Saturday, August 7, 2010


I'm off on a jet plane to somewhere cool and wet for a much needed break. I'll leave you with some of my pictures of the beaches in California I saw last month - aren't they breathtaking? The above photos are from route 1 through the Big Sur, a trip I would recommend to anyone. Remember to rent a convertible, it's worth it! Just DRIVE SLOWLY!
Above and below are Carmel Bay -with Pebble beach seen above across the water. The Pacific might be too cold to really swim, but it's certainly beautiful.
I've gone through one of the toughest months imaginable but I suppose thats all part of growing up. I'll hopefully be back in a week renewed, restored and ready to get back to blogging regularly! Have a great week!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Spreckels mansion

What did we do before the internet? And more importantly -what did I do before blogging! I had so many emails and comments on yesterdays post and it's been quite the history lesson on the Spreckels Mansion in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. I thought I should sum it all up in a post so we're all on the same page on this beautiful mansion.
Built by Alma Spreckler (grande dame of San Francisco) and her husband Adolph Spreckels (his name comes second on purpose if you get my drift) from 1912-1913, the 55 room beaux-arts limestone mansion was designed by George Adrian Applegarth. Applegarth had graduated from the renowned Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and after returning home to the Bay Area, he designed many of the cities most famous properties. Applegarth was, for a time, partner with another graduate of the Ecole, Kenneth MacDonald, in the firm McDonald and Applegarth. They were young architects directly after the devastating 1906 earthquake which definitely helped their careers along! The partners split in 1912 during the construction of the Spreckels Mansion. Applegarth went on to a very long and prosperous career in the Bay Area, most famously the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park for the Spreckels (which I briefly mention in an older post HERE). Alma lived in the house until her death in 1968. At one point she had the original front door, seen above, moved to the side where it currently is beneath a porte cochere. After her death, the house was divided into 4 full floor apartments until being sold by the family to Danielle Steele, who returned it to a single family residence.
The house has been somewhat controversal since the day it was built, mainly through its' association with the gregarious and eccentric Alma Spreckels. Alma allowed the house to be used as the setting of a nightclub in the 1957 Frank Sinatra movie 'Pal Joey' (my grandma's favorite movie!). She also hosted garage sales on the property to raise money for numerous charities. However, the controversies don't stop after Alma; they continue under the current owner, the author Danielle Steele. Apparently Steele is chastized for not taking better care of the exterior of the house (despite numerous remodels of the interior over the years) and shrouding the house in TALL bushes, hiding it from Lafayette Park across the street. She likes her privacy I guess! However in the days of the Spreckels, the house was painfully lacking in landscaping, allowing the public to enjoy the beautiful home. Also, despite having an indoor garage and large outdoor parking court, Steele apparently is hogging parking permits for 24 street spots in a very congested area. Tsk, tsk Danielle!
Thanks to everyone who helped fill me in on this magnificent estate. If anyone knows of any interior photos, please send them my way!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A timeworn beauty

One of the best ways to explore any city is to wander around. While in San Francisco and heading to Grant Gibson's apartment (where he was kind enough to throw me a little birthday brunch for a group of bloggy friends that you can read about over at katiedid; thanks again!!) I decided to waste a morning and walk. Along the way I came across this beautiful old house with a lovely worn patina. I love this freize along the cornice.
Not to mention an amazing view. One of THE views in a city of views; Notice Alcatraz in the background. All I could concentrate on though was this house and the similarities to the Petit Trianon.
Built of sandstone (or some other soft facing) the facade is slowly wearing away. At some point an attempt at stopping this had been made by painting the stone but even the paint is now peeling. The house might not be around for another 100 years but it will be lovely in the meantime.
The property is huge, with an enormous backyard facing the bay built over a garage with entry from the rear, seen here. A much later addition, this was faced with marble and is wearing much better.
And who lives here? Well according to my sources, none other than Danielle Steele! The house certainly is fittingly romantic.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bonsai Bonanza

Many thanks to the Midwest Bonsai Society for choosing a photograph (with permission) from my post on the National Bonsai Museum back in April. It was so exciting for me to see this photograph in use! Who said blogging wasn't fun......
If you're in the Chicago area, stop by to see the 33rd annual exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden later this month, August 20-22nd.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Favorite Houses

Do you have a house, maybe from your past, that haunts your memory? For me it's this French styled mansion in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Amberson Avenue, probably from the 19-teens. While visiting this past weekend, I had to drive past to 'check up' on it.
I used to attend the church across the street and one of my favorite parts of Sundays was walking past this house. Glad to know it's still looking good!
Pictures taken with my new Droid incredible. Not 'incredible' photos but surprisingly good for a camera phone!