October 19, 2014

I’ll Take This: Regency Terrace in Brighton

As I was surfing through the real estate listings in the Guardian, this gorgeous Regency terrace house in Brighton, England caught my eye. When I clicked on the link, I was gob-smacked! What a stunning house in a near perfect location!

The house was built around 1820, probably as a spec property. It is has 180* views of the sea and encompasses more than 10,000 square feet on five levels. Members of London society came to Brighton for “the season” and this house was probably rented out to some of them. Over the next almost 200 years, it was home to members of the nobility, and even the Vanderbilt family. It was also used as a convalescent home after WWI.

Let’s take a look inside…

The house has been owned by the current family for 18 years and they completed a massive and sympathetic renovation. The house retains many of its original details, including the black and white marble floor and the architectural ornamentation in the reception hall.

The dining room is on the other side of the reception hall and features original plaster work on the ceiling and elaborately carved pelmets over the bow windows and a grand fireplace.
The south-west facing kitchen/breakfast room with 14 foot ceilings and intricate cornicing is the perfect place to watch the setting sun.
The stone cantilevered staircase with ornate cast iron balustrade creates an elegant center piece as it rises up through the floors with a magnificent central roof lantern which floods the staircase with natural light. The staircase also features original Lincrusta plaster work up to the
dado rail. On the first floor landing, ornate alabaster pillars support carved capitals and are surrounded with more ornate plaster ceilings.
On the other side of the landing is a double height library which can also be accessed from the second floor mezzanine level.
On the fourth floor, a large west facing sitting room gives access to the roof terrace with 180 degree far reaching views from Brighton Marina across to Worthing.

This amazing property can be yours for just £3,250,000, which is a bit more than $5 million. For more details, including the floorplans, please click here.

October 16, 2014


Do you know that October is Architecture Month? It used to be Architecture Week, but there were too many things to try and cram into one week, that gradually it was extended to a month… and even a week or so before and after!

Most major cities have a range of events around Archtober, and Baltimore is no exception. Baltimore actually launched our Architecture Month in late September with Léon Krier who discussed Design for Living. There are several interesting upcoming events, sponsored by the AIA Baltimore and Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

First is a forum on The History and Legacy of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre on October 21. The Mechanic, as it is called, is a prime example of the Béton brut style of architecture that was very popular, especially in public buildings from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. It is often referred to as Brutalist architecture because of its hard unfinished concrete slab style, and lack of ornamentation. mechanic

I am not a fan of it, however, I do understand that that it needs to be part of the architectural vocabulary of a city. The Mechanic is in the process of being demolished for another project. It’s been sitting, unused, for more than ten years, doomed to failure by its poor acoustics, bad sightlines and small size. The event is free, but reservations are required.

Another Archtober event is Doors Open Baltimore, part of a world-wide open house program which will take place on October 25th. Doors Open Baltimore welcomes the public to tour buildings passed by regularly, but not often entered. This year’s theme is Industrial Baltimore, with more than 40 buildings across Baltimore open for visiting. imageThe website is fabulous, with gorgeous images of some of the buildings, loads of historical information about them and a map to each site. This is the first annual Doors Open and it’s something we’ve been trying to get off the ground ever since I did the one in London a few years ago (before blogging!).

Another fun event, and one I was proud to be a part of, was the Architecture Seen photo contest. This year’s theme was Entryways, and it was very broadly interpreted. One thread running through all of the images, was that they had to be taken in Baltimore.image Some of the entries were simply stunning and we had a hard time judging them. My fellow judges and I never came to blows, but there was some lively discussion. I was the rank amateur of the group, but I managed to hold my own! Please join us on November 4th at 750 E. Pratt St, Sky Lobby Conference Center for the official announcement of the prize winning entries. If you’re in Baltimore, the top photos from the contest will be on display at Miss Shirley’s Cafe Roland Park location from October 20-31st.

Check with your local chapter of the AIA or Architecture Foundation, and see what they have planned for Archtober!

October 14, 2014

Some Ruin P*rn

(* is so that I don’t get blocked, but you know what I mean…)

During lunch, I try and get out of the office, either to take a walk, or just drive around the area near my office. It’s an area that’s often over-looked, because, it’s where much of The Wire took place, and probably isn’t the safest area in the city. But I am driving around in broad daylight, with the windows up and the car doors locked.

Anyway… as I was exploring this week, and looking for another old abandoned mansion, I came across this mansion. sellers1

It literally stopped me in my tracks. I jammed on the brakes and pulled over to take some pictures of it. It just broke my heart because I could still see that it had, once upon a time, been a beautiful classically built house. And now it was sitting, broken and abandoned, just falling apart. The red and white X on the door indicates that the interior is in such condition that the fire department should not enter the house. IMG_4682

It’s a huge house, this is the side view, and had so much architectural detail on it. From the corbels to the dentil moulding on the roofline, to the gracious proportions, it had once been an elegant home.IMG_4685

When I got back to the office, I did some research and found that it had been called the “Sellers Mansion”, named after Matthew Sellers, the President of the Northern Central Railway and his son, also Matthew Bacon Sellers, who was an aeronautical inventor who laid the ground work for what we know today as NASA. He is also believed to have flown before the Wright Brothers (who had better PR). The younger Matthew’s brother and sister lived in the house for many years, and from 1930 until their deaths in the 1950’s, never left the house.  sellers2

My friends at Baltimore Heritage have this to say about the house:

Its carved stone lintels, patterned slate roof, original roof cresting, and its two classically detailed porticoes (one of which still retains its elegantly carved wooden columns and capitals) identified this household as one of taste and affluence.

There is evidence that the house once had an Italianate cupola above the mansard roof, which was probably used to help with the ventilation.

After the deaths of the siblings, the house changed owners a few times, but went through a major restoration in the 1960’s. The house was eventually purchased by a local church, who planned to convert it into apartments. There is already a hideous mid-60’s high-rise apartment house immediately adjacent to this house. imageHowever, the church has basically let the Sellers Mansion fall into ruin, with no consequences, other than public shaming. The “development corp” which they set up to convert the building is no longer in existence. image

Although I love looking at these wonderful old buildings and have a deep appreciation for what they once were, I think that it’s borderline criminal when people let them fall into this kind of condition. Especially a church, which exists for the greater good.

October 12, 2014

#ThisIsBaltimore (Late Again!)

I was just asked to give a lecture in the spring, and the topic is Baltimore, of course. The last lecture I did for this group was “Baltimore: It’s Not Just The Wire”, but I didn’t want to repeat that exactly. So we tossed around some ideas, and decided to combine the Baltimore lecture with another one I gave called “The Quest for Inspiring Design”. We need a title for the lecture, so I tossed it to my creative and funny friends on Facebook.

Our friend Adam suggested “#ThisisBaltimore: An Amateur's view of Architecture in Baltimore”. It’s good because it combines the hashtag I’ve been using on Instagram and the fact that I am not a professional architect.

Pride of Baltimore II leaving the Inner Harbourinstagram

My hilarious friend-since-prep-school, Randy suggested this title “IONIC, DORIAN, and CORINTHIAN LEATHER: Is there a connection between columns and Ricardo Montalbán in the study of architecture?” I am fairly certain that’s not going to make the final cut.

The anonymous Washington Cube suggested “Oh Say Can You See... Baltimore Through A Baltimorean's Eyes.”

I was so proud of Baltimore’s celebration for Star-Spangled 200! Everyone did an amazing job.image

The fabulous Karen Carroll, former editor of the late, great Southern Accents suggested “A bird's eye view of Baltimore architecture” with that being a play on our two major sports teams, the Orioles and the Ravens.

Although I am a little freaked out that the O’s lost their first two games, they’ve had a great season. orioles game

Mike suggested the alliterative title of “Charming Places in Charming Spaces - A Laypersons' Guide to Baltimore's Bounty of Beautiful Buildings.” I am not 100% certain I could say this without sounding like I have a mouthful of marbles!

It’s amazing buildings like this one, in a marginal neighbourhood, that I want to show to people.image

This is the building you can see to the right of the one above. It’s gorgeous.image

And this is across the street. I adore the columns! This is where the famous art-collecting Cone Sisters lived. image

Stephanie Lowder, PR person extraordinaire, suggested a few including “No Art Degree, No Problem” and “Architecture for You and Me”. Good ones, because the lecture is supposed to bring architectural appreciation to non-architects.

This is the sweetest little pocket park. I am not sure what the statue is, but a friend-of-a-friend has taken it upon himself to make sure there are flowers and the park is kept clean. image

There were several other suggestions, all riffs on the ones above, as well as some that made no sense at all.

150-foot clock tower at Mount Royal Station, now part of the Maryland Institute College of Art or MICAimage

If you have any suggestions, please add them below! The lecture’s not until the spring of 2015, but I need to get some information to them shortly.

October 9, 2014

Some Sales

This is the time of year that you can find great tag sales and it’s fun to take advantage of them. I’ve culled some of the best of these to share with you, whether you’re in Baltimore or somewhere else.

First up, if you’re anywhere close to Salisbury, Connecticut this weekend, my friend and tastemaker, Pete Hathaway, is having a tent sale. Sale2Along with Pete will be the fabulous Hunter Bee which I had the chance to visit last year, Nest, which is also in Millerton, NY, a charming little town, and others. imageKnowing Pete, as I do, this is going to be a stellar sale and you should go… and then tell me all about it so I can be jealous.

In Baltimore, my friends Billy and Patrick are having their semi-annual sale. image

Billy is antiques dealer, and in his travels, he attends a number of auctions. With some of these auctions, you buy a box lot for just one thing in it. The other pieces may be perfect, but if they’re not what you want… So these are Billy’s left-overs. You might remember that I bought these fabulous candle-holders at the sale in the spring. image

I ended up spray-painting them black and giving them to my friend Andrea.  Here’s the link to the listing for Billy’s sale.

For those who are prone to planning ahead, there’s this sale!sale1

Yes, that’s right. Treillage, Holland & Sherry, Chelsea Editions and Vaughn! I don’t have a link to this yet, but I can’t even imaging how fabulous this is going to be!

Be sure to check your local Craigslist, neighbourhood listserv and lamp-posts for information about local sales!

October 7, 2014

Signed and Booked

I have always loved reading mystery books, ever since I was a child reading Nancy Drew and even the Hardy Boys. And that love didn’t change when I got older. I have always liked to read an author’s whole catalogue and when I discovered the Dick Francis books, I realized they combined several things that I love: mysteries, horse racing and England. Dick Francis was the Queen Mother’s steeplechase jockey and retired from racing to write books. He has since died, but his son Felix, who had helped him with the books, took over, writing as Dick Francis. damage (2)

Felix is in Baltimore for a few days, and my friends at Halcyon House Antiques held an English Drinks Party and Book Signing for Felix, which I was pleased to be invited to join. Dick Francis’s DAMAGE, by Felix Francis has just been released today, so it was extra special to be able to get the book on its release date! It’s also the 50th book that the Francis’s have written, so that’s quite an accomplishment.IMG_4527

Felix brought along copies of the covers of all 50 books, which have been done and redone over time, moving from very modern graphics, to the more realistic cover of his newest book. If you look closely below, you can see several of the older titles arranged on the mantel and the newest book on the desk.IMG_4521

Since this was an English drinks party, we had a pitcher full of Pims and some noshes for everyone!IMG_4516

Felix was charming and gave a nice background chat to the crowd and then spent the next hour or more signing books for everyone… and several books for a number of the guests!IMG_4553IMG_4561

He was also very kind about posing with the guests, many of whom were from the local hunts, or were riders themselves. IMG_4563

As usual, the flowers at Halcyon House Antiques were gorgeous and from the gardens that I’ve written about several times previously. IMG_4520IMG_4559IMG_4580

It was such fun to meet Felix and have the chance to tell him how much pleasure these books have brought to me, and many others, over so many years! He’s on a cross-country tour now, so check his Facebook page to see where he’ll be next. And if you’re looking for a great Christmas present, Halcyon House has a dozen or so signed copies of DAMAGE for sale.

October 5, 2014

Pet Portraits

As you may remember, my sweet dog, Connor, was painted by my friend, the artist, Sam Robinson, earlier this summer. I love the picture and adore Sam, so this is a present and picture that I will treasure forever. IMG_4378

Sam is having a show of his pet portraits at Halcyon House Antiques, beginning Saturday, October 11th. And he’s accepting commissions for portraits of man’s (or woman’s) best friend to be completed in time for the Christmas holidays. IMG_4364

Sam spends time with the dogs, getting to know them and their personalities, and takes pictures to help recall their spirits while he’s painting. Then he heads to his studio and starts the painting. IMG_4375Sam is a master at catching the spark in the dog’s eye, the shading of his coat, and the particular angle at which the dog holds his paw or cocks his head. IMG_2733Sam’s style is referred to as Expressive Realism, and with simple and effective brushstrokes, he grasps the essence that makes the dog so special to its owners.IMG_4371

In addition to Sam’s paintings, Halcyon House Antiques will have some of my friend Rebecca Vizard’s BViz Fortuny dog collars and leashes. These are seriously gorgeous and your dog will be so unbelievably chic wearing one of these.

They come in sizes from extra small to extra large, so there’s one to fit your dog.IMG_4385

Come on out to Halcyon House, starting Saturday, or join us for a drink on Friday evening. I’d love to see you, and I know you will love Sam’s portraits… IMG_4386

And seriously, it’s not too early to think about shopping for the holidays!

October 2, 2014

The Death of a Duchess

Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire died earlier this week and her funeral was held on Thursday. She lived a fascinating life, as you can read here, and never thought, when she was married, that she’d end up taking charge of her husband’s family’s extensive estate and completely turning it around.  She and her husband inherited Chatsworth, one of England’s most stately homes and were promptly saddled by millions in death duties after her brother-in-law’s death during WWII. chatstworth

The house had been open to the public, but she re-opened it with a vengeance, and after about 20 years, paid off the death duties and started making a profit. But a 35,000 acre estate doesn’t run itself, and more than 600 people work estate.

As a mark of their utmost respect for the Dowager Duchess, the staff took part in the funeral service for her, held on the property, which includes both a chapel and a graveyard. The entire staff, all wearing their traditional uniforms, lined the drive from the house to the chapel in respect for her, and after the cortege passed, they fell in behind it. imageimageimage

In addition to the staff, hundreds of members of the general public also came to pay their respects. image

The Dowager Duchess’s body had been placed in a wicker casket that was decorated with holly and ivy from the property.imageimage

The Duchess was a massive fan of Elvis Presley’s and even made a trip to Memphis to see Graceland. Elvis’s song “How Great Thou Art” was played at her funeral service.

After the service, the gardens and grounds were opened for a huge tea to celebrate the life of the Duchess.image

Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was an amazing woman who made the most of an unexpected life. image

Well done, you!