Category Archives: Antiques

Trade Secrets Sale Is Saturday (Garden Tour Is Sold Out)

by Categorized: Antiques, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Vegetable Gardening Date:

The Trade Secrets garden tour on Sunday is now sold out, but tickets are still available for Saturday’s sale of rare plants and garden antiques at LionRock Farm in Sharon, Conn..

The Trade Secrets sale features 70 vendors, mostly from the Northeast, including some of the country’s best-known small nurseries and specialty growers, and dealers in choice garden furniture, antiques, cloches, wrought iron fencing, garden statuary and more. WebsmBunnyandMartha

Tickets to the May 14 sale — a fund-raiser for Women’s Support Services — are $40, with buying starting at 10 a.m.

Depending on your budget, and whether you’re an early bird or a later bloomer, you can also spring for an early buying ticket (including breakfast) for $125, with buying starting at 8 a.m. And “late bloomer” tickets — new this year — with buying starting at 1 p.m., cost $20.

(Pictured above right: Martha Stewart, who says the Trade Secrets sale is an event on her calendar that she considers “sacrosanct,” and renowned interior designer Bunny Williams, founder of Trade Secrets.)

For more information, go to or call 860-364-1080.

Although Sunday’s garden tour is sold out, here’s a link to a recent story by yours truly, so that you can virtually enjoy one of the gardens:  Carolyne Roehm’s Sublime Garden Is One Of Four On Trade Secrets Tour

hc-pic-roses-tablesetting-jpg-20160415Photograph by Carolyne Roehm, courtesy of Carolyne Roehm





Please Touch, And Please Ask Questions

by Categorized: Antiques, Furniture, Heritage, Historic Houses Date:

Strong-HowardAttention, history buffs. The three-year renovation of the Windsor Historical Society‘s Strong-Howard House is complete, and the house re-opens Sunday, Oct. 4 from 1 to 4 p.m., with all tours free that day.

The society took a fresh, more hands-on approach to giving people a sense of how our forebears lived. Rather than fill the house with delicate antiques, the house is furnished with period-appropriate reproductions, many of them created by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

Here’s my earlier post about that:

And Steve Goode has the story about the re-opening:

Congratulations to Executive Director Christine Ermenc, Curator Christina Vida, Bob Van Dyke and the artisans at the woodworking school, and everyone else involved.

A Lamp, Dressed To The Nines

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Decorating, Design, Lighting Date:

lamp with red baseSome lamps have all the fun. What might otherwise be a Plain Jane of a light source instead can become the equivalent of eye candy in a couture ensemble, with a beautiful hand-made shade and a distinctive finial.

Designer Susan Schneider of Shandell’s is planning a trunk show called “Paper & Light” next  weekend at Artisan Framing & Gallery in Niantic. And she is inviting people to bring their lamps to the show to have her design a custom-designed shade for it.

I first learned of Susan’s artistry when I wrote a story about the kitchen of novelist Frank Delaney and his wife, writer and marketing maven Diane Meier.

blue and white marble shadesFrank and Diane showed me some wonderful custom lamps that Susan Schneider had made for them — converting such diverse objects as vintage dairy cans into lamps.

I later visited Susan at her studio, when it was in Ivoryton, and saw her creativity in abundance, including lamps made from such eclectic items as car jacks, wallpaper rollers, heating grates and hat racks. Now based in Deep River, she has a profusion of hand-painted and hand-marbled papers, gorgeous remnants of 19th century saris and other fabrics and elaborate trims — all of which she transforms into beautiful shades and other home items, topping finished lamps with one of her dizzying collection of finials — everything from chunks of red jade and malachite to Foo dogs and Feng Shui energy balls.

night lightsEveryone needs a fashion boost from time to time. Treat your lamps to an update.

There’s a reception Friday, Sept. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m., and the show continues Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Artisan Framing & Gallery is at 293 Main St., Niantic.

For more information, go to


From Marlboro Man To Methuselah

by Categorized: Antiques, Art, Collecting, Just Because, Psychology Of Home Date:

In case you missed this…one of the most enjoyable home stories I’ve written.


Peter Walker’s exuberant artistic spirit is evident the instant one steps into the Chester home the veteran actor shares with his partner, Jess Maghan. The walls are chockablock with his own photographs, with posters and playbills from films and plays in which he acted, with animal heads and relics and curiosities. Every surface brims with fascinating objects — antiques, sculptures, boxes, baskets, books, tapestries, farm implements.

If this is chaos, it is highly organized chaos — but it’s not chaos. This is an intensely layered, intensely personal iconography, rich with stories, memories, musings, ideas — not surprising for a man who is an actor, a lyricist, a photographer, a writer, a gardener, a sculptor and, for two years in the late 1950s, the Marlboro Man. The objects in just about any single square foot of space in this house could captivate a visitor for hours. READ MORE AND MORE PHOTOS

Photos by Caryn B. Davis


Red Carpets And The Oscars

by Categorized: Antiques, Color, Decorating, Glamour, Rugs And Carpets Date:

This Sunday the red carpet rolls out for all the Academy Award stars and hopefuls, so I can’t resist sharing this blogpost from Doris Leslie Blau, a rug gallery in Manhattan that sells antique, vintage, contemporary and custom rugs:  “5 Oscar-Worthy Red Carpets.”


The folks at Doris Leslie Blau selected “a handful of A-list textiles,” including “Best Geometric Design,” a modern Swedish flat-weave design (at left).

Then there’s “Best Persian Picture,” a late 19th century Sultanabad rug on an ivory field (below right).Red-Carpet-Persian








Red-Carpet-GlamFor glamour, there’s this French Art Deco rug (at left) signed by modernist architect Jacques Adnet. The folks at Doris Leslie Blau cite the old-Hollywood appeal of its scalloped frame and center design, and opine that those “who walk across it are inclined to start feeling ready for their close-up.”

Could be a winner in the foreign language category…


Red-Carpet-DiamondsThere’s also an American rag rug with an all-over diamond pattern (at right) — “a clear audience favorite,” the blogpost says.

Last year, Doris Leslie Blau’s blog delved into the history of the red carpet tradition, in a post amusingly headlined “Before the Oscars, a look at how big red became the thoroughfare of modern royalty.” Read that whole post here.

The red carpet was added to the Oscars in 1961, according to the post, which cites the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Margaret Herrick Library’s Linda Mehr as its source. Five years later, when the broadcast switched to color, the rosy hue of that famed walkway was clinched.

Little wonder. “Red is the color of blood and power. Cheerful, robust, vibrant, strong – a bold, red textile can imbue a bit of glamour and stateliness into any space, even if there’s no chance of Brad or Angie crossing the threshold.”

These days, the red carpet that will be stretched out for the stars at the Dolby Theatre is 600 feet long. And it will be freshly vacuumed on Sunday.

85th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsJennifer Lawrence at the Oscars in 2013, via Doris Leslie Blau, via Gloss.






Brilliant Ideas At Shandell’s

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Crafts, Decorating, Design, Lighting Date:

Here’s a early look at a story I wrote for Hartford Magazine and New Haven Living about Shandell’s, which specializes in custom lamps and lampshades. I really got a kick out of artist Susan Schneider and her incredible spirit and creativity — her ideas do indeed make you smile. Shandell’s new location in Ivoryton is well worth a visit — you’ll be inspired…

IMG_3000 There isn’t much that Susan Schneider hasn’t turned into a lamp or a lamp shade.

“I am a junker!” she proclaims. But it all ends up looking so chic and appealing.

IMG_2980She has made lamp bases from such eclectic items as an old Yellow Cab car jack; vintage, hand-carved wallpaper rollers; a pair of antique cream separators; a 19th-century hay trolley with wheels for a pulley that once carried large bales of hay up into a hayloft; plow parts, which she has nickel-plated, to give them an edgy, industrial look; bases of 19th-century hall racks that held hats, coats and umbrellas and look almost like inverted tortoise shells (above); old decorative heating grates painted brilliant blue; plumbing pipes for an artesian well.

All have been transformed into lamps.

Schneider — who moved her shop called Shandell’s from Millerton, N.Y., and then Pine Plains, N.Y., to the Ivoryton section of Essex and opened there just after Thanksgiving — describes her range as “traditional to funky to very architectural and streamlined. And the rustier the better for me.”

IMG_3004To top it off, Schneider also custom-makes lamp shades, and again her creative impulses reach far and wide.

She has a collection of IMG_2985more than 10,000 scanned images of everything from maps and architectural prints to equestrian prints, racks holding hand-painted IMG_3002papers, and numerous drawers filled with beautiful marbled papers and paste papers, and rolls of period wallpapers.


She also makes decorative paper-covered wastebaskets, tissue boxes and matchboxes.IMG_2987

She has created lamp shades from handmade bark paper, papers embedded with leaves, and a variety of fabrics including remnants of 19th-century saris and paisleys. One petite shade for a sconce is edged with guinea hen feathers, creating a whimsical look of fluffy polka dots.

IMG_2998Schneider, who named her business after the Hebrew name meaning “beautiful” that her Polish grandparents called her, got her start as an antiques dealer IMG_2999in Newburyport, Mass., in 1991.

As the economy sagged and she gradually lost dealers but gained space, she found herself focusing heavily on antique textiles and decorative lighting.

She says she begged a friend and customer who made lamp shades to teach her how, and one day the friend suddenly offered to sell her the whole business for a nominal amount of money.

“I emptied out her barns,” Schneider recalls. “And then I just sat and read all her little notes. I never really had instruction on it. But I was lucky: I had two different decorators who embraced me for very difficult jobs, and that forced me to learn.”

Dictionary Pages

Schneider’s new workshop brims with projects and ideas. It’s papered in pages from old dictionaries she finds at dumps and crammed with rows of rolls of colorful trims, and lamp wires in a rainbow of colors.

IMG_2991She says moving all the fixtures and worktables and cabinets was like moving a hardware store.

Stacks of vases are “waiting for the right moment,” she says. A back storage area looks like a lamp graveyard, but it’s really a lamp hospital or perhaps more accurately should be called a lamp spa:

This isn’t where old lamps go to die, but to live again and be transformed.

If the base of a lamp is chipped, Schneider might copper-leaf it. “I live for copper leaf! I have a fascination with copper leaf and silver leaf and gold leaf,” she says. Sometimes she leafs the inside of pendant lamps or chandelier shades, giving the light an added measure of luminosity.

She might pull the dolphin feet off a lamp base that she doesn’t like and use them on a base that she does.

IMG_2983“Beautiful lighting makes a difference in a room, even if it’s a very basic lamp with a beautiful shade,” Schneider says, pointing to a ginger jar lamp topped with a shade that appears to be plain solid white but which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a subtly textured white-on-white. “I want to change interior design one lamp at a time.”

Lately, she says, she’s been making more colorful and floral shades.

“For a while the design industry really wasn’t calling for anything in color or floral. I did a lot of plain, with a little bit of texture, a little bit of stuff. Now I’m finding that people are desperate for a pop of color. I think it’s just happiness. People smile when they see these things. I do make a ton of plain lampshades — I still do, and I always will. But greige can only go for so long, I believe.”

‘Lamp Candy’

Schneider also stocks a dazzling array of finials — the small ornaments that top a lamp shade — including ammonite fossils sliced in half, miniature Foo dogs, crystallized minerals called pyrite suns that look like sunbursts, chunks of red jade, chunks of natural copper and gleaming cubes of octahedron fluorite. The 19th-century Tibetan finials, which she calls Feng Shui balls or energy balls that were given as gifts for good luck, include red balls topped with a rooster wrought in brass.

“I call them lamp candy,” Schneider says.

IMG_3013The selection of finials, priced at $5 to $195 a pair, also includes a variety of gleaming geodes, agates and malachites.

“Agates, malachites — they’re very hot right now in design,” Schneider says. So, if people can’t afford a malachite table, “they can spend $150 for highly polished malachite lamp finials.”

Schneider lives in a 1940s house in Moodus with her boyfriend and her two dogs — a Jack Russell terrier and a Newfoundland — and spends her time working on a number of projects at once.

“It’s mood-driven,” she explains. But for custom work, she knows she sometimes has to work fast.

“I don’t believe in lamp shade emergencies,” she says. “But people do have them. … If people say, ‘How long will it take?’ I say, ‘When’s the party?’ “

As she has settled into Shandell’s Ivoryton location, Schneider also has started to offer workshops to give people ideas on how to update their lamps, how to “take what you have — take your grandmother’s piece that is so ugly but you love it because it was your grandmother’s — how to update it and make it beautiful.”

The workshops are playfully called “Larry” workshops, a name suggested by her boyfriend (who is not named Larry). Huh? It stands for “Light all rare relics youthfully.”

That playful spirit infuses so much of what Schneider does. Her email address says it all: It’s

Shandell’s at 107 Main St. in Ivoryton is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Call 860-510-3167. For more visit

Photographs by Nancy Schoeffler

Learn More: ‘It’s All About Connecticut Furniture’

by Categorized: Antiques, Crafts, Design, Furniture, Heritage, Historic Houses Date:

HIGH CHESTIf my article today about Eliphalet Chapin and Connecticut’s golden age of furniture whets your appetite for more, there’s an all-day program  Saturday called “It’s All About Connecticut Furniture,” presented by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

The workshop, aimed not only at serious woodworking hobbyists but at anyone interested in historic furniture, will focus on 18th-century Connecticut’s distinct furniture styles, each with its own influences, and how social history, trade patterns and the economy played a role in forming this vibrant, multifacted tradition.

The speakers include Alyce England, associate curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Christina Vida, curator of the Windsor Historical Society.

Also Will Neptune, who has closely studied the construction techniques, proportioning and workmanship of Eliphalet Chapin; and Steve Brown, an instructor at the North Bennet Street School, the  Boston institution that offers intensive hands-on training in traditional trades and craftsmanship, who also will discuss construction techniques and do some joinery demonstrations.

Bob Van Dyke, the founder and director of the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, said Will Neptune’s presentation will focus on Chapin’s geometric methods in design and pattern layout.

“Nothing was just by chance; it’s all based on geometry,” Van Dyke said. “It’s just amazing.”

Strong Howard HouseThe Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking has been working with the Windsor Historical Society to furnish the ongoing renovation of the historic Strong Howard House (pictured at left) for an innovative hands-on approach to historical interpretation.

Christina Vida has been researching probate inventories and other documents to determine the furnishings and objects that would have been in the house. Reproductions are being made, so that visitors will be able to have a fuller experience. They’ll sit in chairs and at desks, handle textiles and household objects.

woodwork1The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking is a primary partner in the project, Christina said, and students are now working on a reproduction of a high chest (pictured at top) attributed to Eliphalet Chapin, which is now in the Wadsworth Atheneum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABob says some students at the woodworking school are in the middle of a year-long class on Chapin high chests, and have been making measured, exact copies of Chapin pieces. Students who are interested can submit their finished work to a jury for possible inclusion in the exhibit at the Strong Howard House.

Saturday’s program, at the school at 249 Spencer St. in Manchester (take the first left past the Woodcraft building; the school is in the back of that building), runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $45 fee includes lunch. You can register and pay at the door, or online at

And for more information, call Bob Van Dyke at 860-729-3186860-729-3186.

Photos via the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking and the Windsor Historical Society.




My Gwyneth Paltrow Moment: A Chair Collapses (And Is Repaired)

by Categorized: Antiques, Furniture, Heritage, Preservation Date:

Perhaps you remember that scene in “Shallow Hal,” when Gwyneth Paltrow, as Rosemary, sits down and the chair collapses, and Hal, Jack Black’s character, can’t figure out why. (A consummate skirt chaser looking only for gorgeous babes, Hal is hypnotized into seeing women’s inner beauty when he’s trapped in an elevator with motivational guru Tony Robbins. Hal doesn’t realize that Rosemary weighs 300 pounds.)

broken-chair1I had that moment — after the holidays, when many people feel, well, a bit heavier than usual.

One morning I sat down in a sweet little cane-bottomed chair and suddenly found myself flat on the floor.

The destruction was considerable. It was a humbling event, to say the least.

But I wasn’t ready to part with that chair. I’d found it long ago in one of those back-road, “antiques”-but-mostly-junk places in Vermont and bought it for a song. It has a little, somewhat uneven cutout design in the back; I’m not sure how old the chair is, but it’s clearly handmade.

Years ago Richard Mohr, owner of Furniture Clinic in East Hartford, expertly reassembled several nesting tables for me. They had belonged to my great-grandmother but were completely in pieces.

Fearing it might be a lost cause, I brought him the broken chair.

As it turned out, my chair repair was pretty easy, he said, probably just a “3” on a scale of 1 to 10. And the cost was modest — though probably more than I’d paid for the chair in the first place. No matter.


In business since 1974, Dick — and production manager Mike Cichowicz, above left, who did the work on my chair — said most of the cost of fixing it actually wasn’t in the woodwork but in replacing, and then darkening, the cane seat.

“I’ve had some disasters in here,” Dick said. “But there haven’t been many pieces we can’t repair — if it’s worth the price. Often people think it’s impossible.”

And there hasn’t been much that Dick and Mike haven’t seen. The shop is filled with wood furniture in need of surgery, major and minor, — from fire damage and water damage to broken spindles and badly chipped veneers — or just a facelift. One armoire had a top ornament that had been held in place, rather precariously, with sewing needles. Wire springs on an upholstered piece needed replacing, and Dick said they were using aluminum crosspieces.

“Sometimes you just have to think out of the box to figure out how to fix them,” Mike said, adding that their motto could be: “Yeah, we can figure out something for that.”

A major problem with wooden furniture from the 1920s and 1930s is that furniture makers had started to use synthetic glues, rather than horse hide glue, the advantage being that it was quick-setting. But it can dry out and crystallize.

Particularly in winter, Dick and Mike explained, furniture can get loose because the wood shrinks and that can break the glue joint. (One false move, and you’re flat on the floor.)

One precautionary measure you can take is to rotate chairs through the seasons — in other words, don’t leave that older rocking chair by the fireplace all winter.

Dick made one jesting remark that is worth taking seriously: “We tell a lot of people that if they try to fix it themselves, the price is doubled.”

The Furniture Clinic is at 212 Brewster St. in East Hartford. Call 860-569-8655860-569-8655, go to or email



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













Going Once, Going Twice

by Categorized: Accessories, Antiques, Art, Auctions, Collecting, Decorating, Furniture, Heritage Date:


Queen Anne Dressing Table

What gets your heart thumping, your competitive juices flowing? For some, it’s running in a marathon. For others, it’s a fierce tennis match or game of bridge.

But there’s nothing quite like an antiques auction if you’re hankering for dramatic tension, pumping adrenaline, the agony of defeat and the ecstatic thrill of victory.

You also often get to take something home.

Nadeau’s Auction Gallery in Windsor is holding its Important Annual Fall Antiques & Fine Art Auction Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 11 a.m., with quite a lot of enticing items to go on the block.

From Nantucket lighthouse baskets, vintage toys, plenty of antique silver, pewter, andirons and paintings, to Rose Medallion and Rose Famille porcelains, 19th century furniture, Oriental rugs, vintage toys, Civil War ephemera, Quimper dishware, weathervanes, clocks and a Navy cutlass or two for good measure.


Nadeau’s is at 25 Meadow Road in Windsor, just off I-91. Preview hours for Saturday’s auction are Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m., Thursday from noon to 5 p.m., Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. For more information, including a detailed catalog, go to


Photos, from top: Queen Anne dressing table in cherry, with unusual three-quarter fan carving. Nantucket lighthouse basket by Jose Formoso Reyes (1902-1980). “Mara Evening” oil painting by Bob Kuhn, 1989. All via Nadeau’s Auction Gallery.