JOURNAL — Woodwork RSS



Farewell, William Morris

Artist, architect, textile designer, poet, historian, illustrator, writer, business man, social reformer, political agitator.  Such was the resumé of Victorian Renaissance Man, William Morris. At Oxford, Morris studied theology with the intention of joining the clergy.  He was fascinated with religion, Medieval literature, and the art and architecture of the Middle Ages.  He visited churches […]

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A Mid-Year Organize

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

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Dad's Treasure

A father's greatest treasure is his children.  That is, of course, until he has grandchildren! For his less-significant treasures, how about a little hand-carved wooden treasure chest? Delicately chip-carved and incised in Poland, it is a nice place for keeping a few cufflinks, rings or collar stays.  It is a convenient place for stashing the keys.  And it would be a handsome receptacle for clips or rubber bands on the desk.  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...

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Handsome & Useful

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

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A Reflection on the Jacobean

King James of England and Scotland inherited both of his thrones from women.  He became James VI of Scotland, at 13 months of age, when his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate.  Some 36 years later, when Queen Elizabeth of England died without an heir, James became the King of England and […]

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A “Nouveau Leaf”

For some years, we've proudly carried a line of European “water gilded” gold leaf frames, including the Art Nouveau-style frame pictured above.  Made in Eastern Europe, the wooden frames are first assembled, then carved (here with the intertwined “whiplash” bordering), then painted with gesso (to smooth-out the wood, build-up any voids, and provide a suitable surface for the gold leaf).  After this, thin sheets of 22 karat gold leaf are laid over the frame and affixed with a special binder.  Before the binder dries, the gold leaf surface is “burnished” with brushes, fingers, rags and various rubbing tools to create a smooth surface on the object—which can give the appearance of being made of solid gold.

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Who Was Charles Eastlake?

“Eastlake” is a term thrown-around rather frequently—often by Americans who don’t know to whom the name refers.  Charles Locke Eastlake was born in Plymouth, England in 1836. He studied architecture and designed some furniture, although, since he was not a woodworker, any such pieces were produced by others.  He is most well-known for his book […]

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Science and The Art Nouveau – Part Three

“All beautiful works of art must either intentionally imitate, or accidentally resemble natural forms.” – John Ruskin,  The Stones of Venice,  1851 Another newly-expanding “world of science” at the turn-of-the-century was that of Neuroscience. Two scientists, Jean-Martin Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim, made great strides in the understanding of the human brain, dreams, hypnotism, and mental disorders. […]

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Pride and Prejudice

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

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Quarter-Sawn Woods

In Arts & Crafts woodwork, the most highly-prized wood is usually “Quarter-Sawn.”  In regular (non-quarter-sawn) wood milling, the log is run lengthwise past blades which cut the log into a number of parallel planks.  When the cutting is done, the log could be reassembled like a sandwich—with the center planks being the largest and the […]

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Folk Beauty

From the Ukrainian spa town of Worochta (in the Carpathian Mountain), comes this hand-carved folk box—inset with little glass beads.  It's the perfect blend of sophisticated style and proficient folk craft and is dated 1937.  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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Welcome, Capricorn!

Today the Sun enters the heavenly zone of Capricorn (21 December - 19 January). Capricorns are the "Big Daddies" of the zodiac. They are realists, goal setters and strategists. They analyze, pick their destination, determine the shortest route and then keep their foot on the gas pedal. They make good, practical leaders, who keep their troops on the straight-and-narrow—not easily pulled off-track to "smell the flowers" or "try something new." They enjoy family and work life, and are often happiest when they can blend work and pleasure.  All this stoic self-direction can have negative aspects, however. Ruled by Saturn, Capricorns can be stern taskmasters—with no appreciation of spontaneousness or creative chaos. Foolish decisions really get their goat! And their paternalistic...

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One That Didn't Get Away!

I spent 10 days in Japan this summer—and did not see ONE of these fantastic hand-carved Hokkaido bears.  Instead, I came across a Japanese collector in London who was selling his collection of them!  I bought four (which can be seen on the website, www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  This one is the biggest—and amongst the biggest carved bears I've ever had.  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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Yesterday's Bookends - part II

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

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Yesterday's Bookends - part I

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

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Tramping-Off into the Future

With five days left before LEO Design closes its door, we’re frantically trying to pack and help customers—and, boy, are there a lot of customers!  Sales have been brisk; it’s like Christmas in January!  All merchandise is marked-down 50%, including what remains of our antique frame collection.  Please come into the shop to find yourself […]

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Notes From the Road – part IX

I loved this oak-framed, bevelled mirror the minute I found it!  After dragging it through Rush Hour London (on the Tube), I got it back to my hotel where (dang!) it wouldn’t fit into by suitcase.  As a result, I had to drag two (huge) suitcases plus a 1920’s English mirror through Victoria Station and […]

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Old Bayeux

One might think that the hundred-year-old English Arts & Crafts box (shown above) is old. The inspiration for its carving, however, is many, many times older.  The box is inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230 foot long embroidery made in the 1070’s.  It was commissioned to celebrate the Norman Conquest during which the English king, […]

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New English Receipts – part XI

Never again fret, “However shall I serve my olives or cocktail onions?”  Now, in Edwardian oaken style, you may dispense with that (particular) dilemma.  An oak “barrel,” affixed with silver-plated brass mountings, is fitted with an interior ceramic crock to hold your cocktail (or other) condiments.  A silver-plated bident (yes, this is a word) serving […]

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New English Receipts – part II

Over the next several days, we’ll be sharing some of the new finds from my recent English buying trip.  Shown above, a strong and handsome Victorian English Gothic Revival oak box with brass strapwork and studding.  Made in the 1880’s, it is lined with a (now) gently-worn fabric interior.  It captures—in woodcraft—all the seriousness and […]

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Mexican Aesthetic

Like nothing I’ve ever bought before, and yet, very LEO Design.  It’s a wooden dresser or trinket or desk box made of turned lemonwood which has been ebonized and hand-etched. Stylized flowers and graphic elements give it a vaguely Aesthetic Movement sensibility though it remains solidly-grounded in Mexican folk art.  Please come into the shop […]

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Boxes Galore

I’m always buying boxes—old boxes, new boxes, small boxes, large.  Some are antiques, others are contemporary.  Wood, pewter, copper, ceramic—there’s always a useful purpose to which a handsome box can be applied.  Shown above, a selection of our antique wooden boxes (c. 1850’s – 1950’s).  Please come into the shop to see them all.   […]

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Boxing Day

Boxing day—celebrated in England and English Commonwealth countries—is not too-widely observed but it does have a long and interesting history.  It is celebrated on 26 December and began during the Middle Ages, on the day when churches would open their alms boxes and distribute the money to the poor.  In later years, it became the […]

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A Parliament of Owls

An old favorite at LEO Design—back for another Christmas season.  Peruvian fair trade craftsmen collect the gourds, dry them, then decorate them with paint, carving and a hot stylus.  Cheery and bright and every one just a little different from his branch mates.  Please come into the shop to see them in person or click on […]

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Ivy League

Yesterday’s journal entry about Harvard sets-up today’s entry quite nicely: a different kind of ivy. Shown above, an English Arts & Crafts mirror which we’ve just acquired.  Its bevelled, oval glass is surrounded by a thick quarter-sawn oak frame which has been deeply-carved with a trailing ivy motif.  Perfect over a dresser, in a powder […]

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Fresh from the Islands

Another elegant item I found on Kauai is the koa wood triple-divided trinket box, shown above ($175). Perfect for cufflinks, watches, collar stays or even on an office desk, it has a streamlined design, perfectly softened by the rich, lustrous woodgrain.  In Hawaiian, a box is called “pahu.”  We call it a “Handsome Gift” for a […]

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Return of the Native

As many of you know, I was born and raised in Hawaii.  Earlier this month, I returned home to Kauai where my three brothers and I celebrated my father’s eightieth birthday—a happy milestone for our family. While on Kauai, I visited the local woodworkers, from whom I bought the photo frames pictured above.  They are […]

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Aesthetically Exquisite

I don’t use the word “sublime” a lot—I guess I dislike hyperbole.  Nevertheless, these newly-received Japanese business card holders are just that.  Made of hand-crafted and hand-lacquered oak, they are beautifully sculpted and finished—and a delight to hold.  A tiny, embedded magnet closes the hinged top with a satisfying “snap.”  Available in a medium brown […]

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Stick with It

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

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A Beautiful Grind

We’ve just received a shipment of stylish and practical salt and pepper grinders, hand-turned in Los Angeles.  Made of white oak (for the salt) and black walnut (for the pepper), both shakers are fitted with a precision grinding mechanism—stainless steel for the pepper and an industrial grade ceramic mechanism for the salt (since salt and […]

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VICTORY!!!

On this day in 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered, accepting the conditions of the Potsdam Agreement.  World War II was over!  During the previous week and a half, the United States had dropped atomic bombs on both Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki (9 August)—an act which unleashed heretofore unknown savagery upon the Japanese people. The […]

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“Tramp Art”

While the term “tramp” seems insensitive—in light of our modern understanding of poverty, mental illness and homelessness—it was used for many years to refer to a wide range of men (usually) who lived on the streets, in fields, or “rode the rails.”  Sometimes the notion of “hobo life” was given a romantic twist—illustrated by a […]

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Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau wanted to shake-up his thinking, clear his head and contemplate life, mankind and society. In search of solitude and simplicity, he moved into a cabin on Walden Pond, on the property of his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. For two years, two months and two days, he lived alone, seeking […]

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Greeting August

Let’s welcome August and celebrate one of the month’s birth flowers: The Poppy. Poppies are thought to have originated in the Western Mediterranean and have been cultivated by Western and Central Europeans from about 6,000 BC.  Early on, people recognized the analgesic properties of the plant.  Ancient Egyptian doctors had their patients chew a mouthful […]

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Before Bookends

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

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Aesthetically Pleasing

Remind your Dad who’s King of his Castle with this handsome, late-19th Century American Aesthetic Movement mirror, recently-acquired.  While not the most typical of Father Day gifts, it will certainly make a handsome—and useful—addition to your father’s abode. Come see it in-person or click on the photo above to learn more about it. More interesting […]

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Be Prepared

From Laguiole, France comes this collection of handsome (and useful) pocket knives. Hardened stainless steel blades are clad in exotic hardwoods.  Polished brass bolsters complete the look.  At 3.75″ long (when closed), the size is big enough to be useful but small enough to be kept in one’s pocket.  At front: Thuya wood.  Behind (left-to-right): […]

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Notes From the Road – part III

I continue to travel through New England this week, in-search of “Handsome Gifts”—especially gifts for Father’s Day.  I’ve assembled a collection of impressive mirrors, two of which are shown above.  The front mirror, made during the 1840’s to 1860’s, is crafted of mahogany veneer over a curved “ogee” profile.  The larger mirror, in back, is […]

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Mirror, Mirror . . .

What a dreary winter we’ve had!  It makes sense that cooped-up New Yorkers would seek to bring more light into their apartments.  For this reason, we sell a lot of lighting fixtures and mirrors—which produce and reflect light—during the Winter and early Spring. Shown above, a hand-carved oak-framed bevelled mirror, crafted in Victorian England. Made […]

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Vintage Folk Craft

Some folk craft is rustic and “naive.”  Other pieces, like the wooden box above, displays a more refined aim and ability.  Bold stripes create a striking effect and the original finish is curdled in a way that only the passage of time can deliver.  We have a large collection of vintage boxes in-store and have […]

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Bearing Gifts

Like the Magi bearing gifts, use this English Gothic Revival box to store some of the things you treasure.  Made of English quarter-sawn oak during the British Arts & Crafts period, this cassone—or “casket” or trunk—bears a hand-carved 16th Century aesthetic.  It is part of the most recent English shipment now in-store at LEO Design. […]

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A Hand-Tooled Beauty

Perhaps it’s a bit too late to store your outgoing Christmas cards here—but this would be a beautiful place to keep the cards you’ve received!  This English Arts & Crafts letter rack, made of oak and decorated with hand-tooled brass panels, depicts a fire-breathing, winged dragon and a spray of stylized flowers and foliage.  A […]

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Notes from the Road – part VI

Well, my trunks are packed and my last-minute buying trip to England is coming to an end. I’ve found a lot of nice, Handsome Gifts on this trip including the English Arts & Crafts carved oak trunk, shown above.  Throughout the worldwide Art Nouveau Movement, designers and craftsmen often revived earlier cultural themes or design […]

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English Arts & Crafts

Amongst the nicest photo frames I’ve ever had, this English Arts & Crafts beauty is crafted of a heavy piece of hand-hammered copper mounted to a thick piece of quarter-sawn oak.  A pair of willowy repoussé tulips frame the central photo.  Truly a terrific piece of Arts & Crafts decorative objets—it surely won’t be in-store […]

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Happy Thanksgiving

A sense of gratitude can contribute to a life of happiness.  I have many things to be grateful for—amongst them, my shop, my staff, and my customers.  Thank you all! Service to others can be fulfilling and rejuvenating.  On Thanksgiving, service may take the form of feeding friends and loved ones—or, perhaps, strangers or the […]

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Notes From the Road – part VIII

The English Arts & Crafts Movement—like its counterparts in other parts of the world—drew inspiration from the culture, mythology and aesthetics of the past.  Gothic strap work, medieval characters, ancient heraldry all became sources for design inspiration for turn-of-the-century craftsmen. In the example above—a handsome pair of oak barley twist candlesticks with hammered pewter bases—the […]

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Pure Gold Leaf

The frames above are another part of our extensive collection of photo frames.  Made in Europe, the frames are first constructed in wood, coated with gesso, then incised with various decorative elements if applicable to that design.  Next, the frames are water gilded with 24 karat gold leaf—paper thin sheets of pure gold.  Finally, certain […]

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And Four Months ’till Boxing Day

And, if yesterday marked four months ’till Christmas, today marks four months ’till Boxing Day—the day when (traditionally) English servants and tradesmen would get the day off—and maybe a present—from their employers. Speaking of boxes, the one pictured above—made of quarter-sawn oak in the early Twentieth Century—is very handsome, indeed.  The oak strapping and brass […]

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Bon Jour, Bretagne

Bretagne—or “Brittany” as it’s called in English—is a little spit of land that juts off of France’s Northwest coast, into the English Channel, due south of England.  It has a history of being invaded, occupied, and influenced by the various tribes and empires that came along: the Celts, the Romans, the Britons, and the Gauls. […]

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Captain Cook “Discovers” Hawaii

On this day in 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook sailed past the Hawaiian island of Oahu with his ships the HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, making him the first European to lay eyes on Hawaii.  Two days later he landed—this time on the island of Kauai—at Waimea.  Cook made an impressive entrance, with his […]

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A Flock of Owls

A flock of little, red Holiday owls has landed at LEO Design, here to remind us:  “Only one month ’till Christmas Eve!” Another reminder, this time from our ornithologist friends:  a group of owls is called “a parliament.” Click on the photo, above, to learn more about these Peruvian, hand-made ornaments.

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Koa Wood from Kauai

In the Hawaiian Islands, one finds an exotic and precious hardwood called Koa.  In the time of the Ali’i (the Chief), Koa was plentiful—large trunks were hollowed-out for canoes, others were planed into surfboards, and smaller pieces were hand-fashioned into bowls, ukuleles, furniture, even flooring.  Today the wood is protected; one must have a permit […]

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Back from England

I’m just back from the UK where I spent ten days hunting treasures for the shop. It was exhausting, yet fruitful; nevertheless, I’m glad to be back.  I’m also glad to report that all merchandise has arrived—no worse for wear—and is cleaned-up, priced, and sitting on the shop floor.  Awaiting your visit! The piece above, […]

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Greetings from London – part V

Another favorite of mine is antique boxes—and I hunt for them on my trips.  The oak box above, from a British collector, was made in the late Victorian era—1880’s or 1890’s.  It has a light Gothic Revival feeling, modeled after a trunk, with studded strapwork and decorative brass mountings. See it in the shop, along […]

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September: Morning Glory

We welcome September and its birth flower, the Morning Glory. With its cordate (heart-shaped) leaves and climbing vines, the Morning Glory comes in many colors—usually blues and purples but sometimes in reds or oranges (like those which decorate the hand-painted English Arts & Crafts frame, above).

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Barley Twist

The attractive carved design element known as the “Barley Twist” enjoyed a revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (as shown in the wooden candlesticks, above).  But the use of this design element is thousands of years old.  They were originally called “Solomonic Columns” and are believed to have been used in the […]

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