Archive for June, 2011

The only big house project that looms on my horizon is renovating the kitchen here in Ocean Grove. Always an expensive proposition, I don’t want to undertake it lightly. Basically everything has to go – flooring (bad yellowish linoleum), appliances (almond!), and cabinets (1970s) – but I want to replace them with things that feel both special and as if they might have always been here. The key to it all is coming up with a special island that is not from a kitchen cabinet company, whether it be a baking table or my favorite, some kind of repurposed item.

I am not sure what the island in this Swedish kitchen is made from, but I love it and the whole room.

A friend across the street uses an old butcher block that belonged to her grandfather as a small island, much like the one in the photo below.

On the right side of Rachel Ashwell‘s Malibu kitchen, she uses some sort of old counter or bar as an island, with baskets holding supplies on a lower shelf.

Speaking of shabby chic, this painted work table is another favorite.

Striking a completely different note, Darryl Carter‘s kitchen with its gorgeous marble-topped antique table is to die for, although clearly a bit too formal for a beach cottage.

I do love a marble topped island though…The DIY master, Jenny Komenda at Little Green Notebook, has used an old dresser and the marble top from a vintage coffee table to make one of the most stylish (and inexpensive) repurposed islands I have seen. Check out her other recent projects, including the most amazing reupholstery tutorial here.

In my ongoing hunt to complete my house, I spent a full day up at the antique stores in Red Bank, NJ. There are numerous multi-dealer shops with great merchandise, and I’ll be doing a full “Shop Talk” post on them soon. At Monmouth Antiques Shoppes I saw this red industrial cart which would make a funky but functional island.

And while surfing, I did notice this great desk turned island over at Remodeleze.

But the piece I have been obsessing over is this vintage printer’s table currently on eBay. It has an amazing thick slab of a marble top and a few shelves and cubbies.  It even still has its original letter drawers!

I think it would be perfect in creating a kitchen with the feel of Kristen Buckingham’s, but no matter how many times I measure, it is just too big. Unlike her huge beauty, my entire kitchen is only about 9 x 12…

And speaking of the printer drawers, I saw them everywhere at the Point Pleasant and Red Bank antique shops. They have always charmed me, but have really come to my attention of late.

My friend Jamie Edwards, a former Tokyoite, is making these adorable display cases for children from vintage printer drawers, lined with washi paper and custom colored to suit your decor. You can find her EllaBeanBoxes on Etsy.

And another friend mentioned that her mom uses one flat in the narrow top dresser drawer to store jewelry. I found this photo of a great storage solution in my files too.

Ingenious, no?

Image credits:1 & 2. credit unknown, 3. via Cote de Texas, 4.via Elements of Style, 5.Elle Decor May 2008, photo credit: Simon Upton, 6. via Little Green Notebook, 7. via Remodeleze, 8, 11-14. me, 9. via eBay, 10. Elle Decor March 2009, photo credit: Simon Upton, 15-16 EllaBeanBoxes via Etsy, 17. credit unknown.

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My neighbor E. knocked on my door early this morning and offered me a little antiquer’s crack cocaine…a low entry number to an estate sale at a big house a few blocks away. Rumour had it that it was chock-full of furniture, books, memorabilia and a few generations of general accumulation. With four floors to cover, I was hoping for some great scores. While US flea markets are akin to shrine sales, I don’t think the estate sale has a comparable entity in Japan. And speaking of items made for the export market the other day, I was hopeful there might be some lurking in the 100+ years of stuff.

Unfortunately there was no luck on the Asian goods. As you might expect, the house was full of heavy Victorian furniture, like this massive Renaissance Revival bookcase and velvet covered chair.

Less expected perhaps, although less so on reflection, was this. Need a buffalo head anyone?

Most of the more valuable items were traditional antiques. There were a few tables covered in Wedgwood Jasperware, including this rare domed cheese dish. There were many other tables full of crystal and china.

All of those giant bookcases were full of books. Even though I have taught my daughters not to judge a book by its cover, I am definitely weighing books for their physical appearance these days. I want my bookshelf here in Ocean Grove, which I have yet to find by the way, to be visually beautiful. That being said, I don’t want a bunch of fake things picked just for their appearance so I do try to pick up classics and others things that sound like they might be interesting to page through. I am sure my husband will be excited by Speeches and Letters of Abraham Lincoln.

My house has no coat closet in the front so I have been keeping an eye open for a coat/hat rack. I had been thinking about a Thonet bentwood style, but stumbled across this simple Mission oak one at the sale. I think it will do to hold an occasional sweater and sun hats, if only it would warm up and stop raining, that is.

I also picked up a little silver plate and glass condiment basket to add to my bits and bobs of antique silver. There is nothing like the patina of old silver.

And no groaning, those of you who are bored with this topic, but for those who aren’t, I got this mid size glass fishing float for ten bucks. You know how sad I was to leave my big ones behind in Tokyo, but I think I can ft this one into my tiny bathroom. To give a sense of its relative size, I have put a few of my tiny ones into the photo. Still searching for the perfect basket or container for those, so styled photos yet to come!

Rumour has it everything will be half price tomorrow. Let me know if you want me to run back and get the buffalo head!

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As I wandered through the stuffed-with-junk antique stores here in New Jersey last week, I stumbled across this small Japanese Seto porcelain tea-cup and saucer. Based on its traditional Western style and shape, it was most likely made for the export market somewhere around the turn of the 20th century. This reminded me once again, that although I am a blue and white porcelain junkie in Tokyo, many of my best finds have been made abroad in the US and England. And those finds are not limited to ceramics, but also glass, silver and just about anything that could be exported.

Fine sometsuke (underglazed cobalt porcelain) has been produced in Seto City and Aichi Prefecture for about the last 200 years, although the region boasted one of the six old kilns of medieval Japan and produced pottery since the 14th century. I bought my first piece in Hong Kong 14 years ago, a square planter, drawn to the brilliance of the cobalt and the feathery painting style of the artist. Ironically, I got it for a great price as the Chinese don’t tend to value Japanese porcelain. That piece lives happily in my Tokyo living room with two siblings, found at shrine sales.

Over the years I have accumulated many more pieces, including these lovely jubako (stacked food boxes)…

…and this cricket cage and covered fan box.

Thanks to a recent Kawagoe trip, I now have 2 big fish bowls.

One of the most beautiful and rare Seto items are garden stools. A fixture in China for 1000 years, porcelain garden stools have become one of the basic staples of home decorating, but they were actually used in gardens originally. Some find them ubiquitous these days, but they continue to fill that niche between seat and table and their variety of color and design means there is a place for them everywhere. I could do a 20 photo post on amazing rooms with them, but I’ll limit myself to some blue and white ones. All Chinese as there are many more on the marketplace, and I have yet to see a Japanese one in a magazine spread.

A few posts ago, I featured the home of Brazilian designer Sig Bergamin, but did not include this photo. A blue and white garden stool sits at the edge, ready to hold a drink for the person lounging in the white chaise.

Jeffrey Bilhuber is one designer who uses them all the time to great effect. This one has lovely open fretwork on the side.

Back in 1997-1998 there was a pair of Japanese stools at a shop in Cat Street in Hong Kong that I couldn’t afford. I had never seen any like them and I fantasized about them for years. No photo of course, but they live in my memory as being hexagonal. In 2005 I found one on my first trip to Kyoto, not long after we had moved to Japan. I didn’t buy it then either, but I did take a photo! Not a great photo, but it shows you how seriously I was thinking about it. Although in retrospect, it wasn’t that great of a garden stool either.

So the tea-cup at the top of the post reminded me of the amazing find I made last summer, that somehow I had forgotten about in all the hullaballoo and busy-ness of my life.

I went down to the basement and found this. What do you think is in here?


I haven’t stopped to clean it or anything but am absolutely bowled over by it! It has so many of my favorite motifs – cracked ice, fan vignettes, open fretwork - and the form and painting is spectacular. And I had literally forgotten that I had ever bought it! My swiss cheese brain is starting to worry me….

Now the question is, how do I get it back to its family and friends in my Tokyo living room?

Related post: Colors of the Rainbow…Blue and White Porcelain is Neutral. And more on porcelain garden stools at Apartment Therapy.


Image credits: All photos by me except 6. Elle Decor April 2011 photo credit: Simon Upton, 7. design by Jeffrey Bilhuber, Photo credit unknown.

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