9 02 2016

The Victorian era produced an unprecedented quantity of decorative crapola for the household. The golden rule of interior decoration was “if you can see an empty space, then clearly you need another tchotchke.” (I paraphrase.) Rich and poor alike demanded objets d’art – the only problem being, the less money one has to spend, the less d’art one can afford. The resulting struggle between Quality and Quantity (personified by mythological Greek goddesses, in the approved Victorian manner) resulted in Quality getting bonked on the head and stuffed in an alley while Quantity ran rampant through lower-class neighborhoods tossing flashy but bizarre objects through windows, where they landed on parlor tables, étagères, and mantels. Take this shoe, for instance – I suppose a petite porcelain model of a shoe might be quaint, especially if finished with a striking lustre hue. But reason stops there. Why are there embossed flowers and beads twining around it? Why add a painted scene of Egyptian monuments? And why would you want to stick flowers in such an ungraceful thing? Because, yes – it really was manufactured to be a vase.

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That’s Cuckoo

16 12 2014

Bwahahaha!!!! The Bradford Exchange strikes again, introducing the “only Cuckoo Clock inspired by the Wonders of Ancient Egypt.” The description is quite lengthy, highlighting various details (“regal golden Canopic jar-inspired pendulums”) and listing terms of sale (“Limit: one per order” – no worries there), but my favorite is “Queen Nefertiti’s sculpted bust emerges on the stroke of each hour.” Oh my.


Rest Your Bones

18 08 2014

This vintage postcard shows the striking interior of the Egyptian Room Sun Parlor on the roof promenade of Craig Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Although at first glance the styling looks like any other room from that time period (c. 1920), there are numerous Egyptianizing accents, including the stenciled wall designs and cobra mantle lamps. A lovely place to recuperate after enjoying the boardwalk.

Atlantic City


Picnic in the Desert

22 07 2014

Have you ever seen an old movie where people are attending an elegant picnic, complete with china, crystal, and servants?  Basically, everything you would have in your dining room (if you were wealthy) except outside?  That’s what this petite plate reminds me of.  Manufactured in the 1920s or 30s, it features a silhouetted scene of camel and pyramid on a rosy purple background, with gilt accents and a glorious overlay of lustre worthy of the most fantastic soap bubble you have ever seen.  The perfect size for a pyramid of petit-fours or macarons, served under the shade of a tent at your favorite watering hole.


Water Cooler

16 06 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt always amazes me to find items that have survived decades of trash bins, legions of paper lice, mouse families looking for vacation property, and the odd roof leak. For example, this box from the United States Envelope company for paper cups used to convey water cooler contents to parched throats.  Bonus – all of the original cups, decorated with a lotus motif, are still in the box.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Glass From the Past

15 03 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sabino art glass is still available today, in many of the patterns first introduced in the 1920s.  This diminutive Egyptian maiden has a distinct Art Deco flair.  As lovely as this opalescent glass is, it does not fit into the various materials that an ancient figure would have been fashioned from – stone or opaque glass.

Toasty Toes

8 10 2013

Once upon a time, houses were heated by fireplaces.  But other technologies arose which became increasingly relied upon as primary sources of heat.  In particular, heating stoves were partnered with the fireplaces, which provided flues for the stove pipe to vent through, and protective hearths upon which the hot little stoves could be placed.  In order to deal with the aesthetic issue of a dark empty cavern looming behind the stove, fireplace inserts were fashioned from sheet metal – such as this example, which features a group of travellers pausing to rest at a desert oasis with the pyramids and Sphinx in the background.  The large circle is actually a hinged flap that hides the hole where the stovepipe is inserted, in the event that a stove is not present (they may have been moved to storage in the summer months). 

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