Encaustic Tiles


We have recently been working on a bathroom remodel project and have become enamored with encaustic tiles we have seen. Encaustic tiles have been around since medieval times when they were made with two or more colors of clay inlaid together to create a pattern which is beautiful, colorful, and timeless. According to Tile-Magazine.com “this art form reached its peak in the mid-1800’s when Minton’s Ltd. began to supply them for walls and floors in churches, public buildings, and grand palaces.” Nowadays, these tiles are made with cement rather than clay. Yet, the process remains basically the same – instead of being painted with a pattern, the color and pattern in encaustic tiles are literally baked in.  Each tile is made by hand using a special frame resembling an intricate cookie-cutter. Layers of pigmented cement are then poured into the various sections of the mold.

We love the extra flourish these aesthetically pleasing tiles can add to any space.  Whether they are used for a kitchen backsplash, an entry way, or a bathroom floor, encaustic tiles are a great way to show off your personality and style. Our design advice, though, is to make sure that the style of your house works with the pattern you love.  There are so many patterns to choose from – graphic and contemporary styles, Moroccan-inspired patterns, and traditional Victorian to name just a few.

While authentic handmade encaustic tiles can be very expensive, there are many glazed porcelain and ceramic tiles that mimic the look yet are much more modestly priced.  We will post a new blog when the bathroom is complete – look for the encaustic tile in the post.

Photo Credits:

Photo of colorful encaustic flooring installed in the U.S. Capitol – www.wikipedia.com

This is an intricately patterned mold for making encaustic tiles – from Lynne Byrne’s Design Dictionary at www.decorartsnow.com

Kitchen backsplash in Kyra II Terrazzo from www.cementtileshop.com - this handmade tile is priced at $8.60 for each 8” square.

Revival Memory 8” square tiles by Merola can be found at Home Depot for $1.98 each.

And, Finally, Pantone!

 The Pantone Color Institute is a consulting service that forecasts global color trends. After numerous announcements from many paint companies, several weeks ago Pantone finally announced their eagerly anticipated choice for their Color of the Year 2018!  They chose Ultra Violet, a super-bright purple which Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Institute, says "communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking."  This year's color was not chosen because it is regal, though it does resemble a shade that has historically been considered to be majestic.

As a color that can take you in so many directions, Ultra Violet makes a statement in any space, whether it’s one of tradition and elegance or unexpected boldness. While it is clearly dramatic and provocative, it is a difficult color with which to decorate, and there have been many diverse opinions expressed about this choice.

Would we choose this color in our designs?  It would certainly depend upon the client and how they feel about it. So, because it mixes well with grays, soft shades of green, and other neutrals, we would love to use it as an accent - perhaps, a soft mohair throw or a few pillows.  Ultra Violet can be softened with other shades in the same family such as mauve or lilac.  It could be pretty and feminine in a young girl's room when used in this way. What do you think of this shade?  We would love to hear your opinion.  But, just remember - no matter what our opinions may be, we will be seeing Ultra Violet everywhere in home design as well as in fashion this year.

Photo Credits:

www.apartmenttherapy.com - This purple upholstered bed certainly does pop!

www.housebeautiful.com - This living room has a lot of purple, but it is pretty and tasteful.

www.the penneyhoarder - Touches of purple in this mostly white teen room is a conservative way to use this color.

www.pantone.com - Paint chip


2018 Colors of the Year

Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year, Caliente AF-290, is strong, radiant and full of energy – and RED HOT!

A collision of rich blue with jewel-toned green, a color that is both accessible and elusive, Oceanside SW 6496, is Sherwin-Williams pick for 2018 Color of the Year. 

 PPG Paints,  named Black Flame (PPG1043-7) their new "it" shade. They describe it as an "unprecedented, statement-making black with deep tones of indigo." 

Meanwhile, Glidden Paint has selected Deep Onyx (00NN 07/000), which they describe as a no-fuss shade of black that encourages a "less is more" approach to decor.

Union Trust Building

While walking in downtown Pittsburgh several weeks ago, we decided to pop into the Union Trust Building to see firsthand the $100 million renovations we had heard about. Wow!  What a beautiful old building with spectacular renovations. Many of the original interior features were retained while the lobby space was updated with Pittsburgh themed artwork and a fabulous palette of bright peacock blues, purples and pinks.

This historic building was designed and erected in 1915-16 by Frederick Osterling for Henry Clay Frick.  Most Pittsburghers will recognize the Union Trust Buillding with its amazing mansard roof boasting terra cotta dormers and two chapel-like structures housing mechanicals. But, we were completely blown away by the interior lobby with its central rotunda and stained glass dome. The Davis Companies completed the stunning restoration

We applaud the architects and designers and recommend stopping in sometime if you are downtown.

Photo Credits:

 Exterior and Roof  -https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=172346

Lobby - thedaviscompanies.com

Rotunda - www.jekko.com






Tie Pillow

Ellen had this patchwork pillow made from her retired pediatrician husband’s old ties.  When he was practicing, he always liked to wear “kid-friendly” or doctor themed ties.  But, since he had retired, they were just hanging unworn in the closet.  Our wonderful seamstress made the pillow. It was a fun project, and a huge success with Ellen’s husband.  Let us know what you think!




We have never seen so much shiplap as that featured on HGTV’s Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Shiplap walls have been around for a long time, but we have noticed that many other designers have been using shiplap recently.  So…. What exactly is shiplap? Traditional shiplap boards have a groove cut into the top and bottom allowing the pieces to fit together snugly.  It has generally been used to construct rustic sheds or barns. Now,  it has become popular for interiors as well.  Horizontal shiplap on the walls is informal and homey, creating a warm and charming rustic look.

In the older homes that Chip and Joanna renovate, they often find real shiplap underneath drywall, but, if they do not, they have been known to add some newly planed rough-hewn boards or repurpose boards they find in old barns. If you are still not sure exactly what shiplap is after looking at these pictures, just watch a few episodes of Fixer Upper and you will be.

Photo Credits

Better Homes and Gardens – This dining area has a clean and crisp “contemporary” rustic look.

Shiplap - BHG.jpg

www.mountainviewcottage.net – For DIYers, this blogger shared exactly how they achieved a shiplap look in their daughter’s nursery.  We love the juxtaposition of the rustic walls, quilt block art work, and the elegant crib and chandelier.

Shiplap Nursery - Mountain View Cottage .jpg

www.scoutandnimbleblog.com - In this bedroom, the painted shiplap in a deep contrasting color, is a nice accent wall.



Fancy Ceiling Fans

We have admired and purchased a number of beautiful crystal chandeliers, and we have also seen many ceiling fans in industrial or modern styles, but these two ceiling fans are really unusual.  We saw them both at www.horchow.com, an upscale online and catalogue source from Dallas, Texas.  The first one is their Julianne Bronze Fandelier (definitely appropriately named) with a cut-crystal light kit, and the second one is the Chantel ceiling fan with golden metal accents and crystals.  They are on sale for $400 and $287.20, respectively.  Let us know what you think of mixing a functional ceiling fan with such ornate elements.


Fifty Shades of Green (and Brown and Gray!)

While on a walk in Swallow Falls in western Maryland, we were inspired by the beautiful colors in nature that were surrounding us.  After taking numerous pictures, we immediately went to our trusty Sherwin-Williams app – Color Snap!  Using this app, it is so easy to create a paint palette for any room.  Take a look at these photos and the corresponding paint colors we pulled from them.  Very cool!














Fringe and Tassels

Sometimes we think we are behind the times with design trends, and sometimes we think we are way ahead of the curve.  For example, several years ago, we trimmed this sofa for our client’s very traditional living room with a beautiful bullion fringe to really dress it up.  Of course, we realized this was not a new idea – fringe was often used liberally on Victorian and Edwardian furniture and lampshades.  But, at the spring markets, fringe was back in more unexpected and bold ways.  We spied the contemporary Nicolene chest from Currey and Company in a recent article by Patricia Sheridan in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  According to Cecil Adams, creative director, “fringe is never completely out of fashion”.   He went on to say that “they chose to embellish this chest with modern brass pulls and leather tassels as a nod to handbag hardware.” On the other end of the spectrum, we found this over-the-top lampshade at www.vintageshades.com a company that specializes in making custom Victorian style shades and reproduction antique lamps. One of their lamps would certainly go well in the Gingerbread Cottages we last wrote about!  Fringe and tassels add visual interest and are always in style – from ultra-modern to traditional to Victorian, there is something for all tastes.


Our client was so pleased with this beautiful bullion fringe!

Our client was so pleased with this beautiful bullion fringe!

Contemporary take on tassels!   

Contemporary take on tassels!


Beautiful, but awfully fussy for modern tastes!

Beautiful, but awfully fussy for modern tastes!

Lots of Gingerbread


While walking around in the quaint town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, we came upon an enclave of gingerbread cottages.  We learned that these colorful, delightful homes are historically significant, representing a unique style of architecture known as Carpenter Gothic Revival. Built during a burst of activity between 1867 and 1872, most of these homes are privately owned and have been or are currently being meticulously restored.

We have not actually had the opportunity to do any design work for a client who has a period home like these, but it would be interesting!



Earth Day


While we always love decorating with beautiful new high-end furnishings and fabrics, we believe that some well thought-out flea market finds can add a bit of quirkiness and eclecticism to any décor.  Reusing and recycling are always good for the environment, and especially now, with Earth Day fast approaching, we went searching for a few new/old finds!

Reuse (or Repurpose)

It is always fun to think of a creative new use for an old item.  Upcycle an old piece, and turn it into something different and new.  We discovered lots of aviaries that were made from old hutches.  Great for all those bird lovers out there!  Check out this one that was made from a traditional dark brown highboy.

Photo Credit:  We saw it on Pinterest along with a number of other creative make-overs!


Using reclaimed materials for building projects is a great way to reduce – less energy is used, especially if the materials are sourced locally, less will end up in a land-fill, and the finished products will be beautiful and functional. 

Photo Credit:  We love Antiques on Washington in Bridgeville, PA for beautiful hand-crafted tables from reclaimed wood.


Never pass up an interesting old chair.  As long as it is not broken, it can always be repainted or refinished, and with some new fabric, it will probably have a lot of life left in it!  (Hint: mismatched chairs around a table can add some visual interest.)

Photo Credit:  We found this one on HGTV.com

These simple ideas can help to save resources and reduce pollution, not just on Earth Day, but every day.

Bedroom Colors

What is your favorite color for a bedroom?  Should it be light and airy or dark and dreamy? Personal taste is so different for everyone, and it is important to get it right so your surroundings are perfect for YOU!


We saw this beautiful smoky blue bedroom in House Beautiful. It was designed by one of our favorite designers, Tobi Fairley, for a client who wanted a little bit of Hollywood glam with a soft and airy color scheme.

We saw this beautiful smoky blue bedroom in House Beautiful. It was designed by one of our favorite designers, Tobi Fairley, for a client who wanted a little bit of Hollywood glam with a soft and airy color scheme.

We saw this bedroom on Pinterest, and loved the contrast between the dark blue walls, bedding, and window treatments and the light carpeting and tufted headboard. 

We saw this bedroom on Pinterest, and loved the contrast between the dark blue walls, bedding, and window treatments and the light carpeting and tufted headboard. 

Two Color Schemes - One Classic and One a Little Bit Out There

From sophisticated black and white checkerboard flooring to more casual black and white ticking stripes, this color scheme has been a lasting one throughout the decades.  Design icon Dorothy Draper used black and white in her decorating schemes in the 1930’s, and today, many designers use black and white as their “go to” color scheme. New black and white furniture pieces from a number of manufacturers were spotted at the Fall Furniture Market in Highpoint, North Carolina.  Highland House, a high end furniture company is no exception. Nathan Copeland, president of Highland House says that “the color black helps to ground a room, giving it a focal point, while white provides a sense of freshness.”  Black and white can stand alone or is amazing with pops of bright color to punch it up.

We all seem to have a pair of colors that we use often – in our clothing or in decorating our homes.  Sticking with traditional pairs like black and white may be a safe bet, but maybe it is time to move a little bit outside our comfort zone.  The Crimson and Deep Violet duo we saw on the Domino Magazine website is beautiful, untraditional, and complementary. It could be risky, but, in smaller doses and in the right place, it will be stunning.  The magazine suggests “filtering in accent pieces that belong within the spectrum of the two shades.”  We also suggest using lots of neutrals to balance the brightness and boldness!

The Beaufort Center Hall Table by Highland House Furniture is a contemporary take on a design classic.  www.highlandhouse.com



Times Square – Black and white checkerboard floor by Emser Tile – This is the tile that designer Tobi Fairley is installing in her foyer as a part of the year-long renovation of her home.  She is chronicling her project as the newest columnist of Traditional Home magazine.

Times Square – Black and white checkerboard floor by Emser Tile – This is the tile that designer Tobi Fairley is installing in her foyer as a part of the year-long renovation of her home.  She is chronicling her project as the newest columnist of Traditional Home magazine.

Toile Fabric is a timeless choice in black and white – This Bouvier comforter set by Thomasville at Home can be found at www.wayfair.com. 

Toile Fabric is a timeless choice in black and white – This Bouvier comforter set by Thomasville at Home can be found at www.wayfair.com. 

Crimson and Deep Violet - unexpected color pairing - Domino copy.jpg

This is the unusual color scheme that caught our eye on www.domino.com.

A Fabulous Find for Your Bathroom

Stone Forest Sculptural Soaking Tub

We saw this beautiful bathtub in a recent edition of Traditional Home and did a little bit more research.  Stone Forest is a group of artisans and designers focused on bringing the elegant simplicity of natural materials into the bath and garden. The Papillon Soaking Tub is carved from one block of stone – granite, Carrara marble, limestone, sandstone, or travertine. With its curvy and sexy lines, it is truly a work of art that also offers a relaxing spa-like soak.

 Credits:  Silver Travertine Papillon Tub


Stone Forest Papillon Tub.jpg



A Fabulous Find for Your Kitchen

Elkay Colorful Sinks

Kitchen sinks have traditionally been white, stainless, or maybe a cream color. But, not anymore!  We love the new Quartz Luxe sink collection by Elkay. This collection comes in many sizes, shapes, and six new colors.  Included are deep, rich colors such as Caviar, Chestnut, and Charcoal as well as lighter Parchment and Ricotta.  Our favorite new and fun color, although it may not work for every kitchen, is Maraschino (just like the cherry!).  Made of material that combines quartz with a UV-stable acrylic resin, these sinks are fade resistant, easy to clean, and satin-smooth.

 Credits:  Maraschino Quartz Luxe Sink





Pantone - Color of the Year 2017

We have to admit that we were wrong with our pick of Kale for the new color of the year.

On December 8, Pantone announced that the color of the year is Greenery, “a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that is symbolic of new beginnings.”  Although Kale was definitely among the contenders based on trends from Fashion Week, Greenery was the winning color. 

As Pantone noted in their release, “every color of the year is a reflection of society – a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture……….. Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute believes that this color represents our desire to rejuvenate and revitalize.”  After a tumultuous 2016, putting Greenery on your body, around your house, or on your desk can be a symbolic way to relieve stress. It is the color of hopefulness.

It is not our favorite or one that we will recommend often, but, it will probably be a popular choice this year!


Photo - Courtesy of Pantone Color Institute

Color of the Year 2017

Well, it is that time of year again!  All of the major paint companies have recently announced their selections for the color of the year. This year, purples, grays, and taupes reign supreme.

PPG Paints has selected Violet Verbena, a grayish shade of violet, while Olympic Paints color of the year is Cloudberry, a soft violet that is somewhat paler than Violet Verbena, and Glidden’s Byzantine Blue is really another shade of purple which is peaceful, yet playful.

Color 2017 Glidden .jpg

Sherwin-Williams has gone in another direction with Poised Taupe, a neutral which is both cool and warm with its mix of gray and brown. Benjamin Moore calls its color of the year Shadow, a shade that is dark, dramatic and elegant.

Color 2017 Benjamin Moore.jpg

Pantone, the company that considers itself the authority on colors in consumer trends, will not announce their color for 2017 until December.  In the meantime, they have released the top ten colors for spring, 2017, to coincide with New York Fashion Week and other fashion weeks around the world.   The list is quite subdued with muted and earthy tones such as Kale and Hazelnut predominating along with pops of brighter color such as Primrose Yellow.  So…. We will have to wait and see, but we are trying to be healthy and going with Kale.


Color 2017 - Kale.png



Transparency is Good

Transparency, whether in business dealings, personal relationships, or furniture design is a good thing. So, when we saw an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on July 25, 2016, we wanted too explore and embrace this trend a bit more.  As she said, "a decidedly modern material, plastic gives classic forms a contemporary ambience...see-through furniture can give any interior a clear edge." Both timeless and futuristic, this design-forward material, technically acrylic glass, but generally called Lucite or Plexiglas, has been around since the 1930's.  It became wildly popular in the 1960's and 70's, but today its general appeal is as great as ever. 

Furniture made from clear, transparent materials adds a playful, yet chic, touch to any room.  It can offer functionality without adding visual clutter and can complement just about any existing decor or color scheme seamlessly.  We have seen this crystal clear material used on everything from cocktail tables, bar carts, wingback chairs, and small items like lamps or even tape dispensers!

Photo Credits

www.kartell.com - One of the most iconic transparent pieces is the Philippe Starck Ghost Chair.  In 2002, he recreated the decadent feel of the Louis XV style while still managing to make it simple and minimalist.  Due to its transparency, it can match mid-century modern, industrial or French classic equally well.

CB2.com - We love the versatility of this peekaboo "C" table in combination with a clear console.  It can function as a side table, a laptop stand, or a bar cart.  The casters allow it to roll easily to any location.

www.HGTV.com - The area rug, with its bold color and pattern, is the focal point of this room.  The clear acrylic coffee table provides a nice counterpoint while not distracting the eye from the rug.














A Tale of Two Chairs - The Selig Chair and the Chippendale Chair

When Kathleen and I wrote about our favorite things, she mentioned loving the Selig chair, and I decided upon the Chippendale chair – both so different, but beautiful, classics in their own right.

Selig Z chairs are typified by simple, elegant and sweeping lines associated with Danish furniture of the post-war period.  The design of this style chair is most often attributed to three Danish furniture designers – Finn Julh, Poul Jensen, and Ib Kofod Larsen.  Built of very high quality wood such as walnut beech or teak,  many vintage Selig chairs are still available and are very collectible. Rare pieces in pristine condition may be found at international auction houses such as Sotheby’s, but many collectors might find these chairs more easily on-line at bidding sites such as Ebay. Collectors should be aware that there are a number of contemporary reproductions of the Selig chair being produced in the United States, Europe, and Japan.  Authenticity should be carefully checked.  Hopefully, this pair of vintage mid-century 50’s Danish modern Poul Jensen chairs that were sold on Ebay for $4000 are authentic.  On the other hand, a Craigslist buyer purchased an almost identical pair for a mere $50!  After a little cleaning, polishing, and some new cushions, this buyer felt he had really scored a steal.


Chippendale chairs, of course, have been around a lot longer.  One of the best-known names in the history of furniture design is that of Thomas Chippendale (1718-79).  After an apprenticeship under his father, he moved to London and began his cabinetmaking business.  In 1754 he published the first edition of his book, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director. This catalog of English furniture design is probably a major reason he became so well-known.  Because the book became used widely, it is difficult to distinguish the pieces actually made in Chippendale’s workshop.  Thus, the name Chippendale is freely applied to any pieces in the style in which he worked.  Chippendale’s style is seen most characteristically in his chairs. His early works were similar to the early Georgian Queen Anne style with cabriole legs, carved feet and elaborate splat back with a yoke form at the top. In later years, he used a straight Marlborough leg and reintroduced stretchers to add strength.  Backs became even more intricate with elements such as Gothic tracery, Chinese latticework, and ribbon motifs borrowed from Louis XV furniture.  Today, true Chippendale antiques would be rare indeed, but fine quality reproductions have been made by many furniture manufacturers over the years.  Chippendale style chairs are rather ornate, but they are an enduring and timeless design classic.

Photo Credits

Selig Chair found on Ebay

Craigslist Find – The Hunt for Vintage Blog

Engraved Plate from The Gentleman and the Cabinet-Maker’s Director

Chippendale Chair from Maitland Smith