The Man Defined “Visionary”

MasterCard, take note…this is truly priceless!  I suspect that few fellow mothers would disagree with the sentiment that we are indeed chauffeurs, delivery boys, nursemaids, and glamour girls on a daily basis…and then some!  This was one item in an incredible exhibit entitled, “Driving America” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, of which I had the good fortune to visit today.  Chronicling mostly the automotive industry in the United States, I could think of no better city in which to show it, could think of no better museum in which to house it, built by none other than the incredible visionary himself, Henry Ford.

Having grown up here, I’m well aware of all that Mr. Ford realized with his foresight, and grateful for all that the Ford Motor Company, Ford Foundation, and Ford family endowed to the city and, indeed, to much of Southeastern Michigan.  Residents of Dearborn have enjoyed much, because of the generosity and planning of Henry Ford. And Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of this.  On occasion, when I was very young, we could request guest passes for the Museum and Village, as a benefit through my Mother’s work.  Then, when we were a bit older,  we bought memberships, so running around the Village when I was a child was, for me, not unlike playing at the corner park.  Only much better.

Wonderfully clever installation near the front of the Museum, showing various parts of the automobile, suspended vertically.

The “Driving America” exhibit opened a few weeks back, but today was my first opportunity to see it, fortuitously, as it was free of admission thanks to Target-sponsored Family Days.  As a decorator, I’m keen on all-things-design, and this exhibit is a treat!  I can probably (stress “probably”) hold my own in a discussion of cars, I can confidently identify a Pony interior, would happily spec a “Hemmings Motor News”-orange, if the occasion ever called for it, and I love the Glass House (move over Mad Men…I prefer the original).  At any rate, the history buff in me loved the stories behind the vehicles and the designer in me can’t help but fall for the lines and the colors:  they are so deeply and richly opaque, yet gleaming.  They’re not unlike the lacquered walls that are prevalent in shelter magazines of late.  When I was young, we had a charming older couple as neighbors.  Mr. would treat me to yogurt on the back porch while I recited the state capitals to him, and Mrs. would entertain us with her impressive skill at rousing tunes on the organ.  To say that life was simple is indeed an understatement.  But back to cars:  Mr. had the most beautifully pristine old Mercedes-Benz sedan, in the most handsome warm, charcoal grey.  It was so deep and rich, without a hint of metallic to it, that it looked like pudding on wheels (only I can’t, for the life of me, think of a yummy pudding that is a warm, charcoal grey!) .  And it was gleaming.  Always gleaming.

The banners at each of the groupings feature some wonderful images.  Here, and in the previous photos, it asks, “What is Luxury?”…an ever-present question in the design industry.

This roadster reminds me of the one Andy Hardy drives.  Not unlike this one, young Mr. Hardy has his initials “AH!” monogrammed on the door.  The sets from those movies deserve a post unto themselves!

It’s hard to distinguish, but this body is actually two-toned in black and chocolate.  It reminds me of the exterior color scheme of a London building featured in the last episode of “The Adventure of English”, with Melvyn Bragg.  Terrific series for language historians and enthusiasts.

This perhaps would be a saddle, brandy, and faded green English library.  Or Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.

Yes.  Yes, it is.  Probably the most identifiable grille in the world.  And it reminds me of the Summery blue Atlantic water…and white Laura Petrie capris (with a headscarf and a Nantucket basket, if you must know).

One never tires of pale grey, but I adore the proportions of this Plymouth Suburban.  It reminds me of the book, “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation”, but goodness knows, I could fit half of the Design Center in here!

Lemon pudding.

Think what you will of his Duesenberg, but this gentleman clearly knows how to hire staff to set a blazing fire.

This could have been in this month’s HB issue!

B. Altman & Co.

This belongs in a Pixar film, with his seemingly bespectacled headlights, pointy nose, and mouth agape in exasperation.  Not unlike Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast”.  Still with me?

More Pixar.  And more lemon pudding.

And of course, one can’t visit the Museum without an obligatory stop at the very icon of Americana…

And despite the fact that it is now Tuesday, I actually started composing this post on Monday, which was of course, President’s Day.  So, I will close with two patriotic vehicles from the “Driving America” exhibit, and in my effort to be bipartisan, I’ve shown one from each Party.  And while I’ve posted many more photos than I had originally planned on doing, I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this small tour of the offerings.  Do visit if at all possible, as the automotive display is only one small part of the Museum, and I will be sure to post additional information regarding the architecture and the Village proper at a later date.  Kind regards & warm blessings!

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Limousine.

President Ronald Reagan, Limousine.

Exterior of Henry Ford Museum.



More “Before” Photos of 2012 Showhouse

As posted yesterday, the Junior League of Detroit hosts a biennial Designer’s Showhouse, as a major fundraiser toward efforts in providing charitable, necessary services to children in the city of Detroit.  The showhouses are always situated within one of the five Grosse Pointes, and offer local designers a venue to show their work.  This year, the former home of Oscar Webber has been selected.  In fact, the Junior League featured this same residence as their showhouse in 1994 and, during the designer’s walk-through yesterday, I realized that many of the decorative paint details, as well as some of the fabric installations, are still there!  A bit tired and, unfortunately, a bit modified, it is in surprisingly good shape, nonetheless.  McAVOY & DAUGHTERS is considering submitting design schemes for several of the bathrooms, especially those with the “Peggy Blue” Pewabic tiles:  in person, the color is so intensely saturated, and in very good shape, as are the windows and fixtures.  Below are some additional photos, in no particular order, to supplement those that I posted yesterday.  Hope you enjoy!

All images © Margaret McAvoy/McAVOY & DAUGHTERS.

It’s Show(house) Time!

In recent weeks, the Junior League of Detroit has announced that it’s 2012 Designer Showhouse will be the historic Oscar Webber mansion in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Oscar Webber was the nephew of J.L. Hudson, and the Vice President of J.L. Hudson Company, the famed Detroit department store (writer’s note:  lunch in the restaurant, seemingly atop Detroit itself, and a visit to Santa and the Toy Department was always a favorite treat!).  Designed by Leonard Willeke, the 1927-28 Tudor of 10,000+ S/F features beautiful craftsmanship in the way of hand-carved details and extensive use of locally-founded Pewabic Pottery tiles.

Today is one of two walk-through days for the trade, to assess if we’re interested in submitting a design scheme for any of the rooms.  I will snap some additional photos while there, and post later today or tomorrow.

The Junior League also offers a “Sneak-A-Peek” for the public, to view the house before design work starts.  This is both interesting and anxiety-producing, if you are a design enthusiast.  While there are plenty of good designers who produce sound installations for a showhouse, there are also plenty of not-so-good designers, who seemingly take no notice of the surroundings, history, nor, apparently, editing:  too often rooms are treated as “showrooms’, instead of a “showhouse room”.  They’re packed full of every accessory this side of the Hudson, and become not-just-a-little claustrophobic.  However, all pessimism aside, design, architectural, and history buffs alike should enjoy this house!

If you are in the Detroit area, you may view the house February 11-12th, from 11-4 each day.  Tickets are $3 each, or 2 for $5.  After design work is completed, the actual Showhouse will be open from May 5-20th.

My apologies for the format of the photos below.  I didn’t allow enough space between each, when posting, so it may be a bit difficult to view!

All images kindly via Zillow.

Baa Baa Black Sheep, have you any…telephone cord?

Today has been devoted to the obligatory “desk work”: mundane tasks that I postpone for far too long.  This always involves telephone calls, and usually involves some online work, mostly sourcing images and inspiration for stationery.  Or something to gussy up my website, as I’m thinking that it looks much blander than I would like!  In my quick search for an image of a rotary dial telephone (yet another of our infatuations at McAVOY & DAUGHTERS!), I spotted this wonderfully clever installation at the Museum of Communication in Frankfurt, Germany.

A creation of artist Jean-Luc Cornec, it features old rotary telephones, and yards (and yards, and yards) of telephone cord, fabricated to resemble grazing sheep.

Incredibly resourceful, they mimic the woolen texture amazingly well.

I’m unsure if the cording was treated somehow, to achieve the variegation, but it’s very well done.  We especially applaud the ability to capture and (ahem!) communicate such subtle nuances of a sheep’s personality:  truly difficult with any medium, but practically next-to-impossible with rotary telephones!

All images, kindly via Museum of Communication, Frankfurt, Germany, and

The Ghosts of Knole

A hauntingly ethereal image of a piece from the collection of furnishings at Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent, that was obtained using 3DX-ray technology.  Several pieces were documented in this manner, that it might reveal otherwise unknown damage or previous repairs, and to more accurately assess conservation efforts.  I concur with many of the comments from the original post of this image at National Trust Treasure Hunt:  the images are most suited for exhibition or prints or…do we see a possible tome in the future?  (And not just a few upholstery tacks, as well!)

Image of piece at Knole by x-ray, facilitated by James Young, of 3DX-Ray Limited, kindly via National Trust Treasure Hunt.  Do visit the site for additional images from this process, they are truly fascinating!


The Poseidon Adventure

In yesterday’s post regarding Robert Adam, I had noted my recent infatuation with the sofa shown above.  It is one of a pair, of the original four, made 1762-65, by John Linnell (1729-1796), one of the most prominent cabinet-makers of the time, for Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale, for the Drawing Room at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.  Interpreted from the drawings of Robert Adam, who was commissioned to design garden buildings for the property.  Curzon reputedly was so taken with the work of Adam, that he then commissioned him to oversee construction of the entire house.

Of a gilt, pine wood, they depict at each end a triton and sea nymph, tails entwined with a dolphin.  The back features a centered medallion with the head profile of Juno.  Measuring 122 x 342 x 110 cm (approximately 48″ x 134″ x 43″), it is upholstered in a medium blue, tone-on-tone damask.

Commanding in scale and motif, and certainly in such opulent surroundings.  At the very least, they are completely magnificent.  Not easily forgotten, and rightly so.  This will be yet another image to tack on my “board of escape”, and sporadically treat myself to a moment from another place and era!

Images (top three) kindly via Kedleston Hall, National Trust, ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

Image (last) kindly via The Art Fund, ©Kedleston Hall, National Trust.


Madam, I’m Adam

Yes, dear clever reader…it’s a palindrome.  But, more challengingly, if you can tell me the movie from which it comes (used intentionally as a palindrome in the dialogue), then forever we will be fast friends and pen pals!

However, today it’s not the palindrome that’s of much importance, but rather one of the most rightfully prolific architects, our dear Scotsman Robert Adam (1728-1792).

You may not know the name (although I should hope that you do!), but you very likely know the architecture.  The list of his works is extensive, including Kedleston Hall (South elevation) in Derbyshire, Pulteney Bridge in Bath, and General Register House in Edinburgh.  Early in his career, Robert apprenticed with his brothers, John and James, with their father, architect William Adam, known for the likes of Inveraray Castle.  After a European sojourn of architectural studies, he returned to Britain to establish the architectural firm with his brother, James.  While continuing the work of their deceased father, they also received their first commission for an entirely new construction, the handsome Dumfries House, Ayrshire.

After having fallen into disrepair, it was most recently intercepted from the auction block by Prince Charles, as he has long been a loyal advocate of Britain’s architectural heritage.  For a more elaborate article about the gem that is Dumfries House, please see the February issue of Architectural Digest, with a bonnie kilt-clad Prince Charles on the cover.

And, like so many successful men in history, he had multiple talents.  Some of his landscapes, both actual and folly, are lovely, as seen below.

Another of those talents was designing furniture.  He and James believed in unity of design, and this aspect could readily be accomplished if they also designed the interiors and furnishings for their architectural commissions.  Our own American darling of many years later, Dorothy Draper, would approve highly of this approach.

And so it is that I leave you with perhaps my latest of infatuations:  that of a stunning sofa, depicting mermaids and sea gods, which was produced after drawings by none other than Robert Adam.  This unbelievable piece resides at Kedleston Hall, managed by the National Trust.  If you haven’t yet seen it, please do take a moment to visit the always-interesting site of National Trust Treasure Hunt, managed by very friendly and extremely knowledgeable Emile de Bruijn.  It is a treat for history buffs and design enthusiasts alike, and you will undoubtedly learn as much from the well-informed comments!

Image of portrait of Robert Adam, c. 1770-75, attributed to George Willison, kindly via National Portrait Gallery.

Image of Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland, kindly via Dumfries House.

Images of magazine cover and interior images of Dumfries House, kindly via Architectural Digest.

Image of watercolor folly landscape, Robert Adam, c. 1750, kindly via Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Image of watercolor Cullen Castle, Banffshire, Scotland, Robert Adam, c. 1770-80, kindly via National Galleries Scotland.

Image of Dining Room, Saltram, Devon, England, and image of Great Hall, Syon House, London, England, photos by A. F. Kersting, kindly via Brittanica Encyclopedia.

Image of sofa, 1765, John Linnell, interpreting original drawings by Robert Adam, Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, England, kindly via National Trust, ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.


Eye Candy

She’s a beauty.

The Studley Tool Chest, c. 1890, measures 40″ x 40″ x 9″ when hanging on wall, opened.  Housing approximately 300 tools, each fitting snugly into it’s own cavity, with several areas that swing out to reveal up to three layers of tools, it illustrates, quite remarkably, “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place” .  The chest is made of mahogany, rosewood, walnut, ebony, and mother-of-pearl, likely all from scrap material available at the Poole Piano Company in Quincy, Massachusetts, where Mr. Studley was employed.  This chest is now in a private collection.

Image found at The Design Observer Group, kindly via Things Organized Neatly.

The Subtle Stroke of Composition

I first saw this image in a post that I read just today, on one of the weblogs that I frequent, that of Treasure Hunt, National Trust Collections, by Emile de Bruijn.  The post itself was about Coughton Court in Warwickshire, home to the Throckmorton family since 1409.  Loyal to their Catholic faith, they endured great turmoil during the Reformation, and indeed throughout the centuries to one extent or another.  I invite you to read the entire post here.

Yet, I have gazed upon this image time and again, since I first read the post.  It is, at once, many things.  It is handsome, and serene, and interesting, and strikingly simple. The composition is both deft and stunning.  The soft patina of well-worn floorboards in a quiet corner of the luminous Blue Drawing Room.  The leafed rope moulding at the rail.  The quiet portrait of Anne Frances Throckmorton upon a dove wall.  And beneath it, the piece that has truly captivated me, the Chippendale-style bench that converts into Library steps.  The detail of the needlework on the apron of the seat, that mimics the quatrefoil fretwork of the back, is all nothing short of beautiful to me.  The soft, natural, English light illuminates it all superbly, and I am quite blissfully mesmerized because of it.

Blue Drawing Room, Coughton Court, Warwickshire, England, showing a portrait by Nicolas de Largillière, of Anne Frances Throckmorton, Prioress of the English Augustinian Convent of Notre Dame de Sion, Paris, c. 1729

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Image kindly via Treasure Hunt, National Trust Collections and Emile de Bruijn.

Time for Toast & Marmalade

It’s that time again.  If you, like we, are keen on proper marmalade, then you may be interested in the upcoming 7th World’s Original Marmalade Awards™.  Held February 25th and 26th at Dalemain House in Cumbria.  Worthy of a future post unto itself, Dalemain House dates to the reign of Henry II, with subsequent additions throughout the 14th, 16th, and 18th centuries.  A detailed history is available for further reading here.  But, of more immediate concern, is the fact that it is host to the annual Marmalade Awards.  All entrants, international as well, are encouraged to submit their best work, and the staggering variety of categories assures everyone a fair footing in the judging.  Novice, Heritage (recipes handed down through generations), Children’s recipes, Dark & Chunky are just a few and, of course, the Grande Dame of marmalades, Seville Orange.  And why is the competition held in January, you may wonder?  Because it is when Seville oranges are readily available.

And, no less than Paddington Bear himself is a sponsor, so you may want to enlist the help of your resident young marmalade enthusiast and don those aprons!  And when all of the cooking’s finally done, remember…

Oh, gosh, but I think I hear the kettle!….

Image of vintage advertising poster, Chivers & Sons Marmalade, 1926, kindly via Vintage Advertising Prints, and available for purchase.

Image of recipe, Recipe Book of Elizabeth Rainbow, 1680s, Collection of Dalemain House, kindly via The World’s Original Marmalade Awards.

Image of tea towel, Black Toast Collection, kindly via Emma Bridgewater, and available for purchase.