Interior Design

It’s a Keeper


Above is the original dining room light fixture. And now, that the room serves a dual purpose as a library and dining room, this fixture can’t be more perfect. When I first moved into the house in 1985, this light fixture was a three-way. See the brass knob ball at the base of the light fixture? Turning it allowed me to alternate between having just the top five on, or just the bottom bowl on, or have all six illuminated (which was way too bright). But, all good things must come to an end, and the internal stem (or whatever it’s called) finally broke. Some day I plan on taking the whole thing down and locating someone who could fix it. In the meantime, a dimmer switch has been installed and works just as well as the three way if not better. But still… It would be cool to have it working in its original condition.

Travel: Culture & Architecture

Color Choices for Outbuildings


In September 2004, I joined The Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America on an four day tour of the Berkshires’ aging “cottages” of the Gilded Age. Bunny Williams, as a member of the board, was gracious enough to host all of us at her home and gardens in Connecticut. Unfortunately, the photos I took are all outdoor shots. I don’t remember why. Maybe I thought it would be rude to photograph the interiors. Maybe we were told not to. I just don’t remember. I won’t be posting all of these photos today. Instead they will be used at different times in the future to illustrate a point.

(above) Note how the building’s color allows it to blend in with its environment. When it came to choosing colors for my garage, my architect gave me two suggestions. The first one being to paint it the same color as the wood boards of my house (cream), or as the second choice, allow the building to blend in with its natural surroundings (too nice of a description for my unsightly backyard). I chose the latter. Now, after going through all these old photos, I realize that Bunny chose the same color concept for her outbuildings. A lucky and happy coincidence for me.

Interior Design

What Is that Funky Finish?


The living and dining rooms’ wall texture is original to my house (built in 1938). My next door neighbor and other older homes in my neighborhood have the same finish. When I first moved into the house I thought it looked depressing and grandma-ish. But now, I’m so glad that I kept it.

What was the technique called? Did it even have a name? Even my painting contractors found it unusual and had a difficult time emulating it while repairing patches. When the 1960’s kitchen was torn out, we discovered that the original breakfast room originally had this same texture. The rest of the house (the remaining original rooms) has what looks to be the knock down texture which carries the orange peel effect one step further by semi flattening the raised bumps. The orange peel technique had also been used originally for all the ceilings in the house and is the texture we chose for all of the reconstruction’s painted surfaces.

Contemporary Art

Art Trolling at The MAC (part 2, the last stop)

Above is a still from Quin Mathews' video now showing in the third gallery at The MAC.
Above is a still from Quin Mathews’ video now showing in the third gallery at The MAC.

The McKinney Avenue Contemporary (The MAC). If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I had stepped into a church. And there was Leslie Connally and Judy Niven constantly reminding me to tone it down while Kitchen Dog‘s play was performing in the black box theater next to the galleries. Normally, all three galleries would have had festive Mexican music shaking the place up for this show, but not on Kitchen Dog’s nights. And then there was the church smell, aging flowers and burning candles.

Contemporary Art

Thursday Evening’s Art Trolling (part 1)


The Impossibility of Doing Nothing at The Reading Room. Across from Fair Park on Parry Avenue in a tiny space, Karen Weiner has set up an unusual kind of gallery experience. Described in her own words, “A project space which, through occasional readings, performances and installations, will explore the many ways in which text and image interact.” Personally I believe that most, if not all, good things happen only in small rooms.

Landscape & Gardening

Black Lab + Tiny Pond = Muck-Up


Totally trashed: seven year old unnamed pond plant, brand new filters, brand new pump, lemon bacopa, dumped rocks and mud, and three scared fish. And where was the owner of this destructive critter? “Busy”. Entitled “busy”. My foot. I want my leash back and an apology. But when one is “busy”, one’s time is too important for such an endeavor. Hey, did you not notice me drenched from head to toe when you drove up in your brand spankin’ new white mercedes suv? Did you not notice the terrified next door neighbors’ 18 year old cat dying of heart failure? The cat that the your precious killer pooch decided to hunt down once she finished her bath. NO! You were more concerned about having to put a muddy wet dog into your fancy-pants-mode of transportation. Fortunately for you, you don’t live on my block. And where’s my leash? I know that you probably have a large collection of leather designer accessories for your well-trained princess and trophy husband and would not need my humble black-canvas-Petco-variety. So can I have it back?

Well, it’s all fixed now. Seven (unplanned for) hours later after searching, driving, buying replacements, and cleanup, I now have my pond happy again. It took several hours waiting for the mud to clear up before I could do a fin count. All three fish were still there and intact. Small miracle.

The above photo is of the replacement for the seven-year plant of an unknown name, and it’s called a Water Poppy. It’s perennial and will die back to its rootball in the winter and then reemerge each spring. AND it tolerates shade and constant water movement, unlike the lily pad varieties. I like this much better than the seven-year plant of an unknown name.

Film: Design & Architecture

The Divorce of Lady X


The Divorce of Lady X is a 1938 romantic comedy starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. This delightful slice of escapism, produced by Alexander Korda, was shot in three strip Technicolor, showing off both the expensive sets and Olivier’s green-shirt-and-brown-suit combo to best effect.

Most of the stills that I captured were from the first part of the film in Laurence’s hotel room. Between the colors, patterns, and textures, there was too much to take in watching it as a film. Fortunately for me, there are “ways” to get around this. And hopefully, I won’t get into any trouble for posting these stills. But I had to capture all of this eye candy and share it with you.

Landscape & Gardening

The Season’s First Red Spider Lily


Well, at least it’s the first in my garden. It looks like I’m going to have a whopping total of four Red Spider Lilies. Last year I had five. So what gives? And on top of that, since purchasing and planting them, it took two years before they bloomed for the first time. One must be patient when it comes to gardening and dealing with perennials. Especially perennials that can survive Dallas’s weather and temperature extremes. Between last year’s nine to ten months of El Niño accompanied with too much rain and too little sun and this year’s months of extreme heat and intense sun exposure, no wonder my plants don’t feel like performing the way I’d like them to.

Travel: Culture & Architecture

My Photo of the Visconti Family Crest


The last post linked you to Wikipedia’s page on the Visconti crest. Since that post was strictly about fig ivy, I didn’t want to include the above photo. So I’m showing it to you now. In it, you can see how the Visconti crest is interpreted on Villa Balbianello’s balustrade. It seems to me that the artists, rendering the crest in both locations, had problems creating the baby, and both figures ended up resembling a “man” child. Which is probably a good thing.

Landscape & Gardening

Fig Ivy Here and There

All the massive coils of ivy you see snaking along the walls belong to one single fig ivy plant. This is the veranda of Villa Balbianello. The villa overlooks Lake Como on the tip of a small wooded peninsula on the western shore, and this portion, the loggia, was built by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini around 1790. It’s been said this loggia is where coffee was served for the first time in Italy.
All the massive coils of ivy you see snaking along the walls belong to one single fig ivy plant. This is the veranda of Villa Balbianello. The villa overlooks Lake Como on the tip of a small wooded peninsula on the western shore, and this portion, the loggia, was built by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini around 1790. It’s been said this loggia is where coffee was served for the first time in Italy.

I joined The Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America in September of 2007 on a two week tour of the Northern Italian Lakes, where we visited numerous villas and gardens. I could not pass up this experience knowing that a lot of these places are not usually open to tourists and that seeing all of them as an individual tourist would be next to impossible. This was the chance of a lifetime. The lakes we visited were first Lake Maggiore, then Lake Orta, third was Lake Como, fourth was Lake Lugano, and the last stop was Lake Garda.

I’m not posting this for its view and history. I want you to notice those huge snaking coils of fig ivy all of which belong to one single plant. Just one. I don’t know how many years it took to train it to its current shape. Speaking of snakes, the Visconti family owned this villa at one time, and their emblem/crest, which is carved onto the stone balustrades, shows a huge snake devouring a child. How they came up with that design is a mystery to me. Perhaps the Viscontis are responsible for training the fig ivy into its current serpent shape. But probably not.