Sterling Silver

For centuries, we’ve been attracted to silver and gold. These metals connote affluence; wealth and prestige.  We continually see metallic influences in ready-to-wear, interior design, even our cars and phones!  Sterling silver with its soft, buttery patina epitomizes this draw.

Sterling Silver flatware is highly collectable.  The pattern variety is endless, over 1,000 patterns have been designed and manufactured in the US alone!

It’s fun to collect a series of pieces or place settings of different patterns to create table interest.   I like to mix a variety of styles to add uniqueness to my table.  Serving pieces are where sterling silver REALLY gets interesting! Most of the most unusual pieces were developed in the Victorian era, with their affinity towards excess. (More on this later) A cracker spoon, almond scoop, lettuce fork!?  My favorite?  The food pusher! This is one interesting piece of silverware. In Victorian society it was rude for anyone, even children, to touch food with their hands. Children were given food pushers to help them push their dinner onto their forks!

Sterling Silver flatware
Sterling Silver Food Pusher

I buy most of my sterling in antique shops, loving the thrill of the hunt. I actually prefer monogrammed pieces imagining the story behind each, who owned it.  How did this piece come to be sold? What happened to the rest of the set?  Honestly, the odder and more fascinating the piece, the more I want it on my table!

Sterling Silver Serving Pieces
Sterling Silver

You can also purchase pieces on several reputable sites. These sites are also a great way to educate yourself, researching the patterns you’ve found.

There are also multiple great books on Sterling Silver patterns –

Sterling Silver reference books
Sterling Silver reference books



Patterns often reflect the economic and social situations when they were made –

Edwardian – Styles were soft and elegant.

Mid 18th Century Rococo Silver – flamboyant, inspired by England’s court of George II and France’s Louis XV.

Federal Style – Popular during the founding years of the United States, classical and symmetrical.  Think Paul Revere, one of the most famous silversmiths, and how utilitarian his designs were.

Victorian Era – (1840 – 1900) THIS IS WHERE STERLING SILVER REALLY GETS INTERESTING!   Patterns indulged in grand excess showing a mixing of historic styles, with strong Asian and Middle East influence.  Victorian homes had a clear separation between public and private rooms.  The Dining Room was the second most important room in the home, after the Parlor.  Both rooms allowed homeowners to “showcase” their home.  By the 1830’s the factories of the Industrial Revolution were mass producing sterling silver patterns and the individual silversmith artisan slowly faded. Sterling silver could be “stamped” from sheets of sterling with stunning perfection on both front and back. Due to this mass production, Victorian patterns are the majority found today. This time of affluence and excess found sterling flatware with very specific functions.  Most of us are familiar with ladles however, silversmiths made ladles for specific purposes; bullion, cream, gravy, oysters, punch, etc.  There were different spoons for nuts, berries, bon bons, claret, mustard, and chocolate, pointed spoons to eat grapefruit, small demi-tasse spoons.  Imagine just how complicated setting the dining room table was?

Art Nouveau – Most popular between 1890 and 1910, rebelling against the Industrial Revolution with natural motifs and flowing asymmetrical curves inspired by the curved lines of plants and flowers.

Arts and Crafts continued this trend with toned down ornamentation.  Pulling from Medieval, Romantic, and Folk influenced, the Arts and Crafts movement is essentially anti-industrial.  Beginning in Britain, it was strongest from 1880 to the 1920’s.

Art Deco –  Rose to prominence in the first half of the 20th century influenced by Cubism and more modern styling. Think NYC’s Chrysler Building, THE monument to Art Deco.


American silverware has been made since our beginning, first starting out as “Coin” Silver. Sterling silver was rare in colonial America.  From around 1830 to 1850, silver was often marked CD, Coin or Pure Coin.  It doesn’t necessarily mean coins were melted down, (although they often were) but that the silver was the same purity as coins then circulated.  These silver items were hand made.

However, the Victorian era with its affinity towards excess, layered with the Industrial revolution, launched Sterling Silver onto the map.  “Sterling” silver was born around 1860, and more widely after the Civil War. A piece marked “sterling” means it is 925 parts pure silver out of 1000 parts metal.  This is a U.S. Government mandate.  The “sterling” mark was required on sterling silver produced after 1907.

Silver of other countries is controlled as well, although English and American silver has to have a higher % of pure silver. English Sterling, like American is 92.5% Silver, 925 out of 1000 parts. In Europe, this formula varies by country.  German silver is 80% pure, Russian, 84%, etc.   The attached link is a great resource for researching your American or foreign silver……….


The discovery of a very rich silver deposit, The Comstock Lode in 1859, made Sterling Silver affordable for the middle class.  Sterling Silver flatware was one way the middle class could show they had “arrived”.

Sterling vs Silver Plate

In 1847, Rogers Bros. Silversmiths developed silver-plate, an electroplating process of binding sterling silver to a base metal.  This brought silver to most of the classes.  However, as Sterling Silver flatware will last a lifetime, silver-plate will usually last only 20 years, until the finish has worn off.  I have a few silver-plate pieces and you can definitely tell the difference.


Unfortunately for sterling flatware collectors, Silver hit $50.00/ounce in 1980 and many antique pieces were lost to smelting.  (As comparison, today finds silver at $18.04/oz.)  Many unique and handmade pieces were lost.  This fact has increased the antique value of sterling which has remained.


Have you ever Fallen In Love?

Have you even fallen in love?
I LOVE antiquing. From an early age I antiqued with my mom and sister in western Pennsylvania where I grew up. My California grandmother collected. Our home was filled with beautiful hand carved one-of-a-kind pieces. When they say “They don’t make them like this anymore” they are absolutely correct! The quality and styling are unmatched. Artisanally hand-made, not massed produced.

Each antique shop is like its own mini museum. Usually every item has a small tag with a bit about the piece, approximate date, the manufacturer. Antique cases are rented space with the seller usually having a specialty;
Carnival Glass, Antique Sterling (one of my favs), Cameos, Old Coins, Biedermeier, etc.
So you come away with a little sliver of how life must have been then. Who used this piece? It’s survived so many years in such great condition. You surmise it was a family treasure or lay somehow forgotten in an attic.
So this summer on our annual Maine vacation, I found THE most interesting, creative antique store I’ve EVER had the pleasure to meander through (that’s what you do in antique stores; meander, stroll, no running or going. It just doesn’t work that way).


The Art of Antiquing
Round Pond Maine

It was love at  first sight.   The Art of Antiquing is one of the most interesting antique shops I’ve seen in my 40+ years of antiquing. Perfectly merchandised. Being an ex-high end retailer, I totally appreciate eye catching vignettes, each with its’ own story, point of view. They have to be clean and uncluttered

This store is special.
Curated by (once again, back to museums) Margaret Brown, the antiques are very high quality and stunning! She merchandises the space incredibly well, placing pieces that work with each other for a lifestyle story.
She sources from Europe and the United Kingdom-Hand-picking items spanning the centuries.
Additionally, she does a bit of research on each piece and provides it with your purchase

For example, I brought home a piece of Castle Hedingham Pottery from England. Edward Bingham produced the pottery from 1864 until 1901, reminiscent of medieval and Tudor styled pieces.

Diana Jarvis
Pottery – the Art of Antiquing
Round Pond, Maine

The Art of Antiquing is located in the center of Round Pond, in a restored old building.
Living in London in the winter months, Margaret ships containers of her finds over as soon as the weather breaks.
As she quotes on her website: “We specialize in unique, sometimes dramatic, one-off pieces. As a result, things are always changing here, which makes each visit to our store a shopping experience unto itself—no two trips will be the same.”
The Art of Antiquing is open from June until the
Middle of October. You can sign up on their website for a preview of arriving containers.
4 Back Shore Road
Round Pond, Maine 04564
+1 (207) 529-5300

The Art of Antiquing, Round Pond MAINE
The Art of Antiquing
Round Pond, Maine

Mixing – Classic meets Contemporary

Your home is a collection….a layered timeline of your experiences, interests, and points of view. Your life isn’t one dimensional, why should your home be? Fill your home with objects that reflect your passions.

Mixing textures, colors, styles, weights.

This Paris apartment was recently featured in one of my favorite design blogs –  Habitually Chic Blogspot.  It’s a fantastic example of mixing – the more traditional gold leaf and ornate moldings with the pop of color and clean lines injected by the contemporay art piece.  This color “pop” literally pulls your eye from the painting on the left,,,across the contemporary surfboard table with colorful ceramic vases,,,over to the turquoise clear glass on the right.  This room has fabulous movement,  color movement, textural interest, light play provided by the mirror and window.

Suzanne Kasler tablescape
A Suzanne Kasler tablescape

Here’s mixing on a smaller scale. A tablescape by Suzanne Kasler, an Atlanta based interior designer. A tablescape is a vignette, a lifestyle shot. A brief, but powerful scene that leaves you wanting more. Here she combines the modern textural metal pieces with a more traditional painting, and honestly, what’s more classic than Leonardo da Vinci?  The colors and textures play beautifully here.

Whether mixing an entire room, or just a vignette the result is well balanced, shows depth, and it a piece of art in it’s own right.

Classic meets Contemporary
Classic meets Contemporary from Veranda J/F ’16

Here’s a simple, but very impactful example. Antique chairs with the contemporary art piece above.  The linear chair backs “frame” the art above.

Included below are other wonderful examples.

Modern and Antique
Modern art with antique silver pieces
Classic meets Contemporary
My favorite Suzanne Kasler vignette

This theme can also be carried outdoors.

Fontana di Trevi in Rome is a stunning combination of the original Baroque architecture by Nicola Salvi and scupltor Peitro Bracci.  Built in 1762, the fountain was recently upgraded and restored (thanks to Fendi!), adding state-of-the-art LED lighting giving a bit of dramatic sparkle.

Rome's Fontana di Trevi
Classic meets Contemporary
A 1762 fountain gets LED lighting
Lis Bustamiante
Classic meets Contemporary outdoors!

Here, Luis Bustamante, a Madrid  interior designer added colorful contemporary art on top of a stairway framed with antique stone urns

FAVE PAGE: November / December VERANDA

My FAVE PAGE this month is found in the Nov/Dec issue of VERANDA magazine.  VERANDA is absolutely my favorite and this issue didn’t disappoint.

This hi-rise condo in Downtown Houston is home to a fashion industry couple, no surprise!

Crisp, edited, and sophisticated.  Simple but multiple layers of texture and light play.   The matte of the zebra rug and  linen dec pillows with depth added by cherry blossom twigs and draping tulips.  A sheen of metallics, both chrome,brass & gold.  I love the dark wood floors and window frames accenting the whites and ivories of the room. This room also has a linear plan with the  horizontal tables, windows, books accented by a vertical screen and artwork.  The ivory screen with a sunburst mirror allows your eye to pause in the room, enjoying every detail before venturing out to the Houston skyline.

The rest of the home is equally lovely.  (Kitchen with grey cabinets, RH lighting, and Carrera Marble counters – STUNNING!)  Hone your colors and the  result is pulled together, a cohesive neutral pallet. Layer on pops of color with art or flowers.  WOW.  This Houston couple has it figured out.

Interestingly, I vacationed in Houston this month.   The NICEST people!  Helpful,  polite.  Really incredibly genuine.   More on this soon – an amazing art museum  and fabulous restaurants!Use UBER  to get around.




Natural Fences & Stone Walls of New England

Wattle fencing

Wattle Fences
Wattle fences are made from branches or twigs

Woven wood fencing – SO many versions!  This is probably my favorite type of fencing.  Made from branches, thick or thin they are perfect for a garden fence or trellis.  There are so many creative versions, all blending into nature’s landscapes.

Historically, wattle fences were made in movable sections from branches, thick or thin, to contain pastures and livestock.  These sections could be transported with the herds and reinstalled.  This technique goes back to Neolithic times.

Today, there are many artistic version on this basic idea! See some of my favorites below –

wattle & wrought iron
Wattle & Wrought Iron fence allow a peek into this private Carmel CA courtyard
Wattle Fencing
Modern Wattle Fencing.
Seen in Concord MA and Damariscotta ME


I loved this combination of Wattle & Wrought Iron found in a recent trip to Carmel, CA.   This creative “barrier” allows a blissful peak into a private courtyard a block from the beach.  (OK, so it’s not New England, but amazing nonetheless!)



Stone Walls

Most of our New England rock walls were built in 1775-1825, the Revolutionary period.  After the  continued deforestation of the new America to build colonial homes and to heat them,  our New England stones eventually began to make their way to the surface.  Our rocky  soil wasn’t conducive to farming, so aided by their oxen, farmers hauled the stones to the outer edges of their pastures and dumped them.  We’ve all seen them,

“Dump walls”.   My yard is framed by them….these piles of rocks came as a result of priorities; Survival was foremost.  There was no time for niceties!

Beautification came later.   With the Post-Revolutionary War baby boom, there were many young hands to help on the farms…fueled by a swelling pride of “being American”.  Rock walls were built and improved. Still most were only thigh high due to lifting ergonomics.

Beach rock wall
Pemaquid Maine – Stone wall from beach rocks, weathered and pointed

Mortar wasn’t prevalent until after the Civil War. Mortared walls are called “wet rock walls”.   If you’re undertaking a retention wall, please ensure your contractor has drains in these walls.  The mortar holds them together, but they are prone to cracking and shifting as they don’t drain well.

There are many unique and creative versions of Rock walls.


Creative Stone wall
You can create interesting walls with combinations of wrought iron, stone, and wattle

Wrought Iron

Wrought Iron is actually an archaic term.  Wrought iron, meaning “worked by hand”  is no longer available on a large scale.  Wrought iron, has a very low carbon content and is tough, malleable and corrosion resistant.  Its cousin Cast iron, is brittle and can be broken with a hammer.  In its purest form, wrought iron has a grain to it resembling wood.  The Eiffel Tower is actually constructed from a form of wrought iron!

Fence beautiful


There are many more fencing options than a perimeter of shiny vinyl!!

Go Natural and Made in USA!!

My Top 5 Interior Design Books

Interior Design Book
Suzanne Kasler , Timeless Style

Suzanne Kasler: Timeless Style

Her second book.  I LOVE her!! She has such a high spirited, classic style.  Her homes would be so fun to live in, tons of bright energy, extremely liveable. Rooms are uncluttered yet impactful with well-chosen pieces. Just the right amount of Patina, Sparkle, & Texture.  Excellent focal points in her rooms.  Another high point:  Kasler does an incredible, creative job with artwork placement. On colors:  Page 76,,,,”Champagne, blue-gray, and a touch of raspberry”. Stunning!

Simply SereneThomas Pheasant: Simply Serene

“There is nothing more luxurious than space to breathe”.  When you get his book, actually READ it.  His homes are beautiful, uncluttered.That about says it… Love the black & white photos, complimented with the Silver pages.


He starts by defining the space than layers in

  • A truly beautiful room is beautiful before it’s ever decorated.



Jennifer Boles, In With the OldJennifer Boles: In with the New

Jennifer is creator of one of the top interior design/lifestyle blogs, the Peak of Chic.

She takes us alphabetically through vintage objects, maybe you’ve seen these in old movies, at your grandmother’s home, or on a trip to a museum.  Incredible design, but dated?  Jennifer shows us – absolutely not!  Think “modern transitions.”  Next time you’re strolling your favorite antique store, or inherit a piece that reminds you “when”, grab this book and recreate it.  You’ll look at everything with a fresh eye.  This is an amazing book, she writes so well.  You can see why her blog has been around since 2006!


Rhonda Rice Carmen, Designers at HomeRhonda Rice Carmen, Designers at Home

Popular lifestyle blog “All the Best

Tour designers homes and provide insights on they design their personal spaces.

New look at interior design books.


Interior Design Book
The Art of Classic Details, Theory, Design, and Craftsmanship

Phillip James DoddThe Art of Classic Details: Theory, Design, and Craftsmanship

OMG – This book made me cry, it’s so beautiful. Every… single… page.  The Forward, by David Easton is perfect:  “Journey through the Art of Classical Detail with a nod to our past and a keen eye to our future.”  Dodd, with a Masters for Architecture from Notre Dame and accolades decades long, does a magnificent job putting this tomb together.

This work is divided into two sections:

The Essays: Written by top architects, scholars and craftsman, it illustrates classical design detailing and artisanship. Lots of references to the Villas of Renaissance architect and builder Andrea Palladio.

The Projects: Presents an intimate look at 25 classically-designed homes in Great Britian and the United States. It details the interior design and detailing as well as the impressive classically influenced home exteriors and gardens.

For any remodeling project, this book is a fabulous reference.

My FAVE PAGE here is #106.  Chesney’s Georgian Marble mantle with charcoal walls and a crystal chandelier.  WOW.



Luis Bustamante – Brilliantly Merging Antiquities with Contemporary

LUIS BUSTAMANTE – Madrid Interior Designer, Sculptor, Painter

Navigating the random “Design Alleys and Avenues” of Pinterest, I found Luis Bustamante,a Madrid Interior Designer. Trained as a Sculptor and Painter, you can appreciate his sense for combining these critical aspects into his work.

Remember the first time you visited the Egyptian Antiquities room on a museum trip? My museum moment was the Carnegie MuseuLuis Bustamante library photom of Art in Pittsburgh, a 9th grade field trip. That trip changed me forever. I had never known such beauty. The calming museum room peaceful & elegant……Lofty carved columns seemed to climb to the sky. Hand etched carvings displaying written language of the past through falcons,eyes, reed boats and odd symbols. Sometimes the museum would even let you run your hand over the etchings!

Luis Bustamante uses these powerful influences yet layers in contemporary pieces. His favorite color is white,so his rooms are crisp and fresh. He will recreate your “museum moments” so you can relive them forever. He’s on THE LIST!
Please visit his site He also has a book available through Amazon.
Interiores: Luis Bustamante

Blue is the New Black

Sandra Bullock - Oscar Dress
Sandra Bullock – Blue is the New Black

tAs I watch the Oscars,  I see home fashion trends.

In my previous life, as the high end home textile conduit for my company, I was the bridge between design and sale-ability.  As designers, we always looked at the Academy Awards & Oscars for inspiration in designing the latest home bedding and bath lines for Neiman’s, Bloomingdale’s and international luxury boutiques.   It typically took 3-4 years for ready-to-wear styles and colors to work their way into the home, so we had plenty of time for creativity and adaptation.  So with years of precedence…I’d like to give you my “forecast” for the future of home design based on this years Oscar’s ensembles.The big Ellen, Sandra Bullock and Lenoard DiCaprio are among those that wore dark navy in lieu of the rote black.

Interior Design Inspiration
Leonard DiCaprio at the Oscars
Interior Design inspiration

So you have to start thinking how this will translate into home design.We’ve  already seen the resurgence of Blue & White. Watch my boards on Pinterest.

Fave Page - Veranda Interiior Design

So how will this play out in our homes? I see balance from Greens, whether from plants or objects along with clean Ivories, Cottonball  or other slight off Whites, Crisp!