Ramsign Giveaway

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Much like jewelry on a beautiful woman, the right accessory on a house can really pull an entire look or design together. Details matter!

Ramsign, a small Danish company that has been producing porcelain enamel house signs for years has generously offered to give a house number plaque to a lucky reader here on ArchitectDesign.

The winner will be selected on Wednesday, June 8th in celebration of my birthday! To enter, simply leave a comment saying which house number you would pick if you won. Receive 1 extra entry for posting a link to the giveaway on twitter or facebook. Good luck!

p.s.This giveaway is international, so don't hesitate to enter!
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McCormick Apartments

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The evolution of a building is natural, much bemoaned by strict preservationist but it is the nature of time, particularly in cities; another topic for another day. A building which started out as the most luxurious apartment building here in Washington, DC now finds itself a distinguished office building holding none other than the National Trust for Historic Preservation.I was lucky enough to have a tour of the building a few months ago and while many changes have been made to the interiors to accomodate offices, it's extraordinary how many of the original details have been retained. Construction began in late 1915 when a mansion previously occupying the site, the Belden Noble residence, was torn down (seen below). The sturdy looking 3 story mansion was built in 1880, meaning it was only 36 years old when torn down. I was just talking to a friend just recently about how some things never change; so many of us still regard many buildings as temporary, even fine specimens such as this (yet again a subject for another post).

The neighborhood, Dupont Circle, was the heart of the cultural center of the city at the time (and some may argue still is) and the new building was designed to fit into this city beautiful movement stretching across the country.The owner of the property, Stanley McCormick, hired local architect Jules Henri de Sibour (designer of many of the most beautiful mansions in the Dupont area now housing embassies) to design a large Beaux-Art Louis XVI styled building which would house 6 luxury apartments with servant quarters for up to 40 employees.The apartments are palatial and were rented out at prices that seem high, even today. Because of this, the tenant list reads as a veritable 'Who's Who' of the DC social scene from the era. Most famously, Andrew Mellon lived in the penthouse apartment while Secretary of the Treasury and later while building his art collection which would eventually become the foundation of the National Gallery of Art (an interesting story for my next post related to the building).

In 1941, the building was leant to the British Army for use during the war for purchasing and since has had many commercial tenants including NCARB (National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc) , the national AIA, the American Council on Education and has been home for years now to the National Trust for historic preservation (who recently tried to unsuccessfully sell the building).

Despite having lived longer as an office building than as an apartment house, the building fortunately retains much of its early detail. One enters a rounded corner at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 18th Street NW into a small round lobby seen here.

Unlike luxury apartment buildings in the city today, there were no shared amenities per say. Rather, the public spaces, while beautiful, are small and efficient. No swimming pool , roof deck or gym were offered to the tenants!From the entry lobby, one stepped up into a marble lined vestibule which contained doorways into two smaller apartments, 3 seperate elevators (one for service staff) and the main staircase (which wraps around the primary elevator).The plaster work in the lobby is astounding and even more amazing is that it has survived intact for so many years.The marble floors are an added bonus in Washington as it gets rather hot here in the summer and this was built pre-air conditioning. However, most of the tenants were here only during the winter 'season' and would not have had to worry about this inconvienence.The marble main staircase, while wide and gracious, is rather utilitarian with simple moldings but originally had windows opening onto an air shaft for natural light and ventilation which has since been enclosed.

The landings outside of each apartment continue the simple moldings and 12" square black & white marble floors.Join me next week as I show details from these original apartments, a typical floor plan is below to whet your appetite!Color photographs are my own but the historical images come from the book "Massachusetts Avenue Architecture, Volume 1" produced by the Commission of Fine Arts in 1973.
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Chinoiserie automaton

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While working on a more in-depth post of a fantastic building I visited recently, I wanted to leave you with something just to let you know I'm still around! Located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a collection of ingenius bejeweled objects known as automatons. These machines, popular in the mid 18th century (as so many of my favorite things were!), were mechanical moving devices; a sort of early day robot! Often they were more than a mere toy and incorporated something useful, such as the clock seen here. Made by James Cox in London, 1766, this device still would fascinate and amaze the most ardent anti-antiquarian!
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My updated dining room

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You may remember a few years ago I purchased an antique set of caned chairs and table made by Baker -see the post HERE. While the caning looked great, it wasn't very comfortable or practical and I had decided to have cushions made.

I used Aku Merali at Marketplace Interiors in Alexandria, VA. He is a well respected upholsterer here in DC used by everyone, including the White House. He recommended attaching a pad on a wooden base to the chair instead of seperate cushions and I followed the experts advice! I am so pleased with the result and couldn't be happier. The fabric I chose is Ralph Lauren Home's English Riding Velvet in Lovat -a beautiful muted turquoise.

After picking up the chairs on Saturday morning (thanks Mark!), I decided to host an inaugural launch and had some friends over for some fresh strawberry shortcake and champagne. I bought the Paisley Table Throw from Potterybarn which coordinates beautifully with the chair fabric. To go with the dessert theme, I used my Strawberries and Cream china by Royal Doulton and some Adam styled antique silver from Ms. Pixies.

I am so happy with how it all turned out and even more pleased to share my small changes with you all.
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Do you hold any superstitions? I don't mean picking up pennies and avoiding black cats, this is a design blog after all! While going through some photos I took in the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this year, I noticed that these wall lights had the candle wicks left unburnt. I've always been taught that tapers should be charred before being left in a candlestick; not sure why, but I've always followed this rule. I know it comes from some unknown superstition but I can't seem to find what would happen if I didn't burn them! Do you follow this practice?
These rococo wall lights are manufactored by the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin in the 1760s.
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Vizcaya: Goyesca

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Adjacent to Giudecca and sharing a bathroom in the southeast tower is the guest room Goyesca. Named after the Neoclassic murals which cover the walls which depict Roman styled grotesques, I'm not sure the theme is the most appropriate or restful for use in a bedroom but they are none the less lovely!

Despite the pink lined bed canopy and delicate plaster ceiling medallion, I think this room has a decidely masculine feel to it, don't you? Maybe it's just the restrained neoclassical decorations which appeal to me.

The advantage of a tower bedroom is multiple exposures; here facing the bay as well as the gardens.

Other guest rooms feature just as much detailing in the wall coverings, such as the one below which has a strong chinoiserie influence.

So many guest rooms, could you possibly just choose one? I wonder how many guests would switch rooms weekly to experience them all!
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Vizcaya: Giudecca

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The Southeast tower holds 2 guest rooms which share a bath. Giudecca, shown here, is simpler than the rooms downstairs but no less elegant. The centerpiece is, again, a magnificent canopied bed.I love the decorative plaster work on the walls highlighted in mint green and tan, so evocative of the time period. The room is named after an island in Venice as it overlooks the Venetian-styled bridges and ornaments along the waterfront.At the foot of the bed (raised on a platform for some reason) are two Louis Vuitton traveling trunks. I suppose guests would need to pack a lot because they would never want to leave!
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Custom calligraphy

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Recently while reading through my daily bloglist, I saw a post on Matters of Style mention a local etsy crafter who did custom stamps in calligraphy. I thought this would be a great idea to do a small stamp of my name on the front page of the books in my library. It came in the mail yesterday and I couldn't be happier with it!

I dealt with Trialbycupcakes, who was so easy to work with and let me create the stamp sans address. Thats one of the great things about etsy, you're generally dealing with people who work out of their homes as a small business and they can help you get what you're looking for. I will probably use the stamp for other uses as well, but now time to head to the store to get an assortment of different colored stamp pads!
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Vizcaya: Galleon guest suite

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The main guest suite at Vizcaya is in the opposite corner of Mr. Deerings offering views of both Viscayne Bay and the Formal Gardens. Occupying the physical corner is the sitting room named Galleon after the shipping vessels which inspired the house.

The wood walls are painted to imitate marble and display a collection of 18th century Italian landscape paintings. As throughout the rest of the house, the diverse decorations include 18th century Italian and English furniture with a French Savonnerie carpet.

This extravagant suite seems like an amazing place to stay for Deering's guest of honor -wouldn't you say?
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Vizcaya: Espagnolette

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One of the most feminine guest rooms at Vizcaya is named Espagnolette. All of the guest suites were named after historical characters from literature and feature different design styles. Each suite comfortably features a bathroom and ample walk in closet.

This bedroom has access to Mr. Deering's bedroom suite via the balcony so one suspects that his most special female guests were invited to stay, if you get my drift. The room's name fittingly refers to a young decolletee woman from the 18th century, such as the ones depicted by Watteau. While he never married and remained deeply private about his personal affairs, Deering is known to have had several mistresses throughout his lifetime and certainly they were invited to stay at Vizcaya and probably in this suite. Chalfin chose to decorate the room in a romantic Venetian interpretation of French Rococo style. The room features an antique period mantelpiece but the centerpiece remains the magnificent canopied bed.
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Spring in NY

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Oddly enough, one of my favorite things about New York is the presence of nature in the city.

Central Park is so much more majestic for its city setting and natural / city contrasts.

While in New York last weekend, Habitually Chic and I enjoyed the fine spring weather and spent the afternoon wandering around this paradise with ice cream cones. Maybe a little too long, I'm still suffering from my peeley sunburn!

Another piece of nature lies on the medians of Park Avenue. The pink metal rose sculptures by Will Ryman are surrounded by spring tulips for a short time every year.

A city of contrasts: the man-made and the natural working in harmony. Enjoy your weekend!
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Finally Framed

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You may remember I was talking about framing the sketch Patricia at PVE drew for my blog header, seen here. Well, I finally got it back from the framer and it looks fantastic! I chose an ebonized frame in an architectural acanthus leaf pattern which I felt grounded the drawing and matte as well as relate to the subject.

I had it framed at L'Eclat de Verre in Cady's Alley near my office in Georgetown. I would highly recommend them based on their selection, friendliness and affordability.

I think the added 'Lavis' or French Lines, drawn around the French Panel done with marbelized paper really add a lot to Patricia's beautiful drawing -what do you think based on the progression? It now has a proud spot on my gallery wall.

And don't forget the picture hanging hardware.
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