Two Weeks In


English Art Deco Satin White Ashtray by Keith Murray for Wedgwood (LEO Design)

At two weeks in, how's that resolution faring?

I hate smoking.  I always have.  But I must make two important points:  I have frequently really liked the people who smoke and I have always been attracted to the accoutrements of smoking.  Some of my friendliest, wittiest and most upbeat acquaintances—those with a robust joie de vivre—are (or were) smokers.  Perhaps it's all that practice; huddled outside, in the cold, forces a certain bonhomie among the outcast coterie of surviving puffers.

As an antiques dealer, I have also been attracted to the objets of smoking from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  When I would find attractive tobacco jars, cigar cutters, smoking stands, cigarette boxes or ashtrays, I would collect (and sell) them, often trying to devise new purposes for these handsome objects.  A cigar box can be lined to hold jewelry.  A smoking stand can become a key and wallet holder near the door.  But an ashtray will always look like an ashtray—those tell-tale divots giving away the object's intention.  These could become ring-holders at the sink, cufflink caddies at the bedside, or, I suppose, ashtrays for those who still smoke.  Some customers smoke and still have a sense of style!

The English Art Deco ceramic ashtray, shown above, was designed by Keith Murray for Wedgwood.  It exhibits Murray's signature ribbed design.  Born in New Zealand in 1892, his family moved to England when the boy was a young teenager.  He served with distinction in the Royal Air Force (WWI) and later studied architecture and was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects.  Unable to find work, he worked as a magazine illustrator   A visit to the Paris Exposition in 1925 sparked an interest in industrial design—especially the new and exciting "Style Moderne" (later renamed Art Deco).  After designing a few pieces for Whitefriars Glass, he began a long and productive career designing ceramics for Wedgwood in Staffordshire (one of the most important ceramics production regions in England).  His signature ribbed designs graced vases, bowls, dinnerware and "teaware," and were popular with customers from the get go.  He later designed works in silver for Mappin & Webb, a high-end silversmith in England.

Please click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome ashtray.




and designed a few glass pieces for Whitefriars.

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 (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248