Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Priceless: A Piece of Porch with Peeling Paint

"I was embarrassed to stand in the check out line with what you wanted me to buy, Renee."

 My client was telling me that for her to fork over $65 for a piece of a porch with peeling paint made her feel a little confused.  I convinced her, though, that this piece would be the inspiration and driving force for the design of her new bedroom.  It would determine the color scheme and lend an authority of something unique, something with character, something with history.  It would drive a plethora of philosophical and aesthetic ideas. It would hang over her headboard and she would have sweet dreams.   That is quite a bit of value for $65!  Happily, my client trusted me, and we embarked on another adventurous design. 

Join me now for an autumn excursion to my favorite antiques shops in St. Louis!

 Quintessential Antiques

The little gem shown above, which I personally 'touched up' with a glaze to prevent flaking paint, was rescued from the landfill by Quintessential Antiques.  It is open the first 7 days of the month, for 7 days, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A Tall Order

This larder that they found in an old farmhouse was a great find for yours truly.  It satisfied the storage needs for my small kitchen and more!  The piece is faux wood grained, but you'd never know it wasn't 'real'!

Rockin' n Rollin'

Above is another favorite find for the previously mentioned client.  This enigmatic rusty wheel filled with rubble was the perfect piece to put beneath her Hepplewhite console in the entrance hallway.

 R. Ege Antiques 

 R. Ege Antiques never fails to deliver.  Rick Ege fills containers from Belgium, France, Germany, and Holland to begin a new life in his charming shop.  I tell my clients they can never make a mistake with anything that has caught Rick's eye.

How much is that doggy in the window?  

It's not for sale; it's Rick's shop dog keeping watch.  But Rick always has a menagerie of dog paintings, sculptures, etc, and other animals in some form or another.  Always good for a smile or a  treat to take home.

Fruits in formaldehyde

Rick's creative mind draws buyers from all over the country.  Whimsical, wonderful, and wacky, are a few adjectives that come to mind.  

Light as a feather

 You can be assured of good taste, great style, and prices that can't be found in the bigger cities.

See through seafood

Here is an academic hanging that I'm dying to use in some kitchen project for a lucky client.

Suttonwood Antiques

Raincoat at the ready

Another favorite shop close to Rick's is found nearby at Suttonwood Antiques.  Peter Campbell, of Australia, tirelessly travels the far east in search of treasures such as this Chinese rain cape.  You are equally as likely to find the ideal commode, console or cabinet at cut-rate costs.

Seeing the sea coral is an open and shut case

A carload of recent pickings from Suttonwood that will grace a magnificent mansion.

Warson Woods Antique Gallery

Though I love the smaller shops and each individual proprietor, there are treasures to be found at a antiques malls, too.  It's a bit overwhelming, like being in a department store, to stomp by booth after booth in search of your favorite collector, but it's frequently worth the effort.  Here we visit one of my favorites,  Warson Woods Antique Gallery.

Rows of rusty nails for your rathskeller

 And what do we find right off the bat, but a couple of distillery doors that simply demand to be adopted by the most distinguishing connoisseur!

Treasure Aisles Antiques Mall

The word is mum

Another favorite trove to troll is at Treasure Aisles.  You do have to sift through a lot of trash, but then you may be struck dumb with amazement, and will find, as Howard Carter found when he peered into King Tut's tomb and was asked by Lord Carnovon, 'Can you see anything?'  Carter responded,

'Yes, wonderful things!' 

And that is what you will find when you venture forth into these neighborhood stores! 

 For those of you who don't have good antiquing options in your area, check out Invaluable, an online auction house that has tons of antiques and collectibles. They even put together a blog post about antiquing!

 Happy autumn antiquing!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What I Did Last Summer

This summer I took upon myself the climbing of a metaphorical mountain.  Climbing real mountains doesn't appeal to me so much as tackling artistic monuments, even if, as an amateur, it is only to breathe its rarefied air for a moment. 

My goal was to reach the summit of Chopin's Nocturne Opus 48 No. 1, demanding stamina and technique that would be enormously challenging. Well, all I wanted to do was at least try to get a glimpse at its majesty. It is described by some as the greatest and noblest of the nocturnes.

Base Camp

Spent a long time here getting my bearings and gathering prayer flags of those who had gone before me.

It's a musical mountain of crashing chords and sublime sonority, of textural treasures that traverse from high to low in an instant.

Necessary equipment for getting to the summit:   a clock... a metronome....

.... a keepsake photo showing my first attempts at scaling the heights.....

My pack-horse?   A leather padded and adjustable bench built for comfort and endurance that carried my weight through the arduous climb.

Crampons for footholds?   The brass pedals helped with shaping nuances as only Chopin could imagine.

My sherpa?  None other than longtime expert guide Kathi Kurtzman.

Listen to how a great artist such as Valentina Lititsa interprets the piece.  Perhaps in another incarnation, I can play like her!

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Paris, France

Chopin died too young at the age of 39.  Here, at his grave, daily visitors from all over the world bear witness to his ability to plumb our deepest emotions through his heavenly music. Lucky for me to share his birthday and  for him to be born again every time I play his music! Happily, there are many more musical masterpieces of his to muster!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Notes from Flanders: Voice Lessons

Notes from Flanders: Voice Lessons: So the song I'm singing now is a song of spring. Like a bird, I can attempt to slide up and down the scale, or chirp the same note ...

Voice Lessons

So the song I'm singing now is a song of spring. Like a bird, I can attempt to slide up and down the scale, or chirp the same note on consecutive phrases.  What tune might this be, you would ask? None other than "Mi chiamano Mimi" from La Boheme by Puccini. Specifically, the lyrics midway are:

guardo sui tetti e in cielo;
ma quando vien lo sgelo il primo sole e mio
il primo bacio dell'aprile e mio!
il primo sole e mio!

I look over the roofs and into the sky,
but when comes the thaw the first sun is mine
the first kiss of April is mine!
the first sun is mine!

Sounds a little like me, me, and mine, but I guess that's why they call her Mimi.  Still, I like the poetic concept.  The birds now are greeting the dawn an hour in advance with their songs, and I've spotted many a one singing their little hearts out perched on the highest branch of a tree. Their repertoires are complex and gloriously uplifting, and like a opera, generally about love and boundaries.


Not content to be a passive listener to these arias,  a few years ago I thought I would give it a go of trying it out myself.  The idea of finding my authentic voice was appealing, as it was with my first cry when born. Unfortunately, this primordial pleasure is frequently corrupted by self-consciousness and shame as one leaves childhood behind. 

Taking time to twitter is as vital to one's soul as any art.  The ultimate in luxury is a private voice lesson, when your very own teacher focuses exclusively on your vocal folds as if under a microscope. With a piano accompaniment,  a beautiful melody, and personal participation, where is there more bliss?

Listen in to a talented soprano being coached "Mi chiamano Mimi" by Maria Callas:


Great singers make it seem effortless, and my operatic career will have to wait for another reincarnation. Still, I fantasize about groups of friends sharing song together as was common years ago for entertainment, simply for the fun of it. As a true amateur (translates as lover), I do it for love rather than for money.