Monthly Archives: August 2012

Book review: Creating The Artful Home – The Aesthetic Movement

The greatest achievement of the Aesthetic Movement in America was the home, especially the middle class home.

from: Creating The Artful Home: The Aesthteic Movement (p. 155)

As the overwhelmed owner of an old house, I often wonder how I am supposed to decorate my house in the era of glossy shelter magazines and designer house shows. All the images I see compel me to keep up with the latest trends, but I also want to be true to my old house’s identity – and my own artistic whims.

My house was built in sometime between 1874-1882. That places it squarely in the time period of the Aesthetic Movement.

What is the Aesthetic Movement?

I had heard of it before, but never really knew much about it until I read Karen Zukowski’s book: Creating The Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement. (2006 – Gibbs Smith, Publisher)

One of the most influential decorating, design and artistic movements in history was the Aesthetic Movement. Creating The Artful Home takes the reader on a comprehensive tour of the Aesthetic Movement from its early roots in the 1850’s to its applications for modern home design and decor.

For people who love researching and looking at authentic historic interiors from the late 1800’s, this is a ‘must read’ and a ‘must-keep-on-your-bookshelf-for-future-reference’ book.

Creating The Artful Home – the Aesthetic Movement is of the highest quality in design, production, writing and photography.

The author is clearly fluent in and passionate about her subject matter. Karen Zukowski is literally an expert on the Aesthetic Movement; she is a faculty member in the Museum Studies Department of New York University and in the Cooper Hewit/Parsons MA program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. She is also a consultant for several historic house museums.

This book is no light summer read-at-the-beach. Rather, it is a meticulous study of the Aesthetic Movement from its evolution to its decline and how we can see modern interpretations in today’s art and architecture.

I found reading this book was like taking a university course on the Aesthetic Movement. As a reader, I became extremely focused and immersed in the minutia, the language of art history, and the design intricacies of the Aesthetic Movement – a decadent era when it was believed that “beauty could elevate the soul” (p. 20)

I stayed up late at night reading this book; I took notes, I looked up words, I studied the pictures very carefully. Apart from enjoying the book and it’s subject matter of “art for art’s sake” I also feel I learned a few things about history, art and architecture – my three favorite topics.

A few things about this book that stood out to me:

1) The author explores how women, in particular, were involved in the Aesthetic Movement and also, how social class standing played into the movement.

2) The author emphasizes the Aesthetic Movement’s interconnectedness and interdependence with architecture and the decorative arts.

3) And lest the reader should become overwhelmed by the scholarly language or historical references, the author makes the book more accessible by introducing an imaginary every-woman character, “Mrs. Kenner”, who walks with us through her 1880’s life experiencing, learning about, and living the Aesthetic Movement.

Much to my delight, we even go house-hunting for a Queen Anne with Mrs. Kenner!

The book goes into great detail about period glasswork, textile design, furniture, millwork, tilework, etc. Almost every page in the book features some type of visual aid including photographs, historic paintings, trade cards, wallpaper samples and photos from the author’s own impressive personal collection of Aesthetic Movement items.

More than just a guide book or a photo book, Creating The Artful Home – The Aesthetic Movement is impeccably researched and will appeal to readers who have a serious thirst for knowledge about the design period of the late 1800’s (otherwise known as the Victorian era).

You can purchase your copy of Creating The Artful Home – The Aesthetic Movement here.


Architect-designed houses were set out in the landscape like a smorgasbord from which others could nibble.

– Author Karen Zukowski on the homes of the Aesthetic Movement (p. 136)


The Beadles House

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That’s BEADLES – not Beatles.

This 1952 Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house was designed by Ingraham and Ingraham. The home is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and it is currently for sale.

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Have a look at this magnificent mid-century modern specimen…

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Long and low and loaded with redwood, brick and glass, the Beadles House is listed at $439,000.

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How about that? A hanging metal fireplace “skirt” – haven’t seen one of those in a while!

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A tale of two storybook homes

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I first saw these homes featured on two separate days on the northern California real estate blog edificionado.

When I realized that they were two vintage Tudor storybook style homes within a stone’s throw of each other, I just had to do a comparison!

Have a look at these 2 homes that are currently on the market in Berkeley, California:

House #1 was built in 1934 and is listed at $899,000

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House #2 was built in 1929 is listed at $699,000

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One is a short-sale and one is a regular sale. Can you guess which one?

Have a closer look:


Tudor #1…

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House #1 has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms in 1,775 square feet.

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This home features an abundance of original architectural details such as the multi-pane windows and stenciled beamed ceilings.

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The buyers of our old house walked

Yes, the people who recently put in an offer on our house walked, nay, ran the other way.

They strung us along for about 3 weeks before just walking away from the deal. They decided they weren’t ready to buy a house yet. Plus they had a few other annoying issues.

The issues:

1) the furnace is too old because it is from 1982

Response: That’s almost the same age as Micheal Phelps and look how well he works!!!

2) the kitchen doesn’t even have a dishwasher

Response: Wimps!!!

3) we don’t feel the money you put into the house increases its value any

Response: red-hot fumes rising from my neck as I glance at my empty wallet, drained chequing account, and plundered savings account.

4) we’d have to replace all the old original windows

Response: Murderers!!! (Okay, maybe that’s a little strong) But ripping out all the beautiful wavy glass & wood sash windows from the 1870’s and replacing them with vinyl??? That’s like sacrilege to historic preservationists!!!

5) we’d have to build closetS in the downstairs bedroom

Response: There is already a closet in there!!! WTH – you wants his & hers walk-ins in a house older than the Queen Mum?!?!

Moral of the story:

If you don’t want old house issues, then go look at NEW houses!!!

It’s called CHARACTER!!!

But all is fair in love and war and real estate.

So I’ll go lick my wounds now and console my beautiful old money pit. I still love her.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Martha’s Vineyard shingle-sided beauty

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Just half a block from the ocean in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is this adorable shingle-sided home.

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Built in the year 1860 this 1,968 square foot house has 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.

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This charmer is currently listed for sale at $897,000.

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“Welcome to the Vineyard”…

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Look at that screen door! And those lime green painted floors! Just delicious.

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~ House Crazy Sarah ~

Sarah Felix Burns

"So many houses, so little time"

My first novel

JACKFISH - The Vanishing Village

My second novel

Song Over Quiet Lake