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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Splattering of Haunted Hotels for your consideration.

Lizzy Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum
The Andrew J. Borden house (built in 1845) is located in what was once the booming textile mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts. It is the scene of one of the most infamous murders of all time. Andrew and his second wife Abby were discovered to have been hacked to death in their house in 1892 by someone that obviously did not like them very much. Andrew's daughter, 32 year-old Lizzie Borden was promptly arrested and stood trial for the murders in 1892, eventually being found innocent in 1893.
The members of the investigation team were subsequently admonished for their careless handling of the crime scene including the obvious faux-pas of neglecting to check for blood stains on Lizzie Borden. 123 years on, the mystery of who committed the crime will forever be left up to speculation.

The Queen Anne style two and a half story Borden house has long since been turned into a museum and bed & breakfast. Not surprisingly, paranormal experiences at the Borden house have been witnessed on a regular basis. Though I do have an interest in visiting the house as a museum, I will not be spending the night there; way too much bad juju for me.

If you are really jazzed about booking a night or two there, the guest room in which Abby Borden was killed is currently up for grabs on eBay.

"Lizzy Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one."

Hotel del Coronado
Opened in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado, which is located in the city of Coronado, California, is one of the last surviving grand wooden Queen Anne-style seaside hotels in the United States.  At the time that it was built it was touted as the largest beach resort in the world and over time, hosted various presidents, dignitaries and movie stars.

As if the history and the age of the structure would not be enough of a reason to call it haunted, there is a specific event that happened in the early years of it's existence that have triggered a series of paranormal experiences over the years.  In 1892, a young  woman named Kate Morgan checked into the del Coronado. Not long afterwards, her body was discovered on the steps leading to the beach with a gunshot wound to her head. At the time, her death was ruled a suicide as she had indicated that she had been waiting for her husband who in fact never showed up.  Or did he?
Once again, we will never know for sure...

Kate Morgan

Both visual and audio hauntings have been reported by hotel guests and staff over the years. The light above the stairs where her body was discovered apparently never stays lit and a malfunctioning television as well as other electronics in her room (formerly room number 302, now 3312) have thrown off subsequent occupants over the years. Additionally, a maid at the hotel with whom Kate Morgan had befriended, mysteriously disappeared soon after Kate died. Sightings of the maid have also been reported. Her room is 3502 if you are interested.

Another reason to visit the "Del"?  The 1959 Billy Wilder film, "Some Like it Hot" (one of my personal favorites), starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon was filmed at the del Coronado. This hotel certainly does have a spirited past.
Marilyn Monroe on break
from "Some Like it Hot".

Hotel Malmaison
Seriously? Located in Oxfordshire, England, this is a former Norman fortress built in 1071 during the time of William the Conqueror, turned Victorian prison, turned boutique hotel. It's interior décor is a blending of modern style infused with many of the original elements of it's grisly past. As elegant as it appears, it is hard to ignore the original shell of the old prison.

Needless to say, it's a no brainer that there might be plenty of spiritual commotion going on here: murderess Mary Blandy was executed at the castle in 1752 and there have been numerous sightings of her since.

Out of curiosity I might think about grabbing a drink here if I was to pass through Oxfordshire one day, but there is no way I would ever consider for one minute spending a night here! But go for it if you feel so inclined.

Hotel Burchianti
A 17th Century palazzo in the heart of Florence, Italy?  I may have to make an exception. Ghost children giggling and skipping down the hallway, an old lady sitting in a rocking chair and knitting and a cloudy pink apparition in the fresco room all seem relatively tame in comparison to the aforementioned haunts.  But as one of Europe's most haunted hotels, Pensione Burchianti has been host to some more aggressive spirits as well. Physical manifestations such as the sensation of ice cold breath on your face and pressure on your chest are reasons to hesitate when considering a stay here.

By the way, Benito Mussolini slept here.

Hotel Chelsea
Strangely enough, being that I am a native New Yorker, I have never once stepped inside the Chelsea Hotel, an imposing red brick building located on West 23rd Street in New York City. Originally intended as a utopian artists colony, it was built between 1883 and 1885 and at that time, was the tallest building in New York.

Architecturally, it is a blend of both Victorian Gothic Revival and Queen Anne styles and it's iconic façade is festooned with delicate floral ironwork balconies. The interior of the hotel boasts a magnificent staircase that makes it's way up twelve floors.
The Chelsea Hotel closed and opened several times under different owners over the years and has counted within it's walls the most notable and infamous of writers, musicians, artists and actors as residents. Dylan Thomas, one of the most famous of it's tenants, died there in 1953 due to complications from bronchitis and pneumonia. Sightings of the ghost of Dylan Thomas have supposedly taken place in room 203 where the illustrious poet and writer resided. In my lifetime, when Chelsea was a less than favorable neighborhood, Punk Rocker Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in their room in 1978. Sid died soon after while awaiting trial, from a heroin overdose. Sightings of both Sid and Nancy have been frequently documented.

Photo from Vanity Fair magazine.
Photo from Vanity Fair magazine.

Sweet dreams.

Hotel Queen Mary
The grand luxury liner, RMS Queen Mary began her life in a shipyard in Clyde, Scotland and made her maiden voyage in 1936. The 1000 foot ship, which was larger and faster (and apparently more buoyant) than the Titanic, was host to the wealthiest and most famous of passengers. Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, George & Ira Gershwin, Queen Elizabeth and General Eisenhower are but a few of the many illustrious passengers that enjoyed it's early voyages. My grandmother traveled on the Queen Mary at that time and spotted the Duchess of Windsor taking tea.
The Duke & Duchess of Windsor aboard the RMS
"Queen Mary".
L to R: Charles Boyer, Loretta Young, Bob Hope
and ?? aboard the RMS "Queen Mary".
When the war broke out in Europe in 1939, luxury cruising came to an abrupt stop and the "Queen Mary" was transformed into a Troop ship. In that duration the liner transported 800,000 troops at the beginning of the war and 22,000 war brides and their babies at the close of the war. It even participated in the invasion of Normandy. The ship's exterior had been painted a dull gray assimilating itself to wartime colors and it became known as "The Grey Ghost", (a very apt title for this vessel as it is purported to be one of the most haunted spots in the world).

In 1947, the ship was refurbished to it's original glory and resumed it's elegant transatlantic luxury cruises until it's final trip in 1967.

At least 150 different ghosts have been sighted over the years and no less than 49 deaths have been reported on the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel and museum permanently docked in Long Beach, California. The most intense "hotspots" include the boiler room, the engine room and the first-class swimming pool which has been long since abandoned.

Above: Early and present day photos of the first-class swimming pool aboard the "Queen Mary". There have been numerous sightings of early passengers in swimsuits.

Early photo of the ship's boiler room, the scene of
many accidental deaths.

Engine room

The magnificent Art Deco interior fully restored to it's original glory.

Bon Voyage 

Copyright: Dominique S. Williams

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea..."

If you happen to be in the area of Rumson, New Jersey next month, do be sure and drop by the Stately Homes by-the-Sea Show house exhibit. You will not only enjoy a museum-like experience of being transported back to the bygone gilded-age era of the Robber Barons, but will also have the opportunity to see the work of over forty of the Tri-state area's top Interior Designers at the Decorators' Show House.

Decorator show houses sprung out of the concept of showcasing the visions and talents of interior designers and landscapers, but are also connected to fund-raising.  A house is initially donated for re-decoration and designers are selected by the charitable committee. Each designer is then assigned a room to re-design and on completion, the house opens it's doors for public viewing in order to raise money for charity.  In this case, the 'house' is Blithewald Mansion (seen above) and the charity, The Visiting Nurse Association Health Group.

Virginia Tesi, Allied ASID NY, NJ.
My friend, Virginia Tesi of Virginia Tesi Design, Inc. happens to be one of those designers.  Tesi is currently in the process of designing one of the guest rooms in Blithewald  mansion built by architect Edward L. Woodruff for financier David B. Keeler in 1883. 

A native of New York City, Virginia is an allied member of NY and NJ chapters of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) with 20 years of experience in both the fashion and interior design fields. She has a growing number of faithful clients and  divides her time between her beautiful townhouse in Sea Bright, New Jersey and New York City. 

When asked about her own design philosophy, she relates that her goal is always to make a space functional as well as beautiful and that one of the most important qualities an interior designer can possess is the capacity to listen to what the client is really looking for. For Tesi, creating a space according to the client's wants and needs spells success for her as an Interior Designer.

Design by Virginia Tesi Designs, Inc.
I may be a bit biased, but I can promise a beautiful creation by Virginia Tesi.  Without giving too much away regarding how she will be decorating her room in the Show House, I happen to know that a silver ceiling is involved. Shh...don't tell!

The Designer Show House event runs from April 28 - May 31st, 2015.

Virginia Tesi Design, Inc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

House of Horrors

No words...

I recently came across this image of a frighteningly confused abode on Twitter and I couldn't resist posting it on my blog.

In fact, many words and plays on song and book titles come to mind:

How's about: "Hell House", "The House that Crack Built", "You Can Check in But You'll Never Check Out", "A House is Not a Home", "The House of  7 Thousand Gables", "Home Freak Home, "Home is Where the Tell-tale Heart is", "Fall of the House of Reason"?

And while we're at it, there's classic one-liners like: "Take my house, please", "This place is so scary even ghosts won't  haunt it." "M. C. Escher, Frank Lloyd Wright and Antonio Gaudi walk into a blender. .."

Please feel free to jump in and add your descriptive two cents.

Unable to find out the history of "Dr. Caligari's McMansion-on-acid", I would venture to guess that judging by the adjoining house, it could possibly be located somewhere in Europe.  If anyone knows of it's actual locale, please feel free to enlighten me. I am oddly torn between actually seeking it out or avoiding it all together.  

Not your typical architectural atrocity,  I am strangely drawn to it. By no means is it merely benign...but outright insane. #Fenestration gone asunder.

As for identifying it's amalgam of architectural style(s)? I'm not going to go there because there are none to identify. 

The fun part is trying to locate the front door. 

Happy Halloween.   

Monday, July 21, 2014

Made in America: "Island Riches"

If you are ever in the vicinity of Chebeague Island in southern Maine, do be sure to drop by "Island Riches," a quaint little shop filled with an abundant variety of handmade items hand-crafted by area and local island artisans. 
While there, if you have a little time to stay and chat, you won't be disappointed.  Proprietress Florence Rich is always happy to spend time engaging in conversation about her work, plants, family and the weather.  Florence is supremely talented at a number of crafts herself--I have attended craft shows on the island and have been admiring her work for years.  Confidently thoughtful and unassuming, Florence offers no hard sell at  "Island Riches," which opened in 2010 and is located  on her home property just steps from the Casco Bay boat landing.
Florence Rich pictured in her shop
with "Annie" (my mom's dog) in the foreground.


 If you can't drop by, Florence additionally enjoys a worldwide following on her Etsy website: Check it out!

If you come to the shop looking for T-shirts, you most likely won't find them here-- and that's really not a bad thing!

Florence and her husband Herb, a former boat builder and lobsterman, started hand-making napkin rings and jewelry out of their old flatware after their daughter gave them a new silverware set. Now one of the shop and website's most popular items, the recycled flatware items are very-reasonably priced.

This silver ring refashioned
from a rose-patterned utensil,
is one of my favorite purchases.

I love this hand-painted wine bottle
remodeled into ambient lighting.

Metal sculpture by Chebeague Island resident,
Clinton Jones.

"Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man." ~ Sam Walter Foss
To inquire about any of the items that you see here, please contact Florence through her website: 
Note: they accept custom orders and will ship internationally!
*Thanks to Jennifer Vandemeer for her editing help!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mirror Mirror on the Floor.

Before the invention of the mirror, a fascination with all things shiny began with the dawn of man and woman, when they first espied themselves in a pool of water.
Chinese mythology says that an alternate world existed behind every mirror -- a world filled with fantastical creatures which easily traveled between the two worlds -- until they began to wreak havoc. The portal would then be permanently sealed.
An updated stainless steel take on a
classic Chinese chair by ACF China.
Sideboard by Julia Gray Ltd.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus, not realizing that he was seeing himself, fell in love with his own reflection.

Narcissus marble by John Gibson,

Side Table from Century

Grove nickel-studded console.

Masters of the Surrealist movements from Jean Cocteau to René Magritte have utilized the mirror as vehicles to blur the line between dreams and reality.

Jean Marais in Cocteau's 1950 masterpiece, "Orphée"
By Rene Magritte, 1937.
"The Dangerous Liason" by
Rene Magritte.

Perhaps the mirror's position as between dimensions continuously draws us to them. Do they exist merely to satisfy our vanity? to check for fly-away hairs? cat hair on our black jackets? to re-apply lipstick?  Or are they meant to convey a truth in a much more profound and ethereal way?

I don't know.

Mirrored console from Neiman Marcus.

For me, I've always been drawn to mirrored furniture -- perhaps because I am a fan of Old Hollywood. The past, because it is no longer in least in our dimension...has a romantic appeal which the glamour of Old Hollywood certainly satisfies. It was all about vanity and, let's face it, most of us are vain. 

Accent tables from Neiman Marcus.
Haute House Claire mirrored
ottoman from Horchow.
End table from Hooker Furniture.

Side table from Arteriors Home.

Sophia Buffet available at Macy's.

Designer tip #1: Less is more when it comes to bold statements like mirrored furniture; if overused, mirror pieces can easily spill over the border into "tacky-land".  However, if you dare to make an over-the-top statement, do it with taste.  And for that, you may need to consult a professional...with taste.
Designer tip #2: No mirrors on the floor or ceiling.

*Thanks to Jennifer Vandemeer for correcting my grammar once again.