of it.

“Talk about the wonderful community of neighbors that Georgetown is all about,” Anderson said. “We really put it to the test.”
“It’s a true Federal,” said Schappell, who still manages to sit on the Board of the New York Landmarks Conservancy in New York. “What was so special to us was that the house still had so many of its original features, such as its staircase, its windows and its moldings.”

According to the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 3142 P Street, built between 1790 and 1800, was known as the Bodisco House in 1927. Russian ambassador Alexander de Bodisco married Harriet Williams, who was given away by Henry Clay. According to the article, “the marriage lifted the girl from obscurity to the highest round of the social ladder and the vast wealth of her husband adorned her with flashing jewels that became known the world over.” The article continues, “the most superb fete ever given in the District, according to some historians, was given in this house in honor of the birthday of the Emperor Nicholas, when 800 guests were invited.” Before the Civil War, 3142 P Street was the home of the Rev. Mr. Simpson, and later it became the residence of William H. Tenney, who owned a mill in Georgetown. There is, of course, another Bodisco House — perhaps more well known — at 3322 O St., NW, the home of Secretary of State John Kerry and Teresa Heinz.

Today, Anderson and Schappell’s home has a lot of features that its predecessors did not enjoy, but they are proud of the fact that they were able to preserve so much of the original fabric of the house.

“We had a great contractor, Danny Ngo, who, by the way, was the contractor for another home on the tour this year, 3245 N Street,” Anderson said — to which Schappell added, “And a great decorator, Susan Beimler, who helped us tremendously with color and textiles.”

Of the P Street house, Beimler said, “Their home has great bones, and I wanted to make sure we built on the wonderful foundation that was already in place. Tom and Marc are avid collectors of American and English antiques. So, it was a very easy collaboration for me.” “We couldn’t have done it without her,” Anderson said.
Anderson called the house’s restoration and preservation “a great journey.”

“At times, like when we were digging out the basement which didn’t exist beforehand, we wondered if we were ever going to see the end,” Schappell said. “But then we’ve put ourselves through this drill more than once.”

Anderson and Schappell also have a historic home in Southampton, N.Y. — where they are hosting the Southampton Historic House Tour’s Patron’s Party next week — as well as in Palm Beach, Fla. The big secret is actually their cattle operation — “Think Belted Galloway cattle that look like Oreo cookies,” Schappell said — and sheep dairy in upstate New York (Meadowood Farms), where they make an artisanal sheep cheese which can be bought at Cowgirl Creamery here in D.C.

“We are very, very pleased to open up our doors, contributing to the spirit of the community,” Anderson said.
At 3142 P Street, an old wisteria vine climbs the “front” of the house. Like many Georgetown homes, the side of the house facing P Street is actually the back of the house, the front of the house facing what was the Port of Georgetown, now with a view of Rosslyn, Va., and the Georgetown Inn.

“The Georgetown House Tour speaks to the best of what Georgetown is all about, which is its architecture and the vibrant neighborhood that it is,” Schappell said.
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Graniteware: Marbled, Mottled or Plain

September 2, 2015

In the American collective memories of early TV westerns, dusty cowboys gathered around the chuck-wagon fire pouring cups of java from a rusty old graniteware coffeepot. Graniteware, also known as enamelware, existed long before cowboys and covered wagons and has been widely used for utilitarian purposes in homes throughout the world.
Fusing powdered glass to metal through the process of firing has been around for centuries. It was used to produce decorative pieces throughout Europe and Asia. Although the process was popular in several European countries, in the 18th century, two German brothers adapted the process from the purely decorative, beginning a new era for enameled kitchenware. After paying a European maker $5,000 to observe the process and learn the technique, the Niedringhaus brothers applied for a patent and started the business of coating the inside of cast-iron pots to stop the metallic taste from leaching through to the food.

Over the next several decades, the demand for enameled ironware grew throughout Europe, and coated kitchenware was very attractive to many a European cook. By the mid-1800s, the brothers decided to win over American cooks as well with this new process and they opened a factory in St. Louis. Still, even though it was easier to handle and to clean, early enamelware was plain and utilitarian, a long way from the colorful, mass-produced utensils of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

By the 1860s, two big U.S. companies were making enameled housewares, creating a surge in creative competition. Along with the Niedringhaus brothers came Lalance and Grosjean, a French company that set up a factory in New York. In a quest to maintain a market edge, the Niedringhaus brothers took the science of enameling a step further and developed what became known as graniteware. While the enamel was still wet, they applied a thin piece of paper with an oxidized pattern on it. Once the piece dried, the paper fell away, leaving a design with the appearance of granite — hence, graniteware.

The name and the cookware caught on and thus began the great graniteware boom in America, which lasted beyond the turn of the century. Success brought growth and the brothers built a new factory on 3,500 acres in what would become Granite City, Illinois.

Speckled, swirled, mottled and solid, graniteware came in a variety of colors: red, blue, purple, brown, green, pink, gray and white. As the years passed, each period had its own style and color. One of the most popular patterns, even with today’s collectors, was called “end of the day.” Whatever colors were left over at the end of the day were mixed together to make a very unusual and unique color.

Although graniteware was lighter weight than cast iron, there were some problems with it. It tended to crack and then rust all the way through. There were also suspicions that some formulas leaked toxins into food. In the 1890s, agate nickel-steel ware ads claimed a “chemist’s certificate,” proving that it was free of any toxins. Also known as agateware or speckleware, mottled pieces of every color became available at low cost and were a huge success.

Today, graniteware is still popular with collectors. Most collectors hunt for graniteware pots and pans manufactured before 1900. Older pieces are of heavier weight, constructed with seams and possibly riveted. Much of the ware was first issued with cast-iron handles during the 19th century, and wooden handles were used at the turn of the century through 1910. Despite the heavy production of graniteware, many of the pieces were not marked, so those with marks of the original manufactures are sought after.

Collecting vintage graniteware is very appealing and people use the pieces in creative, new ways to decorate their homes. Some collect a particular color or pattern. Designers are on the lookout for older pieces to add a touch of color to a room. Prices continue to rise and are affected by color and condition. Colors that tend to be popular with collectors include cobalt blue, red-and-white swirls, green and brown. Pieces with unusual designs are also popular. Purple, brown and green swirl pieces seem to command higher prices. Buyers should be aware that reproduction pieces are made today in all colors.

Although the advent of aluminum in the 1930s crimped the popularity of graniteware and thus its manufacture, it was definitely not as much fun to use.

Georgetown resident Michelle Galler specializes in American primitives and folk art. Her shop is in Rare Finds in Washington, Virginia. Reach her at antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com](mailto:antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com).

Art of the Noble Notchers

May 7, 2015

The hobos feared the tramps and the tramps viewed the hobos as suckers for work. Hobos, wandering migrant workers, stopped in a place long enough to do a job and then moved on. Although tramps were traveling men, too, they rarely lifted a finger unless coerced. Yet, in the late 1800s, itinerants of both persuasions jumped the same trains, were locked up in the same jail cells and ate and slept in the same hobo “jungles.”

As they warmed themselves around the campfires and shared stories of their daily survival, the hobos whittled and the tramps carved intricate, and sometimes whimsical, objects that have come to be known as Tramp Art.

From the 1870s to the 1930s, this relatively little-known folk art blossomed. Although it may have originated with displaced individuals, many a farmer, factory worker and laborer turned out his own version of chip-carved and layered pieces in his own home-based workshops.

Actually, the name Tramp Art was applied to this art form in the 1950s. There were more than 40 ethnic groups creating this art in this country. There is even evidence of retired Civil War soldiers making tramp art in their later years.

Also known as chip art, tramp art shares its vocabulary with quilts, since both traditions use salvaged materials cut into geometric shapes and layered together to create utilitarian objects. Using recycled wood, primarily from the then-ubiquitous cigar boxes or produce crates, and with simple pocketknives as their primary tool, these unschooled artisans carved the discarded wood pieces into objects of every conceivable shape.

The art form was driven by the abundance of wooden cigar boxes and their availability to the artists. The wooden boxes were used for cigar sales in the 1850s, and – since revenue laws did not permit the boxes to be used a second time for cigars – enterprising souls found new uses for the boxes. Since the boxes were plentiful, free and easily carved, ornamenting them by chip carving became popular.

The technique consisted of notch-carving each piece of cigar-box wood with consecutive Vs around its edges. Then it was layered with another piece that had been notched similarly, each layer a bit smaller than the preceding one. The artist then had to assemble the individual pieces of carved wood into a recognizable object. Layer upon layer of decorated wood would become a decorative and, typically, functional item.

Another tramp art technique, called the “crown of thorns,” involved the interlocking of small, notched pieces of wood, much like a log cabin is built. The interlocking pieces were layered and formed a star effect.

Tramp art was an “everyman” craft, practiced by humble men who made objects for their own use or, sometimes, for barter: a picture frame for a daughter’s wedding; a jewelry box, festooned with hearts, for a beloved wife; a gift for a friend. These pieces spoke of devotion and love and the need for these workers to make things of beauty. The heart motif is a common one, as were stars and crucifixes.

Many dealers of folk art and antiques sell the myriad forms of tramp art, including boxes, picture frames, religious artifacts and even larger pieces of furniture. Some pieces were painted, and, these days, anything with the rich patina of old paint is sought-after. Many pieces were clear-coated to show the wood grain.

Prices for tramp art have increased significantly within the last decade, especially since American folk art has gained a huge following with collectors and decorators. Folk art – and tramp art, specifically – seems to attract many younger collectors, perhaps due to its whimsical nature.

The value of a piece reflects the intricacy of the object, the uniqueness of the form and the condition, but, generally, good quality examples can range from a couple hundred dollars for a box up to several thousand for an altar or a cabinet. The beauty of collecting this vintage art of hardscrabble origins is in appreciating how such humble materials have yielded such a tremendous breadth of very distinctive work.

Michelle Galler has been an antiques dealer for more than 25 years. Her shop is in Rare Finds, 211 Main Street, Washington, Virginia. She also consults from her 19th century-home in Washington. Reach her at antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com.
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