Friday, July 29, 2011

Favorite French Things Friday - Old French Clés (Keys)

A 1922 Engraving of French Skeleton Keys

Some of my decorative French furniture keys.

Old French Keys on Vintage French Grain Sack

I have a "thing" for old keys and search for them whenever I'm treasure hunting. I love old furniture skeleton keys, especially beautiful old, ornate French skeleton keys. When I hold them I wonder how many hands have firmly gripped them,  for what furniture they were made, and what secrets they've protected. I can see them jutting out of the key opening of a French armoire with a beautiful tassel hanging proudly from the end.

Many of us can remember Grandma's old dresser or Grandpa's roll top desk with the skeleton key sticking out of the keyhole. Antique furniture locks and keys were used to protect the most important family documents, Birth Certificates, Deeds, Wills and Diplomas. 

As I was looking at my little collection of keys this morning, it came to mind how we used to use locks and keys to keep things in and today we use them to keep things out.  At the same time that Grandpa's roll top desk was locked, with the key jutting out from the lock for all to see, chances are the front door was unlocked.

I started thinking of my own childhood and I  can't remember ever having a key to our house. My Mom and Dad both worked and I remember the front and back doors always being unlocked. Maybe they just knew that with 9 people running in and out the door would always be swinging anyway! As I sit here I can hear the crackling of the old radio and the Baltimore Orioles playing baseball and my father yelling out "Quit slamming that screen door!" I can see us hot and sweaty kids playing outside and always running in and out of the house. We'd run in to get a drink of water or a glass of sweet tea, letting the screen door slam behind us.  

I'm thinking I'd love to play a game of Freeze Tag again, and even more, hear my Father yelling at me to quit slamming that darn door.

Have a great weekend. Spend some time with those you love.

Au revoir, Mitty

Thursday, July 28, 2011

French Decor in McKinney, Texas

Since moving to Texas, I've often heard that the town of McKinney, Texas has great home decor shopping.  So, yesterday I decided to treasure hunt in McKinney. 

It was worth the 1 1/2 hour drive!  There were some great antique shops and some really wonderful and unique stores that carried accessories and furnishings that would look great in a "Faux French Chateau." 

One of the stores that I really loved was Patina Green. It is both a home decorating and antique store filled with wonderful "reused and repurposed" items and  a Cafe!  The ambiance is wonderful and I spent a long time roaming the store looking at all of the wonderful things that I'd love to have!

From their website, I found out the they are a family business with three participants - Kaci, the interior designer, Luann, (Kaci's Mom) the retailer and Robert, the classically trained Chef (Kaci's Husband).  I love this store even more now that I know this.  I love it when you have a dream and a passion, and you find a way to make a living out of it. I especially love that the store is a family affair.

I also appreciate that in the "cafe" they believe in using seasonal ingredients raised and grown by local farmers and bakers! I didn't eat, (you know I have MDD's wedding in less than two months!) but I will when I go there again.  I'm thinking this Fall we'll take a Saturday and spend it shopping in McKinney and we'll eat lunch at Patina Green. Their menu appears to be gourmet sandwiches, salads and pastries.

Patina Green store sign. The sign looks like it was made out of the top of an old outdoor metal cafe table. The sign "hanger" is an old looking chain.

What I REALLY want to share with you is the amazing birdcage that I found at Patina Green. I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of it.  Now wouldn't this make a statement in a room!  I checked it out and for only $6,000+ - yes, I didn't make a mistake and put too many zeros in - for a little over $6,000, you can take it home with you.

I do want to say though that their items did seem reasonably priced. I'm sure the wonderful birdcage above has a certified "pedigree" that makes it command this price.

If anywhere in the vicinity, and you have a lot of time to browse and dream, I'd visit Patina Green!

Take care,

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

French Lamp Base?

I'm off and running today - treasure hunting - one of my favorite things!

I'm looking for architectural details for lamp bases.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm here's an idea!

Remember my saying, "If it stays in one place too long I'll either paint it or make a lamp out of it!"

Enjoy your day today. Have a few laughs.

Au revoir, Mitty

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vintage Birdcages in Decorating

There's something whimsical about birdcages used in interior decorating. Maybe it's because they are an unexpected element in a room, especially when the birdcage contains anything other than birds and isn't in an aviary.

I've always loved putting something in a room that makes a "first time visitor" to my home think "Hmmmmmmmmm" - but in a good way!  I have an old French birdcage that I purchased several years ago in an antique store in Charleston, South Carolina on King Street. I've put a fake (excuse me, "faux") bird in it and an old birds nest and eggs. I've been know to put seasonal plants and flowers in it and it's lovely that way also.

When I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma I had a friend who had a design sense that was masterful. I once told her  that her home was a "visual feast." She knew the art of layering in design. In her home I could look at a table vignette once, twice, even three times and each time notice something new or used in a new and intriguing way. She was an artist in putting together the unexpected. I'd love to see what she could do with my birdcages!

I recently purchased another vintage birdcage at auction and have been trying to research its age. This painted metal birdcage is large and rests on an even larger stand. The detail is lovely. In the middle of it hangs a large round perch which makes me think this is actually a Parrot cage.

I haven't decorated it yet since it was purchased for the store and I hope it doesn't hang around too long!  I can see it filled with French clay pots, various ferns and ivy plants in someone's garden, sunroom or just about anywhere they need a touch of whimsey.

I set the birdcage outside tonight to clean it. The bottom tray is rusted and someone may want to replace it.  I've decided to leave it as it and let its new owners decide. The stand also has some rust - nothing that a coat of paint or sealer won't cure. A lot of decorators though will love it "as is!"

Maybe I ought to leave it outside for now.  It looks like it belongs with the bird feeder and bird bath!

In case you need a birdcage for your faux feathered friends, take a look a a few I found for sale on the internet!

Bittersweet Antiques - Oversized French Birdcage - Late 19th Century

Alhambra Antiques - Red French Colonial Style Bamboo Birdcage

Alhambra Antiques - French Bleu Antique Birdcage
This is the one I want!

Take care,

Au revoir, Mitty 

Monday, July 25, 2011

French Grey Chairs and Antique Column Table

In Friday's post I told you about the great vintage and antique architectural details that I discovered at The Old Home Supply Store in my "home town" in Fort Worth, Texas.   I was looking for old columns that I could make into lamps or tables.   I found the columns below that are beautiful but way too large for my purposes.

Matching pair of columns.  These are very ornate and in excellent condition.

There are two of these wonderful columns. I love the gilding on the acanthus leaf columns. These are huge and extremely heavy.  I believe they are stone.  Also, they are resting on the floor upside down! The Dentil detail is actually on the bottom of the column.

When I got home on Friday, I looked for a magazine in which I had flagged a table that I loved and was an "inspiration" picture for me. Take a look at the lovely breakfast room below.  This is in the northwest Connecticut summer home of New York City interior designer Patricia Sarnataro and her large extended family.

It appeared on the cover of the June 2011 issue of Traditional Home Magazine. Needless to say I always love little French chairs and the grey paint and ticking fabric are perfect on these. What really makes this breakfast room work for me though is the round glass-top breakfast table that is supported by the three wonderfully aged antique columns. I think columns like these would also made great lamps!

LOVE the three antique columns that are used to create the base on this breakfast room table. (Sorry my scanned image is poor quality.)

Here's the cover of the June 2011 issue of Traditional Home so that you can see it better!

Hmmmmmmm, I wonder if I can copy this? I think I need to find a carpenter in Fort Worth.

Have a great evening!

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, July 22, 2011

French Chandeliers and Rewiring

I had a great day today getting a couple of items together for the store!

Some time ago I purchased two vintage French chandeliers. They're both beautiful with wonderful old crystals and great patinas to the metal finishes.  There is only one problem - they aren't wired right (hmmmmm.......where have I heard that comment before?!) Anyway, I digress.

Smallest of the two French Chandeliers - needs to be rewired and cleaned.

Getting the 2nd French Chandelier out of the crate at The Old Home Supply House in Fort Worth, TX

So in trying to learn my way around Fort Worth a month or so ago, I found a wonderful store called "The Old Home Supply House." They're located at 1801 College Avenue and encompass all four corners of the two intersecting streets. ( Here you can find everything for renovating an old home, building a new home with old fixtures, old and new garden decor such as fountains, bird baths, tables and benches.  They have old doors and windows, door knobs and hinges, light fixtures and chandeliers, replacement crystals, claw-foot tubs, even old toilets if you are so inclined.

Old Home Supply in Fort Worth, TX.  I love that part of their building used to be the Piggly Wiggly!

This store inspired me.  I could see beauty and potential in so many things.

They have a huge selection of beautiful old tin ceiling squares.

 They have shelves full of architectural details. Several of these would be beautiful on an acrylic or wood base and made into a table lamp! (The Old Home Supply can help you with this also!)

Amazing selection of old columns, doors, shutters and windows.

So, back to my chandeliers, these fixtures have the original old European electrical wiring. My focus today was to get them to The Old Home Supply House for rewiring.  I was so pleased to meet Larry Evans who has been rewiring old chandeliers for the store for 15 or so years. He knew immediately exactly what needs to be done to both of the chandeliers and was incredibly helpful.  I think I've found a great resource for my business! 

Large French Crystal Chandelier with rare, large smokey grey crystals.  Notice the "tools of the trade" Larry uses in his work room!

I can't wait to get the chandelier cleaned and the crystals sparkling again. I love the great detail of the griffins on each arm. (They are Griffins aren't they?)

Take care of yourself and have a fun filled weekend.

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reproduction French Coffee Table - Repainted, Distressed and Glazed!

Well, it is finished.  I painted, distressed and then glazed the reproduction coffee table that I purchased on Saturday.

I love the way it turned out and it really makes a difference in the room.  Not only do we finally have something to put a glass on but it is pretty as well!

I used my chalk paints again. These paints have made me lazy since you don't have to sand or prime wood before applying. I love them!

Coffee table finished! (Excuse the "paint patches" on the walls!)

Coffee table as it was purchased.

Two coats of Louis Blue Chalk Paint. BRIGHT isn't it!  Again, don't be "scared." The glaze will tone it down!

Trim painted in Old White Chalk Paint.

Table "distressed" by sanding.

FINISHED coffee table.  The last step in this project was to glaze the table. I love the way it looks and it is perfect in this room. (Again, excuse the patches of paint on the walls.  Project # 4002!)

I've been asked if I'm "afraid" to paint furniture.  The simple answer is NEVER. Now, would I suggest painting a seriously expensive, authenticated period antique - NO!  I would suggest leaving an expensive stained antique piece as is! But, I do believe that a piece of painted furniture adds an important element or additional textural feel to a room. I like stained and painted furniture used together.  All of one or the other can be boring.

I love to paint furniture. I especially love taking something that is neglected and bringing it back to life. I guess I'm a big believer in second chances!

Take care of yourself.

Au revoir, Mitty

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reproduction French Coffee Table

Have you ever known exactly what you're looking for but just can't find it?  Well that's been my story for the last 8 months.  We moved into "My Faux French Chateau" in November, 2010.  I've been looking off and on for a coffee table for our great room ever since.

I had my heart set on an "antique" table. So I set out looking at internet stores and in Dallas and Fort Worth French antique stores.  I found some small tables that were lovely but none the scale that I needed.  I wanted a table large enough for a group to gather around and play games and on which to serve appetizers and drinks.

So, my next idea was to find a kitchen or dining table that I could cut down.  Well what happens when you cut down French cabriole legs? end up with a table with "bowed" legs that look like the front end of a bull dog! Also, I have a hard time taking an expensive table and cutting the legs off.

Since I'm not a purest, my next idea was to look at reproductions. I found one that is the perfect height and scale in a Dallas French antique store.  They were having a great sale on their reproduction furniture. SO I bought it! Is it perfect? Of course not! When I bought it I had to explain to MH that I was going to bring it home and.............yes you know it!..............I'm going to paint it! I love the top and the shelf as is which is in a dark stain.  The paint on it though is not right for my house - it is a bit too white.  So I'm going to work on it today and see what I come up with.  I'll probably use my chalk paints, maybe even painting the base French Bleu and Old White and then glazing it.  We'll see!

Wish me luck.  Au revoir, Mitty

Reproduction French coffee table ready for painting.

I won't paint the stained part of the table as I like the way it looks and works in the room with my other furnishings.  The painted part has to be changed though. I'm thinkin' BLEU or GREY.

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, July 18, 2011

French Demijohns and Carboys

I love the color of old bottles and I love the texture and color of baskets, so of course I absolutely love French Demijohns and Carboys

Even if you don't immediately recognize the name demijohn or carboy, I'm sure you've seen them.  The names are typically used interchangeably. If you look at home design and decorating magazines and books, I'm sure you've seen them a lot lately.  They are apparently very fashionable and sought after.

By definition, a demijohn is a large narrow-necked bottle usually enclosed in wickerwork or burlap. Recorded history dates them to the 1700's. During this time period products were sold in bulk (as opposed to individual packaging) and store merchants measured out  quantities being purchased from these large containers. Demijohns were used for the storage of liquids such and wine and other spirits, olive oil, etc. Carboys were also large bottles encased in wicker  but were typically used to store large quantities of strong chemicals, mostly acids such as sulfuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids. Today, manufacturers still use the term carboy for large plastic acid containers. 

Demijohns are often quite large, sometimes up to 10 gallons in capacity. Most of the bottles were hand blown and some have pontiled bottoms. Common colors are olive green and aqua, while amber is apparently rare and cobalt blue the rarest color for demijohns. I've also seen a few grey and clear ones but perhaps they are new reproductions.
I've collected wicker encased demijohns for several years and love them.  They add warmth, texture and interest to any area. I move them around the house but typically keep them in a small bar area.

Three older demijohns, glass ice bucket filled with wine corks and antler wine stoppers.

Demijohn, wicker covered ice bucket and carafe, horn cups and vintage wood and horn corkscrews. These are some of my favorite textures together. 

Demijohn filled with wine corks. Looks like we need to work harder to fill this bottle!

I've been adding a lot of French bleu to my great room and am looking for a few aqua blue demijohns. I've found several on Ebay, Etsy and other ecommerce stores.  Hmmm, maybe some day. Right now though they are quite expensive and I don't know what they should cost.

SO today, one of my projects is RESEARCH.  Before I buy anything, I like to know WHAT I'm buying. I'm not an expert on bottles so I need to research "what to look for" before buying.  How do I know if I'm buying a new or old bottle?  Usually color, shape, glass bubbles, etc. are indicators of age.  I'll let you know what I find out.  We can learn together.

Take care and I'll "see" you tomorrow.

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bonjour to My New Friends!

I've had a couple of new friends join the blog as Followers! I wanted to personally e-mail them a warm welcome. Unfortunately I can't get e-mails to go through via my blog and my computer skills are apparently being challenged. 

So, if you just joined, WELCOME and Thank You!

p.s. I found this photo and it says it all...................................

Have a beautiful weekend with those you love. Enjoy the beauty around you.

Au revoir, Mitty

Favorite French Things Friday - French Love Letters and Calligraphy

What do you think of when you hear the word "Art?" 

Do you think of paintings, sculpture and music?

I think of these but I have found another art form that, to me, is inspiring.

Have you ever looked at the artistic talent in the penmanship in Antique French Letters? It is calligraphy in it's original form.

The picture above is from the lovely blog "Trouvais." 
Trish at Trouvais framed nine of her favorite antique French letters and hung them
above a console in her master bedroom. She used stock
frames and replaced the glass with archival glass. I think the whole grouping is beautiful. I love that the letters are prominently displayed for all to enjoy and not "stuck" in a drawer, hidden away.

This past April I purchased a few beautifully scripted antique letters at a Brocante in Provence.

Antique French Letters, Letter Wax and Seal, and antique key from Provence.

Below is one of the letters in the photo above. It's dated 19 Mai (May)1865. When I purchased it, it contained small "invoices" folded inside and is apparently an account statement of sorts. I love the fluid and elaborate writing. It's beautiful.

This picture is of the reverse side of the letter.  The letter was written and folded to form an envelope of sorts.  The tear on the top middle portion of the letter is from the breaking of the wax seal that would have secured the "envelope."  After folding the paper, the author would seal the letter with a custom wax seal stamp that in some instances bore the family crest or the sender’s initials.   The address on the outside remained simple, directing the bearer of the letter to the city or town, street, and the name of the receiver. The stamp on the letter above reads "French Empire."

(photo from

Another beautifully scripted French letter dated 1865.  This letter is written on a beautiful blue/grey paper.

Can you imagine writing this letter with a quill pen? Chances are the author of these letters had a quill pen and a bottle of ink on his table when he wrote this.

I looked up info on writing letters in this time period and found that in 1803
a metal pen point had been patented but was not widely being produced. Steel nibs came into wide use in the 1830's. By the 1850's quill pen usage was fading but still common.

Au revoir, Mitty


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Delicious and Charming French Restaurant in Dallas - rise n°1

Let me start out by saying "I AM NOT A FOOD CRITIC" but I know delicious food and I know a good "dining experience" when I'm fortunate enough to have one!  MH and I love to try new restaurants and love it when we find one where the food, ambiance and overall experience is memorable.

MH, MDD and I met for lunch on Saturday.  We didn't have a chosen place to eat, so we settled on a restaurant in a shopping area where MH and I were looking at antiques.  We were lucky when we chose to eat at rise n°1!

rise n°1 is a salon de soufflé and wine bar located in the Inwood Village shopping center at 5360 West Lovers Lane, Suite 220 in Dallas, Texas. As the name suggests, the restaurant is focused on the classic French dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites and is the first restaurant of its type in Dallas.

When MH and I entered the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by the hostess with a friendly "Bonjour!" and offered to wait for MDD in a cozy little seating area beside the hostess area.  Here a slipcovered sofa, linen covered pillows, well loved chairs and shelves filled with old books welcomed us.  The atmosphere of the entire restaurant reminded me of a French home filled with useful, purposeful and beloved furnishings. 

When MDD arrived we were immediately seated at a table made of a repurposed old school desk where both of the two old ink wells were filled with vases. Speaking of repurposed and reused, rise n°1 embraces the "Slow Food" and "Green" philosophies. As cited from the Slow Food USA website, "Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment."  (Slow Food USA) Not only was the table repurposed but the wine and water glasses are made of recycled wine bottles.

The menu at rise n°1 features savory souffles such as jambon (ham) and Gruyere cheese, smoked salmon, truffle infused mushroom, and lobster souffles as well as several other entrees.  As a starter MDD and I shared the rise n°1 salad of baby greens, roasted pecans, blue cheese, granny smith apples and pecan vinaigrette. It was delicious!  MH started with the waiter's suggested Marshmallow Soup.  This amazingly delicious soup is a tomato carrot bisque topped with mini goat cheese souffles that look like marshmallows. When the waiter brought the Marshmallow soup to the table, he poured a basil pesto over it.  The next time I eat here, I'll order the Marshmallow Soup!  For Entrees, MDD and MH enjoyed a special Crab Souffle and I ordered the Jambon and Gruyere. The souffles were perfectly delicious, fluffy and beautiful.  (To check out the menu and to learn more about the restaurant's owner and chef visit

Only because we are getting ready for a wedding in less than 3 months, we declined desert.  Can you believe it? Here we are surrounded by beautiful chocolate, Grand Marnier, blueberry and hazelnut desert souffles and we were strong enough to resist them.  As soon as the wedding is over, I'm headed back to rise n°1! I might try a couple of different desert souffles.................