Category Archives: Furniture

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 Decade Of Gorgeous Design Leadership In Hartford

by Categorized: Accessories, Beds And Bedrooms, Decorating, Design, Fabric, Flooring, Furniture, Home Design, Home Products, Remodeling And Renovation, Rugs And Carpets, Upholstery, Wallpaper Date:

DesignSource4Driving along I-84 through Hartford you can’t help but notice the big white wedding cake of a building near the highway in Parkville, at the corner of Park Street and Bartholomew. What you might not know is that for the past decade this former industrial site has housed an interior design paradise that has truly elevated the quality of interior design in Connecticut.

DesignSourceExteriorThis week, DesignSourceCT celebrated its tenth anniversary — 10 years of making exceptional home design products available to interior designers and homeowners in our region.

Founded by Nancy Zwiener and interior designer Richard Ott, DesignSourceCT has upped the knowledge base of area designers and their clients. It has hosted numerous special events and presentations over the years — everything from fabric shows to new collections from luminaries such as Philip Gorrivan and Alexander Julian, workshops on flower arranging by White House floral designer Ruth Loiseau, a seminar by Steve Nobel on how to effectively market and grow one’s interior design business, and educational programs on flooring, rug construction, choosing upholstery, how to work with a designer and more. DesignSourceCT also has sponsored programs for young, aspiring designers, and some of the classes offer designers Continuing Education Units.  designsource-Scott-Kravet-Mcandrews-

DesignSource-Porcelains-WoikeThe core business — housed in 20,000 square feet of elegant, space with high ceilings, massive pillars and floating fabric panels — is a one-stop, to-the-trade destination. It brims with numerous rows of fabric and wallpaper samples, furniture, lamps, drapery hardware, accessories, and many room vignettes to help inspire ideas.

The quality level is top-notch — fabrics and trims by the likes of Scalamandre, Brunschwig & Fils, Thibaut, Schumacher, Old World Weavers, Lee Jofa and Kravet, the kind of high-end products that once were available only to Connecticut residents and their designers willing to make the trek to New York or Boston. DesignSourceCT became a hub of design in the region, with other design-related businesses — lighting, rugs, custom workrooms — clustering in the same building.

DesignSourceCT-HandoutThe past 10 years haven’t been a cakewalk, though. DesignSourceCT expanded with some ancillary businesses within the building at 1429 Park St., including a designer consignment shop called Design Finds and a lamp shop. During the challenging economic days of 2009, the business had to retrench and consolidated back to its core.



These days, DesignSourceCT is increasingly open to retail clients who might not have ever worked with a designer before.

“We haven’t thrown the doors open,”Nancy Zwiener told me this week. People still don’t just wander in and shop around on their own.

Rather, DesignSource has added emphasis on its “designer on call” program, headed up by interior designer Nancy Perkins.

She focuses on smaller projects, sometimes simply helping with a floor plan, guiding a customer through the thousands of options available, perhaps designing just one room.

That of course, often leads to another … and another, once clients gain an understanding of how it all works, and that working with a pro often will save them money in the long run and avoid costly mistakes or problems.

DesignSourceFabrics-Woike“It’s a learning curve,” Nancy Zwiener said. Many people have to overcome a “fear barrier” about working with a professional designer — a trepidation that their own ideas and budget will get lost in the process.

The folks at DesignSourceCT — including the original team of six — celebrated their 10th anniversary this week with ice cream and cookies in that wonderful white layer cake of a building. I’d like to add candles on that cake in their honor! Here’s to many more decades of beautiful, elegant, well-designed success at DesignSourceCT.

DesignSourceCT is at 1429 Park St. in Hartford, 860-951-3145,

Photos, from top:

The original team at DesignSourceCT, still together after 10 years, celebrate this week: From left, Alice Brash; Kathy Leduc-Silver; co-owners Nancy Zwiener and Richard Ott; Nancy Perkins and Linda Graydon (Photo by NANCY SCHOEFFLER)

Scott Kravet presents a fabric show at DesignSourceCT (Photo by MICHAEL McANDREWS).

Chinese porcelains are among the many accessories on display (Photo by JOHN WOIKE).

Room vignettes (Handout).

Fabric and trim designed by Alexander Julian, shown during his presentation at DesignSourceCT for interior designers (Photo by CLOE POISSON).

A few of the numerous racks of fabric samples at DesignSourceCT (Photo by JOHN WOIKE).

Below, Richard Ott and Nancy Zwiener ham it up in 2005, shortly after they opened DesignSourceCT (Photo by SHANA SURECK).

Ott and Zwiener-2005-Sureck





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













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.


Caution: These Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes Are Killer

by Categorized: Children, Design, Do It Yourself, Furniture, Historic Houses, Home Design, Mid-Century Modern Date:

I just happened upon a very amusing blog called Projectophile — written by Clare Fauke, a married Chicago mother of three and passionate do-it-yourselfer who describes her style as “Mid-Century Modern meets keeping-dangerous-things-away-from-small-children.”

Hence one of her particularly hilarious posts: “15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes that will Kill Your Children.”

Here’s a sampling, with Clare’s comments:


— That’s going to require at least ten stitches.


— This stylish modern mother is too absorbed in her reading to notice that all her children have fallen into the living room garden.


— For goodness sake, don’t send your kids trick-or-treating near a mid-century modern home.

And if you do a lot of your furniture shopping on Craigslist, as Clare does, you’ll appreciate her Projectophile post titled “25 Most Dangerous Craigslist Adjectives Exposed.”

As in:

Fun: You can’t actually sit on it; you can only look at it, or fall off of it.


— What a FUN chair!

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.