JOURNAL — Desk Accessories RSS




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...

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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)...

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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.   

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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. 

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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.

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"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...

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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....

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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!...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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

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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...

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Shopping in Style

(Medium) At the Turn-of-the-Century, Country Stores were filled with canisters such as these. Heavy use and careless customers have ensured that not many of them still exist, some 120 years later. But we have two of them, one which I call "Medium" (above) and one which I call "Large" (below). They may have sat on shelves behind the counter—holding loose tea, spices or some other commodity—or they may have sat on the counter itself, holding candy for eager little hands. Today, they look right at home in a country-style kitchen or in a sophisticated urban loft. They could also be used for supplies in the bathroom or cookies and candy on an office desk. Please click on the photo above...

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If You Must - part I

While I have never smoked—and would never encourage smoking—I must admit that I have befriended many a smoker. And I really like the accoutrements of lighting-up. So, if you must, please do it in style (until you quit, that is).  For a few days, I will share some of our Spanish smoking accessories—all now on-line at LEO Design. Shown here is a Spanish calfskin cigar humidor, lined in Spanish Cedar.  It will hold 12 to 18 cigars (depending on their sizes) and is fitted with handsome chrome hinges. It also includes a Credo Humidity Regulator. 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!...

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Sundays Have Never Been the Same Since

On this day in 1939, NBC broadcast the first American Football game ever—to a total of 1000 television sets. The game pitted the Fordham University Rams (in the Bronx) against the Waynesburg University Yellow Jackets (near Pittsburgh, PA). The game was played at (and televised from) the Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island, New York City. One camera and one announcer covered the match, won by Fordham (34 to 7). The Japanese crystal football, shown above, was made by Sasaki in the 1980's. It bears no team name or other branding and would make a nice paperweight or "conversation piece" on your desk or bookshelf. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village...

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Welcome, Fall!

Early this morning—at 3:50 am Eastern Time—the Earth will experience the "Autumnal Equinox" which marks the first day of Fall.  "Equinox" means "equal night" and it refers to the moment when the center of the sun is right over the Earth's Equator. All around the world, night and day will be approximately equal in length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, going forward, the nights will begin to be longer than the day. In the Southern Hemisphere, days will begin to be longer than the nights. The golden leaf, shown above, is a little plate, sculpted in the form of a maple leaf. It is finished with a brassy wash and would make a perfect place for you to...

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Heavy Hearted

This is a heavy heart—in the best sense of those words. Rustically modeled and cast in pewter, it is a sculptural paperweight or a substantial token to the object of one's affection. It is also available in a brassy finish. Please click 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

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What's a "Page Turner"?

Once the printing press caught-on—and books became affordable for the middle class—there was a boom in mass publishing, bookbinding and book selling. One method of bookbinding was to print longs "strips" of paper (composed of numerous pages printed side-by-side on both sides) which would then be folded (accordion style) to form a "signature" or "gathering" (a single portion or segment of the larger book). Many signatures would be printed, folded and stitched-together to form the complete book. The last step was to "cut open" the pages which gave the book's edge a classic "deckled" texture. On occasion, a reader might discover that a page had been missed by the cutter. In order to progress, the reader would have to cut-open the...

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To the Letter - part VI

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection. We end our parade of letterknives with this contemporary beauty, also made in a Rhode Island jewelry workshop. The knife is cast in pewter, plated in 24 karat gold, enameled with a seductive olive green, and decorated with hand-set Swarovski Austrian crystals. It would make a handsome and useful addition to any desk—at home or at the 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). ...

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To the Letter - part V

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection. There's something about British Thirties design that really intrigues me. Perhaps it is the understated simplicity—the result of difficult economic times—combined with a small dash of style, an optimistic stretch towards better times ahead. This polished brass letterknife is a perfect example of British restraint and refinement—just a hint of style which will not interfere with getting the job done. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More newly-acquired letterknives tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where...

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To the Letter - part IV

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection.  Made by a Rhode Island jeweler, this contemporary letterknife is a joy to hold and use. First it is finely-cast in pewter, then treated to a 24 karat gold plating. Finally, the handle is punctuated with hand-set Swarovski crystals from Austria. I usually do not like to buy items which too closely resemble true antique pieces. In this case, however, I could not bear to pass on the letterknife's handsome design and exceptional quality. It is made to the very high standards one might have bought new 120 years ago. Please click on the photo...

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To the Letter - part III

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection. This understated beauty is perfect in its modest dimensions. Brass sheeting is cut, folded and riveted before being sharpened and polished. It's a bit of functional English Arts & Crafts simplicity—handsome and useful. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More newly-acquired letterknives 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 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...

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To the Letter - part II

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection. Shown above, a contemporary Italian pewter letterknife—understated, handsome, functional. The polished pewter blade is topped with a stag's horn finial. It's the perfect combination of urban sophistication and countryside chic. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. More newly-acquired letterknives 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 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...

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To the Letter - part I

For several days, we will be sharing some of our newly-acquired letterknives—some antique, some contemporary. Please check our website—under "Desk Accessories"—to see the full collection. We start with an English brass letterknife, executed in the Rococo Revival style. The original Rococo Movement was developed in France and Italy before moving North to Germany and Russia from about 1730 to 1780. It was typified by its theatrically exuberant style, often using asymmetrical scrolling, shells, flowers and other botanical elements. Curving lines, over-the-top decoration and the illusion of motion and drama aimed to cause the first-time viewer to be overwhelmed with surprise and awe. Critics of the Rococo considered it vulgar and in the following decades it was replaced by the Neoclassical...

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Ready for the Bell - part 6

Little "Billiken"—"the god of things as they ought to be"—would be a good luck charm wherever one goes to school.  It's most effective, however, at Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Created by Florence Pretz in 1908, this little bank was made of cast iron in the 1910's or 1920's. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   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...

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Ready for the Bell - part 4

When your desk is in your dorm room—packed tight with two roommates—neatness and organization go a long way. This Edwardian English stationery stand will help you keep note cards, papers and important printed items at-hand. It was made around 1910 of quarter sawn oak. It is handsome, useful and will serve a student for many years to come. 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...

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Ready for the Bell - part 1

Listen for that school bell—any minute now—for class will soon be in-session! And what a way to start: with this handsome (and loud) English Aesthetic Movement bell with turned ebonywood tip.  It was made around 1880 of polished cast bronze. You'd be teacher's pet, for sure, if you gave her (or him) this lovely gift on your first day. 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...

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Welcome, August!

Welcome, August, and your birthstone Sardonyx. Sardonyx is a layered version of chalcedony—irregular bands of "sard" and "onyx." It is usually found in red or brown with white banding, though the gemstone can also be artificially colored to heighten or change its natural shade. New Age believers tell us that sardonyx encourages integrity and good behavior, a lucky coincidence since the stone will also attract people to whomever holds or wears it. Sardonyx is believed to boost happiness, optimism and confidence. Ancient Egyptians believed that sardonyx provided a protective benefit, hence they sometimes installed a stone in each corner of their homes. Roman warriors would carry the stone into battle, usually engraved with a likeness of the god Mars. In more...

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"Lift Off! We Have a Lift Off!"

"Lift off!  We have a liftoff!" With these words, the world watched as Apollo 11 slowly struggled to hoist its massive body skyward—and the world moved into a new age of science, technology and understanding. Sitting on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Apollo 11 was actually a "stack" of different parts, each section to be disposed of after use, starting from the bottom. Only the very top of the rocket, the part that held the three astronauts, would (hopefully) return to Earth eight days later. Indeed, most of what we saw on the launch pad were the fuel segments to get the spacecraft off the ground and away from the Earth's enormous gravitational pull. It...

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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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