Thursday, June 6, 2013

Carpe Diem: Essex, Massachusetts

When you work full time, sometimes you need to take a day off to run errands
that you can only do during business hours.  Yesterday I did just that.  I ran my
errands, went on a search for a marble remnant for my vanity table and as I was
headed back home to finish stripping the paint off my bathroom door.

But instead of driving home, my car went in the other direction and I ended up
in Essex, Massachusetts, a quaint Colonial-era village about 40 minutes north of Boston.

Main Street is lined with antique shops and I usually stop
at the White Elephant first.  The White Elephant is the kind of place
you rummage through to look for gems.  Things are not usually well
organized and I don't mean that to be disparaging.  It's a treasure hunt.

I was surprised to see such a nice collection of marble lamps.
When I posted this photo on instagram, someone replied it looked
like a large and well lit game of chess.

This seems like some old version of a hot plate.  The plate was set into
a larger metal tray and it's my guess that you would fill the tray with hot
water through the nozzle on the top side to keep the plate warm. 

This area of Massachusetts known as Cape Ann has long been a
popular destination for artists so it's always good to keep a keen eye
out for good artwork.  This Esther Heins geranium painting seemed
very well executed so I used my smart phone (how did I live without one
for so long!) to google her and found she was a Marblehead-based artist
known for her botanical paintings, did illustrations for Horticulture
magazine and exhibited work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
and the Smithsonian Institution.  Isn't it a little treasure?

White Elephant also has an outlet only open on Saturdays and Sundays.

After White Elephant, I stopped in David Neligan Antiques where
I was greeted by a pair large and wonderful pair of foo dogs.  This
shop is filled to the brim with traditional antiques. 

It's almost unbelievable to me that you can find a pair of
ca. 1770 "King George III" armchairs newly reupholstered
in oatmeal linen just sitting in a shop and ready to take home.

The pillow is a Folly Cove design which you'll see much more of
at the next shop.

You just can't go to Essex without stopping by Andrew Spindler Antiques.
The first time I went in a few years ago, I had never heard of Andrew Spindler
but was impressed with his beautifully curated shop--very much my taste-- with
a mix of classics from a variety of time periods.  You might find an English
gate leg table next to mid-century leather Breuer dining chairs.

Andrew's home got a write up in the New York Times a few years ago
and the slide show is still on-line if you'd like to see his interesting interiors.
I love his living room and its view to what I would guess is a porch.  And I
especially love his quote, "I've always paid attention to what this house wants."
I often feel those cues from my house.  

Here I was greeted with a wonderful wall of Folly Cove pieces.
The Folly Cove Designers were a group of mostly (but not exclusively) women
artists in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  All of their work is block printed and often
come in the form of placemats and table runners.  This is a collection of
placements that have been archivally framed as artwork.

The group revolved around design classes given by Virginia Lee Burton
and they worked from 1938 to about 1968.  Burton was a children's book author
and illustrator.  I love this old photograph of Burton in her office/studio.  Folly Cove
pieces are highly collectible and have become quite rare in good condition.

Here are a few more Folly Cove pieces at Andrew's shop:

This is a delightful and humorous print called "The Gossips"
by Virginia Lee Burton from the 1940s.

This beautiful garden bench with Folly cove pillows in the
Diamond Jubilee by Eino Natti, ca. 1947.

Peony, ca. 1964 by Mary Maletskos in a deep navy blue.
Does this not look totally current?

I couldn't resist this one.

If you'd like to know more about the Folly Cover Designers,
check out this post on the Streets of Salem blog.

 I can tell that Andrew has a passion for ironstone as there's
always a wonderful collection of pieces available.

I'm attracted to anything with a crown since my first
name means crown.  Not Folly Cove but this is a 1930s hand-printed
linen textile made for Cunard.  Wouldn't it make a great throw?

So much more unique than the ubiquitous Hermes throws.

I also couldn't resist these brass and porcelain transferware
drawer pulls.  I love being able to incorporate unique items into
my house and since I'm working on the design for my new kitchen,
I can strategically plan where they'll go beforehand.


The next time you're on your way to visit Rockport or Gloucester,
you should plan some extra time to stop in Essex.  Or make a day
of it and stop by Woodman's of Essex for some fried clams and lobster.


  1. Sounds like you had a perfect day out of the office. Well....did you go home with the chairs? I my dying to know. Have a wonderful weekend. Bonnie

  2. For some reason, I've never been to Essex. It looks wonderful!

  3. What a great post and what a wonderful day you must have had! I'm wondering what the cost of a trip to the U.S. from Australia would set me back as I am already imagining myself wandering around Essex and being in 7th heaven. So, that's my weekend taken care of - researching Folly Cove's uniqueness and reading, reading, reading. Love everything about Essex from the red truck to the facade of the brick building. What a lucky duck you are to have it so close by. Best regards, Tricia.

    1. All of Cape Ann is charming beyond words. Check out Rockport, Gloucester, and Manchester by the Sea as well. I blogged about Rockport last year in this post:

  4. What an eye you have.

    I want everything in every picture. Well maybe not the lamps but everything else.

    That was fun.

    Where to next?

    xo J.

  5. What a nice day trip!
    Love that garden bench so much.
    The Peony is lovely. Perfect for your home.
    I love how you collect such unique items, with such a great history for your home, like those knobs!
    My sister bought some knobs while in Portland for me and I was so excited.
    It's those details that make a house a home.
    Totally get the Crown attraction, I'm like that with the Moon.
    I wish I could day trip to such cool places, you really do live in a beautiful part of the country.

  6. What a treat. I wish I was there!

    Loved to learn about Folly Cove Designers.

    Loved to see Essex and it's treasures -- it's been a long time since I was there.

    Thank You.

  7. Essex is a wonderful town. Some great restaurants and fabulous antiquing too!
    I love the Cape Ann area.

  8. Love this post! I will plan to visit Essex next time I am in the area. I think I saw an episode of "This Old House" filmed there.

    Also, I thought you might be interested to know that I have a chest in my bedroom with those drawer pulls on it! It was a piece my parents owned before me. I believe its Hitchcock and there are at least 10 or 12 pulls on it. I hope you find some place special to use them. It was fun to see them in your post!

    1. Interesting information about the Hitchcock chest. I would have guessed they were '50s-'60s era when Colonial furniture was popular. It's a great lead in case I want to look for more of them. Thanks for the info!

    2. Yes! That is probably around the time the chest was purchased.

  9. I lived in Andover and this is a route I'd often wander on a Saturday. Lovely memories, thanks.

    1. You live in all the best places!

    2. I am blessed. Before Andover, I lived in Charlottesville, Va, and between Andover and Newport it was Saratoga Springs, NY

  10. I love Essex. I am always on the look out for wooden chicken crates and blue willow while I'm there. My nephew lives in Gloucester and my brother-in-law grew up in Manchester by the Sea. We always get fried clams before we leave.

  11. Great post! I love the marble lamps. How were they priced? I think I would have been tempted to bring one home. I thought of Trina, A Country Farmhouse, when I saw those. She has several like them.

    I like that first photo in your post, too!

    1. It's funny; I thought of Trina too. The lamps were $75-$85 each. It's about the same as I've seen them on etsy.

  12. Virginia wrote/illustrated The Little House!
    My kids loved that book when they were young, early readers.
    It's still got quite the message.

    The peony pillow is the BEST! The whole place reminds me of Bellport, LI. It's an old time whaling village with great antique shops, etc.

    Off to read more about Folly Cove...

    1. Virginia wrote a few children's book that are STILL in print which is incredible that they were so timeless that they're still desirable.

  13. Go on, you can tell us: did you buy EVERYTHING?

  14. That looks like it was a fantastic day. I have a few favorite shops and towns for antiquing too.
    I am familiar with the Folly Cove artists. The textiles are really wonderful and my mind just goes on and on thinking of ways to use volumes of those designs.

  15. Hi Steve, thanks so much for the link. Two more great places to go in Essex (if you are not shopping-inclined) is the Shipbuilding Museum--and Historic New England's Little House. Enjoy your summer! Donna

  16. Wow - thanks for the Folly Cove info! My favorite book as a child was the Little House, and my sons love it now, I just read it 2 nights ago. Thanks so much, I'll go happily digging into their history and work.

    Hope you are surviving the bath reno well!

  17. Hi Steve, so interesting..Oh and I love the nautical scene behind the garden bench, how wonderful!!
    The Folly Cove Print-makers are really desirable...

    2013 Designers Series
    Art by Karena

  18. I really like that table full of marble lamps. I've always aspired to owning one of those — I think they'd fit nicely into just about any decor. Essex is one more place to add to my someday-soon New England trip . . .

  19. Brilliant and interesting post!

  20. Sounds wonderful! When I come visit you will have to take at least two weeks off. We need to visit all these places! But alas, I suspect it will only be vicariously through your blog. I just adore those Folly Cove framed pieces. Beautiful! And hey, my ancestors lived there...!

    Glad you got out for an afternoon of R&R.
    xo T.

  21. Those drawer pulls are keepers...hmmmm, how will he use them, hmmmm...franki

  22. Sounds like a wonderful day...I think I will do the same...We all need to have a day like that!

  23. We've been trying to put together several trips for this summer to go antiquing and you Steve have just added one more place for us to visit on our way north to Maine. Love the drawer pulls you found and those marble lamps I hope they'll have several when we vist.

    Enjoy our rainy weekend!

  24. What a great day, Steve. Nice to play hooky once in a awhile. Love Essex! So many great shops, with an amazing variety of antiques and "junque". Literally could spend hours just browsing...

  25. What a great newsy, post. Can't wait to see the pulls in place. We are going to New Hampshire next week on vacation. My knowledge of your neck of the woods is sketchy but we are flying into Boston. Have a beautiful weekend.

  26. Just googled it and it's on our way, sort of, to Lake you think anything will be open on Sunday, Steve?

  27. Ooooooh, gotta make a stop this summer when we drive up to Maine. I love the pillows. And of course the ironstone pieces :)

  28. I love Essex and my favorite is Andrew Spindler too. Great knobs you got! I did R1 Maine today, lots of cool finds, including something from Smith-Zukas. We talked about you. Were your ears burning?

  29. Having lived 20+ years in Hamilton, and my parents also, (the next town from Essex and Ipswich) and having a native Gloucester soul mate, it fills me with pride but hesitancy to see it discovered so much. I think those lamp bases might be alabaster, if they are the same as mine. You must check out Martha Bannon and her sister next time you make a trip to Essex.

  30. What a great tour--thank you so much for sharing.
    I love Virginia Lee Burton's illustrations--Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and other wonderful books that I read to my kids many times. I don't know anything about her, and look forward to reading about the Foly Grove group.

  31. I am SO pleased that your car went in the other direction! Love the gossips. I've been to Rockport but didn't know about Essex; am consoling myself with the fact that I probably couldn't have carried much back on the plane anyway! Thank you for the armchair outing.