Monthly Archives: December 2013

An Upcycling, Repurposing Wonderland

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Books, Collecting, Crafts, Decorating, Design, Fabric, Furniture, Garden Ornaments, Heritage, Holidays, Home Products, Just Because, Mid-Century Modern, Recycling, Seasons, Shopping Date:

Blaze and Bloom 012Blaze & Bloom is a riot. So many imaginative, funky, zany, witty ideas packed into one airy, historic space in Hartford.

Four West Hartford friends — Katie Wickham, Jennifer O’Connell, Julie Jones and Tracey George — who are neighbors and all have kids, started the business in 2011. Back then, they held two backyard sales a year — in the fall (Blaze) and spring (Bloom). They specialize in giving new life to discards and otherwise reusing, repurposing and sometimes completely reconceiving old stuff — old maps, blueprints, books, fabrics and furniture.

Blaze and Bloom 016Take, for example the Zenith bar. Yes, it’s a mid-century TV console that swivels. They pulled out all the wires and tubes and other weird stuff (apparently quite a job), painted the interior red and added lights, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind cocktail bar for a family room or man cave. Cheers!

Jennifer spotted a 9-foot porch trellis, rusting and old, by the side of the road. (“I love rusty and old!” she says). She upended it, wove in a wide strip of burlap to look like a Christmas tree and added lights.

Katie has a big collection of old road maps (Esso vintage) and blueprints — and decoupages them onto tables, desks and chests.

Blaze and Bloom 002A vintage road map of Manhattan is framed with an old window: throwaways refashioned into a very cool artwork for $75.

“We believe in recycling, reusing, refurbishing, upcycling,” Katie says. “We don’t like to throw anything away. There’s so much inherent value.”

The Blaze & Bloom philosophy is, essentially, “We can do something with this. It still has a life. We can keep it out of the trash.”

Strips of vintage fabrics are turned into holiday garlands. Christmas balls now dangle from an old round needlepoint stretcher.

Blaze and Bloom 019The pages of an old book are intricately folded for displaying photos. An old piano stool is now covered with an old potato sack, “to give it a more hip life,” as Katie says. And the “item of the week” is a nifty metal catchall — made from segments of an old factory conveyor belt. If you need to get organized, there were two when I stopped by this week,  priced at $55 and $65.

Jennifer says they love the hunt, and buy a lot at estate sales and garage sales. “We just all see things and when we fall in love with them, we say, this will be a great piece to sell. There’s no formula.”

Sometimes the new life of an old item isn’t immediately clear. Jennifer stenciled the word TABLE on a table.

“People loved it, everyone laughed, but nobody bought it,” she recalls. Then Katie decoupaged a map on it, and, Jennifer says, “Voila — it was transformed. It sold in an hour.”

Blaze and Bloom 013 Blaze and Bloom 023 Blaze & Bloom also has an enticing array of vintage neckties, glassware, jewelry and more.

While the four friends started out just for fun, in July they got serious (though they’re clearly still having fun). They moved into a terrific space at 50 Bartholomew Ave. in Hartford — just down the street from the Design Center on the corner of Park Street — that used to be the RLF showroom and long before that was a metal file factory in the 1800s.

The building also houses landscape designer Cynthia Dodd’s Dirt Salon, the new Birch Papery, puppeteer/kinetic artist Anne Cubberly’s workshop and a variety of other artists’ studios. The whole place has a really wonderful, creative, collaborative vibe.

Blaze & Bloom has been open just a few days a month since the summer, but starting on Jan. 4, it will be open from 10-5 every Saturday, and by appointment. And it’s open today, if you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind gift.

For more, go to, email or call 860-888-2087, 860-816-0880 or 860-305-0172.

Blaze and Bloom 005Blaze and Bloom 015Blaze and Bloom 004Blaze and Bloom 011Blaze and Bloom 009Photographs by Nancy Schoeffler













Food For Thought, And For The Earth

by Categorized: Composting, Ecology, Food, Gardening, Recycling, Sustainability Date:

Food can get you thinking. So much goes into producing it. From the seed or plant or animal itself to the time and energy and planning and muscle to feed, water, cultivate, harvest, sort, cull, transport, market, stock, promote, sell and finally get that product home in our refrigerators — and then prepared in a meal.

All those valuable resources that go into producing food make me a passionate composter whenever there are peelings or leftover scraps on a plate.

But I’ve got a garden, and I love the idea of plowing those resource-rich extras back into the soil. Composting is a bit of a minor miracle. It doesn’t take much work, just some time.

Still, it’s not for everyone. Some people don’t garden. Others just don’t have room for a compost bin.

November 2013 153Communities like San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have city-wide curbside food scrap collection programs. The food waste is recycled into soil-enriching compost.

And in Connecticut, many food distributors, big supermarkets and other significant generators of food scraps are going to have to start recycling their scraps — if they aren’t already doing so — under a law going into effect at the New Year.

But what about the typical household?

Susannah Castle, who recently launched Blue Earth Compost, a residential food scrap pickup service in Hartford and West Hartford, says households are significant contributors of food waste to the waste stream. By some estimates, we throw out about 40 percent of the food we purchase.

Her new, hyper-local effort will help ensure that these resource-laden food scraps don’t go to waste but instead are used to nourish the soil and enhance our ecology.

“We can transform the state of our soil,” she says. “I’d love to see this community really develop a visionary mind-set toward becoming a zero-food-waste community – a community with spectacular soil, at least on the domestic scale. It’s a no-brainer.”

Click here for my complete story.

Photo of Susannah Castle by Nancy Schoeffler







Radiant Orchid: A Hue For You?

by Categorized: Color, Decorating, Design, Furniture, Home Design, Home Products Date:

Ellen Kennon, a friend in Louisiana who is one of the top interior design color experts in the country, has been musing about the colors that various paint companies and color pros recently have tapped as their color of the year for 2014 — including Benjamin Moore’s “Breath of Fresh Air,” Colour Futures’ muted teal, PPG’s Turning Oakleaf (a buttery cream), Sensational Color’s gray.

But Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, is the color world’s mostly closely watched color expert — and today Pantone made it official: The color of the year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid.

Radiant OrchidI don’t know about you, but in my own home this eye-popping color is a color that pops up only in flower pots. Overused around the house, it could almost give you a toothache.

Maybe my eye will get used to this “enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones” that “inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.”


Actually, I’m sure it will, because the color of the year doesn’t just show up in home decor; it permeates the more fleeting spectrum of the world of fashion, too. We’ll be flooded with fuchsia pants and purses and prom dresses before you know it.

Even so, when I think about how the folks at Pantone have sent us zigzagging from Chili Pepper (2007) to Blue Iris (2008) to bright yellow Mimosa ((2009) to Turquoise (2010) to Honeysuckle pink (2011) to Tangerine (2012) to Emerald Green (2013), I realize that Radiant Orchid is just the latest in zingy accent colors. Not necessarily meant for your living room wall, but for a pop, a punch, a bit of purple pizzazz.

Undoubtedly there are some people still ruing the hue of their emerald green couch who will confidently spin the color wheel to Radiant Orchid.

But you might want to start out using it sparingly.