Monthly Archives: April 2011

Ah, here’s Hudson with the post…

Did you get one of these?

Me neither.  And I’m glad.

I’m guessing I was much more comfortable watching the BBC’s live coverage of the royal wedding at 3 am this morning with my husband than most of the people in Westminster Abbey. We had cake and tea in our jammies. We also had a much better view.

Image courtesy of the BBC, masters of architectural and event photography.

Much better view.

Still, I did wonder what it would have been like to get one of those unique invitations in the mail. Especially if you weren’t expecting it. I really liked hearing that the Middleton family invited their own neighborhood friends, like their butcher and their grocer. Can you imagine the surprise when they opened their invitations? What a delightful way to share joy.

Want a little  wedding tradition trivia while we’re celebrating today? Have you ever wondered why wedding invitations come with two envelopes?  What is this second envelope is for?

There is a reason. (You knew there had to be.) It all has to do with the workings of a fine household and the job of this guy:

Image courtesy of life.com

We’ll call him “Hudson”, because he is a butler. All butlers are properly addressed by their last names while on duty. (If you know why I chose the name “Hudson” for my example, extra points to you for your discriminating tv viewing choices!)

Before the use of trucks and cars, the mail (or “the post” if you are British) was carried by hand and by horseback riders…on mostly unpaved roads, through every kind of weather. In short, a letter from your grandmother in the next town could arrive looking like it had been through a war. Covered in mud, ink smeared (which was easy to do anyway with old ink), with who knows how many grubby working class fingerprints all over it.

So, what does Hudson do? Does he just take this dirty envelope and hand it off the his finely dressed employers?  No sir, he does not. He opens the dirty outer envelope, discards it and then takes the mail:

Image courtesy of thefullwiki.com

on a pristine silver tray, with a clean letter opener to his employers. It looks a little bit like this:

Image courtesy of thefullwiki.com

Now Sir or Madam can open their own mail, privately, easily and safe in the knowledge that only the sender and Hudson have touched the clean inner envelope. (This is also why the inner envelope is only ever labeled with a name, not a street address.) This care and courtesy of the mail within fine households became the standard for well-mannered correspondence. Today’s formal wedding invitations are one of the last hold-overs of this older etiquette. (Unless you still have your newspapers ironed before you read them. Hudson is a whiz at that chore, too.)

Want your own silver mail tray?  Linked here is a great deal on a classic design:

(Hudson not included.)

Have you received a double-enveloped wedding invitation recently? If you are married, did you use two envelopes for your wedding invitation? Do you like modern wedding invitations or do you prefer more traditional invitations with all of the extra paperwork.

This is for the birds

Behind-the-scenes blog confession: I often struggle with insomnia. Some nights, no matter how I try, a good sleep is just not in the cards. On those nights, I get up and work quietly, writing blog posts to share with you.

Something very odd happens in my neighborhood at 2 am. The birds wake up and start singing. Then, they go back to bed around 3 am. It happens every night I am up at this hour, typing away. I have no idea which birds wake up or why this happens, but I do appreciate the company. I’ve actually started to use their choral work as a try-to-get-some-sleep-now reminder.

Nightingales actually sing louder in urban areas to compensate for the increased noise. Is this who I am hearing?

Thinking about this as I went to bed (again) the other night, I wondered how many bird watchers would be able to truly identify the birds I am hearing at night. I discovered that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study in 2006 found that 20% of the American population identified themselves as bird watchers. Wow! Did you know that? I sure didn’t.

With that in mind, and in tribute to my late night flock of friends, I thought I would share some great bird-love decor finds. There are plenty out there to choose from and now I know why. Spring is here, warm weather is beckoning you outside and there is no time like the present to enjoy the beautiful songs and colors of your local bird community. Apparently, a lot of you already know this!

For Your Well-Feathered Nest

  1. This wall decal is one of many varieties available, all of which can be customized by size and color.
  2. This bold throw pillow is available by itself or as part of a larger bed linen set by the trendsetting Dwell Studio.
  3. Who’s a pretty bird? You are! And you leave nothing behind to clean up!
  4. I love this bluebird night-light. No wonder they symbolize happiness.
  5. This classic ring catcher would look beautiful on any woman’s dresser.
  6. This elegant little teapot is almost too pretty to use. Almost.
  7. This set of glass bird-and-flower coasters are just calling for a tall glass of lemonade.
  8. I would want to fill the space between these bookends with books containing bird motifs. To Kill a Mockingbird, Birdsong, The Maltese Falcon…
  9. A cheerful doormat with birds to welcome your muddy bird watching shoes and boots, if you can bear to scuff it up.
Mother’s Day is coming up. Do you have a gift for your Mama bird? Maybe you had better look at that pretty bird decor again.

I can’t let this post end with out a shout out to the talented artists at Google. This past Tuesday, April 26th, was the 226th birthday of the artist John James Audubon. He taught the world to appreciate the beauty of North American birds. Google marked his birthday with this very classy tribute in their logo:

Do you have a favorite bird? Are you a bird watcher? What is the most beautiful bird you have ever seen around your home?

Mood Board: Colorful Everyday Dining room

This room was designed for a couple who felt they had neglected their formal dining room for years. Their dining room was used maybe twice a year and they felt the 40-year-old heavy furniture made the room feel lees inviting than they wanted it to be. When I arrived for the project, they had already sold their old furniture set and replaced a small window with a new pair of French doors that led out into the back yard. Then, they had become stuck trying to pick out new furniture and decor. They wanted the new room to be colorful, more casual for everyday use, and above all, welcoming…

First, we chose a gentle buttery yellow for the wall color. This color is great for the natural light coming into the dining room during the day and is elegant at night under the new chandeliers, and especially, candlelight . The new chandelier chosen is a wrought iron carriage chandelier. This traditional open frame allows the chandelier to be larger, but not dominate the eye with formal sparking crystal when you enter into the dining room. Two chandeliers spaced over the table and connected to a dimmer allows for a wide variety of lighting settings.

The table, shown here with the leaf extension in, brings some warm wood tones to the room, while the light cabriole legs of the table keep it from having a heavy footprint in the room. The leaf extension still allows for those large family gatherings. The dining chairs echo the table’s cabriole leg and also offer the comfort of a natural woven seat. The upholstered banquette, with its light green stripe, offers a more relaxed seating option for one end and one side of the dining table. This is the perfect place for a lazy brunch or a great board game night.

A painted sideboard lends an antique feel to the room, fighting the common formal dining room phenomenon: everything-was-bought-new-on-the-same-day. A classic round mirror with a gold frame (one of my favorites, you might remember it from this post) placed above the sideboard and opposite the new French doors gives the room some extra natural light.

The area rug was chosen for the creamy, but neutral background color and the crisp blue scroll pattern, which offers a nice contrast to the orderly stripes on the banquette. The wife of this client couple had originally wanted to paint the whole new room red, but the husband thought the room would look too dark. (This was the stumbling block that brought me in to help with the project.) We put these rich red curtains up around the window and French doors as a compromise that worked for everyone. The simple panels are timeless and the bold color really shows some personality.

Speaking of color, we used some modern art to help some brighter colors into the palette. As I said in a previous post, each client should choose their own art. My clients wanted landscapes for their new dining room. After looking at lots of traditional prints in muted tones, the vivid hues of the large Gauguin landscape I suggested really spoke to them. We framed this print in a slightly metallic bronze frame to add a little sparkle to the print when light hits it. We also used the painting to inspire some bright accessory choices, including the orange candle lantern, the turquoise decanter and all of the throw pillows.

Having such a beautiful landscape in the room meant we had to have some real green in there, too. A couple of simple English boxwoods in neutral planters are easy to maintain and move around, depending on the room’s seating needs.

Last, but most importantly, a little good luck was added to this new dining room. This family has always had bulldogs as pets, so it seemed appropriate to put a small bronze guardian by those new French doors. We hope he will watch over many great meals and occasions in the coming years.

Mixing the furniture pieces creates a casual, collected-over-time look that allows the room to feel more personal and welcoming. Using a large, bright color palette with several patterns allows for more flexibility of style, making this room part of the everyday life of the rest of the house.

Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

Giveaway Winner!

It’s time to announce the first giveaway winner!  

Today’s winner will receive a beautiful set of sixteen note cards commemorating the famous chair designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

And the winner is: Tina W.!

Tina has really loved the Green Living posts about Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner and Microfiber cleaning cloths. (If you missed those posts, you can see them here and here.) She even put those products to the test in her own home and loves the changes she made.

Congratulations, Tina!  I’ll be contacting you soon for a mailing address!

If you weren’t a winner today, don’t worry. More giveaways are coming soon!

Patriotic Upcycling

Do you have this problem at your house?

We have downsized our magazine consumption in the past few years, but we still get a few favorites and can build up quite a stack. We like to make sure we read them thoroughly before we declare them “done”. I’d like to be able to blame this little enabler:

This really deep magazine basket easily holds several months worth of subscriptions and by the time we clean it out, we have this problem:

These are really nice magazines. Even if we recycle them, it feels bad to throw them away after only two adults have read them. So, Mr. CARO and I found a solution. This solution will cost you some spare change, between $13-20 based on what you want to spend. However, this project achieves many extra goals beyond recycling. This solution will:

  • Help you with your Spring cleaning
  • Put your magazines to further use
  • Help the planet
  • Support our troops serving far from home

Betcha didn’t see that last one coming, did ya?  Here is one of the two tools that make this solution possible:

This box, called the “APO/FPO flat rate box” can only be used to ship items to an overseas military address. “APO” basically stands for Armed Services Post Office, which serves all the US military bases on foreign soil, all over the world. To know that you got the APO/FPO flat rate box, look for this logo on the box:

This box is free at any US post office. (Free!) Anything you can fit in this box that weighs less than 20 pounds can be shipped to any APO address for just $13. That’s right! For only $13, the USPS will deliver this box to American soldiers in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not a bad deal, huh? Probably less than you spent on one of those magazine subscriptions.

Okay, here is the second tool:

This is anysoldier.com, a fantastic website which can connect you with US soldiers serving around the world who need a care package from home.

At the top of the page you can link to “What to Send” to see the overall guidelines for shipping packages to APO addresses.

Be sure to scroll down to the “Things NOT to send” and “Tips and Hints” sections of this page and read them carefully.

Also, at the top of the page, click on the “Where to Send” to find the (very) long list of soldiers who need care packages, either for themselves, or more commonly, for their group. You can sort through the soldier requests by current country, branch of service, gender, etc.  Then, click on the soldier’s name for more details about them.

Read what they are looking for, what they really need, in a care package. The key is to find someone who is looking for some extra entertainment to help fill the down time when they are off-duty. It won’t be hard to find this need. Choose your soldier and then ask for their address. This step really commits you to really sending a care package.

I’m guessing you can figure out the next step:

If you have kids, try getting them in on this project, too. This can be an ecology and patriotism lesson in one. Kids can help gather up the magazines around the house and pack the box. Be sure all of your magazines don’t show your home address and are in nice condition when you pack them up.

Have extra room left over in your box?  Consider tossing in:

  • More magazines: Can you help your neighbor’s with their Spring cleaning? You’ll be surprised how many people will contribute when you explain your cause.
  • Good paperback books: Does your book club want to donate some great books? Maybe you can find some great ones at your favorite used book store to include.
  • Snacks to share: try a mix of salty and sweet snacks to please everyone’s cravings. Be careful of sending snack things that can melt in warm temperatures, like chocolate or hard candies. (No home-made food is acceptable, for safety reasons.) Pack the snacks in Ziploc bags to ensure no spills in the shipping and the ability that your soldier can keep them fresh in country.
  • A letter of appreciation: Those of us having a hard day at home often can not imagine what a hard day is like in a combat zone. Even just a few words of thank you and appreciation for their service may make a soldier’s hard day a little more bearable. Tell your soldier a little about yourself and that you’d love to hear back from them, too.
  • A pre-addressed, non-stamped (overseas soldiers get free letter postage) note card and envelope. Help make it easy for your soldier to write back. Be patient, their job is very busy and their post office is often not as conveniently located as your post office is.

Now tape that box up like you mean business. Cover every box edge with tape, so there are no shipping accidents on the way. Drop this box by your US Post Office, pay your $13 and you have:

  • Helped the planet by upcycling paper goods
  • Made a soldier’s day by sending them some love from home

Which one of those achievements feels better? Hmmm. That is a hard call. Try it and decide for yourself. You can do all of these steps in less time than it has taken me to write this post!

Do you like this Green Living idea? This post is part of the year-long Earth Day series started last week. You can read about it in this post. For some budget-best-friendly Green Living household solutions, check out this post and this post. Do you have a great Green Living tip? Post it as a comment to share!

The Perfect Guest Room, part 2

Here are the last easy how-to steps for making the Perfect Guest Room. If you missed the first part of the post, “The Basics”, you can read it right here.

Today’s list is the honest what and why of all “The Bonuses” that make your guest room easy to maintain and a step above the usual spare room fittings.  As you read this list, you may not think all of them are necessary, but just think how glad you would be to find these options when you needed them.

As I mentioned earlier, none of these tips are hard or expensive to do. You can implement them a little at a time, as your budget allows, toward a perfect end product. Most of the tips just require a little planning and organization. Once you set up a great guest room, it almost takes care of itself.

The Bonuses

Easy Maintenance

  • Store the guest towels in the guest bedroom.  Stack them, neatly folded, in the closet, a drawer or some kind of closed container.  When guests are on their way, all you have to do it place them on the bed.
  • After each guest leaves, wash the guest bed linens and guest towels immediately, then follow the above note for the towels and remake the bed so it is ready for the next guest. The bed is now ready for any unexpected company. No more digging around for the guest sheets when what you really need to do is vacuum the family room before your guest arrives in 10 minutes.

  • Once everything is in place for the next guest, whoever they might be, dust sheet the whole room. Just use old sheets and channel your inner Victorian parlor maid. Cover the bed, the dresser, the nightstand with lamps and any other pieces of furniture. Sound silly? You won’t have to dust this room before anyone else shows up. Just put away the old sheets and vacuum!
  • Extra points for rubbing a few fabric softener sheets across the clean pillowcases when you take off the dust sheets, before the guests arrive. Ah! Fresh linens! (I won’t tell if you won’t.)
Room Perks
  • Place a small tray or decorative platter on the nightstand or dresser. Men empty the change from their pockets and women take off their jewelry at night. This tray corrals everything safely and keeps people from searching for lost things under the bed (where your abandoned yoga mat is hibernating).
  • TV.  A small tv is all that is needed, if you want to include it. Just make sure the batteries in the remote are good.
  • Picture this scenario: Your cellphone dies just as you are going to sleep. You have the charger, but where is an outlet in this room? Do I unplug the lamp or the alarm clock? Where do these cords even run to? A free outlet that is visible is always a plus for cellphones, hair dryers, etc.
  • A tabletop or ceiling fan is always helpful for those who prefer to sleep with a cooler room or could use some extra white noise.

  • A small iron and ironing board are really useful and saves your guests having to sheepishly ask if they can use yours, wherever it lives. Any travel iron you take on your own trips can be used here at home.
  • Robes are often the first items jettisoned when travelers are trying to fit the stuff-they-really-need into one bag. A clean, fluffy robe on the back of the door or in the guest closet is very welcoming. If you happened to have an “extra” one from a great hotel (I know you have NO idea what I’m talking about) this is a great place to use it.
  • A small chair is lovely, but only if you truly have the room for it. Don’t try to throw one in just for the idea of it. You could also use a bench at the foot of the bed, if you have room.

Guest Perks

  • Small water glasses and a carafe of fresh water are a very nice touch for any guest. Many people like to take a glass of water to bed, especially if they need to take any medication.
  • In the bathroom the guests will be using, keep an easily accessible, basic collection of First Aid items. Band-aids, Neosporin, cough drops, thermometer, Tylenol, Imodium, etc. Think of the worst thing you would want to have to ask a host for and try to stock it for your guests.
  • Toiletry items. Sometimes 3 fl.oz just isn’t enough. Visit your drugstore travel bottle section and choose neutral, fragrance-free items. Lotion and sunscreen are also a great help. Put all of these small items in a small open container and leave them out in the guest room. (You can dust sheet right over these, too!)

  • A few candy treats and some good pretzels can be very nice for arriving guests. They can use them in their room if they are peckish or pack them for outings they are taking in your area. Just make sure you buy them in individual sizes and keep them all together in an open container on a visible surface. (Dust sheet over these, too? Yep!)
  • Maps and local area sightseeing brochures are great conversation starters, especially if your guests are visiting for the first time. Your local Chamber of Commerce has a wall of brochures up for anyone to shop. Take a few home for your guests.
  • Last, but not least, is reading material. This can be anything you think your guests might like: local area magazines, current news magazines, that great paperback you just finished reading, some beautiful coffee table books, guide books to area museums…use your imagination here.

And that is it! Whew!

Were any of these ideas eye-openers for you? Do you have any additional suggestions? What is most annoying thing you ever forgot to pack for a trip?

Need another perk?  Today is the last day to enter the current giveaway. Make sure you get in on the chance to win. You can enter right now, right here!

All of the items pictured today are linked to their pages on Amazon. I do believe that Amazon is magical and can be the source for almost anything you can ever need. (I say “almost” because I am still hoping to add “house-trained puppies” and “time travel” onto my “Wish List”. I’ll keep you posted…)

Every day is still not today.

Image courtesy of NASA

You probably already know today is Earth Day.

You can always tell Earth Day is coming up on the calendar because all of the tv networks get all warm and fuzzy about ecology. Green logos sprout from everywhere. PSAs show up, featuring stars you just watched cruising LA in their SUVs on TMZ. The rest of the year, the tv networks are on to other more fashionable causes. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Here is an example of the US government reminding us to be more “green”:

Image (not to scale) courtesy of the United States Postal Service

These stamps just came out this month, just in time for guess-what-day. You can buy them in your US Post Office now. Now, you know I’m a true fan of stamps as art, but I can’t help but notice that none of the above stamps says “Save trees and energy by paying your bills electronically.”

So, what have we confirmed (because, in our hearts, we really already knew this)? We can’t rely on businesses to do the real work on this issue. They all have their own agendas. It is up to us, friends. And sometimes, it seems like an insurmountable task.

Deforestation in progress

As I was thinking about this, I looked at those green stamps. Is there anyone in 2011’s America that doesn’t know they should recycle? What we need is a list of practical new tips that can be accomplished once and hold their eco-friendly value. Tips that can be done quickly…in under 10 minutes.

Challenge accepted!

Twice a month, I’ll post a new idea for Green Living for real life. Quick, mostly cheap things you can do that will make a difference. I’ll do the research and pass it on to you. I’m gonna keep it real and let you know some things we do in our home, too. (There are already some examples here and here.)

How many 10 minute projects would you be willing to do to make your home life better for the planet and better for your conscience? How many over the span of a year? If you try only half of my ideas, you will have made 12 changes toward a better home by the next time Earth Day rolls around.

We’ll start this series next week with an alternative idea for some Spring cleaning and “up-cycling”. I’ll leave you today with a PSA from a real eco-warrior:

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~Henry David Thoreau

Do you have a green tip for real life?  Share it in the comments section for everyone to see. All solutions are welcome!

Take note: free giveaway!

***************THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED***********************

Time for a free giveaway for my fantastic readers!

This giveaway is inspired by all of the chairs we have discussed in recent posts. You can read about them at these links:

As a big thank you for all of you that have been following my blog, I’m giving away a beautiful set of sixteen note cards. These note cards commemorate the chair designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who was a Scottish leader in the British Arts & Crafts movement.

As we have seen in many examples here on the blog, great furniture design can be artful in its own way. Mackintosh’s chairs are recognizable for their dramatically tall profiles and almost-Art-Nouveau motifs. The chairs depicted on the note cards include 4 designs from 1897 to 1903, some of which reside in museums today. There are 4 note cards of each chair design.

These note cards are unusual because they are the regular #10 US envelope size. They would be great for letter writing, or framing as group for a unique pieces of art for your home (see Rule #5 in this post).

To Enter:  Leave a comment that begins with “TAKE NOTE OF ME!” and then tell me what posts you have liked the most in the blog so far. This will help me plan more fun posts for the future. Only one entry per email address will be allowed, so that everyone gets a fair chance of winning.

Enter By:  Monday, April 25, 2011 at 10pm EST

Number of winners: Only 1, so enter now!

The Winner:  Will be selected at random from the total number of comments by using random.org and will be announced in next Tuesday’s post.

Want more giveaways? I already have some things in mind for the future, but you can also tell me about the kinds of thing you would like to win when you enter your comment. What are you waiting for? Enter your comment now! Good Luck!

Design Vocabulary: Chinoiserie

Chinoiserie (pronounced: shin-wahz-REE) is a French term, meaning “in the Chinese style”. What it really means is “what Europeans understood the Chinese style to be when they first started hearing about traditional Asian arts in the 1700’s and how they tried to copy it over the next few centuries”.

Yeah. The French term sounds better. As usual.

Chinoiserie, in action, looks like this:

Image courtesy of frenchstyleauthority.com

Can you see the Asian flowers and birds in the wallpaper? You have a little Asian flavor, but you can still show off your European wealth in your gold mirror and crystal chandelier. This was very sexy design when it was new.

Chinoiserie really hit its stride when Europe was in the middle of the Rococo period, which celebrated nature. The Rococo period was already producing art work and furniture like this:

"The Swing" by Fragonard, 1767 Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

“If you can find space for more nature-themed ornamentation, squeeze it in. What? You’ve found a whole new continent’s worth of species? Let’s add them, too!”

Image courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Major design clients, like Louis XV of France (you can read a little about him here), could not pass up the idea of having all of those flowers and birds from the “exotic Orient” in their decor. Chinese-inspired shapes and motifs showed up on furniture design, porcelain, art, textiles and, especially, wallpaper.

See how the above wallpaper, painting and cabinet have a similar color palette? That’s no coincidence. The clients were already into these colors and ordering them for every item available. The designers just bent the “Chinese” styles to fit the color preferences of the current market.

Chinoiserie became all the rage for fashionable houses. In England, a Prince in need of a weekend retreat wanted very stylish rooms.  His “Chinese Gallery” combined a little of everything Chinoiserie and came together as this:

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, UK 1838  Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It is a lovely style. Not authentically Asian, by any means, but a pleasing compilation of Asian imagery. This is probably why it has been so consistently produced over so many centuries.

Want a little Chinoiserie for your home? There are plenty of options still out there today! Check out the shopping source links below:

"Chirp" by Lenox

"Kew" wallpaper by Paul Montgomery Studio

"Windsor Fretwork Shelf"

"Arabesque" rug

"Collectors Classics Chinoiserie Coffee Table" by Ethan Allen

Chinoiserie vases

Chinoiserie magnets

What do you like about this style?  Does the history of the style surprise you? Where could you put a piece of Chinoiserie in your home?

How dead French kings can help you take a load off

Once upon a time, way before the years of American history you were supposed to have memorized in high school, there was the kingdom of France. And the kings of France were a very busy lot. Life was full of responsibilities, such as waging wars against their neighbors, scooping up colonial land wherever it was found and trying not to anger their hungry subjects while they bankrupted the country for some extra jewelry. You can spend a lifetime just learning about all those kings and how they spent their time.

Image courtesy of fineartamerica.com

We’re not doing that here today.

Today, we’re only going to care about their home life as furniture style makers. These kings of France were the A-list celebrities of their day, living in the most fashionably famous country in Europe. Wealth denoted power and it was to be flaunted. If the king had something stylish in the palace, er…palaces, everyone else wanted one just like it.

This offers us a unique opportunity to see the evolution of the chair as a nation’s everyday lifestyles and needs changed. Clothing fashions changed dramatically, affecting how you physically sit in a chair. Rooms in the home changed, too, becoming much less formal. Everyone’s furniture had to adapt or it was swapped for something better, just like we do today in our homes.

Think of this post as a history version of my Real Living post. Here is a cheat sheet of knowledge for real life: a little trivia to remember Mr. Divine-Right and how his chair evolved from the kings before him.

LOUIS XIII

Royal guy: Born in 1601; became king at age 9;  married once; contemporary references suggest he may have been gay; was succeeded by his son, Louis XIV

Dead from: Tuberculosis, at 42 (1643)

Chair: Severely square profile; upright, square back with fabric stretched over frame; square seat; open arms; minimal upholstery; fabric often finished with visible nailheads; stretchers connect all four legs for stability; barley twist carved pattern on arms, legs and  stretchers

Dead giveaway characteristic: The simple, yet severely square profile

LOUIS XIV

Royal Guy: Born in 1638; became king at age 5; married twice; several public mistresses; many children from wives and mistresses; great patron of design; converted his father’s old hunting lodge into the Palace of Versailles (see picture at top of post); was succeeded by his great-grandson, Louis XV, because all other heirs between them had died from small pox

Dead from: Old age, at 76 (1715)

Chair: Square seat; tall rectangular back; made with heavy woods which added weight to chair; open, curved arms; modified cabriole leg; stretchers connect all four legs for stability; gilded and carved wood frame; upholstered seat and back, commonly in dark green, red or blue heavy weight fabric

Dead giveaway characteristic: Heavy chair weight; big, rectangular back

LOUIS XV

Royal Guy: Born 1710; became king at age 5; married once; several public mistresses; many children from wife and mistresses; great patron of the arts; survived an assignation attempt; succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI

Dead from: small pox, at age 63 (1774)

Chair: Smaller overall proportions; seat and back shapes no longer follow straight lines; back of chair now reclines at a significant angle; open, curved and now padded arms; cabriole legs; carved and gilded frame with rococo shell motifs; brighter colored and patterned upholstery fabric

Dead giveaway characteristic: Gilded Rococo motifs covering frame

LOUIS XVI

Royal Guy: Born in 1754; became king at age 20; married at age fifteen to Marie Antoinette; several children; removed from throne and convicted of high treason during the French Revolution; only king of France ever to be executed; no successors due to monarchy abolition

 Dead from: the Guillotine, at age 39 (1793)

Chair: Overall proportions become smaller, almost dainty; chair is easy to move; straight, tapering legs with fluting; simple carved mahogany frame, although frame is very often painted; fabric patterns lean toward pastoral motifs; fabric colors shift to neutrals or pastels

Dead giveaway characteristic: Those delicately tapered legs

Do you like any of these antique chairs? Finding an original Louis chair, from any reign, is quite a feat these days. Many of them are found in fine museums because they were so groundbreaking in their own time. However, if you really like the style, there is another option:

This is the Louis Ghost Chair, by French designer Philippe Starck for Kartell. It is a beautiful piece that is already a design classic in its own right, and it is much cheaper than an original Louis chair. Since you now know a little about original Louis chair history, can you see the French ancestors in this chair’s profile?

The Louis Ghost Chair is made from one solid piece of molded clear polycarbonate, translation: industrial grade plastic. You can use it indoors or outdoors. (Try doing that with an antique Louis chair!) It is oh-so-light to lift and remarkably comfortable to sit in for long stretches. It makes a lovely desk, dining or accent chair.

Because it is clear, it is great for smaller spaces, allowing light to pass through the chair to give the feel of more spaciousness. It is also great for adding a little sparkle and modern to a room, as you can see below:

If the simple clear aspect of this chair isn’t quite your thing, consider another shade of clear:

Or maybe an opaque one?

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what you like and dislike about all of these chairs named Louis. Do you prefer the antiques? Has the modern version made you reconsider what “modern” can mean? Where would you use one of the Louis Ghost chairs in your home?

All portrait images in this post are courtesy of Wikipedia and some very talented, but long dead, painting masters.  The chair images are courtesy of miamiantique.com, The Abrams Guide to Period Styles for Interiors, allmodern.com and House Beautiful.

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