JOURNAL — Desk Accessories RSS



Welcome, April!

Welcome, April—and its birthstone, the Diamond! The phrase "A Diamond is Forever" comes from an ad campaign for DeBeers, which, until fairly recently, was undisputedly the world's largest diamond seller.  Perhaps "forever" is an overstatement; regardless, diamonds are an impressive work of Mother Nature. They are the hardest known natural substance, making them suitable for industrial uses (in addition to decorative applications). They are incredibly old: most natural diamonds were formed deep within the Earth (90 to 500 miles down) 1 - 3.5 billion years ago.  More recently (hundreds of millions of years ago), the Earth's volcanic activity moved some of them closer to the surface where they were discovered by man. Some diamonds were also formed by the heat...

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Time Flies - part III

Three hours comes fast when you're exhausted and have just gone to bed. But we were living on adrenaline and wanted to get to our house before the moving van did. We hit the road hours before sunrise. It was 7:00 am when the phone rang—we were crawling through Pittsburgh rush hour—and it was the house seller, telling us that the Verizon man was waiting for us. It turns-out, she hadn't moved-out when we thought she had—and we were suddenly relieved that we had not shown-up at three in the morning, terrifying her while trying to get into the house! Within an hour the moving vans (plural!) showed-up. It seems I had under-estimated the number of book boxes they would be...

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Time Flies - part II

In the last installment of this story, you found Bob, Benji, Lucky (The Hurricane Parakeet*) and me squeezed into a Pittsburgh-bound rent-a-car with our "carry-ons" (stuffed into every crevice of the vehicle, window-to-window). Naturally, it was rush hour—which means it took an hour to get down to (and through) the Holland Tunnel. The drive usually takes us about seven hours, eight hours when traveling with the pup, and we really wanted to make it in one go. The seller had just moved-out and we wanted to sleep in our new house! But we were exhausted—and faced an equally big day tomorrow. Alas, four hours in, we surrendered to Prudence (rather than Passion) and decided to break our journey en-route. Midnight,...

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Time Flies - part I

Two years ago today—has the time passed that quickly?—Roadway Movers rang the bell at my Chelsea apartment and started loading a mountain of boxes onto a large, double-parked truck. It was my last day as a bonafide New Yorker. Were it not for the whirlwind of packing "24 Years of Apartment" (immediately after packing "23 Years of Store"), I'm sure I would have been Desolation's Poster Boy. But I didn't have the time. I pushed my exhaustion into one of those expensive wardrobe cartons and assumed supervision of a pleasingly well-oiled moving crew. Within eight hours, all that remained was the four of us: Bob, Benji, Lucky and me—with Lucky's squawky chirps echoing off the now-bare apartment walls and floor. We lugged...

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Countdown to Lent

With Ash Wednesday just two weeks away, it's time to start clearing the larders and thinking about the "spiritual cleansing" that the Lenten period offers. In addition to prayer, fasting and abstinence, charity is one of the cornerstones of the Christian (and other religions') seasonal practice of religious "re-calibration"—a striving for holiness. Alms giving is an age-old practice and a Mite Box, like the one shown above, was used to collect donations for the poor. This example is English, made of mahogany, and probably was used in a church. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line...

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Italian Time

Italy is my favorite travel destination—and I easily could spend every remaining vacation of my life exploring (and absorbing) a new Italian village or city. So I am well aware that Italy shines brightly in certain respects (style, atmosphere, attitude, design) and is (ummm...) less highly-regarded in other areas (precision timing, prompt shipping). I keep this in mind while considering this handsome and stylish pewter sandglass. While the sand-cast metal is beautifully designed and crafted, it is less-effective as a precision timepiece: sometimes it hits the thirty minute mark, sometimes it will add or subtract a minute (or two, or less) to that timing objective. Che importa?  Who cares? In keeping with Italy's age-old experience with time, you'll find a...

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Age Old Sand-Casting

This handsome old-world beaker was made in contemporary Italy in the age-old sand-cast method. Used since mankind first started casting metals (in the Bronze Age), sand-casting remains a low-tech and wonderful technique for creating rustic and satisfyingly naive metal objects. First, an "original" (that is, the item to be duplicated) is pushed into a tray of sticky sand. Once lifted out, a depression is left in the sand—into which molten metal (in this case, pewter) is poured.  Once the cast piece has cooled and solidified, the piece is taken out, chased (that is, cleaned of burrs and other major irregularities), and polished. Although an accurate duplicate is created, this "unsophisticated" method allows for plenty of idiosyncrasies and the hand-crafted sensibility of...

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Love Notes

A love note for your Valentine? Sometime's the sweetest surprise is that unexpected token, tucked-away in a purse or wallet. And with this handsome note holder, you'll always be ready to write. The polished pewter piece was designed by Danish Modernist artist Erik Magnussen and made by Royal Selangor. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Happy Valentine's Day!   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Aged to Perfection

Given time and the right environmental conditions, all metals will "patinate" (that is, "tarnish"). Some metals, like silver, tarnish very quickly. Others, like copper, take decades to develop a rich, dark patina. Pewter needs several years (and dry conditions) to develop a dark, rich grey finish like the French Art Nouveau vase, shown above. Brass falls on the middle of the "tarnish continuum." And some metals, like bronze, are often purposely patinated at the time of manufacture to give them a certain look—for example, antique gold, chocolate brown or verdigris green. In the world of decorative arts, the condition of a metal's finish can often make-or-break the value of an item. Although tastes vary, the general rule is: the longer...

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In a Peddler's Wake

In days of yore, well before Amazon, a traveling salesman would stop by your office to sell you screws, springs or hosing—or whatever your industry required. And he would usually leave a little something behind; something handsome and useful and likely to remind you to place another order. This spring-form letter holder and pen rest was made of cast iron around 1910. The advertiser's name, "K Diamond" prominently (though tastefully) featured on each side.  Over the past 24 years, I have found three of these—one in a far away Shanghai flea market! Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location,...

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Ten Days to Go...

A gentle reminder . . . Saint Valentine's Day is less than a week and a half away!. And, since time is our most precious commodity, perhaps this Italian sand-cast pewter sandglass will be a reminder of time's fleeting nature. Spend your precious time with the one(s) you love. Click on the photo above to learn more about it   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Royal Mail

Store your mail in style.  This English Arts & Crafts oak letter holder is clad with hand-tooled brass plates—which show stylized botanicals and a snarling, reticulated dragon.  At top, a glass amethyst "turtleback" cabochon punctuates the entire design.  Suitable sitting on a desk or hanging on the wall from its brass hook.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Twinkle, Twinkle!

This silver-plated amphibian, when wound, will play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The English lullaby, based on an 1806 poem, is set to the popular French children's song "Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman" ("Shall I tell you, Mother" - 1761). The tune became even more popular when a 25 year old Mozart composed twelve variations on the theme. Although the music box, above, is meant as a child's gift, it has proved just as popular with adults—due to it's realistic, warty sculpting and the irresistible childhood tune. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues...

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Art & War

War has been described as hours of crushing tedium, punctuated with moments of fierce and life-altering intensity. For this reason, soldiers and sailors have long found ways to pass the time—perhaps handcrafting a simple gift for a sweetheart left back home. And necessity dictates using the supplies at hand, in this case a bronze artillery shell casing. The metal shell has been crafted into an ashtray, from which a stag leaps from the pediment at center.  It was made at some time during World War Two—by an unknown artisan, for an unknown loved one. It's a bit of naive folk art, combined with the history and pathos of a person at war. Please click on the photo above to learn more about...

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Premium Premiums

Those were the Good Ol' Days!  When promotional giveaways were made of bronze and cast iron. Like the advertising paperweight, shown above.  The nameplate and knob are bronze, mounted upon a decorative cast iron base. It will add a touch of Turn-of-the-Century style to your desk or office. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Concerning Weight

It's a new year and time for a (not so) new resolution—concerning weight. But enough about that! This set of seven Edwardian English brass scale weights spans the range of 1/4 ounce to one pound. They would have been used in an English shop, on a balance, to weigh goods for sale. Today, they could be used as paperweights, "Modernist" sculpture or as "Executive Playthings."  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Boxing Day

In Edwardian England (where and when this box was made), wealthy and middle class families would employ servants—who were expected to serve their masters on Christmas Day. Their day off was on the 26th, known as Boxing Day, the day on which servants would receive gifts from their employers. Traditionally, even the tradesmen who served the family would be given "boxes" with a gratuity or other gift within.  Today, the occasion is still observed as a "bank holiday" in England and other Commonwealth countries—though very few families still employ live-in servants. The brass stamp box, shown here, was made around 1905.  Besides stamps, it is a cozy spot to hold a few rings, clips or flat cufflinks.  Please click on the photo...

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For My Deer

Men like boxes.  When my Greenwich Village shop was still open, men—of every description—would slowly proceed through the shop, opening each box in-turn and checking out their interiors. Boxes are useful, organizing, and (very often) quite handsome—like the marbled Bakelite dresser box shown here.  Made in the Art Deco Thirties, this box is perfect for holding cufflinks on a dresser, keys near the door, or paperclips on the desk.  Two bas relief deer embellish the cover.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow...

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Hail, Billiken!

Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri, was an art teacher and illustrator.  She claims that the gnome-like character "Billiken" came to her in a dream—and by 1908, Pretz had secured a design patent on her creation, "the god of things as they ought to be."  She marketed the little guy as a good luck token—informing the public that to give one was lucky, but to receive one was even more lucky.  Today, Billiken stands as the mascot of the Jesuit college Saint Louis University (and its affiliated high school).  This little bank was made in the 1910's or 1920's. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed....

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Sinhalese Souvenir

Victorian Brits of means loved to travel—especially to visit other parts of "The Empire." One such place was Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), an island nation to the south of India. One of the traditional souvenirs from Southern Ceylon was crafts made of ebonywood and porcupine quills—boxes, frames, desk caddies and bowls, like the example shown above. They were mostly made between 1850 and 1900, and mostly for the tourist or export trade. Because porcupine quills fall-out of the animal naturally, no foul play was involved in the procurement of the material. And pieces of polished bone would be inset into the wood, giving additional punctuation to the handicraft. Sri Lanka gained its independence from England in 1948. It became...

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Old Technology, New Uses

Bring a touch of elegant handcraft to your busy desk—with this English Arts & Crafts pen tray, made around 1900. Hand-tooled wild irises scroll amidst stylized botanical effects on this brass repoussé piece.  Pen trays, once necessary to keep a desk clean and tidy, are now perfect places to keep clips, business cards or even pens.  At home antique pen trays are a handsome solution for one's jewelry at bedside or keys near the door.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this stylish piece.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook:...

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Brass Beauty

Your trusty steed is saddled-up and at-the-ready!  Ready to serve you loyally, holding your letters, cards or bills.  He's made of cast brass and was made in England in the 1920's or 1920's.  A great gift for a horse lover or perfect at home to corral your loose bits of paper.  Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Aged to Perfection

Some things don't get better with modernity.  Try to find a contemporary letter rack for your new office's desk and you're likely to end-up with a cheap (looking) plastic contraption.  Functional, yes.  But oh-so-lacking in human handcraft or style.  This piece, made in Jugendstil Germany, is assembled (with rivets!) of hand-hammered coper—each piece hand-scalloped with a touch of the Gothic.  It's not very big, but it will easily hold small notepads, a few handy tools, or (naturally) envelopes or letters.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on...

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Oaken Satisfaction

This handsome business card case must be held to be fully appreciated!  Japanese oak is hand-shaped to a softly-tapered point (see the reflection in the photo) and lacquered to a warm, wooden glow.  It feels wonderful in the hand—silky, precise— and the magnetic latch closes the hinged lid with a soft and satisfying snap.  It's certain to catch an admiring eye, sliding out of a tailored jacket's breast pocket.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"...

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Bronze Refinement

Before the advent of cartridge ink pens (or ball point pens), writing was a messy ordeal. Writers greeted you with blackened fingers and newspaper writers were called "Ink-Stained Wretches."  What to do if you were an educated gentleman?  You wanted to (or needed to) write—but you preferred to maintain a gentlemanly nattiness.  (Not to mention preserve your expensive leather-topped desk).  Enter the pen tray!   Here one could keep one or more inky pens—close-at-hand but securely cradled.   This footed pen tray, made in late Nineteenth Century France, is crafted of cast bronze and decorated with sensuous botanical scrollwork and regimented triangular edging. And, if inky messes are no-longer a common occurrence on your desk, these pen trays are perfect holding...

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French Classic

Here' another handsome piece by French knife-maker Laguiole.  The hand-forged stainless steel knife is clad in white cow horn (which has the look of ivory) and is capped with polished stainless steel bolsters.  Of course, the knife is finished with the classic hand-chiseled bee (and spine) and it displays the stainless pins which form a stylized cross on one side.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Skin of Armor

From a collection of American alligator wallets, now in-stock at LEO Design: a slim, bi-fold credit card wallet. Its svelte profile is perfectly tailored for streamlined dressing and its natural, hand-rubbed finish will develop a beautiful, soft sheen with continued use.  The alligators are farmed in Florida and Louisiana, and the wallets are hand-stitched in New England.  It's one of many wallet styles, now to be found in our on-line shop.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about this one.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design...

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Seeing the Big Picture

Aging eyes still appreciate beauty—but sometimes they just need a little extra help!  This contemporary magnifying glass packs a nice powerful punch.  It is framed in a bronze-finished brass and would make a handsome (and discreet) addition to any desk, kitchen drawer or nightstand.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Happy Left-Handers’ Day

Since 1976, 13 August has been celebrated as “Left-handers’ Day,” a day to promote the uniqueness and contributions of the world’s “lefties” (estimated at 7 – 10% of the population). Left-handers International strives to raise public awareness of the very real difficulties they often endure living in a right-handed world. Despite these difficulties, left-handers have contributed significantly to the worlds

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Happy Birthday, George!

On 12 August 1762, King George IV of England was born.  His father (George III), with whom he had a terrible relationship, forced him to marry his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, whom he hated as much as his father.  They had one child, Charlotte, after which he kept his wife as far away from himself as possible.  He didn’t even allow her to attend his eventual coronation! Instead, he took comfort in the arms of other women, most notoriously, Mrs.

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Can a Cloud Have a Pewter Lining?

How can it be?  I dislike smoking—and, yet, I love smoking accessories.  And this Italian cast pewter "smoking box" is a perfect illustration.  With a hinged lid and divots to hold cigarettes or a cigar, it is a handsome solution to an otherwise messy problem.  And if you do not smoke, it will hold your cufflinks, rings or collar stays with efficiency and style. Please click on the photo above  to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Lots of LEOs - XII

This cast iron lion is a bank and was made around 1900.  He can be opened with a screwdriver and still has traces of the original paint which dressed him.  Perhaps a young LEO can practice his saving skills with this handsome and useful gift.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about him. Another LEO tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Lots of LEOs - IV

The King of the Jungle doesn't mind helping-out in the kitchen.  This English bronze mortar and pestle is small but handy—not to mention, stylish. Use it to pulverize fresh herbs and make small batches of culinary pastes.  You will find-out more about it by clicking on the photo above. Another LEO tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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A Mid-Year Organize

Enter the coming Autumn neat and tidy!  This Edwardian English stationery stand will give your desk a bit of organization—not to mention considerable handsome style.   Sections of quarter-sawn oak are shaped and assembled into a multi-pocketed rack.  You'll find it on our website by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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World UFO Day

According to “people in-the-know,” on this day in 1947, an Unidentified Flying Object crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico.  Such believers assert that the U.S. government has sought, since then, to cover-up this alarming—yet compelling—event.  Therefore we have “World UFO Day,” a day to build the public’s awareness of (quote) “the undoubted existence of UFOs” and […]

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Welcome, Summer!

This morning, at 6:07 Eastern Time, the earth hit its Northern Summer Solstice—that is, the point at which the Earth’s Northern Axis tilts closest to the Sun.  For us here on Earth (or, at least, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), the sun will be most northerly in the sky—and the day will be the longest of the year.  That’s right: starting tomorrow, the days will begin to get shorter.  And, while that might be a little depressing for us, our brothers and sisters in the Southern Hemisphere will rejoice; down south, the days will begin to get longer. At the North Pole—and for countries near the Pole—the day could be endless.  In parts of Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia...

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Happy Father's Day!

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!”   – Mark Twain   A word of thanks and a wish of happiness to all fathers—and father figures—on their special day. Shown above, an Italian sand-cast pewter minute glass, now in-stock at LEO Design.  May it help us to remember how very precious is the time spent with our dads.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next...

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School's Out!

If your dad's a teacher, this gift will hit the mark.  But even if he isn't, he may relish the opportunity to ring for a little attention.  Made in England during the 1880's or 1890's, this bronze Aesthetic Movement school bell is topped with a turned ebonywood knob.  Large and heavy, it is certain to be noticed—sitting on a desk or being shaken with vigor.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Father's Day gift ideas tomorrow.    LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome...

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Handsome & Useful

Like Dad, this Edwardian English quarter-sawn oak stationery stand is handsome and useful.  Made around 1905, the highly-figured oak is shaped with waves and assembled with finger joinery.  It will bring a sense of organization and architecture to your desk or countertop.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Father's Day gift ideas tomorrow.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Eagle Post

I love letter racks!  Perhaps it’s my ambition to impose organization upon my desk . . . someday.   Perhaps I like the combination of antique style and present-day practicality. Or, perhaps, I just like possessing the relic of an imagined, distant, more-orderly time. Shown above: a Nineteenth Century Victorian American letter rack with a […]

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An Undersea Garden

A happy fish swims by—solo—in his undersea Garden of Eden.  Made in Edwardian England (c. 1910), it will bring a touch of stately whimsy to your desk or hall table.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Mucha in America

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939) was born in Moravia, today a part of the Czech Republic.  He went to high school at the "Gymnázium Brno" while he pursued his passion for drawing.  He made money by singing in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (in Brno) where he was artistically inspired by the church's Baroque interiors and he befriended the great (future) Czech composer, Leoš Janáček.  He took jobs as a decorative painter, mostly painting theatrical scenery.  Eventually he was hired-away to paint stage scenery in Vienna—the cultural center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mucha studied in Munich and Paris—where he stumbled upon a lucky break.  While visiting a Paris print shop in 1894, he learned that the play Gismonda, staring...

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National Doctors’ Day

On this day in 1842, Georgia physician Crawford Williamson Long, M.D., became the first doctor to use ether for surgical anesthetization.  In 1990, Congress declared 30 March “National Doctors’ Day,” a day on which doctors are honored and their contributions to society are recognized.  Around the world, different countries honor their doctors on different days […]

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Nya Sverige

In the mid-Seventeenth Century, Sweden was quite the world power.  Its European territory included Sweden, of course, plus Finland, Estonia, and parts of modern-day Russia, Germany, Poland, and Latvia.  And so, when the riches of the New World began glimmering across the Atlantic, Sweden was loathe to leave the riches to the French and English. […]

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World Theatre Day

Today is World Theatre Day, celebrated each 27 March.  Each year, an internationally-recognized theatre luminary is selected to compose and circulate an International Message, reflecting on the importance of theatre to the world and human culture.  This year’s Message is written by Polish stage director Krzysztof Warlikowski. As theatre luminaries go, who could top The […]

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Modern Time Zones Established

On this day in 1918, Congress established U.S. time zones and Daylight Savings Time. In the Nineteenth Century, once clocks had become widespread, every city, town, or village would keep its own time—much as it always had—based roughly on the sun’s passing overhead.  Usually a town hall or church would establish the time and everyone […]

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The Aesthetic Movement

In the final third of the Nineteenth Century, the West—and Britain in particular—became fascinated with the art and craft of the Japanese (who recently had ended 250 years of self-imposed isolation from the West).  For the first time in generations, Japanese-made objets were available in the West, at least to those who could afford them. […]

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Repoussé Work and Chasing

“Repoussé” is a French adjective meaning “pushed up,” derived from the Latin “pulsare,” which means “to push.” In metalwork, it refers to the process of hammering a malleable metal from the reverse side, creating a low relief design on the front. After “Repoussage” (the noun form of repoussé) has been achieved, the design on the […]

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Backwards Glances

The Arts & Crafts Movement—whether it happened to take place in England, America, or Continental Europe—would frequently look back to the motifs, icons, and  stylistic flourishes of that culture’s earlier peoples.  Americans “lifted” Native American symbols.  The English loved reviving Medieval literary themes. One of my favorite backward-looking references is to The Gothic.  This English […]

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The Aesthetes

In the Nineteenth Century, in England (and other parts of Europe), a lovely and short-lived garden bloomed:  The Aesthetes.  This collection of writers, artists, designers, and educators believed that Beauty was amongst life’s highest ideals—”Art for Art’s Sake” was their mantra.  The Arts (including music, theatre, decorative and fine arts) should strive to provide refined, […]

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A Day for the Other Football

All right, I admit it.  I am not now and never have been a fan of American Football.  Part of it's the violence and the concussions.  Part of it's the anonymity of the players—buried as they are under layers and layers of concealing nylon and plastic.  For me, American Football will never be as satisfying as the real Football (which is kicked with one's feet)—which, I think, requires much more stamina, fitness and constant running.  If you're  a fan of American Football, perhaps this “crystal ball” will score.  Made in Japan in the 1970’s or 1980’s, it would make a handsome paperweight or conversation-starter on a desk or bookshelf.  And with, Father's Day in the near future, perhaps it will help Dad...

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Pride and Prejudice

On this day in 1813, “Pride & Prejudice” was published in London—attributed only to “the author of ‘Sense & Sensibility’.”  Today we know the author was Jane Austen.  We also know the book was long in coming. Jane Austen began writing the book in 1796 and titled it “First Impression.”  The next year, her father […]

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Bronze

Bronze is an alloy (a “blended” metal) of copper (generally 88%) and tin (12%)—though the mixture is often manipulated depending upon the intended use of the crafted object.  The first known use of bronze was in what is modern-day Iran, around 3600 BC.  The name, “bronze,” is derived from the Italian bronzo (from the Latin […]

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The 1910’s: “The Cathedral of Commerce”

When the Woolworth Building was completed in 1913, at 792 feet it was the tallest building in the world—and would remain so until the Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930. Employing state-of-the-art principles like steel frame construction and high-speed elevators, the Woolworth Building paved the way for even taller skyscrapers in the future.  Yet, despite […]

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The 1910’s: A Touch of the Gothic

Arts & Crafts design often was influenced by other, earlier aesthetic movements: native cultures, heraldry, the medieval.  The designer of the brass humidor, shown above, tapped into the Gothic—as shown in the steel “strapwork” riveted to the sides and tops of the canister. It captures a bit of what I call “Jules Verne Futurism”—a vision […]

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Let's Fly!

A pewter dove flies over the domed lid of this faceted glass tobacco jar from the 1910's or 1920's.  Originally intended to hold pipe tobacco, such a jar is perfect in the kitchen, office or bathroom—to keep handy (with style) the everyday supplies you need.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"  

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Time and Tide...

As Geoffrey Chaucer reminds us, "Time and Tide wait for no man." Neither will Christmas (my addition).  Perhaps an Italian cast pewter sandglass will keep you focused on the time. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"  

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Owl Hold It!

What do you get when you combine Beauty (Art Nouveau), Wisdom (an owl) and Function (a letter holder)?   You get this handsome and practical desk accessory, made in the 1910's—form, beauty and function. Perfect on a man or woman's desk, this little guy will help you keep-organized in style.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"  

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More Soft Deco

As I mentioned before, I love the softness of English Art Deco.  Unlike it's American counterpart, English Deco pieces seem to have been placed in a gentle tumbler, softly removing any sharp edges. The ashtray shown above was designed by artist Keith Murray for Wedgwood.  Born in New Zealand, Keith's family moved back to England when he was 14.  Although he studied architecture, he was hired by Wedgwood to help execute their new strategy:  to create good-looking ceramic items which could be produced with mass production technology.  Wedgwood realized that young customers (in the 1930's) had good, modern taste, but often little money.  They wanted to produce items which this demographic could afford and would buy.  Unlike other Art Deco...

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Slow and Steady

This Edwardian English brass turtle, made around 1905, stands up off the ground and has a hinged-shell lid.  It's a nice place to keep a spare key, a few pairs of cufflinks, matches on a mantlepiece or clips on a busy desk.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about him.  And take a look at our nice collection of Handsome Gifts for the Holidays—many just acquired on an English buying trip.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"  

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Yesterday's Bookends - part II

Here's another Victorian English folding book slide, made in the 1870's - 1890's.  Heavy rosewood is decorated with hand-pierced brass mountings which are riveted to the wood.  Like yesterday's posting, this one has a Jacobean Revival aesthetic.  It will slide open to hold from about eight to a dozen books.  A perfect way to honor your special collection or to keep-handy your most-used reference books.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. And visit our website to see our collection of "Handsome Gifts"—many of them newly-acquired.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram:...

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Yesterday's Bookends - part I

In the old days, only the wealthiest could afford a library. A wall filled with books was a sign of intelligence, worldliness and lots of money. Poor people might have two or three books, including a Bible. And middle class families might have a dozen books—including poetry, a cooking book, an atlas and a few other reference books.  For such a middle class booklover, a desktop "book slide" (or book rack), shown above, would suit his needs.  Perched upon the desk, it kept those cherished books close-at-hand.  This folding book rack—embellished with hand-cut brass and riveted bone strips—was made in Victorian England, c. 1880.  It revives the style of the Jaccobean period, some 350 years earlier.  "Modern" pairs of bookends,...

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Cheshire Wisdom

Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, "What road do I take?"  The cat asked, "Where do you want to go?"  "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it really doesn't matter, does it?" What a font of wisdom, this mysterious, mischievous cat! Shown above, an Edwardian English brass dish—in the form of a (grinning?) cat—made around 1910.  Most Englishmen of the day would have known Lewis Carroll's books and its array of crazy characters.  This little dish could be used to hold coins, rings, keys, cufflinks or clips on a desk. It is one of the many new treasures—Handsome Gifts—recently collected in England.   To learn more about it, please click on the...

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Scottish Agate

The Scots love their stones.  Durable, rustic, handsome; like the Scots themselves, these stones are at once attractive and, yet, humble. Naturally adorned.  Not necessarily precious.  I never get tired of Scotland and I never get tired of collecting these Late-Nineteenth or Early Twentieth Century pill boxes.  Although they are best reserved for lighter duty—on […]

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Neat and Tidy

Ah, those were the days.  Simple days when keeping order was so much more…achievable? And every possible need was satisfied in a stylish manner.  Take the French ceramic comb dish, shown above.  It would have sat upon a man’s (or woman’s) dresser (vanity) holding his comb between uses.  It may have been part of a […]

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To My Wise Owl…

Happy Father’s Day—to my wise owl and to all the wise owls out there! To celebrate the occasion, a pair of bronze-clad owl bookends from the 1920’s.  They were made in New York City of sculpted plaster, then electroplated with a solid bronze “skin,” patinated and painted.  They will add an air of wisdom and […]

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Time & Tide

Time and Tide wait for no man.  And the economic laws which lay-heavy on small shops (like mine) never lighten for a minute.  Like with gravity, one can fight the inevitable (for a while) but, sooner or later, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” will knock you off the table. Tomorrow is our day.  It’s been a […]

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Seeing Clearly

As I approached (and overtook) my 50th birthday, I started noticing that print was getting smaller and smaller!  Why were printers continually decreasing the font sizes they were using?  Well, I discovered a handsome and practical solution:  magnifying glasses!  Shown above, two such examples.  Come-in and see them.  They’re now 25% off.  All merchandise (in-store […]

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Owl Be Seeing You…

Not too much time left—this weekend will probably be the last chance to find a full assortment of merchandise in-store.  We’re selling a lot and starting to pack.  And all merchandise—in-store and on-line—is now marked down (at least) 25% (and some even more).  Here’s a cast iron owl paperweight from Japan—now on sale!   LEO […]

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Spinning, Spinning, Spinning!

Our world is spinning—as we serve an onslaught of customers while trying to pack.  Our 31 January closing date looms large!  Meanwhile, everything is marked-down (in-store and on-line)—including these three handsome globes. Please come-in or check-out our on-line store.   LEO Design will be closing its doors on 31 January.  Please visit the store (or […]

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Elephant Block

This little guy—a baby elephant—is a doorstop and was made of cast iron from the 1920’s. He trumpets to his mother—while never leaving his post (right beside your open door). Please click on the photo above to learn more about him.       Today—and daily through 23 December—LEO Design will be open from Noon […]

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Wisely Organized

A wise owl has alighted at LEO Design—atop a pine bough on this Art Nouveau letter rack. Made in the 1910’s or 1920’s, he’ll bring both knowledge and style to your desk or bookshelf. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.       Today—and daily through 23 December—LEO Design will […]

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Undersea Style

A British fish swims through his undersea domain on this Edwardian English brass letter rack, c. 1905.  Let it bring a little peace (and order) to your home desk or office.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.     Today—and daily through 23 December—LEO Design will be open from Noon ’til […]

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Foxy

A guilty-looking fox paces tensely just outside the garden gate—in this English brass letter rack from about 1920.  He’s part of a recent shipment from England—where I found a large number of Handsome Gifts now in-store.  Please come into the shop to see the complete shipment or click on the photo above to learn more about the […]

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Simple Treasures

I spent a good part of the month shopping in Europe—England and Scandinavia, to be precise.  One of the “little treasures” I found is this simple, folded brass letterknife, fastened tight with a copper rivet.  It makes no pretension at grandeur.  It is just a simple, handsome and useful thing.  Please come into the shop […]

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English Baronial

It’s brass.  It’s Baronial.  And it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen—amongst letter knives, that is.  Cast in England around 1920, it’ll make a grand statement on your desk or a fabulous prop in Tosca (she could stab Scarpia with it!).  Please come into the shop to see it in person or call us for […]

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Galgo Español

The Galgo Español is an ancient breed of hound from Spain, documented as far back as the second half of the Middle Ages.  This time period coincides with the Reconquista—that is, the period when Spanish Christians re-claimed the lands held by Iberian Muslims.  As Spanish Catholics began to move-down from the more mountainous areas and […]

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La Belle Époch

Ahh, La Belle Époch. “The Beautiful Age.” It was a time of relative peace, economic expansion (for the middle and upper classes), empire (for Europeans and Americans) and wonderful design and craftsmanship. Roughly speaking, the period comprised the final quarter of the Nineteenth Century and the start of the Twentieth Century (until World War […]

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Notes From the Road – part VI

In Edwardian England, white collar tradesmen—architects, interior designers, shop fitters—would travel to the job site to supervise the execution of their creations.  Such men, properly and professionally dressed, would carry a folding measuring stick in their breast pockets or bags—always ready to measure, check, amend, correct.  They would have used tools like these, shown above. […]

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New English Receipts – part XV

We end our little parade of newly-acquired English items with this English Arts & Crafts brass pen tray.  Made about 1900, it is stamped with an exuberant assortment of stylized botanicals.  Intended to hold pens or other desk accoutrements, it would also be perfect at bedside to hold rings, bookmarks, collar stays or a small collection of […]

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New English Receipts – part VII

Before the Twentieth Century, most homes did not have many books.  It was the well-educated (and mostly rich) who could afford the luxury of a home library (think Downton Abbey).  But with the post-War rise of a middle class—which had the money and propensity to collect books—a modest home library became more common.  For this […]

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Welcome, LEO!

Today, 23 July, marks the first day of LEO.  It is also the shop’s (ceremonial) 21st birthday and the third anniversary of our website and daily journal.  And, have I mentioned, it’s my birthday? LEO’s are proud, loyal and love a good show.  While they do have (a few) flaws, let’s leave those aside for […]

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Dance, Putti Dance!

Remember when a baby’s naked little bottom was a symbol of innocence—when two year olds would pose for a snap on a bearskin rug and cherubs could fly around Baroque rooms without raising questions or suspicions?  Today we keep our antennae attuned to any possible impropriety involving children (and that’s good).  Nevertheless, we might have […]

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Countdown to Father’s Day – part V

Manufacturers have always sought ways to keep their names in front of potential purchasers—especially large industrial purchasing agents.  Shown above, a cast iron letter rack from the 1880’s.  Made for “Diamond K”—which I think was a tool manufacturer (Kreauter?)—this letter holder would be left-behind by a traveling company salesman.  Notes, letters or photos could be placed […]

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Countdown to Father’s Day – part IV

Perhaps your dad’s an Anglophile.  How about an early Twentieth Century English brass letterknife?  A gallant knight stands at-the-read—exactly as he has since he was cast in brass in the 1910’s or 1920’s ($95). Please come into the shop to see him in person or call us for further information. More nice Father’s Day gift […]

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Countdown to Father’s Day – part I

With Father’s Day at the end of the week, I thought we’d share some of our newly-acquired, Dad-appropriate gift items over the next few days. Whether or not your father was (or is) a mailman, he’s sure to appreciate this (very cool) cast iron coin bank from the 1910’s or 1920’s.  The original red paint […]

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From Across the Sea

From afar off Japan comes this winsome little bear—made of cast iron and dressed in an antique brown finish.  He’d serve happily as a paperweight or loyally just standing-guard on your desk.  Please come into the shop to see him or call us for additional information.         See new merchandise first!  Follow […]

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Silver, Amethyst & Gold

Stylish bands of silver and gold surround this Italian amethyst glass covered bowl.  On the lid, a circle of stylized, hand-painted leaves congregate around the knob.  Perfect as a candy dish, a desk caddy or as a place to (carefully) leave one’s keys and coins.  Please come into the shop to see it or call […]

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Intelligent Correspondance

Owls have long symbolized Wisdom and Intelligence.  The Ancient Greeks associated them with the goddess of knowledge, Athena.  And because owls moved silently through the night, they were sometimes associated with mystery or “otherworldliness.”   Here a wise owl sits patiently on the pine branch of this American Art Nouveau letter rack, made in the […]

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Lyin’ in Winter

After (seemingly endless) months of campaigning, boasting and (yes, sometimes) lying, the candidates vying for the White House will get their first dose of “meaningful feedback” tomorrow as the Iowa Caucuses finally take place.  Why a small number of people in a handful of small towns in a couple of small states should have such […]

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Karel Palda

An exquisitely-cut Bohemian peach crystal bowl—probably the work of Czech glass master Karel Palda from the 1950’s ($275).  His workshop was founded in 1888 in the northern Czech village of Nový Bor (called Haida by the Germans—just a few miles away).  Palda is best known for his exquisite, sometimes over-the-top, Thirties Art Deco creations in enameled […]

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The World Goes ‘Round

On my first post-Christmas shopping trip, I found this 1934 school library globe by Replogle. While some borders—and many names—of countries have changed in the past 80 years, the placement of the continents has shifted only a little.  Come into the shop to see this handsome and practical piece, well-spun and well-burnished by little hands […]

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Notes From the Road – part IV

This week I’m sharing photos from my current buying trip—this time in Western Pennsylvania and the Midwest—like the schoolhouse globe, shown above, newly-acquired and very soon to be in-store.  While its vintage cartography is not up-to-the-minute, the characteristics of age and exposure result in an artifact of style, honesty and authority. Please come by the shop […]

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Brass is Beautiful

Although I don’t smoke (and I don’t like smoking), I love the accoutrement of the pernicious practice—ashtrays, smoking stands, humidors and tobacco jars like the one shown above. I’ve sold many tobacco jars over the years and I can safely say, this is one of the nicest I’ve ever acquired.  Made around 1910, the faceted, […]

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Stick with It

In the supposed “paperless world” of the modern age, one still can use the occasional help holding things together (now and then).  Let this simple and handsome Japanese tape dispenser assist.  Made of oak and offered in both dark and light finishes, the dispenser is heavy enough to stay-put while pulling a length of tape […]

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Pelicans—in Russia?

No—from the other Saint Petersburg!  Florida! A cast spelter Pelican opens his bill to hold your keys, coins, or cigarette ashes.  A delightful souvenir from 1960’s Florida—and sure to be a conversation piece in your office, kitchen or at the doorway.  Perfect for holding paperclips.  ($95).  Please come into the shop to see him or […]

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Back-to-School ? So Soon ?

When I was a kid, school re-convened after Labor Day, during the first week of September. Today, it seems, the kids are heading-back and we’ve barely left July!  Could today’s returning schoolboy be as excited as I used to be—considering he’s being sent back-to-task before the first sign of an Autumn chill? Perhaps an ultra-stylish […]

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Before Bookends

Before the Twentieth Century, bookends were not commonplace—in fact, rarely were they needed.  For before World War I, most “ordinary” families owned very few books—perhaps a Bible, a dictionary, some poetry, and the occasional cookery book.  Large collections of books were to be found only in institutional libraries or the homes of very wealthy individuals—people […]

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Ding!

On my buying trip last week, I assembled this small collection of desk bells—always a good-seller at LEO Design.  Made in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, they would have lived atop shop counters and hotel desks.  Mostly brass, some of them have cast iron bases ($125 – $165). Please come into the shop […]

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Notes From the Road – part IV

As I wend my way through New England, finding great, new items for the shop, I’ve put-together a collection of heavy, industrial tape dispensers, pictured above.  Designed and made in the Art Deco 1930’s, they are made of heavy cast iron and were usually found in factories, workshops or sales counters.  Because of their substantial weight, […]

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