Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crate and Barrel Apples

I went to the mall over the weekend with a friend to to pick out some new eyeglass frames. I'm a sucker for kitchen stuff so I suggested we cut through Crate and Barrel so I could see if there was anything I needed. I was drawn by these Granny Smith apples that looks amazingly real.
"Look at these," I said. "Aren't these amazing?"
"What the hell are you going to do with those?" he asked.
I put them down and walked away.
And then ran home and ordered them online.
$3.95 each but they're amazing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

20 Questions (or so)

I was asked by Janet of The Gardeners Cottage to answer some questions about myself. Sarah from My Yellow House also passed on an award to me a few weeks ago (which I thoughtlessly ignored) where I was supposed to share some things about myself. Since each of us limit the scope of our blogs to a particular segment of our lives, I think this is a great way to share a little bit of ourselves off subject. So here's a little bit about the curmudgeon behind An Urban Cottage.
What time do I wake up? 6:00 but I hit the snooze two times so I feel like I've slept in.

Coffee or tea? Double latte, please.
Favorite time of day? Morning. (After the latte)

Breakfast? Usually oatmeal with some vanilla yogurt but my guilty pleasure is a strawberry pop tart. The colorful sprinkles just make me happy.

Favorite salad dressing? I make my own vinaigrette and it's one I learned to make when I visited Paris years ago. Salt, pepper, garlic, a little dijon, vinegar and olive oil. In the summer I tend to make it with lemon instead of vinegar. The only commercial dressing I buy is Annie's Shitake Mushroom vinaigrette. It's got soy and sesame oil in it and it's great on brocolli or any stirfry. (I took an art workshop with Annie in Stowe, VT. She's really cool and she had the funkiest sneakers.)

Last drink? Friday night I had a Cranberry Bog Martini at Legal Seafoods. I'm not a big drinker but I love my "bogs."

Favorite store to max out your credit card? Easy one. Berta Walker Gallery or Artstrand in Provincetown.

Favorite pizza? Plain cheese.

Last dinner I ate? I had a salad with some grilled shrimp.

Food dislikes? Turnip. And I won't eat veal.

Steak or chicken? I'm really trying to be thoughtful about the meat that I eat and I'm trying to eat less but with spring coming, I'm really looking forward to grilling my first steak of the season. Sorry, Janet.

Where do I want to retire? Good question. I'm not sure but I'd like to have a summer and a winter place even if it's a little shack in both places. Maybe Vermont or coastal Maine in the summer. The winter place is the tough one. I don't need a warm place, maybe something a little less bitter than New England though.

Last movie I saw? I'm not a big movie person but Precious. Didn't love it but Monique was amazing.

Favorite cuisine? Indian. I could eat it every day and probably be happy with only the vegetarian choices. Samosas, chana masala, saag paneer. Love it all.

Favorite restaurant? Most of my favorite restaurants are in California. Chez Panisse, The Slanted Door, Green's. Julia's Kitchen in Napa was one of the best meals I've ever had--an interpretation of Julia's casoullet--but they've closed. I love Bouchon too. (Any restaurant with a bakery next door is close to my heart!) Locally, I would have to say East Coast Grill and The Blue Room in Cambridge or Mela (Indian Food) in the South End. Not fancy; just good cooking.

Favorite color? Blue.

Favorite piece of clothing? Either my 1980s Comme de Garcon collarless blazer or my J. Crew hoodie.

Favorite flower? Really, really hard. There are so many fragrant flowers that immediately take me back to my childhood like lilacs, peonies, Lily of the Valley, hyacinth, etc., but I would have to go with zinnias. You can't beat the color and they're long lasting as a cut flower.

Favorite sport to watch? Football but on TV. Not a fan of the cold seats.

Like your job? Most days. I work with a lot of great people and although we work hard, we also have a lot of fun which makes a big difference.

Tattoos? Two. One I got in Houston, Texas on a business trip after a few too many mimosas at brunch. And the other one I got with my mother and sister in Niagara Falls, ON. My mother got a daisy. My sister got "sunshine" on her shoulder and got three Chinese characters on my upper arm that stand for health, wealth and good fortune.

Dog or cat? Cats. I have three Abysinnians. This is Angus below. Although I love dogs too.

Pet peeves? I have a lot of them but most of them revolve around inconsiderate people. Need I elaborate?

Just for fun, I'm going to be challenging Kelly McGuill of O so D to answer these questions. I love Kelly's style as I've mentioned a few times in my own pages but I left her a comment that I thought she was sexist when she was male bashing in one of her posts. She sent me an e-mail saying "Hi, it's me, the sexist blogger." So she probably hates me but I'll see what I can do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Front Porch Bids

Not my porch...not even close. Photo: Martha

(N.B. I'm having lots of formatting issues with Blogger today. I'm getting no new paragraphs so I'm tweaking in HTML.)

Two weeks ago, The Architects sent the plans for my porch addition/partial exterior renovation off to three contractors to get bids. Each of the contractors came by to see the project and two of the three bids have come in.

The first is about $21,000 higher than the budget I had set. Disappointing but not horrible. I had totally forgotten about painting the house so that extra cost is about half of the overage.

The second bid is $37,000 higher my budget. That's a big difference and that's a big problem.

The third has been promising since last Thursday that it's coming "tonight."

I got a little smug and told The Architects I was going to call a few companies and get a few of my own bids. That was four days ago and none of the contractors have returned my calls.

This is a big dose of reality.

So now I have to decide if the project gets put off or if I reduce the scope of the project.

Note to anyone thinking of buying an old house and renovating it: If at all possible, hire a contractor to look at the house and give you an idea what things might cost.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cape Cod Antiques

As many times I've been back and forth on the highways to Cape Cod to visit Provicetown, Chatham and Martha's Vineyard, it's far enough away that I've never explored many of the towns off the highways. I still needed something for this wall of the living room so thought I'd google "Cape Cod antiques" to see if I could find a good place to check out on the way back from Provincetown.
Using my inspiration photos as a guide, I'm looking for some kind of chest, cabinet or table to anchor my convex mirror and artwork grouping. This is one I liked because it's up off the floor which takes up less visual space. Since the sofa is charcoal gray, I think I need something light in color to balance the chair on the other side of the room...
..perhaps more along the lines of the this chippy mantel. And maybe a small chair off to the right, like in the inspiration photo, would also add another seat for when guests come over.
There were quite a few listings for antiques shops but when I found the Antiques Center of Cape Cod in Dennis with four warehouses, I thought this would be a good place to start.
This particular building first caught my attention because I love all the garden and architectural salvage pieces they had outside. Once my front porch is completed, I envision a pair of antique urns flanking the front door so this is a place I'm happy to know about.
I'm not a huge fan of antique shops because they're so hit or miss. But once inside the doors of this warehouse, I might just change my opinion. This place is just packed with furniture--no dainty doo-dads, no frilly froo-froos--just furniture accessorized with rugs, lamps and artwork set up in attractive little vignettes. Let's take a closer look.
I love the chunky turned legs on these chairs. The vinyl could be replaced. And the back is attractive but I think I'd like the back to have more of a pattern that stands out against the white walls.
These chairs are quite interesting. The back has a nice neoclassical design but the arms are almost like elephant trunks that might be an interesting detail if I move toward the "Out of Africa" look. Lacquered black with something like a zebra or cow hide look might be really fun.
Here's a really handsome table. It wouldn't take up a lot of volume in the room but the curlicues on the bottom are really too chunky in scale. It's also maybe a bit too formal. I could paint it but it's been impeccably refinished and I don't think I could bring myself to do that.
Another thing that really stands out here are the reasonable prices. Here's a chest that's got a great serpentine front and it's got an incredible alligatored finish that you just can't fake. It's also up on legs with wheels. On the other hand, I think it's a little too big and maybe it feels a little too "bedroomy." But at $38, I think it's a great piece that I can use somewhere.
Here's a great little chest. The size is perfect. The black might work but I think it would look great painted white with some new black or bronze drawer pulls. The thing I don't love about it, though, is it sits right down flat on the floor and I really wanted to have something with a lighter feel, a little air under it.I'm not looking for an end table but this piece with its graceful lines and unique lower shelf is need of a weekend makeover but for $28 is a great bargain. And below, these unique lamps which have been rewired are very reasonable at $18 for the pair.
I don't know if I've found the perfect pieces for the living room but I've found some things that I can make great use of for very little money so let me figure out what I love the most and how much I can pack in the car.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

PAAM and more Provincetown

I've been laboring over a post about the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) for the past several days. Because of copyright concerns, I'm not going to be doing the post I wanted to. I know most of the artists I wanted to show, but some I don't, so I'll work on getting the proper permissions and maybe I'll be able to do that in the future. So I thought I would do little more on PAAM and the Provincetown artist community and then share some winter/summer shots so you can see how the town comes to life in summer.

The tip of Cape Cod may seem like an unlikely place for a spectacular museum but Provincetown was a summer escape for many great artists. Provincetown as an artist colony began in the late 1800s and by 1916 the Boston Globe referred to Provincetown as the biggest art colony in the world. PAAM began in 1914 to promote, collect and exhibit art and promote education in the arts. Today it has an impressive collection of over 2500 works of art by artists associated with Provincetown.
PAAM is America's only Silver LEED certified art museum.

Particularly during WWI and WWII when artists could not travel to Europe, they went to Provincetown. This summer migration was most likely aided by Hans Hofmann who in 1935 opened a summer school in Provincetown to which New York's best and brightest artists flocked. Hofmann, artist and teacher, friend of Picasso, Matisse and Braque, was arguably the single largest influence on American art to date.

Writers such as Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Wiliams and Norman Mailer also spent time in Provincetown. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz also lived in Provincetown.

Even today, it's possible to meet people who knew Franz Kline, Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell. Their stories bring these people to life.

Before we leave town and head back to Boston, I wanted to show the difference between what we saw last week and what the same scenes look like in summer. Above is Captain Jack's Wharf, a series of 12 connected summer cottages where Tennessee Williams once debuted "A Streetcar Named Desire."
This is what is looks like in summer.
Although the cottages are now condos, many of them are for rent by the week during summer months. Many people return the same week, year after year to share their vacation with other people who say travel here to spend time enjoying the view from this deck.

Another quick view of the Wharf House next to Ferol Warthen's studio as we saw it last week....

...and the same view in the late summer. Imagine walking down this path to your waterfront deck where the hypnotizing sound of the waves, the lighthouse foghorn's rhythmic call and the smell of the salt in the fresh ocean breeze. One day in this setting is worth day's relaxation anywhere else.

Before the day gets too old, I need to hit the road to check out a big antiques barn that's mid-Cape to see if I can find anything to finish up the living room.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ferol Sibley Warthen and the Provincetown Print

Ferol Warthen's "Violets"
Before we head over to the museum, let's make a quick stop at 77 Commercial Street in Provincetown. Behind the crooked door of this old house was the summer home and studio of Ferol Sibley Warthen. When I first moved to Boston, a friend of mine rented this oceanfront space for a few summers just after her death. I was lucky enough to visit often and learn about this amazingly talented artist.
Here is a photo of Ferol Warthen in her studio working on a print. The Provincetown Print, also known as the White Line Print is a printing process that was invented in Provincetown. Unlike the Japanese printing method that required a different wood block for each color, this new method used one block with a tiny groove cut between each color to separate it from the next.
Photo: Norma Holt
After the wood block is cut, watercolor is painted onto a small section of the wood block at a time and the paper is lowered to transfer the wet paint onto the paper. Each groove cut into the block to keep the colors from running together leaves a white line on the print. The White Line print was born.
"Tabletop," Ferol Warthen, collection of the Smithsonian

The invention of the process is credited to B.J.O Nordfeldt around the time of WWI but it was developed by a small group of Provincetown artists and its most famous practitioner was Blanche Lazzell. The photo below is Blanche outside of her waterfront studio.
The image below is one of Blanche's White Line prints. After a block is cut, it's possible to pull more prints from the same block and each time the block is printed, the artist can use different colors making each print an original piece of artwork. Blanche Lazzell pulled very few prints from her blocks so they are extremely rare and valuable today.
Blanche Lazzell print

Blanche Lazzell taught the White Line printing method to Ferol Warthen and in my opinion, Ferol became the master. Since the process requires painting a small section the block and transferring the paint while it is still wet, it's important not to have large open spaces in your design. The way Ferol Warthen divided the spaces in her designs in small sections is genius.

"Iris," Ferol Warthen
Just look how the space around this beautiful Iris print is masterfully divided. Warthen has used cubist techniques to create smaller areas that are both functional and in a way that is extremely pleasing.

"Sailboat and Gull," Ferol Warthen
Ferol's flowers and still life prints are beautiful but she also used the Provincetown landscape to her advantage. Her "Sailboat and Gull" print depicts a sailboat in Provincetown Harbor and the Wood End Lighthouse in the distance. The real scene is shown below... this photo by Steve Borichevsky that is eerily similar that I found here.

Just to the left of Ferol's studio is the narrow walkway to her back door that entered the kitchen that overlooked the harbor. Just ahead in the center of the photo is a cottage that sits on a wharf that extends into the harbor.

"Lighthouse" Ferol Warthen, Collection of the Smithsonian

This wharf house appears in at least several Ferol Warthen works including this one entitled "Lighthouse" which I consider to be her masterpiece. This particular print is in the Smithsonian although there are several that exist.

There are several white line artists working in Provincetown that are still carrying on the tradition. I believe the most talented is Kathryn Smith, the granddaughter of Ferol Warthen who learned the process from her grandmother as a child.
Three Poppies, Kathryn Lee Smith
Here are few of Kathi's amazing poppy prints. Kathi's prints are the best being made today and are unique in their color saturation. There's no question that these prints are Provincetown's masterpieces of tomorrow.
Poppies and Fence, Kathryn Lee Smith
You can see more of Kathi Smith's work here.
Today Kathi helps pass on this Provincetown invention by teaching workshops at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. I had the pleasure of meeting Kathi a few years ago when I took her week-long class. I regret that I never got to meet Ferol Warthen, but I'll cherish the time I was able to spend in her studio, seeing the sun rise over Provincetown Harbor and the Wood End lighthouse and I'm thrilled I was able to learn the process from her granddaughter. If you have any interest in going to Provincetown to learn the process, you can get more information here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Road Trip to Cape Cod

At the very tip of Cape Cod lies Provincetown, an old fishing village turned artist colony. Once a place where artists and writers--many of them now famous--escaped for a cheap summer place to get away, study and paint. Even though Provincetown has increasingly become a summer and weekend getaway for the rich, the arts still thrive there, and it's a place I love to visit to meet artists, talk about their work and see some fantastic galleries.

I needed to run a few errands in Provincetown so when I saw the weather forecast predicting temperatures near 70 today, I decided to make a day of it. Since much of Cape Cod is a summer getaway, much of it is still boarded up this time of year. It's a time I love to walk around and enjoy it in its quiet state.

There's an incredible mix of homes here....
...from the fabulously funky... the pristine (this is my favorite house in town)...

...from wonderfully weatherbeaten... simply and elegantly perfect...
...from tiny cottages... sprawling oceanfront homes....
...from plain and simple... (this is an old firehouse and the "garage door" opens to reveal a beautiful porch!) incredibly ornate...
Even the fences range from simple pickets.... complicated fences, newel posts, gates and arbors... the unbelievable urn-shaped finials on this fence. Can you imagine what these would cost to reproduce?

A friend of mine had a piece of artwork accepted into a juried show at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum so I'm off to see the show. Enjoy these beautiful homes and I'll catch up with later.