grandmother’s house

Michael’s grandmother, Grandma Stewart, as we call her, turned 90 last Sunday. All of her four children (plus three daughter’s-in-law), nine out of ten grandchildren (plus two grandchildren-in-law), and three great-grand children, friends and other relatives all descended upon Lancaster, OH to celebrate.

Celebration on Grandma's patio with requisite french table linens in place

Celebration on Grandma's patio with requisite french table linens in place. We used paper plates, but with real silver.

I cannot say enough about Grandma Stewart. She always makes me feel like her real grand-daughter. She is a gracious, elegant woman with old-world class, sensibility, manners, and charm. At the age of 90 she is always impeccably dressed in a blazer with skirt. Meals at home require any one of her excellent collection of batik print tablecloths picked up on yearly trips to France, and, yes, good silver. To this day she insists on the things that bring her pleasure and joy, regardless of how impractical they may be for everyone else involved. 

The grand matriarch

I want to share some photos of Grandma’s home because this is the home of someone who knows what they enjoy and places no limits on that. Just about every room in the house is done in signature blue or green, with vintage floral or damask wallpapers. Little vases and knick-knacks from travels and friends sit along every window ledge and shelf, each with a story. Framed art abounds in every corner, many pieces painted by Grandma herself. Visiting Grandma Stewart’s home is an experience. She will part with nothing, and so the home is packed with mementos, catalogs, photos, you name it, spanning the decades. It is a child’s dream, full of color and objects, rooms, closets, basement, all filled with things to discover and marvel at. 

Looking from the living room into the sitting room and dining room

The photos below are from the living room where the family convenes after dinner, or where friends who drop by are invited to sit for pleasant conversation. The folding card table is generally always in place, with spare chairs nearby for post-supper card games. The game is always rummy and Grandma ALWAYS wins, usually by a margin of a 100 points or so.

A spare sitting room sits between the living room and the dining room for spill over during larger gatherings, plus more space for all of grandma’s treasured things. This sofa is often a quiet place to sit when one needs respite from the boisterous family gatherings.

The dining room is so very important. This is the place where everyone reliably gathers for grace and a good meal. Table settings are a chance for creativity and enjoying newness in a familiar place. Grandma continues to sit at the head of the table.

An upstairs bedroom goes softer and paler with creamy moldings, dreamy paper, and french chair in yellow quilted fabric. Waking up in this room is like waking up in a spring garden. Something about the wallpaper is mesmerizing to me. I never tired of gazing at it.

What I realized is that Grandma posseses the heart of an artist. As we sat outside on a beautiful cloudless day she said, “The sky is so bright that if you put that color on a canvas it would look gaudy. I know because I’ve tried.” Her approach to life is immediate and sensory and sensitive. She continues to put energy into what to wear to lunch or how the table is set, because to her that is as essential to her definition of life as breathing.

curated nature in columbus

We spent last weekend in Columbus and Lancaster, Ohio to celebrate the 90th birthday of Ruth Stewart, Michael’s grandmother! Our first stop was the Franklin Park Conservatory, which was less than a 10 minute drive from the Columbus airport.

It was a visually exciting place right from the beginning, with beautiful exterior grounds and building architecture. Once inside I was immediately drawn in by texture in the plants, as texture is such an important element in interiors at this moment. The first four photos here are plants from the “tropical rainforest” room, while the bottom four showcase just a handful of the truly exciting textures on display in the “desert” exhibit.

I was most struck by the shots that contrasted the structure of the building with the organic nature of the plants. It reminded me of how very curated this display of “nature” is.

The experience of museum versus natural archive was more manifest in other parts of the conservatory where artwork and installations by glass artist Dale Chihuly are on display.

I loved the glass balls in the “Butterflies & Blooms” exhibit. And how cool is the effect of the fish against the glass?

A different kind of curating was in effect with the display of cultivated butterflies in the exhibit.

After stopping to snap as many butterfly pictures as you can, you are led up a ramp where you can observe your fellow shutterbuggers, turning this into a self-conscious sociological experience as well : ).

an early project

I just came across this photo of one of my first hired interior design jobs. I designed all the built-ins, including window seats and radiator cover. And the very decadent ribbon-trimmed draperies. I wish I could find the “before” photo!

finishing up philly

I just got back from Ohio and have new stuff to post about, but I never put in my last post on Philly from a couple weeks back. I’d like to begin by showing you this:

You’d never know it, but this photo has no meat in it. This is an authentic Philly cheese steak done vegetarian. I loved it! Who said vegetarian food has to be organic, macrobiotic, health food? Gianna’s Grille on 6th Street, right off of South Street does a whole array of vegetarian hoagies and pizzas. Vegan friendly options abound as well. Here’s Michael in Gianna’s.


While on South Street I went to Garland of Letters, a new age bookstore that I can never pass up. I’ve been going there for years and I think it’s kind of an institution on South Street. I picked up the classic, The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer this time.

Across the street from Garland of Letters is a scene more typical of South Street, including the pick up truck with some youngsters from New Jersey cruising the strip:

Driving back to NJ I got some quick shots from the car too. An old Philly neighborhood.

The Ben Franklin bridge. This will always be my favorite bridge. It is so familiar but I always associate it with a certain level of adventure, as I used to drive in with gal pals from high school on Friday nights.