A Collecting Couple


Recently, my sister and her husband moved from a high-rise condo back to a ground level townhouse. They decided they are just too young to live in a high-rise building and they longed for the advantages of a garage, a garden, a neighborhood. Plus, my brother-in-law really missed b-b-qing outside! I was there the other day helping them hang all their paintings. They're pretty settled after just one week, except for the rugs, which had to be cut down to fit the new floor plan. Both of them are die hard collectors - just of very different things. My sister likes to collect antiques, French and English. My brother-in-law likes to collect - well, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves!

My sister and I collect many of the same things, but for some reason, her collections are much better than mine! For instance, I'm very envious of her masonware collection - her pieces are more varied and unique than mine and I love going over to her house to examine her masonware. Since we collect the same things, we've often gone out on the search together, which is great fun. When we were first starting out collecting, we would go to the Round Top Antique Fair twice a year to buy new pieces. On birthdays, we try to gift each other a new piece, if we can find something affordable. Now we both collect on Ebay occasionally, but you have to be very careful. I've been burned a few times when a reproduction was sold to me as an antique. Over the years, we've seen our collections increase in value. For example, a transferware plate used to cost us around $50 or $60, but now we are lucky to find one under $100. Antiques are a great investment, as long as you can find a buyer.

Regarding the interior design of the townhouse, originally my sister hired designer Billy Francis who worked with them on their previous home. Francis, who passed away recently, was a well known Houston designer who eventually moved to NYC to live, though he retained business ties in Texas. He used a color scheme of rusts and blues in various shades. The mark of great design, her upholstery all coordinated throughout the home, allowing them the flexibility to move furniture from one room to another, as needed in the new townhouse. Below are a few pictures of their new townhome with an emphasis on their collections. Enjoy!!

As you enter the townhouse, you get your first glimpse of her wonderful Masonware collection. Here are three jugs in the same pattern and a platter of a different pattern.

The living room with its fabulous antique french screen. We found this at the Mews in Dallas when we were antiquing there many years ago.

One of my favorite pieces of my sister's: an antique French bonnetiere. Here her English pewter collection is on display. Some of these pieces are over two hundred years old.

On the side table next to the sofa, is a collection of mauchlineware boxes - small boxes from Scotland made of wood from plane trees.

Also in the living room, another French antique piece holding her collection of blue and white spongeware - notice the jugs up on top of the buffet.

Going down the center of her Rose Tarlow dining room table are more Masonware jugs - all of various sizes. At dinner parties, she puts matching flower arrangements in each jug.

Against one wall are two buffets holding her magnificant collection of Masonware - ironstone made in England in the Mason factory. Most pieces are from the 19th century.

A close up of my favorite Masonware pattern: yellow scale.

Under a collection of botanicals, more Masonware - Bandana pattern jug in a bowl and large platter.

In the family room, another French buffet displays two collections: blue and white transferware and yellowware.

A closeup of her superb blue and white transferware. Her yellowware isn't too shabby either!

On the shelves, a small sampling of her collection of antique biscuit tins.

In the family room, another biscuit tin rests on her coffee table.

The master bedroom features beautiful Manuel Canovas material. The bed rests under a collection of antique furniture prints.

Master bedroom: A close up of her antique French desk.

Close up of the master bedroom.

Pair of antique French beds in the guest room.

My brother-in-law's office filled with sports memorabilia.

The star of the memorabilia: bobble head dolls from college football teams and favorite baseball teams of his youth. Totally organized in a system only he truly understands, this collection of dolls is priceless. These dolls are original, made of papier mache - not the cheap plastic or wood dolls sold today. Many of these dolls, if not all, are extremely rare - this collection took quite a determination to finish and it still is not complete. He's lacking a few bobble heads that he wants. Despite that, the breadth of this collection is phenomenal. It's a unique collection - few in the country have anything close to rival this.

Close up of the bobble heads - this shelf features baseball teams. Don't they have the cutest expression?

The personality of his collection: on the left, the University of Texas football team. On the right, the University of Oklahoma football team. In between, the symbol of the famous OU-UT rivalry: Big Tex from the Dallas Fairgrounds where the game is played each year.

Hill Country House


I want to welcome a new blogger to the design blogosphere: Hill Country House. She's a native Texan, born in Dallas, but now living in Fredericksburg with her husband and children. Fredericksburg is a great town - small, atmospheric, and home to Carol Bolton's famous Homestead. Bus loads and car loads of antiquers flood the town on the weekends and during the summer. It's become a hub of unique bed and breakfast places which have enjoyed volumes of national press these past ten years or so. If you've never visited the Texas Hill Country and especially, Fredericksburg, it is well worth a trip.

There is tons to blog about from Fredericksburg, and Hill Country House is starting out writing about her gorgeous "house" - a term I use loosely. It's a large home, on over 20 acres of beautiful countryside. It's actually more of a resort than a home. It's fabulous! She is taking her readers on a tour of her house, room by room, and I suggest you take the tour if you are at all interested in seeing how other people live. And it's quite a life she's living over at Hill Country House!

In order of fair disclosure, I admit Hill Country House and I are more than blogger friends. Once, a long time ago we were married to brothers. Alas, no more. Imagine my surprise when one day, I received a tentative email from a reader of mine - "could you be, is it possible, but is the Ben Webb you are writing about THE Ben Webb I was once a sister-in-law to?" Of course he is! One and the same - a flurry of emails were exchanged late into the night. Our wrists were sore from emailing each other so much! And oh, so much lamenting that we are no longer related because we share so many interests!!!! So, it is with great pride and much happiness that I introduce you to my former sister-in-law: Hill Country House - enjoy!

Hill Country House, built of Texas limestone and long leaf pine, the home is evocative of the houses that Germans who settled in the Texas Hill Country built and added to over the generations. The limestone, the tin roof, the deep porches are all elements that Hill Country House shares with older, German homesteads.

David Easton and his Balderbrae


Years and years ago, when I still formulating my design aesthetic, I stumbled across a magazine article that featured Balderbrae, the summer home of David Easton and his partner, artist James Steinmeyer. The home was large, but consisted of just a few rooms - a living and dining room, master bedroom, and a study, along with two large porches or loggias. This house, a study in symmetry appealed to me on every level: the studied, cluttered look similar to English country estates, the copious use of antiques, mostly rustic rather than signed, formal pieces, the casual linen fabrics, french windows lending the house to indoor-outdoor living, the beautiful fireplaces, terra cotta pavers, lighted sconces and pedastals mounted on walls, blue and white porcelains everywhere, mirrors - in short, the house was everything that I loved - then and now. Over the years, the house was used in advertising campaigns for Lee Jofa, the fabric company where Easton has a popular line. For twenty years, Easton and his partner reworked the property, added gardens, rebuilt the existing stone cottage on the property as a guest house, and built a swimming pool.

Last year, the two decided to move on. They sold the house and the entire contents went into a warehouse. Rather than keep everything there, it was decided to sell the lot at Doyle's auction house last March. A family friend works for Easton and mailed me the gorgeous catalogue. Item after item - there's not a stinker in the bunch. Realistically, I couldn't find much that I wouldn't want for myself - the catalogue is that impressive and desirable. In all, 600 items were auctioned off to a tune of $1,600,000 plus. The original estimate was $773,300 to $1,154,800 - so the duo must be happy with the results. Asked if he was sad about selling 20 years worth of possessions, Easton said he wasn't, he was looking forward to building a new, modular, modern home in Virginia, featuring a two story library. Looking over the entire contents on display at Doyle, he planned to buy back a few items that he said had slipped by him.

Here are pictures from the estate before it was dismanteled. And following, are pictures of the most publicized items that went on sale. Even though these pictures are at least a decade old, Balderbrae still appeals and serves as a design inspiration to me personally and in my business.

The great yellow room at Balderbrae: the symmetry of the room and it's furnishings is apparent despite its cluttered appearance. I love the center table piled high with books - a look I have copied in my own home. The terra cotta pavers, yellow walls, and wood beamed ceilings add a warmth and coziness to the large room that might have seemed cold and overwhelming.

A close up of one side of the living - dining room. Note the tea table in front of the blue french chair - this was a much publicized piece from the auction. Also notice the blue and white pieces hanging on the walls - this is just a very small portion of the blue and white from the auction, which featured over six pages of these pieces in the catalogue.

Another view of the living room - close up of the skirted table. I like this version of the table more than the previous image. I prefer the airy branches over the green plant in the blue and white vase.

The gorgeous master bedroom with the same high ceilings as the living room. Two story french doors bring the outside indoors.

The master bedroom again. This mirror is one of the more well known pieces from the auction.

One of the porches. I love the outdoor fireplace.

Updated view of the same porch or loggia, as it is called.

Artist and home owner James Steinmeyer's painting of the loggia.

View of the interior courtyard looking towards one of the two loggias.

Auction item: $27,000.

Rare Victorian Tilt Top Tables bought from Geoffrey Bennison! These tables were the most talked about items of the auction.


Louis XV commode (this reminds me so much of the Amy Howard chest).


Dutch chandelier from the living - dining room.


Set of 4 Swedish style chairs designed by Easton


Another Louis XV commode.


Italian sunburst mirror. Oh my - Easton, way ahead of the current trend, had quite a few sunburst mirrors. Non antiques, valued in the $1,000 range, these items went for outrageously overpriced sums.


Set of 4 Louis XVI gray painted armchairs.


Italian Mirror from the bedroom. Another well recognized auction piece made familiar from Lee Jofa ads.


Painted sunburst mirror. Ouch.


Set of eight painted armchairs. I love these chairs!


William IV gilt wood mirror.


Unusual Dutch colonial brass and walnut side table.


Italian Sunburst Mirror. Oy! What a crazy price.


Italian chandelier.


Regency style center table designed by Easton.


Carved antlers. Easton was again way ahead of this current trend with his faux stag heads. Estimated to go for $1,000 - the sale price was ridiculously overpriced for a non antique.

The auction was a huge success for Easton and Steinmeyer, but still, I can't imagine selling my possessions like this and completely starting over. Apparently, his new home will be very modern as Easton has said this is the direction design is taking him right now. I'm anxious to see his new summer home, and something tells me there will be lots of press accompanying his new venture.