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After recently spending a few (blissful!) days in Charleston’s historic peninsula touring private homes and gardens, I can attest that gardening is a full-contact sport in the Holy City. From manicured formal gardens to rambling flower-lined paths, Charlestonians definitely know how to rock their green thumbs.

In addition to full gardens, flower-filled windowboxes were everywhere: Window boxes in Charleston

Formal gardens boast mounds of color and charming weather-worn statuary: Charleston formal garden

Charleston’s sub-tropical climate provides ideal conditions for South Carolina’s state tree, the Palmetto Palm, and camellias whose ruffly flowers are synonymous with the South: Pink camellias and a palm tree in Charleston

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If you’ve been following my earlier posts (here and here), you know that I’m one lucky online editor who recently took a trip down to gorgeous Charleston, S.C. to attend their annual antiques show and tour a few of the peninsula’s centuries-old private homes. With over 2,800 historic buildings, Charleston is one America’s oldest and best-preserved cities. Founded in 1670 as an English colony named Charles Towne, the city’s peninsula features homes that range from pre-Revolutionary War and Antebellum to Gothic Revival, Italianate and Victorian that were added in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Although these architectural styles differ, one common thread of all Charleston’s historic homes is the strong desire to preserve the buildings that make this city so unique. 

I saw so many beautiful interior and exterior details during my tour but here are 5 of my favorites:

Wood Paneling:  Interior walls covered in raised wood panels are a common feature in Charleston’s historic homes. In the years before plaster (and centuries before sheetrock), wood was a functional and decorative wall covering that helped to insulate interior rooms from cold seeping through the home’s stone or brick exterior. In this cozy living room, the home’s current owner meticulously stripped layer-after-layer of paint to restore the almost 300-year-old cypress panels to their original warm finish.Paneled parlor in Charleston historic home

A “Hyphen”: Due to the very real possibility of fire, Charleston’s kitchens were housed separately from the main house. Thanks to advances in cooking in the early 1900′s (food could be prepared in a stove instead of over an open fire) many Charlestonians began to connect the detached kitchen to the main house with a room called a ”hyphen.” These connecting rooms provided additional living space and made cooking less of a chore. Many hyphens, like this one, still feature the old brick exterior wall and pathway that led to the former kitchen.Fireplace and brick floor in historic home in Charleston

Haint Blue Paint: Another common feature of the city’s historic homes is blue paint on the ceilings of piazzas (Charleston’s term for covered side porches). Commonly called “haint blue,” this soft turquoise shade is thought to keep ghosts or malicious spirits from entering the home. Here’s the iconic shade on the Calhoun Mansion, the city’s largest private residence:Piazza ceilings painted blue in Charleston

Hinged Shutters: Although we use shutters on the exteriors of our modern homes solely for decoration, Charleston’s early inhabitants put them to work. Paneled shutters were hinged so they could securely close to protect pricey glass windows from hurricanes.  Windowboxes in Charleston

Lush Gardens: Charleston’s subtropical climate means short, mild winters, hot, humid summers and plenty of year-round rainfall resulting in an ideal gardening environment. Peek through any gate in the historic district and you’ll be rewarded with the view of a stately home surrounded by either a formal or informal garden. Although the plot surrounding each home isn’t large, Charlestonians take pride in filling their yards with masses of blooming plants. Plantation house in Charleston

*Check back next Wednesday to see highlights of the gorgeous gardens I toured in Charleston. 

MORE ADVENTURES IN ANTIQUING:
Adventures in Antiquing: Charleston Antiques Show Part 1
Adventures in Antiquing: Charleston Antiques Show Part 2
Adventures in Antiquing: (Easy!) Beachy Candle Makeover
Adventures in Antiquing: Repurposed Wooden Tray
Adventures in Antiquing: Crushing On Carrara Marble
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Toolbox Turned Magazine Caddy
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Clock Repurposed as a Frame
Adventures in Antiquing: Classical Busts
Adventures in Antiquing: Vintage Avon Bottle
Adventures in Antiquing: Salvaged Molding As Holiday Decor

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So, have I mentioned lately that I love my job? No? Well, I do! I recently spent a few (blissful!) days in Charleston, SC touring historic homes and checking out their prestigious annual antiques show. I shared a few of my favorite antique finds last week; here are a few more goodies:

I’m obsessed with gilding — shiny gold objects draw me to them like a magnet. Gilding is the process of covering a surface, typically porcelain, wood or metal, with a thin layer of gold. Also known as gilt, gold-leaf and ormolu (from the French or moulu, literally ground gold) this technique is centuries old – early examples decorated the homes of Greek, Chinese and Egytian elite. Left: The mirror in the foreground is one of a pair of George the Third, English Regency mirrors from the early 1800′s  – $17,500. G. Sergeant Antiques To demonstrate the (top notch!) quality of antiques offered for sale at this show, the mirror in the background is the mate to one on display at NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art — wow! Right: The massive horse’s head is a French trade sign from 1870. The gilding was applied over cast lead and is in amazing condition considering this piece would have been displayed outside a business and spent decades exposed to the elements – $4,500. Cunha St. John Antiques
Antique gold mirror and horse's head at Charleston Antiques Show

Storage that’s both practical and beautiful is not a new idea. Left: What looks like a really tall hat box is actually a cheese keeper. Refrigeration is a technology we take for granted but 100+ years ago, this beautifully embellished pottery dome prevented cheese from drying out while keeping it cool and mold-free, circa  1875 — $9,500 Jerry S. Hayes MajolicaRight: For centuries tea was a luxury that only European, and later Amercan, elite could afford. To protect their stash from rodents or light-fingered servants, small locked boxes were used. Soon, the boxes that held the precious tea became a status symbol in themselves employing exotic and rare materials like ivory and tortoiseshell. English tea caddy, circa 1830 — $5,300 Sallea Antiques
Antique majolica and tortoiseshell tea caddy at Charleston Antiques Show

My two pups are the center of my world and judging from the high number of antiques I spied featuring man’s best friend, dogs have long been considered members of the family. Left: This sweet pencil sketch of greyhounds by artist Felix O.C. Darley may have been a study for one of the many books he illustrated. Darley was one of the 19th century’s top illustrators; his work helped classics by Dickens, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Edgar Allen Poe (to name a few) come to life — $750, American Eagle Antiques (no website). Right: A pair of skillfully carved mahogany whippets support a Carrara marble top on this Neapolitan console which was crafted in Italy, circa 1820 — $46,000 from Yew Tree House Antiques.Antique pencil sketch and wood furniture at Charleston Antiques Show

*Check back next Wednesday to see some of the amazing private homes and gardens I toured in Charleston.

MORE ADVENTURES IN ANTIQUING:
Adventures in Antiquing: Charleston Antiques Show Part 1
Adventures in Antiquing: (Easy!) Beachy Candle Makeover
Adventures in Antiquing: Repurposed Wooden Tray
Adventures in Antiquing: Crushing On Carrara Marble
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Toolbox Turned Magazine Caddy
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Clock Repurposed as a Frame
Adventures in Antiquing: Classical Busts
Adventures in Antiquing: Vintage Avon Bottle
Adventures in Antiquing: Salvaged Molding As Holiday Decor

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Last month, I had my very first Las Vegas experience — and, I think I did pretty good for a first-timer. I gambled a little (came home $75 richer), saw Celine Dion at Caesars Palace and I visited The Neon Museum. The slot machines and Ms. Dion had been on the agenda, but The Neon Museum was something my buddy and I decided to take in on a whim. And truthfully, it was one of the trip’s highlights (right up there with Celine!).

Neon Museum

Photo From The Neon Museum

If you’re a history buff, this place is for you. The Neon Museum is home to Las Vegas’ old neon signs that once kept the city famously lit. Pieces in their collection include signage from the Moulin Rouge Hotel, the Stardust and Desert Inn. You can go on a guided tour through their “boneyard” and hear tales of the city’s fascinating past.

Neon Museum

Photo From The Neon Museum

Apparently, many newlyweds go to the museum’s boneyard and have offbeat wedding pictures made there. Whatever your relationship status, I highly recommend you visit this place on your next Vegas adventure — you won’t regret it.

More Neon Talk From Design Happens:
June 2012′s Color of the Month
DIY Crafts: Neon Animal Garland
Neon Decor Scores

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:Sigh: Charleston — my dream city! I must have lived there in some previous (and terribly glamorous) former life because I feel absolutely at home whenever I visit. The nice folks at the Historic Charleston Foundation invited me down to check out their 10th annual antiques show and peek inside a few of the city’s (amazing!) historic homes and gardens and I couldn’t get my car packed up quickly enough.

One of the nation’s premiere antique events, only select dealers are invited to show each spring in Charleston; independent auditors screen each item before it’s offered for sale to guarantee authenticity and provenance — so, none of my bargain-basement finds here. I’ll share more antiques plus some pics from my home and garden tours later but here are a few of the pieces that caught my eye:

Named for Sweden’s King Gustav III, Gustavian furniture features Neoclassical (Greco/Roman) details and a decidedly French flair — Gustav was a frequent visitor to the French palace of Versailles and modeled his court’s style after the pieces he saw there. Unlike French furniture of the period which was often gilded or shellacked, the Swedish craftsmen continued to paint their pieces in matte, pastel shades — creating the signature look that’s so desirable today. Below:  “Mora” tall case clock, circa 1800 — $8,600 and 1 of a set of 6 hand-carved chairs, signed Sven Anderson — $12,000. All available from Dawn Hill Antiques  Antique Swedish furniture at Charleston Antiques Show

I spied this Queen Anne chest-on-stand from a distance and had to get closer for a better look. It’s gorgeous, don’t you think? The wood is in amazing condition — especially considering this English piece (circa 1710) is over 300 years old. That’s right, this dresser is older than our country. Check out the fanciful arched detail on the skirt — beautiful! — $18,000. Available from Jayne Thompson Antiques Antique wood furniture at Charleston Antiques Show

Although most of the items at the Charleston Antiques Show were centuries old and European, there were a few early 20th century American gems like this charming carved bulldog head that opens up to reveal a brass-lined humidor so a Victorian gentleman could stash his cigars within easy reach — $1,900. A Bird in Hand Antiques Antique tobacco storage at Charleston Antiques Show

 *Check back next Wednesday for more of my trip to Charleston.

MORE ADVENTURES IN ANTIQUING:
Adventures in Antiquing: (Easy!) Beachy Candle Makeover
Adventures in Antiquing: Repurposed Wooden Tray
Adventures in Antiquing: Crushing On Carrara Marble
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Toolbox Turned Magazine Caddy
Adventures in Antiquing: Old Clock Repurposed as a Frame
Adventures in Antiquing: Classical Busts
Adventures in Antiquing: Vintage Avon Bottle
Adventures in Antiquing: Salvaged Molding As Holiday Decor

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My love affair with stately, opulent marble began in college and my first trip to Italy. Semesters spent in art history class poring over photos of classical sculpture and architecture didn’t prepare me for experiencing it firsthand. By the end of Day One, I was hooked and my quest for Carrara marble began.

The first bit of marble awesomeness I bought was a small bedroom lamp. I’ve since graduated to these big beauties (below). You can find them on ebay, 1stdibs and V&M but be prepared to shell out the big bucks. The lamps themselves are pricey but shipping is the real budget-buster. Plus, because these date mainly to the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s (Art Deco and Hollywood Regency periods), the wiring will need to be replaced meaning more $$.

To score a marble lamp within budget, hit local antique or thrift stores and, of course, estate and garage sales. Before purchasing, carefully check the stone for chips, cracks and discoloration. A good cleaning with mild dish soap and a toothbrush will do wonders, but marble is porous so if the lamp has spent decades exposed to cigarette smoke, regaining its original creamy color will require professional help.

Oh, in case you’re wondering: I paid $35 for the lamp below at an antique store which my dad and I then rewired for around $12, $15 for the drum shade and $18 (a total splurge) for the crystal finial.marble table lamp with lenten roses

How amazing is this bowl?! I found it full of stagnant water and rotted plants at an estate sale. It was so grimy that both I and the seller initially thought it was concrete. After wiping off a layer of black slime (eww!) I could tell it was marble and knew I had to have it. The price: just $10 — a real steal. Of course, I tweaked my back man-handling it back to the car…but….it was totally worth it.  carrara marble planter with orchids

Here you can see the planter’s detail. The marble isn’t polished but the lion’s heads and banded detail are well carved. carrara marble planter with orchids

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As you guys know, I love a good estate sale. One of my favorite places to search for treasures is the garage — but I’m not looking for tools. I’m on a quest to find broken bits with potential — like drawers, keys or old knobs that have been separated from their original piece of furniture or vintage harps, finials or other electrical hardware — essentially anything with character that I think I can repurpose.   

A few months ago, I discovered a 4-foot board with a carved detail along the top and beautiful raised acanthus leaves at either end. The seller found it in a barn and had no idea how old it was or whether it once framed an elaborate doorway or was part of a long piece of furniture, like a buffet.  The white paint was crazed and chipping – just how I like it. The seller seemed shocked that I even wanted a beat-up old board so he priced it low – 2 whole dollars. Originally, my plan was to strip all the paint and stain it but once I had removed the chipped paint and sanded it smooth, I decided to leave it as-is.

Topped with glittered pinecones, blue Spruce and holly boughs, my found molding makes a beautiful, rustic swag above the entry to my kitchen:

Here you can see the acanthus leaf detail on the ends — pretty, right?! Totally worth a dusty, dirty scavenger hunt in the wood pile.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of finding new uses for old things. I’m the person you see huddled in a corner at an estate sale turning an object this way and that, brow furrowed, envisioning what it could be used for. Take this old wooden toolbox. It was filthy – as all great estate sale finds are — filled with rusty, old screws and nails and only partially painted yellow. A thick layer of dust covered both the box and its contents so it definitely had some age and looked to be sturdily hand-constructed.

I knew it would make a great magazine rack and I knew I had to have it:chipped yellow paint on old toolbox repurposed as a magazine holder

Other uses I considered: Filling the 3 compartments with potted herbs in my kitchen; using it to hold rolled towels in a bathroom; or as a caddy for organizing craft or gift wrap supplies.

The $8 price tag seemed fair for its condition — dust, rusty nails and all. Once home, I dumped out the metal bits then gave it a good once-over with the vacuum. I then sanded all the surfaces to remove loose bits of peeling yellow paint and smooth the rough areas. Then, I stained it with an oil-based wood stain (Minwax Early American). BTW, I only use oil-based stains. I know some people swear by water-based because there are less fumes and the dry time is much quicker, but I’ve found that wood better accepts oil-based stains resulting in a richer, deeper color and less streaking.

Upon closer inspection, the toolbox is a mishmash of materials: the end pieces are pine, the sides are beadboard and the handle  –  I think — once belonged on a broom. You can see in the photo below how the mismatched woods took the stain differently, which for me,  just adds to its vintage charm:  old toolbox repurposed as a magazine holder

 So, tell us in the comments below, how have you repurposed items in your home?

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The HGTV.com team recently visited High Point Furniture Market to rub elbows with the design world’s movers-and-shakers and take the pulse of what’s to come. After several days of (blissful!) interior design saturation, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that antiques are HOT! Think mid-day-sun-baking-asphalt-in-the-middle-of-the-Mojave-desert hot. To capitalize on the trend, most showrooms had a curated, collected-over-time look that mixed their newly-manufactured products with a few vintage-inspired pieces.

Traditional furniture and accessories have always been a Market mainstay. Reproductions of everything from heavily ornamented Louis XVI settees to pale Gustavian commodes have never really gone out of style; but at this Market they were joined by the real deal: centuries-old case goods, lighting, classical sculpture, architectural salvage and quirky, one-of-a-kind accessories.

Here are just a few of the goodies I spied at Market; unfortunately, most of these gems are available only to the trade so I couldn’t include links — hit local antique shops or online sites like V&M, 1stdibs or Ruby Lane to search for similar items.

Antiques at High Point Furniture Market*burled wood chest: Luisana Designs  *early American ship’s compass: Design Legacy
*iron basket pendants: Bobo Intriguing Objects  *carnival chick: Design Legacy

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