Modern Traditions

November 8, 2016

As we count down to turkey dinners and caroling, our homes reflect holiday traditions and décor. Why not take something old and make it new again? Check out these winning […]

Watergate Rebirth: ‘Swinging Sixties’ Designed By Millennials

October 26, 2016

After purchasing the shuttered Watergate Hotel in 2010 for $45 million in cash, Euro Capital Properties put in about $125 million more and reopened the hotel last spring.

Keith Lipert Gallery Moving to Canal Square

October 24, 2016

Founded in 1994, after January the gallery will refocus in its new location on bespoke corporate gifts.

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.
[gallery ids="102384,123363,123329,123337,123343,123349,123370,123354,123359" nav="thumbs"]

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 ( 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 [gallery ids="102333,125767" nav="thumbs"]