Houzz is a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community. It is an honor to receive two awards! Kathy was rated at the highest level for client satisfaction by the Houzz community, and received the Best of Houzz 2016 Award for Service . A special Thanks to our clients who posted reviews on their projects!
Best of Houzz 2016 for Design, was a bit more difficult to achieve. It has been awarded because Kathy’s portfolio was voted most popular by the Houzz Community. The Nanny’s Retreat project has been a favorite. This room was designed for the Bucks County Designer House & Gardens at Serendipity Farm.
I love historic homes and holiday decor, so naturally I was captivated by the cover of this new book. Christmas at America’s Landmark Houses (Schiffer Publishing $45.00), written by designer Patricia Hart McMillan and architect David Strahan. Browsing through the pages, it was a pleasant surprise to find a tree that I designed (page 67). I immediately procured a copy from the gift shop at Fonthill Castle. Architectural Digest has featured the book and provides a link for purchase.
Fonthill Castle is one of the historic homes featured and our Chinese themed tree was photographed there. Fonthill is decorated for the holiday every year. Trees can be seen throughout the castle during regularly scheduled tours. The trees will be on display through January 3, 2016.
This tree debuted at the Pearl Buck House, for their Festival of Trees. Miss Buck spent roughly half her life in China and half in America. Through her legacy many children have become a member of American families but celebration of their birth culture is also encouraged.
At Fonthill Castle the tree can be found in the Central Hall. On the guided tours guests move from viewing the Chinese Roof Tiles, down the stairs and into the Central Hall. The tiles were collected by Henry Mercer and date back as far as the 15th Century. Photograph by Karl Graf Photography.
Decorated Christmas trees originated in Germany and became widely popular when Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert were illustrated with their children and holiday tree in the London News. Early Victorian tree decorations included handmade items and paper containers filled with sweets. By the 1870’s glass ornaments were being imported from Germany to Britain.
What about China? Do they even have Christmas trees in China? Yes they do. A very small percentage of Chinese are Christian and they decorate a “Tree of Light” with paper lanterns and paper chains. The most important holiday celebrated in China is the Chinese New Year. On a larger scale Christmas has become a prelude to the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate ancestors and to visit with family. New Year wishes are for happiness, wealth and longevity. Many of the customs and decorations are representative of these ideals. Children are given coins in red envelopes and oranges are set out as a symbol of prosperity. Decorations of Chinese knots and paper cuttings are hung. The various knots and paper cuttings can have many different meanings such as happiness or good fortune.
This tree combines these holiday symbols. The paper containers inspired by the Victorian tree have a decidedly Asian flair. The handmade tassels with minute prosperity knots are representative of Chinese knotting. Paper lanterns blend harmoniously with glass bead garland and traditional glass ornaments. Although oranges are a symbolic Chinese New Year decoration, I recall as a child piercing oranges with cloves and using them as Christmas ornaments. Representing the Chinese New Year holiday are the traditional coins used as garland and decoration for the tassels.
One thread that seems common to various times, cultures and holidays is the celebration of the blessing of family and friends.
A well designed home interior should provide physical comfort and nurture our spirit. A secret to achieving that is creating relationships between the elements in the space. Fine art is an integral part of an interior environment because it can engage us on many levels. One of my favorite sources for fine art is David Stier.
I first viewed David’s work at the Silverman Gallery in Buckingham. I’m drawn to his paintings. It is the warmth of the earthy color palette he uses. I also see his compositions as uncluttered with simple lines, and yet not one single detail is missing. We each have our own reaction to different pieces of art. At a glance we may decide that we like a creation, or do not. The works that we choose to surround ourselves with usually evoke a deeper response. The appeal may be emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or a combination of triggers.
We know that art and design impact the human condition. Understanding how and why can be elusive. Following are some thoughts on why David’s art is so compelling.
He has done studies of the Moravian Tile Works, that subject matter connects on several touch points. Whenever I walk the grounds of Fonthill and the Tile Works I am in awe of Henry Mercer’s abundant accomplishments. Mercer constructed those buildings when he was fifty plus years of age. That thought energizes me and reminds me that there is still time to reach my goals in the latter years of life. The Tile Works is also a beloved historical, architectural icon of the Bucks County community. David’s paintings mentally transport me to that place inducing an emotional sense of connection to my community and sparking the same spiritual reaction felt when physically present at that property. Are you a Bucks County native? Have you visited the Tile Works? Does that place hold a special meaning for you?
In David’s piece Still Life with Magnolias, a beam of sunlight comes through the window and plays across the surface of the dresser. Immediately the scene brings to mind the joy of a warm, sunny spring day. Is your mood elevated at the sight of a sunbeam on a beautiful day?
That illustrates a few ways that art can provoke our psyche. How does our overall living and working space effect us?
Depending on the time of day and current activity our living/working spaces need to offer us stimulation, rouse our minds, or provide solace and sanctuary. Let’s focus on sanctuary and save the stimulating spaces for another discussion. Family rooms, bedrooms and spaces for entertaining should offer rest and relaxation. The art selected for those rooms should bring joy, offer comfort through a sense of connection, and bring to mind pleasant thoughts.
l’ osteria e’ salone (The Bar and Lounge) was the space Hearth & Hedgerow created for the 2015 Bucks County Designer House & Gardens. Our goal was to create an inviting room for family and friends to gather and celebrate life. Thousands of visitors toured the home and were amazed at the transformation. Our space was designed to mentally transport them to an Old World tavern somewhere in France, Italy, or Spain. We succeeded, tour guests commented that they were reminded of their European vacation, or they wanted to open a bottle of wine and stay awhile.
The various elements used in the space; David’s paintings, embossed leather chairs, distressed wood, and wrought iron all relate to each other. Earthy textures, mossy colors and natural materials form a harmonious arrangement. Even the subject matter of David Stier’s Tile Works studies relates to the room and the home. When Mercer built the Tile Works he was inspired by the Spanish Colonial architecture seen while traveling throughout South America. Of course that style has Mediterranean roots. The existing bar and the home Villa Di Braccia, were also built in a Mediterranean style.
This does not imply that art should match the furniture! In fact the opposite is true, art is not supposed to be identical. Creating relationships is not the same as matching. One quirky item creates interest. Too many disparate items can be discomforting. Fine art and design is not all about the eye candy, it is about affecting the human experience on an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual plane. A composed room or painting is successful when the relationship between the parts invokes a cohesive human response. Striking the right balance is a skill that develops with education and experimentation.
In addition to representing David Stier, the Silverman Gallery specializes in Bucks County Impressionist Art. The bucolic landscape of the region is a popular subject matter. There are places in Bucks County that many people describe as magical and there are artists who strive to capture that essence. That is one reason why this genre of fine art works so well in living spaces designed to rejuvenate the soul. I encourage you to visit Silverman Gallery and explore the secret treasures within!
This photo and caption were published in The Intelligencer, Community News section on April 27, 2015. It features a window treatment that was recently reproduced by Hearth & Hedgerow Ltd. for Fonthill Castle. Fonthill is Henry Mercer’s unique home which was constructed between 1908 and 1912 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Funds to complete the reproduction were raised by the Pennsylvania State Questers and the Fonthill Questers Chapter.
The original window treatments were removed during the 1970’s – 1980’s. This photo of the original was taken after removal. As you can see decades of sunlight faded the Verdure Tapestry and Brown Corduroy Trim that Mercer had used to fabricate the original design.
Kathy Appel of Hearth & Hedgerow Ltd. worked with Ed Reidell, Cory Amsler and Sara Good from the Bucks County Historical Society to source materials. A new tapestry featuring the same design motifs as the original Verdure and a matching brown corduroy were specified. Kathy then created a work order that the fabricator could follow to be sure the new piece was the same size as the original.
Many of the docents at Fonthill Castle are excited to have this particular treatment restored in the Terrace Bedroom. It directly relates to the interpretation of how Mercer used this space. We highly recommend a visit to Fonthill – it’s a fascinating place!
We have been very busy creating a “Nanny’s Retreat” for the design house.
Inspired by the British television drama Downton Abbey, this room will combine Edwardian era style with contemporary trends to create a modern interpretation of early 20th Century staff housing.
Great houses and country estates of the time required a full complement of domestic workers to maintain the household. Servant quarters allowed the staff to reside at the estate and were furnished in a simple, functional style. Senior staff members – such as Downton’s butler Mr. Carson or housekeeper Mrs. Hughes – were afforded a few extra comforts. The Nanny was also a senior staff position.
Metal beds were a design staple along with a straight back chair, and perhaps a surface for letter writing. This Nanny’s room will incorporate the basics along with some of the more luxurious appointments found in Mrs. Hughes’ office at Downton such as a comfortable chair for reading, and a spot for a cup of tea.
Updating these Edwardian era hallmarks with touches of Bohemian Gypsy and Industrial Chic trends makes this space perfect for a cozy guest room, reading retreat, or craft area in any 21st Century home.
We have two more weeks to complete this intriguing space. We hope you’ll come out to see the finished project! Tours begin April 27th and continue through May 31st. Tickets are $25.00 per person. If you purchase tickets before April 25th they are $20.00 per person.