StyleFile#60: Raw Plaster Walls

Prior to 1950, homes didn’t have sheetrock. They had lath (strips of wood nailed to the studs) and plaster- a mixture of lime, sand and water that was spread on the wall by hand. After the plaster dried (cure time was about a month), it created a reasonably smooth, hard surface. The use of nails to hang pictures was discouraged since this caused the plaster to chip. Paint and wallpaper were the usual coverups. Fast forward to today- homeowners are choosing to strip off the these layers and keep the look of raw plaster.





(Photos- Design Sponge, Andrew Wood for ‘Country And Modern‘, The World of Interiors Magazine, July 2000, Michael Mundy for House & Garden Magazine)

Decorating Tips From Albert Hadley

A visitor to designer Albert Hadley‘s old farmhouse in the 1980’s asks what set of rules, if any, did he decorate by? Here was his reply-


“Well…I respect enormously the time and place of any architecture, and how one furnishes it depends on what it says.”


“Also, there’s a continuity to one’s taste. If you really like things they all tend to be of the same spirit and they all work together.”


“If you don’t know right away that something is something you want or can use, you shouldn’t buy it.”

(Photos- Mary Cantwell for House & Garden Magazine)

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Decorating Tip From David Hicks

StyleFile#59: Details From John Derian’s Home

Decoupage artist John Derian bought a wonderful, old house in Provincetown, Massachusetts and has left it blissfully untouched. Here are just a few details that I love-

1. Texan tumbleweed fills an unused 19th century fireplace. On the mantle is a wooden rope bed key (used to tight the rope supports in colonial beds), a collage by Paul Lee and a vintage seascape painting. A bright blue painted floor has drops of other colors done with a dry brush.

2. The previous owner’s wallpaper is left intact to provide a backdrop for a 19th century tufted French bench & c. 1850 tattered horsehair and muslin chair. Check out the wood block that stands in for a coffee table.

3. An early 1800’s American dining table does double duty- as surface for meals and a place for impromptu games of ping pong!

4. Not only does this antique round butcher block table look great but it also helps provide a spot in a kitchen with limited counter space.

5. Why cover up a beautiful maple bed with a canopy or dust ruffle? Some other unexpected touches include replacing the predictable bedspread with a vintage sari and using an 1800’s French washstand for a side table.

(Photos- 2,4&5 by Eric Boman for American Vogue Living. 1 &3 by Martyn Thompson for Australian Vogue Living)

Related Nibs post-


StyleFile#58: Going Global

Don’t you find the diversity of traditional costumes from other parts of the world fascinating? Some styles have developed over hundreds of years. Some are no longer worn except as part of celebrations or at festivals.

Fashion designers and stylists often draw inspirations from one or several countries to create something totally unique. Take a look-

A riot of bright colors, exotic prints….

Vest designed by Anna Tilman

…multiple layers…

Sweater (left) designed by Sarah Hatton

Vest (right) designed by Amanda Crawford

… and amazing textures are found in an article from Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine #39, 2006.

Necklace designed by Sharon Miler

American Vogue did something similar in a spring 2010 photo shoot called ‘The Wanderers.’ Mixing it up- Versace dot jacket, trousers and dress worn with an Escada blouse and Duro Olowu floral skirt.

Resting easy- Lanvin beaded dress, Miu Miu cropped trousers and Ann Taylor cashmere cardigan. Jutta Neumann sandals.

Seeing double- Missioni sweater and dress (left) and Missioni tank, cardigan, bodysuit and skirt (right). Louis Vuitton footwear.

(Vogue photos- Arthur Elgort. Stylist- Tonne Goodman)

Related Nibs posts-


Book- ‘Costumes And Styles’

Bloomingdale’s Model Rooms

As part of my training for a degree in Interior Design, I had to fulfill four internships. An internship meant that I worked for either an individual designer or a design related business. One of my favorite internships was working for the design service offered at Bloomingdale’s in New Jersey.


They had on staff several well respected designers who took on clients usually through the purchase of furniture and/or accessories. The store also had created four large model rooms where every few months the designers would work their magic using Bloomingdale’s collection of furniture and accessories.


No detail was overlooked. Trades people were called in to do the carpentry, painting, wallpapering, and sewing. Many times there were special orders for custom pieces and antiques- solely to suit the room’s decor. While the rooms were under construction, curtains hid everything from view. Then like theater, when everything was in place, they were pulled back to reveal some pretty amazing spaces.


And like a dope, I never bothered to photograph any of them. So…when I came across this book ‘Bloomingdale’s Book of Home Decorating‘ I was elated. No, there aren’t any pictures of the rooms I had been a part of- it predates that. But it does have plenty of inspiring ones done by the author/designer Barbara D’arcy for the NYC store.

StyleFile#57: Keep It Simple, Steve.

I’ve been a longstanding admirer of designer Steve Gambrel. This unassuming 1930’s house is by far my favorite project of his. The clients were not interested in impressing their neighbors by a grand makeover, but wanted to keep their seaside home as it was…only better. Did Gambrel succeed? When does he not?!


Foyer- High gloss enamel paint was used on the paneled walls of the house’s foyer. The floors were ebonized and finished with varnish. As always Gambrel mixes furniture with ease. My favorites are these mid-century rope chairs on either side of the old table.


Living room- This space retained its original pine paneling and Gambral played off its linear design with a custom striped rug from Woodard Weave Collection.  (Here’s another view of the living room.)


Living room detail- The house already had ample bookshelves so Gambrel had them painted and then arranged a series of photos of ships along with the family’s sailing snapshots.


Dining room– Unpainted paneling is the background for a large vintage table and chairs. Instead of expensive fabric on the chairs, they have been covered in upholsterer’s white muslin.


Kitchen- Pre-existing cabinets were simply painted white and pale green. Accessories from Target fill the open shelves.


Second floor hall- Prized 1930’s paintings collected for years now hang in the upstairs hall way.


Master Bedroom (above and below)- The master bedroom is actually two rooms with identical back-to-back corner fireplaces. Another great furniture choice was this Gio Ponti black lacquered/rush chair and ottoman.


(Photos by A. Bootz for American Homestyle & Gardening)

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One House, Two Different Owners

StyleFile#56: Russian Folk Houses


The Russian Victorian folk houses have several similarities to their western counterparts. They both were built from around 1870 to 1910. They both were one or two stories high and both were identified by their intricate decorative detail. But what I find so remarkable is that some have remained in the same Russian family for generations and consequently, the interiors are layered with history and memories.


Here large water-color paintings are merely thumb-tacked into the wall above a sofa-bed. I love the assortment of pillows- no two alike!


Flowers plucked from outside enhance an already bright yet simple dining room.


The kitchen brick walls and cupboards all get a coat of cool blue paint.


Notice the casual mix of patterns and colors for this bedroom.

(Photos- Tim Walker for Casa Vogue)

Related Nibs posts-

Victorian Houses

StyleFile Update- More Birch!

I found some more wonderful birch ideas to add to my file on “The Beauty Of Birch.” These are all in the current issue of French Marie Claire Idées.


Bring the outside in! A table top covered in formica rests on eight birch log legs. The fun surprise is the birch branch poking through the table top!


Here is a touch of birch in this rustic spin on a bulletin board. Linen covers the birch-framed board.


Wow! Chips of birch cover the doors of this cupboard. Check out the knobs- they’re made from birch cast offs!

StyleFile #50: Foyers

foyer- an entrance way or transitional space from the exterior to the interior of a building or home.

Foyers reveal more than you think. They are wonderful preludes not only to your home but to you personally. Don’t leave it as an afterthought! Instead try and create a visually exciting space that plays off the architecture and offers hints to your interests. Here are just a few of my favorites to inspire you!

The front door leads right into this gracious foyer of an older home. What keeps it interesting, though, are all the homeower’s touches- plants, needlepoint rug, antiques, and a surprise- the salvaged cornice placed over the door!

Bright yellow walls greet guests to this home in Europe. Notice the fun patterned door, paintings, fabric covered lampshade and the couple’s collection of umbrellas!

I love the soft blue used on the wainscot and rug in this Swedish summer cottage. The curves of the Thonet bench break of the linear lines of the paneling and act as a ground for the monochromatic color scheme.

Artist John Derian‘s apartment in New York City has a very small but memorable foyer! He covered the walls and the front door with pages torn from old books!

Built in 1835, this house boasted a stunning entry foyer! The owner’s passion for Swedish design dictated the light colors and the well chosen antiques- the Charles Eastlake hat rack, an inherited 1930’s Renaissance style table and the large pendant light fixture.

Fun and quirky are the words that come to mind when entering this foyer of a young family in California. Check out the chair!

Wow! Talk about a flamboyant mix of styles! The neoclassical staircase becomes almost playful when combined with vintage red Jean Royere armchairs and a seashell covered mirror!

(Photos- House and Garden, World of Interiors, Elle Decor)