JOURNAL — Desk Accessories RSS



Queen's College

Queen's College, part of Oxford University, was founded in 1341.  It was originally intended to educate clergymen for the distant reaches of Northwest England, snuggled just under Scotland (today designated Cumbria County).  In addition to clergy, the school also began to educate sons of the nobility and a good number of "poor boys" who were smart but could not have afforded an expensive education.  The school was named after its patroness, Queen Phillippa of Hainault.  She was married to King Edward III and served as his political advisor and regent (while he was away during the Hundred Years' War).  The school is known for its handsome architecture, some of it designed (or influenced) by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and Nicholas Hawksmoor...

Continue reading



The Mailboat Cometh

In 1950, US households received twice-daily mail delivery.  Businesses, especially in cities, might receive three deliveries a day.  Written addresses were checked and any mistakes were cheerfully corrected.  And postal drop boxes were emptied multiple times a day—even on Sundays. 72 years later, our experiences (and expectations) regarding the Post is quite degraded.  And it's a shame: only can a large and well-managed system (like a USPS) deliver quick, safe and inexpensive delivery. "In the olde days..." some mail might have arrived by boat, from overseas or to remote, watery locations.  The English hand-hammered brass letter holder, shown above, would have hung on a Twenties British wall—holding mail (either incoming our outgoing).  The Art Deco lettering indicates a post war...

Continue reading





Oh, For the Good Ol' Days...

Remember "The Good Ol' Days"?  When airborne maladies were vanquished with a simple little sweetie?  Whether this was truly the case—or just wishful thinking and deceptive promotion—this English Thirties "Flu-Nips" apothecary jar  would have stood at-the-ready on the counter of druggist, barber or candy shop proprietor.  A handsome graphic label (presenting a red cross) sits beneath a red bakelite screw-down lid.  Its soft square shape provided shipping efficiency; the maximum amount of product could be shipped in the smallest possible box when  square vessels are snuggly packed together in a multi-bottle carton.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store...

Continue reading



Flowers for Mom - VI

The Japanese have a sophisticated crystal-making industry which really blossomed after World War Two.  Glassmaking is notoriously labor-intensive—which contributes to the traditionally high price of fine crystal.  After the war, countries like Japan (and Germany) found themselves with a large workforce desperate to get back to work.  And, with a relatively low labor cost, Japan was well-suited to develop attractively-priced, high-quality goods for an international market.  In the decades after the war, high-volume, labor-intensive manufacturing moved from the victor countries (like America and England) to the vanquished countries (like Japan, Italy and Germany).  Ceramics and glassware were some of the industries which saw such large-scale global shifts after 1945.  To its credit, Japan made a great effort to elevate the quality...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - X

We've been counting-down the days to Mother's Day with an assortment of thoughtful gifts for the important women in our lives.  Be sure to request gift boxing, if you'd like it.  We can also ship directly to your mother, possibly saving a few days in-transit.  (Please be sure to specify your desired greeting for an enclosure card to accompany your gift.) A beautiful and functional letterknife is always a welcomed gift.  And this one, shown above, is extra special.  The handle is finely cast pewter, selectively gold-plated and enameled with a light olive green.  To complete the design, hand-set Swarovski crystals are mounted into the handle.  The nicely-shaped brass blade provides the working end of the implement.  Click on the...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - VII

We're counting-down the days to Mother's Day with an assortment of thoughtful gifts for the important women in our lives.  Order early and be sure to request gift boxing, if you'd like it.  We can also ship directly to your mother, possibly saving a few days in-transit It's time to let our mothers kick-back, relax and demand a little service for themselves!  This Edwardian English tea bell may give her the assist she needs.  Tea bells were a fixture in British middle class households—back in the days when "middle class" meant a houseful of servants.  Kept on a side table or tea tray, the bell would be used to summon the help quickly and discreetly.  The specimen shown here, made of bronze "bell...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - IV

Everyone can use a little help organizing, especially busy moms.  So much the better to help her do it with style. This Edwardian English letter rack is made of brass mounted upon an oak base with handsomely chamfered edges.  A swirling bale handle emerges energetically from behind brass botanical panels.  Such a letter holder can be used on a working mom's desk or in the household: a place to sort mail, keep lists, save recipes, or store envelopes until they are ready to be mailed.  The handsome design elevates these otherwise mundane tasks—and will add a bit of visual interest to her office, den or entry hall table.

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - III

Once upon a time (and not so long ago), sewing was a basic skill familiar to most households, especially (but not only) amongst women.  While at-home dressmaking and tailoring was coming to a quick close after World War I (when "ready-to-wear" in department stores became quick, easy and affordable), most mending and altering of garments still could take place in the hands of a talented amateur.  Every house had a drawer, box, or cake tin which held the needles, pins, seam-rippers and thread required to replace a button, mend a seam, or darn a sock.  It was during this period, just before World War I, that this pincushion would have been in-use. The pincushion shown here is Edwardian English, made around 1905....

Continue reading



Light My Fire

Back in "the old days"—a time period which includes the Arts & Crafts period—maintaining and managing fire(s) was an important task.  Fires might be used for lighting, cooking, heating, manufacturing and other industrial tasks.  And sometimes one needed to "transfer" (or spread) a fire from one place to another.  In a wood-burning fireplace or stove, a "Cape Cod" style "fire starter," like the one shown above, was a useful tool to have in the household.  The "pitcher"—this one is hand-hammered steel in the Arts & Crafts style—would hold a supply of lamp oil.  A wrought-iron "wand," with a soapstone "egg" at one end, would soak in the lamp oil, thus absorbing a good amount of the fuel.  This wand would...

Continue reading



The Sign of Peace

From ancient times—in Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and Jōman Era Japan—the dove has been used as an important cultural, religious, and aesthetic symbol.  Even today, the world's biggest religions (and Paganism, too) all use the dove, usually in the role of messenger, symbol of purity or harbinger of peace.  In the Jewish Old Testament, Noah releases a dove from the ark which returns with an olive leaf in her beak, a message to Noah that the flood waters have begun to recede.  The Christian Gospels refer multiple times to a dove which symbolizes the Holy Spirit—or, more specifically, the Holy Spirit descending to Earth.  Even in secular language, a person is called "dovish" if s/he prefers peacemaking to taking-up arms.

Continue reading



The Tax Man Cometh

Two weeks from today—18 April 2022—is Tax Day, that annual heavy lift that we keep putting-off 'til the last minute.  For me, it is also the annual season of resolution: resolution to organize myself and "never go through this again!"  To that end, here's a small solution.  (A very small solution.)  This little bronze Arts & Crafts organizer, made by Silvercrest (c. 1920), could make your organizing just one little bit easier.  The bronze has a mottled and textured surface and is enhanced with an applied silver scrolling pine motif.  It could hold fresh stationery, payments to be mailed, or envelopes containing receipts for tax time.

Continue reading



Technology Face-Off

Technology—and the corporate campaign to exploit it—transforms and adapts to satisfy the "needs and opportunities" of the times.  Sometimes a "face-off" ensues: as technology marches forward, new businesses blossom and grow while other businesses wither and fall-away.  Over the last 150 years, industry has responded (multiple times) to the way society reads and collects information. Let's close-out the month of March with this interesting bookrack, made shortly after the Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century.  Before the Industrial Age, there were very few people in the Middle Class.  There were a handful of land and factory owners and a mass of people who worked for them.  Though people were taught to read, only the wealthy could afford to collect many books.  A private library was only within...

Continue reading



Beautifully Receptive

Yesterday we shared a French ceramic "comb dish"—once used to neatly tuck-away a comb on the dresser, washstand or vanity table. Today we share an Edwardian English "hair receiver."  An object like this would be found on many an upper class woman's dressing table.  As a woman brushed-out her hair, probably before bed, and loose hair collected in her hairbrush, she would gather that hair and stuff it down into the hair receiver.  When a sufficient amount had been accumulated, she would send it to a hairdresser who would fashion it into a hairpiece.  That ornament, made of her own hair, could be worn by the woman to supplement her hairstyle. This turned ebonywood hair receiver is topped with an engraved...

Continue reading



Hidden Treasures

During the Victorian Age, there was an object dedicated to every possible use.  This was especially true when it came to food service: celery vases, spoon warmers, berry bowls. But personal care and tidiness also enjoyed a wealth of strange and specific objets, like the French ceramic "comb dish" shown above.  This ceramic covered bowl, decorated with a handsome Greek Key transfer print, would be stationed at a vanity table or upon a dressing table—providing a place to store one's comb between uses.  It would contribute a measure of orderly process to one's morning ablutions.  At a woman's grooming station, there also would be a "hair receiver," a small canister into which she could push the loose hair pulled from...

Continue reading



Ode to a Shrinking Font Size

Every year, it seems, the fine print on boxes, documents and mobile phones gets smaller and smaller.  Is Kellogs attempting to use less ink?  Perhaps Apple is trying to conserve pixels?  Never mind, I say.  Just start a collection of magnifying glasses—and position them strategically around your home and office.  This brass-framed magnifying glass is nice and strong.  The antique patina provides a handsome finish.

Continue reading



School's Back

To the delight of parents nationwide, "real" school is back, at least for now.  After months of video classes, isolation and hoping for a children's vaccine, it seems that the morning school bell has finally rung.  The school bell, shown above, was made in England in the late Nineteenth Century.  It is made of a type of bronze—sometimes called "bell metal"—in the Aesthetic Movement style.  Horizontal etching on the body becomes horizontal ribbing on the shaft—carried-through to a turned, ribbed ebonywood knob at top.

Continue reading



Puzzled

Art meets engineering meets intriguing plaything.  This finely-engineered and beautifully sculpted "toy" could stand-alone as an objet d'art on your desk.  It would certainly make a nice (and heavy) paperweight.  But it is also a puzzle; its meticulously-honed solid brass members assemble into the geometric shape you see above.  Made in Brooklyn, this little work of art will prove hard to resist.  Visitors to your office will be unable to not pick it up!  

Continue reading



Tracks in the Snow

While Spring will be here in less than two weeks, there's still a chance that we may see a bit more snow.  And, where there's snow, we find foot tracks.  Human tracks, including the occasional skid mark.  Doggie tracks, occasionally turning in circles.  And the random tracks of wildlife—rabbits, squirrels, birds, deer and other indiscernible creatures—which "violate" the perfection of a new-fallen blanket of snow. My "new" neighborhood in Pittsburgh adjoins the University of Pittsburgh—in a fairly well-urbanized district called Oakland.  There are plenty of deer in the nearby Schenley Park, however, they rarely venture-out into the urban bustle.  

Continue reading



Tuesday, Two Twenty-Two Twenty-Two

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled programming (Victorian cufflinks) to make note of this exceptional day:  Tuesday, Two Twenty-Two Twenty-Two! Two golden (polished bronze) eggs sit in this rustic cast-bronze nest, lovingly crafted in Canada.  Such an interesting desk item will certainly provoke visitors to pick-up and fondle the clutch.  The nest, alone, would make a perfect clip holder, ring saver or place to throw your keys near the door.  And, of course, the two eggs will forever commemorate this special date. And now: back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Continue reading



Pulling it Together...

Though it seems I've only just packed-up my Christmas decorations, the next big deadline looms: getting my tax information to my accountant!   This always seems like a big lift:  all that digging, all that sorting, all that collating.  But, usually, the anticipation is far more painful than the actual process.  Usually I can get everything together in 8-10 hours—one long day (or two short days).  Then I can return to The City of My Dreams (New York) to meet my accountant and dump everything on him. Why not organize in style?  Shown above, metal paperclips from Italy—curled like little snails, "chiocciola" in Italian.  Approximately 125 clips come in a little round, aluminum box.  Certainly your accountant will be impressed...

Continue reading



Six Months 'til LEO!

Six months from today—on 23 July—the sun in the heavens will enter the zodiac constellation of LEO, which is, naturally, my favorite sun sign.  This also means that we've recently entered the zodiac sign of Aquarius—which is the "polarity" (or polar opposite) of the LEO birth sign on the annual "wheel of zodiac signs." In Greek mythology, Aquarius provides a remarkable story.  Tros, the King of Troy, had a beautiful son.  He was so beautiful, in fact, that Zeus (the King of the Gods) wanted him for himself.  One day, while the youth was tending his father's flocks upon Mount Ida (in Phrygia, modern day Turkey) Zeus took the form of a giant eagle and swooped-down to carry-off the young...

Continue reading



The Great Clean-Up

Most years, during the first couple of weeks of January, we've always tried to squeeze-in as many friends as possible for small dinner gatherings.  Mostly we wish to see them after the busy holiday season.  But we also want to make the most of our Christmas decorations before we put them away for the year.  What good becomes of hours of work decorating when only a small handful of people get to see them?  Alas, this year, the coronavirus has quelled our plans to open our house too widely.  And the time has come to take-down, box-up and stash. 120 years ago, the English Arts & Crafts "crumber," shown above, would have been a customary sight at the dining table.  The two...

Continue reading



Snowfall!

At this early point in the season—three weeks from winter—we've already seen frequent dustings of snow, though none of it has "stuck."  But just give it time!  Before long, we'll be heading outside, shovels in-hand. This French crystal paperweight, probably from the Eighties, depicts a delicate snowflake—"frozen" for all time.  And unlike the white stuff outside, this snowflake won't melt.  It will provide a reminder, year 'round, of the cool, crisp season which is certain to return.

Continue reading



When Do We Leave?

The Feast of the Epiphany—also called "Three Kings' Day"—is on 6 January, four short weeks from today.  The camel above might be asking, "When do we leave?"  Well, actually, he probably should have left a month ago (if he were walking). The Gospel of Saint Matthew tells us that an unspecified number of "wise men" came "from the East," in search of the new king, having "observed his star at its rising."  The Western convention of three magi probably derives from the fact that three gifts were presented to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Their precise origin is not specified, though early Christians associated them with Zoroastrian priests from Persia (who were accomplished in their knowledge of astronomy).  In recent centuries, the "Three...

Continue reading



The Tea Which Built an Empire

Reid, Murdoch & Company was founded by two Scotsmen in Chicago in 1853.  They built a food supply empire—and championed the survival of "Mom & Pop" grocery stores from coast-to-coast.  During their roughly 100 years in business, which was a time when large grocery chains gobbled-up (or displaced) small food stores, Reid, Murdoch insisted upon only selling to small retailers (not chains).  They had a wide range of products, sold under the Monarch label, which gave small stores well-priced, quality items.  Because their goods were sold in thousands of small shops nationwide, these small retailers enjoyed an economies-of-scale (a buying power) which allowed them to compete with the larger, more powerful chains.  Jams, pickles, coffees, teas, cocoas—sold across the country—paid...

Continue reading



Door Guard

In 1894, John E. Hubley opened a metal casting workshop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  His product line was metal industrial parts for electric trains. Come 1909, finding that business was slack, Hubley converted his production to cast iron toys and home furnishings objets: animals (especially dogs), bookends (many of them dogs), and doorstops (more dogs).  Hubley also cast vehicles—from horse-drawn carriages (earlier on) to scale model automobiles (later in the company's life).  At its peak, Hubley was the largest metal toy manufacturer in the United States. The terrier doorstop, shown above, is composed of two separate sand-cast iron parts (the left side of the dog's body and the right side of the dog's body).  Each dog began its life as two...

Continue reading



A Close Shave

Robert Vom Cleff immigrated to New York City from Germany in 1867.  In 1873, he founded a business at 105 Duane Street, importing German scissors, knives, surgical instruments and razors, like the one shown above.  When he died in 1907, the business was run by his widow and son until they sold it in 1926. This steel straight razor blade, imported from Germany, was fitted with a celluloid handle—manufactured and "carved" to appear like ivory.  It is accompanied by its original box from the turn-of-the-century.

Continue reading



Hoo's Nou?

Three of my favorite things converge in this handsome object: owls, pine and Art Nouveau! Add to that a fourth thing: organization!  This American Art Nouveau letter rack has it all. At center stands a handsome "Wise Owl"—the ancient symbol of knowledge and intellect. He perches on a pine branch, festooned with sprays of pine needles and clusters of pinecones.  And he's framed, at center stage, within an Art Nouveau "whiplash" proscenium arch.  The cast iron letter rack is finished with an aged brass patina, through which copper highlights peak through.  It was made in the 1910's or 1920's by Judd Manufacturing in Wallingford Connecticut.

Continue reading



Welcome, Libra

The Sun "entered" Libra last night at 7:21—making today the first full day of that gracious sunsign.  Libra will continue through 22 October, at which point Scorpio takes over. It is no coincidence that Libra begins on the day of the Equinox—the day on which the sunlight balances the darkness.  Balance is at the heart of the Libra sunsign (which is symbolized by the Scales of Justice).  Those scales come from Themis, the Ancient Greek personification of Divine Law (which was not to be confused with Human Law).  She holds the balance of justice, as does her more modern incarnation, "Lady Justice" (seen in later Western cultures).

Continue reading



Pins & Needles

If you must have "Pins & Needles," this is the way to go.  A cast pewter "Oxford Shoe"—made in the Twenties in Japan—is fitted with an interior pincushion.  It provides a handsome and handy way to keep your sewing supplies organized and ready-at-hand.

Continue reading



Seeking Still Waters

What could be nicer on a glorious summer day—perhaps in the early evening, before the sun has disappeared—than to row across a placid lake, surrounded by trees and mountains and birdsong?  This little pewter rowboat is finely modeled and very well cast.  It is perfect for holding clips, candies or cufflinks—or, best of all, business cards. It could be the perfect little gift for a boat-loving friend (who still has to go to the office).

Continue reading



Oh, For The Good Old Days . . .

Product packing can be many things: it can be attractive or ugly; it can be protective or ineffective; it can be thrown-away immediately or re-used for years  to come (or decades or a century).  This "package," an Edwardian English biscuit tin, originally would have contained cookies (maybe as a gift), over a century ago.  Topped with a white ceramic knob, it was made to last—with great style and utility.  Perhaps a paper label once surrounded the walls of the canister.  But good design and good taste have left us with a handsome vessel which can still be used 12 decades later.  Oh, that today's packaging designers would produce work that is so nice, so useful and so worthy of saving.  Click...

Continue reading



A Stitch (Back) in Time

Over the years, I've sold a handful of pincushions—all functional, some decorative, too.  But this offering is something altogether different: a wall-mounted pincushion, carved in Switzerland in the traditional (and handsome) Blackforest manner.  It was crafted in the early part of the Twentieth Century and was likely purchased as a souvenir (or souvenir gift).  The darkly-finished, scrolling branches and leaves emulate the more-masculine aesthetic seen in other Blackforest carvings.  But it is likely that a woman sat next to this handsome pincushion, working on her embroidery, needlepoint or darning.

Continue reading



The Perfect Summer

I love visiting the Mediterranean during the Summer.  Greece, Italy, Spain or the South of France—it doesn't matter—I love the warm, dry weather and the sapphire blue waters of that ancient sea (and the cultures which surround it).  Summer is always that much better when it includes a bit of time on (or near) the Mediterranean Sea.   In the handsome city of Monte Carlo, they built a large pier—to both protect the small (expensive) boats inside the harbor and to allow large ships to dock on the outer side.  On the sea-facing side of the pier, a large cement structure (called "Solarium Beach") has been designed as a series of gigantic "steps" leading to the water.  They allow bathers...

Continue reading



Lost Arts

Before mobile phones and Netflix, people spent their evenings pursuing the arts, literature or hobbies.  Edwardian English women (and those that preceded them) often sewed in the evening—whether practicing needlepoint, producing embroidery, or tending to the more mundane tasks of mending clothing.  A stitcher's pins and needles needed a safe place to be stored—a place which would keep the points safely out of harm's way while making it easy to retrieve one when needed.  Decorative "pin cushions" became popular.  Sometimes novel pin cushions would be purchased as souvenirs or given as gifts. The Edwardian English brass boot, shown above, comes complete with laces and a felt pin cushion.  It might have sat in a day room or been kept in...

Continue reading



Not Lion

July begins tomorrow—no lion—which marks the start of the second half of the year!  It is also the month which introduces the wonderful sun sign, LEO! This bronze lion sculpture is probably English, made in the late Victorian era.  In heraldry, he'd be referred to as a Lion Couchant, that is, bearing the "attitude" of lying on his belly, paws forward, looking forward.  Lions have been well-utilized in royal heraldry from the Medieval age, and each "pose" (or attitude) has a different name and conveys a different meaning.  Family (or individual) crests, military banners, and even decorative carving have captured lions in a wide variety of poses like the Lion Rampant (standing on his hind legs, front paws raised in attack), the...

Continue reading



Built to Last

My "Aesthetic Heart" lies firmly in the Mid-Nineteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries—a 100 year period including the Gothic Revival, the Aesthetic Movement, the Art Nouveau (including the various Arts & Crafts movements) and ending with the Art Deco movement between the wars.  High-end Art Deco can be sublime, every bit as craft-intensive as the earlier movements.  But what gave the Art Deco movement traction, making it so widespread, was the fact that it was well-suited to modern mass production methods—which allowed large quantities of goods to be manufactured quickly, with reduced human handcraft.  A growing Middle Class in the Twentieth Century had disposable income for the first time and they wanted to buy a few nice things (as long as they...

Continue reading



Countdown to Father's Day - X

There is a long history of handsome desk sets gracing well-appointed desks.  My favorite period is from 1850 to 1950, after which Art Deco ended and imported plastic made its debut.  At the top end, companies like Tiffany Studios in New York made handsome bronze desk sets—with numerous different types of pieces in several different styles and metal finish options.  In the first quarter of the Twentieth Century, while Jugendstil was au courant in Germany, pieces like these (shown above) were made for use on tasteful desks.  A pewter box and card holder are "studded" with three dimensional diamonds, giving the set a touch of medieval gothic style.

Continue reading



Countdown to Father's Day - IV

For decades, the pipe was the classic "dad accessory."  Even those who generally do not like smoking (like me), sometimes have to admit that the smell of burning pipe tobacco could sometimes be (at least) a little pleasant.  This handsome Arts & Crafts brass pipe rack, made in England around 1900, holds five pipes.  It is decorated with hand-hammered repoussé birds and scrolling botanicals and has two rings with which one can hang it on a wall.  Even beyond its function as a pipe rack, it is beautiful as a piece of metal sculpture.

Continue reading



Time to Get Moving!

My gym membership has been re-instated today—after months of mandated closures, suspensions, more closures and freezes. But the inevitable has finally arrived: I gotta get moving! Gratefully, I did not contract the real coronavirus.  But, alas, in my own way, I had a brush with the other Covid Nineteen (or was moving in that general direction)—and now want to drop those pounds. By today's standards, these wooden dumbbells don't make the grade.  They only weigh a couple of pounds each, if that, and were probably used originally to augment calisthenics—not for serious weight resistance exercise. But they are heavy with character. And they're a good reminder that it's time to get moving!

Continue reading



Judd Manufacturing

Judd Manufacturing got its start as a blacksmith foundry in New Britain, Connecticut during the Revolutionary War.  It later reinventing itself as a harness maker, selling sleigh bells, saddles and other equestrian gear.  Over the years, the company grew, changed hands within the family, and even split into two separate companies—one moving to Wallingford, CT and the other moving to New York City.  In time, the New York City division prospered and bought-out the Connecticut factory.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Judd made decorative metalworks for household use: banks, doorstops, door-knockers, inkwells, animal sculptures and (most famously) bookends.  The company was purchased by Stanley Works (New Britain, CT) in 1954.

Continue reading




Cutting It Close

Interestingly, while I very much dislike smoking, I have usually really liked smokers. Maybe it's their conviviality, their "lust for life," or—how do you say it—their joie de vivre. In an ideal world, I would have many friends who are healthy, former smokers.   I have also always liked the accoutrements of smoking—ashtrays, tobacco jars, smoking sets.  When I found this Spanish cigar cutter, I didn't have to think long before buying it.  It's handsome.  It's useful.  It's beautifully-made.  And it is a part of the mysterious culture of the (horrid) art of smoking.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please...

Continue reading



Winter Rose

Though Spring is here, there's plenty of winter left in the atmosphere. We are still having occasional 20° nights. Our rose plants are showing nice, early leaf growth—though, disappointingly, flowers are still weeks away.  So, until we are blessed with a real Spring rose, this Japanese crystal rose will have to suffice. This rose-form paperweight, crafted of hand-cut crystal in Japan, is a wonderful object to behold and a certain conversation piece.

Continue reading



Will Little Nell Live?

Charles Dickens published The Old Curiosity Shoppe as a weekly series in 1840 and 1841.  It proved so successful—on both sides of the Atlantic—that frantic New Yorkers stormed the pier when the final installment arrived by ship from England.  They all wanted to know: "Will Little Nell Live?" The story concerns 13 year old Nell, a kind and loving girl who was orphaned after her parents died in poverty.  She is taken-in by her grandfather and they live in an antiques shop. She is a lonely girl; her only friend is Kit, a good boy who works in the shop, whom Nell teaches to write.  Kit secretly falls in love with Nell and commits himself to keeping her safe.  But...

Continue reading



Poker Night

Once the province of weekly male bonding, "Poker Night" seems to have gone the way of craps games and bowling leagues. Cigars, blue talk and midnight sandwiches are less popular today than they were 80 years ago. Which makes this copper match holder even more interesting.  Made around 1910, it might have been part of a larger "smoking set" with an ashtray and cigarette holder.  And the tiny silver rivets hint at a sophisticated past, while the striated hand-tooled texturing remind us that a talented person craft this handsome piece, one stroke at a time.

Continue reading



Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Emmanuel College, part of the University of Cambridge, was founded in 1584 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  The original buildings were a Dominican Friary, which her father, Henry VIII, had confiscated after "dissolving" the monasteries (an act of revenge on a Church which would not permit Henry's penchant for "dissolving" wives). The new school was founded to develop Anglican preachers.  The Catholic chapel was stripped and converted into a dining hall.  In 1677, a new chapel was built by the illustrious British architect, Sir Christopher Wren.  Some of the original Dominican features exist to this day, including a large fish pond (now home to a raft of ducks) and one of the oldest bathing pools in Europe (originally used...

Continue reading



Spring Forward

Late tonight (actually, early tomorrow morning)—after we're in bed—the clocks will "spring forward" to begin Daylight Savings Time.  Don't forget to adjust your clocks before you head for bed. This Italian sand-cast pewter sandglass would make a handsome conversation starter on your desk, mantel or bookshelf.  And it works, too!  (Mostly.)  It accurately indicates a range of time, more-or-less anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes (depending upon its mood).  Like so many things Italian, what it lacks in precision it amply makes-up in style and beauty.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we...

Continue reading



Hush, Little Baby

Felines are the "royalty" of the pet world. They sleep up to 16 hours a day and hunt at night (if they can), sometimes bringing their catch home as an offering to their human consort. There are 38 species of cat worldwide, with all but the "house cat" being wild. But do not let your little puss fool you!  Within it's small and silky frame beats the heart of a LEO huntress—and she retains all the instincts of her larger, wilder relatives.

Continue reading




Deep-Sea Writer

Suppose you need to write a quick note—while sitting at the bottom of a pool or diving in the deep-blue sea. This "metal alloy" pen could save the day! Its special tip writes (semi-permanently) without lead or ink. And it will even write underwater! (Waterproof paper is another matter.) When finished, cap it with its magnetic snap-on cover.

Continue reading



Sketch in Style

Advance your lead—with an assured click, click, click—and keep-on sketching the scene. This hexagonal mechanical pencil, made in England of brushed stainless steel, will keep writing in durable style. The faceted sides keep it from rolling-off your desk. And the supply of 2mm leads will get you through many a landscape.

Continue reading



Boxing Day

At the time this box was made, in the 1890's, most middle class British households (where a box like this might have lived) would have employed at least one or two live-in servants. Naturally, the maids, cooks and footmen (if a house was really fancy) would be expected to work on Christmas Day, serving their employers. Thus came "Boxing Day," the day after Christmas and the traditional date on which servants would receive their "boxes" (containing gifts or money or both) and have their day off. To this day, England (and the other Commonwealth countries) celebrate Boxing Day—not so much as a day off for servants but as a national holiday for all. The English Arts & Crafts brass candle box, shown above, was...

Continue reading




No Lion...

No lion.  Christmas is less than one week away!  This jolly lion, posing proudly atop his barrel, has run away from the circus and is looking for a good home.  He still wears his original gold paint and will happily guard your coins (he's a bank). Click on th photo above to learn more about him.

Continue reading



Simple Joys

"'Tis a gift to be simple" are the first few words of the Shaker hymn, attributed to Joseph Brackett (written in 1848).  And it is true: sometimes the simplest things can give the most pleasure—like this simple cast bronze "correlated" (that is, "with petals") paperweight.  Years of oxidation have given it a rich, brown patina. But the spherical knob shows the slightly polished result of years of handling. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

Continue reading



Bearing Gifts

Christmas is but one month from today!  Enter three "wise men"—following a star, seeking the truth, bearing their gifts. Though we usually envision the "kings" carrying grandly theatrical and precious canisters (holding the gold, frankincense and myrrh), in truth, the travelers probably carried caskets or covered vessels that were far more modest—like the copper canister shown above.  Though humble, this canister exhibits the skill of a talented artisan—who hammered the piece freehand, from a single ingot of copper, using only a hammer, tongs and an anvil.  No mould or form was used—just a variety of hammers with differing peens—and the craftsman needed to 1) raise the piece from the ingot, 2) create a balanced form in the correct shape, 3)...

Continue reading



Temperature Falling

We're now two-thirds of the way through Autumn—and the temperature is really starting to decline.  It's time to finish putting-away my plants for the winter, to cut back anything that will hibernate through the cold and (hopefully) come back next spring, and to turn-off the water sources to outside spigots and hoses. Embrace the chill in style with this English Arts & Crafts "thermometer plaque."  While the mercury thermometer is Dutch-made, the hammered-brass plaque is pure English Arts & Crafts (c. 1900).  Summery cherry branches bear fruit and leaves—reminding us that Summer does come back every year.   

Continue reading



The Sea in Siena

Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, is known for many things: Saint Catherine (Doctor of the Church), the annual Palio horserace (in the city's expansive square), the grand Cathedral (completed in 1263), and, of course, the coveted honey-caramel Siena marble, used to make the bowl shown here. Siena marble is hand-carved into this handsome (and heavy) Italian bowl—fashioned in the shape of a scalloped seashell (often an attribute which identifies Saint James).  Use it as a handsome solution for holding business cards, clips, candies, cigarette ashes, or even the contents of an emptied pocket. 

Continue reading



Brassy Bells . . .

The base of this Edwardian English desk bell is solid cast brass.  But the dome—the "musical part"—is cast of polished "bell metal" which is a variety of bronze which produces a beautifully resonant "ding!"  It was made around 1910 and would have sat on a hotel reception desk or a smart shop counter.

Continue reading




"Ex Scientia Tridens"

On this day in 1845, the United States Naval Academy was founded in Annapolis, Maryland. The Academy's motto, Ex Scientia Tridens, is the Latin for the phrase "From Knowledge, Sea Power."  It's comforting to know that some US leaders still appreciate the important link between knowledge and power! 33 miles from Washington, DC, the Academy admits 1,200 "plebes" each year (also called "Midshipmen") and graduates about 1,000 students as new officers, mostly for the US Navy or Marine Corps.  A prospective student must be 17 to 23 years of age, unmarried, without children, and be of good moral character.  Applicants are tested for physical, intellectual and emotional fitness and must have the recommendation of their state's US Senator, Representative or Delegate.  The...

Continue reading



Three Cheers for the Postal Union!

The Universal Postal Union was formed in Switzerland in 1874.  It was the first step to create an international postal network—and provided the start of a global communications revolution, allowing the efficient and reliable delivery of letters and other mail around the globe.  On this day in 1969, the United Nations  declared 9 October "World Post Day," in commemoration of the founding of the Universal Postal Union. America's Postal Service deserves a round of applause—and recognition for just how important it is to the lifeblood of The Nation.  Postal employees are working under extreme stress; their equipment is being disabled by partisan political appointees while destructive changes to processing practices are being imposed from the top.  The goal?   To slow the delivery of the...

Continue reading



World Space Week

We are in the middle of "World Space Week"—held each year from the 4th to the 10th of October.  In 1999, the United Nations dedicated this week to the "international celebration of science and technology and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition."  95 countries observe the commemoration. The rocket, shown above, is actually a cast-bronze bank.  It can be opened (with a screwdriver) and will really make a sci-fi statement on your desk or bookshelf.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

Continue reading



World Teachers' Day

Today we celebrate UNESCO's World Teachers' Day—and remember those wonderful teachers who taught us, formed us and made us who we are today. Besides one's parents, no one provides a greater influence on one's life than does his or her teachers.  Oh, how I loved going to school—and how sad I was to say goodbye (and thank you) to a beloved teacher.  Even today, more than 50 years later, I can remember so clearly certain moments in the classroom.  They are memories—and lessons—which will remain with me all my days. The school bell. shown above, was made in England in the late Nineteenth Century.  Its Aesthetic Movement design extends up the shaft to a nicely-turned  ebonywood final atop the beautifully...

Continue reading



Mirror, Mirror

Have a last-minute check before your next Zoom call—with this heavy and handsome Gent's Faux Staghorn Bevelled Hand Mirror.  A small silver chevron, as yet unengraved, adorns the back.  It was made in the 1910's or 1920's and has just the right amount of visible age to the glass. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

Continue reading



Round One!

For the last four years, Election Day 2020 seemed interminably distant. Now—suddenly!—we look-up and we're just a month (and a tick) away from The Big Day!  By 1 December, hopefully, all the mail-in ballots should be accurately counted and the winner declared. Tonight, we begin the first of four rounds of presidential (and vice-presidential) debates. May the best* candidate win!

Continue reading



The Taxman Cometh!

With so much talk of Taxes! - Taxes! - Taxes!, there's a lesson to be learned: be honest and keep organized!  Perhaps this Edwardian English Oak Desk Organizer will help keep you sorted—and fend-off the Taxman (and his audit). The handsome quarter-sawn oak softens the otherwise workaday nature of this piece—which you may learn more about by clicking on the photo above.

Continue reading



As Clean as Possible

Though I (very much) dislike smoking, I love the accoutrements of lighting-up. So, when I came across it, I just had to grab this English Art Deco ashtray made by Keith Murray for Wedgwood. Employing his signature ribbing, Murray has lifted a commonplace item into the sublime. And it's perfectly finished with a satiny white glaze. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to...

Continue reading



Dreaming of Spring Skiing

This handsomely-carved wooden dresser box was made in 1937 in the Ukrainian "spa town" of Vorokhta , nestled in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains. Since the mid Nineteenth Century, the village has been a popular retreat for tourists and patients with respiratory problems (who benefitted from the clean, crisp air). In the late 1800's, train service increased the ease of reaching the spa and it became even more popular with visitors. Today, the region attracts skiers and ski-jumpers—though the town is popular year 'round. This box is delicately hand-carved and stained a rich ambered-honey. Notice the little glass beads, intricately hand-set into the wood. Learn more about this box by clicking on the photo above.   Though our Greenwich Village store...

Continue reading



Heartfelt Thanks

A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the customers who have remembered LEO Design over the last couple of weeks. This is such a difficult time. Everyone is affected in some way; some are being crushed. My heart breaks for my fellow brick-and-mortar merchants (and restaurateurs)—some of whom were just getting-by as it was—whose livelihoods may succumb to the pandemic. And, of course, there are too many who will be physically harmed as well. It is against this fraught background that I express my gratitude to the customers who have continued to support us. In an abundance of caution, I have suspended adding any new merchandise to my collection. Everything that is now in-stock (to be shipped) has been "quarantined" under my protection since...

Continue reading



Spring Fresh - part X

I've been spending my time—cloistered indoors—doing a lot of Spring cleaning and (finally!) attacking a handful of projects which have been lying dormant since my move to Pittsburgh three years ago. Top of the list was to build bookshelves in my office and set-up my desk. I've got a number of letter racks on my desk, similar to the one shown above. They are handy for holding blank stationery and envelopes, things to-get-to, or paid bills, awaiting mailing. This letter rack was made in Edwardian England, circa 1910. Mounted to an oak base, the brasswork includes a looping handle and exuberant panels of scrolling botanicals. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village...

Continue reading



Spring Fresh - part VII

One of the most distinctive artists of the Art Nouveau period was the Czech artist, Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939). He was born in Ivančice, at the time part of the enormous Austro-Hungarian Empire (now part of Southern Czech Republic). After studying in Munich and Paris, Mucha experienced a fortuitous "stroke of luck." The great French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, happened to call her Parisian printer on the day after Christmas 1894; she wanted a new poster designed (immediately!) for her hit play Gismonda, which was being extended due to popular demand. All of the printer's regular "house artists" were away for the holidays—but the young Alfons happened to be in the workshop at the time, inspecting another artist's proofs as a favor....

Continue reading



Spring Fresh - part VI

And now a shout-out to those brave bird souls who do not leave for the winter—the Chickadee! They nest in the early Spring, it's true, but they've been huddling here in the cold, all Winter long, waiting for the warmth to return. And a big thank you to all the kind people who put-out sunflower seeds for them during the chill. In Winter, chickadees search out high-fat meals during the day, increasing their weight by 10% by sunset, only to burn it off keeping warm through the night. This bronze bell, topped by a chickadee on a branch, was made and hand-finished in Canada. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store...

Continue reading



Pewter Perfect - part X

Time's up. So let's end our presentation of pewter items with a real conversation piece: an Italian pewter sandglass. It measures five minutes—more or less. Like so many things Italian, it may not be timely (or precise) but it always exhibits la bella figura!  Please click upon the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

Continue reading



Pewter Perfect - part VIII

Boyfriends, husbands, sons—they all need the occasional help developing good organizational skills. Why not help them do it in style? This Italian "pocket caddy" is made of pewter ("Peltro"—in lingua italiana). It is fitted with a leather pad and can easily corral the contents of a pocket or two. Near the front door, it can hold one's wallet, keys and mobile phone. At bedside, it will keep one's watch, cufflinks and rings. It can also be used on the desk to keep business cards, notes and lists of things-to-do. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store...

Continue reading



Pewter Perfect - part VII

Shown here, pewter displays its rustic side. It's a two piece German Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) desk set—a box and a business card holder. Aesthetically, it channels the Gothic, a common Arts & Crafts feature, with its rows of diamond-shaped bosses—reminiscent of the protective iron studding in a castle's large wooden door. By the way, in German, pewter is called "Zinn." Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of...

Continue reading



Pewter Perfect - part IV

One of the nice things about pewter is that it can be cast and finished in multiple ways. Earlier this week, we saw "sand-cast" pewter which exhibits charming flaws, character and idiosyncrasies. Old pewter, often containing lead, develops a rich, dark, velvety patina. And pewter can also be highly polished, like the handsome notepaper holder, shown above. It was conceived by Danish designer Erik Magnussen (1940-2014) and crafted by Royal Selangor, one of the world's top pewterers. Erik Magnussen is a legend amongst Post-War Modernist designers. Trained as a ceramicist, he worked in many materials and had collaborative relationships with many large scale gift and decorative art manufacturers. Royal Selangor was founded in 1885 by a Malaysian Chinese pewterer. His original wares...

Continue reading



What's Old is New

Although the New Year (and its resolutions) are weeks old, we are still legitimately  within only the second month of the annum. So here's a late-breaking idea to help with your sincerest organizational intentions. It's a French steel wall-pocket, enameled in white, and bursting with possibilities for upping your organization. I am guessing that it was originally used in the kitchen as a place to hold "spills" or small tapering candles (used to transfer fire from one part of the kitchen to another). Today it could be used to hold a wallet, keys and a mobile phone. Or, perhaps, letters to be mailed. Or, it could hold little bottles and tubes in the bathroom. Finally, consider it a place to hold...

Continue reading



Countdown to Valentines - part I

We're on the run-up to Valentine's Day. If you haven't found your sweetie a little something, yet, maybe we can help with some ideas over the next few days. Here's a sculpted pewter heart, handmade in San Francisco. It's just the right size: big enough to function as a paperweight, but small enough to be a love token in the hand. Its rustic casting—lightly pocked and perfectly imperfect—is not unlike the human heart, well-worn and tried by love. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Valentine's Day gift ideas tomorrow.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell...

Continue reading



American Football's Big Night

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about American Football (not much!).  I much prefer "The Beautiful Game" and believe that "A Football is Round" (and kicked with the feet). To my eye, "soccer" (as some call it!) allows the player's personality, fitness and (sometimes) good looks to shine through. American Football players are buried beneath mounds of plastic padding and nylon mesh. They also stop running and stand around a lot! Nevertheless, I love finding handsome, vintage gifts—like this Japanese Crystal (American) Football. It was made in Japan in the 1970's or 1980's. Perhaps they were usually etched with a particular team's logo? If so, this one was left unblemished. It would make a wonderful paperweight or conversation piece...

Continue reading



Welcome, February

Welcome, February, and your birthstone, the amethyst! According to ancient Greek mythology, Dionysus—the god of wine—pursued a beautiful maiden by the name of Amethystos.  Her prayers to remain chaste were answered by the gods: she was turned into a beautiful white stone.  Dionysus, in his grief, poured wine over the white stone, turning it violet.  And, thus, the first amethyst was created.  The stone’s name comes from the Greek word “Methustos” which means “intoxicated.”  Amethysts have long been believed to protect its wearer from the inebriating effects of alcohol—in fact, ancient Greek and Roman drinking cups and bowls were sometimes crafted of turned amethyst.  During the Middle Ages, amethysts (and the color purple) were associated with (and reserved for) royalty—and...

Continue reading



Before Star Wars

110 years before Star Wars, there was Jules Verne, the French science fiction novelist who intrigued the world with his stories of exotic and adventurous travel—in space, under water, and to the center of the Earth. He died in 1905, about the same time this German Jugendstil brass inkwell was crafted. It was made by WMF, the metal manufacturer founded in Gieslingen (in 1853). As with Verne's fanciful stories, WMF was super Avant-Garde in its design vision. The company is still in business today, mostly making streamlined flatware and other housewares for the modern table. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this inkwell.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still...

Continue reading



Transitional Scots

This Edwardian Scottish inkwell, made around 1910, is a wonderful combination of stoney Scottish tradition and a glimpse of early Modernism. The Scots are very proud of their stonework; Scottish jewelry, decorative objects and desk accessories are often embellished with agate and other semi-precious gems. But the silhouette of this piece is outside the range of typical traditional design. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane...

Continue reading



Well Grounded

A heavy brass mortar and pestle, like the one shown here, would have been found in any serious British kitchen—for grinding spices, pulverizing poultices, or preparing medicine ingredients. And this piece, from the Georgian period (c. 1810's) shows it's been well-used. It's also quite heavy. Whether you use it or not, it will give a great deal of series style to your kitchen or office. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg,...

Continue reading



The Complete Package

This English Arts & Crafts Desk Set (inkwell and letter rack) ticks all the boxes for great Arts & Crafts style: luxurious natural materials, handsome hand-crafted hammering, an aesthetic design "throwback" (in this case, Gothic riveting), and natural decorative motifs (the enameled "deer track" cabochons). It is apparent that a carefully hand-made set like this would have been costly, even on the day it was first purchased. Very few collectors would have spent this kind of money for their desk accessories. But it is very handsome—a true "statement piece" on your desk or credenza. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and...

Continue reading



How the Months Have Flown!

It was exactly two months ago—to the day—that I touched-down at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport for a week-long visit to the so-called "Third Rome." It was a wonderful trip! Highlights included perusing the Russian paintings in the Tretyakov Gallery, seeing the premiere of the new "Giselle" at the Bolshoi Theatre, and taking hundreds of photographs of Moscow's sensational architecture. For a glimpse into my memories of this trip, please scroll back to the dates 19 - 27 November in this Journal. This handsome tobacco jar, which I presume is American, bears the Russian Tsar's Royal Crest on its brass lid. The heavy, faceted glass jar is perfect for holding candy on the coffee table, tea bags in the kitchen, or cotton balls...

Continue reading



It's Never Too Late

At seventeen days old, our New Decade is still young. And our smoldering New Year's resolutions might still have a little life in them, yet. Keep your organizational plans on-track. Maybe this Edwardian English letter rack can help. It was handsomely crafted of quarter-sawn oak, circa 1905, and will sit on your desk or hang on your office wall. It can hold stationery, note cards, payments to be mailed or keep a collection of business cards close-at-hand. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found...

Continue reading



Victorian Modernism

This cast brass Eagle's claw—gnarled, tense, grasping—contrasts mightily with the smooth, clean, almost Modernist steel sphere which is clutched within its grip. It was made in the 1880's or 1890's, intended to sit on a desk, holding letters, notes or mail ready to send out. The claw is pure 19th Century Romantic. The spiraling sphere demonstrates early Machine Age precision. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of...

Continue reading



A Sharp Clip

What's happened to mass production? Hardly a week goes by that I am not stopped-in-my-tracks, impressed and delighted by some mass produced remnant of the Late 19th or Early 20th Century which has caught my eye. Quite often, the object of my appreciation is a utilitarian object—like a manhole cover, a bannister post, or a heater vent—that was handsomely designed and exceptionally produced. It was exquisitely designed and made-to-last—in bronze, steel or cast iron. This steel paper clip was, indeed, once a quotidian office implement—no doubt mass produced in the thousands (130 years ago). Because it is made of heavy materials, it was intended to last. And, because it was intended to last, it was given a thoughtful design treatment—which...

Continue reading



Time's Up!

After days—or weeks—of school holiday, it's time for all big and little scholars to return to their classrooms. Time's up! Mark the juncture with classic Italian style with this sand-cast pewter sandglass, made just outside of Florence. Like many things Italian, it scores high in taste and craftsmanship, less so in precision (as the timer will vary anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes). Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique...

Continue reading



Italian Pewter

Pewter—known as "peltro" in Italian—has a long history of human use. The earliest known piece was recovered from an Egyptian tomb and dates to about 1450 BC. Pewter was later used widely in the Roman Empire, throughout Europe, England and in America. It was commonly used for food service items but also in decorative applications. In the 1700's, commercial-scale production of ceramic alternatives promoted the movement away from pewter dishes and bowls. Pewter is an alloy (that is, blend of metals) consisting mostly of tin, some antimony, and smaller quantities of copper, bismuth and sometimes silver. Old pewter often included lead which gave it a wonderfully dark, bluish tone. Alas, any bowls, plates or utensils made of leaded pewter would eventually poison the user (a...

Continue reading



Getting Sorted

It's the New Year and one of my resolutions is to get my desk organized! If you're like me, this Victorian English implement will make a small dent in that task. It was designed as a toast rack—a very nice version of the ordinary morning utensil. It was intended to hold three slices of toast (each piece cut in half) and placed upon the breakfast table.  As a good American, I don't use a toast rack. First, no one is serving me at table. Second, I've always thought that toast racks were too-efficient at cooling toast—and I prefer to butter mine piping hot, right out of the toaster. But I do love toast racks as a sorting device on my desk!...

Continue reading



Clean & White - part IV

Perhaps you've given-up smoking for the New Year.  If so, good for you!  If you haven't (or can't or won't), perhaps you can continue your habit in higher style with this English Art Deco ceramic ashtray by Wedgwood. It was designed by Art Deco architect and designer Keith Murray in the 1930's. Keith Day Pierce Murray was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1892. His family moved to England while he was a boy and he served in the British Royal Air Force during World War I. After the war, he studied architecture but, finding it difficult to land a job, he took work as a commercial illustrator. In 1932, Murray was hired by Wedgwood (Staffordshire, England) to design products...

Continue reading



A Kinder Cut

The earliest modern plastics were commercially developed in the late Nineteenth Century. Celluloid—originally called "Parkesine" in the 1850's—was invented in England and played an important role in the growing world of photography and (later) motion pictures. Until the 1950's, celluloid was the base material of most film stock. But inventors admired its light weight and stiff nature and soon began using it as a replacement for ivory and tortoiseshell. Celluloid could be colored and finished to resemble both materials. Decorative household objects were soon made and the "faux ivory" version was used to make component parts for musical instruments (like tuning knobs, finials or picks). The "faux tortoiseshell" celluloid letterknife, shown above, was made in England around 1920. It would...

Continue reading



It's the Homestretch. Keep On Truckin'!

Back in the old days—that is, well before 1995—public schools used to offer something called "shop class" (okay, Boomer). It was here that awkward teens and pre-teens had a chance to play with dangerous craft equipment like drills, welding torches and bandsaws. And it was here that kids would create (mostly unwanted) gifts for moms and dads—presents like plant stands, napkin holders and trident spears. This little handtruck, made in a shop class in Fifties England, has all the hand-crafted charm one would expect of a green "soldering novice." Copper and brass were joined to form the little wagon—then fitted with four British coins as wheels (dated 1904, 1919 and two from the 1950's). It makes a charming and stylish...

Continue reading



Brassy Bells?

Silver Bells cannot hold a candle to this: a substantial (and authoritative) bronze teacher's school bell. Made in the Aesthetic Movement style in Victorian England (c. 1880's - 1890's), it has nicely-ribbed features, including a turned ebonywood finial knob. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

Continue reading



Something for the Stocking - part VII

Erik Magnussen (1940-2014) was a Danish Modernist designer who designed contemporary ceramics, furniture, lighting and metalware—like the desktop notepad holder shown above. Some of his designs were even translated into best-selling plastic versions. This piece, designed for Royal Selangor, is made of polished cast pewter. You can learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.  More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to...

Continue reading