Sunday, January 28, 2018

What is a beautiful thing?

What is beauty, does it exist and why? 

 Shop for floral prints online

A florist finds beauty in a floral arrangement, a lover in a single rose, a naturalist in the smell, a child in a fresh picked daisy, the old find beauty in the daffodil as pokes its yellow head through the snow, the forlorn find beauty in the dainty violet pressed between the pages of a book, a cynic says its crazy, that we find beauty at all.

For beauty is not something we can not touch and must be something to behold.

I confess I love to walk in the park in early spring and if by chance I spy the tiniest violet in bloom along the side of the path I walk, I smile. It is a thing of beauty, to be appreciated for its own sake, and for no other reason.

'Twas John Keats who said, the sylvan historian, who can't express a flowery tale more sweetly than the rhyme knows, 'Truth is beauty, beauty truth,' and that is all we know on earth and all we need to know.

So ignore the cynic and the scientist who try to reduce it to mere words. Beauty is a thing we feel and know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Will the New Year Bring?


The first week of the New Year has passed and it is time again to ask, What will the New Year bring?

Donna Fargo

Donna Fargo?

As I sit down to write, the words from Donna Fargo's 1975 hit of the same name prances through my memory, "This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough. The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring? The past year was good to us." Call me country, call me corny, but I love Donna Fargo. I love songs about mistakes and tomorrow and forever, and walks together through life with the one you love.*

Old friends, New friends

Here in Overland Park we saw the departure of two employees, Missy went home to Oklahoma to be near her family, Alex took a great position in another field. That was rough for us, but we managed to find three new employees who add their own special charm to our staff.

In a week they are off to Manlius, New York to brave the snow and attend the Stickley Dealer Training seminar. We hope they stay warm while they learn all about Stickley including its new Studio by Stickley Collection.

See it now.

Studio by Stickley

It is new to us. It is an eclectic mix of styles - Modern Loft, Shackleford, Feng Shui, Mid-Century,... , in mixed materials, oak, ash, walnut, and metal, with a great selection of new finishes.


2018 Stickley Collector's Piece

Stickley is calling the new year the Year of the Dragonfly in honor of its new 2018 collector's piece, a Harvey Ellis Drop Front Desk with dragonfly inlay. It is stunning, available in cherry and oak and with all the beautiful Stickley hand-rubbed finishes. Plus there is a slat-back upright chair to go with the desk, again with the remarkable dragonfy inlay.

See it now.

Stickley Road Show

I have to mention Mike Danial's return to Overland Park and Wichita for the Stickley Road Show in February. Always entertaining, always informative, Mike is our favorite speaker. The event is limited so call the store for details.

What will the New Year bring?

One doesn't really know what surprises are in store, but that is what makes life exciting and interesting. We hope you will join us.

And we wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year!


* Looking forward also means looking back. Donna Fargo was born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, fictional home of Andy Griffith's Mayberry. She had an unlikely climb to stardom, but in the 1970's if you were alive, you were singing along to one of her many hits, including the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA, which launched her career. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another season is ending

Another season is ending, we know because Labor Day is just around the corner. 

the end of the season


One last vacation and a dip in the lake.

One last trip to Whitefish, Montana, then south towards Missoula, where fires still burn in the forest, (the locals say it always burns in August in Montana). Stop along Flathead Lake and watch fire suppressing helicopters load up with water to douse the flames.

Bigfork, Montana

Then stop at Bigfork, where in a quaint bookstore I find a used copy of Bright Orange for the Shroud, a Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald, and the store owner and I talk of pottery, which is his passion. Everyone has time to talk in Montana.


Then down the road to the Raven for brisk swim in the cool lake, a beer and lunch. The smiling guests are talkative, the beer cold, the food nourishing, and the swim in the lake exhilarating.

Where are you from? I asked.

Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Georgia, even Paris, France came the replies. And scattered among the hundreds who came and stayed, are a lucky few born and raised in Montana.

Happyland, I renamed the state for everyone seems to smile.


Only a fool would leave.

I love Kansas

Don't get me wrong. I love Kansas. It is a great place to raise a family, but mountains and cool blue lakes, it has not. So, I must travel and extol the virtues of Kansas elsewhere. Ad astra per astra. Hard work is okay, and hard work gets me to Montana where I like to play.

Raven, Bigfork, Montana
Flathead Lake

Now, imagine my pleasant surprise when coming back to find the Kansas weather in the 70s and 80's.

If I close my eyes, I imagine I am still in Montana sitting at the Raven beside Flathead Lake, near Bigfork. A smile comes to my face.

Flathead Lake, Montana

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Prairie Style

May Sale on Stickley

It is already May in the Midwest, the tulips and daffodils have gone, the wheat and corn is in the fields, and it's time for our Last chance to buy Stickley at 2016 prices. Our great pricing makes this a wonderful opportunity to freshen up the bungalow, craftsman home, or whatever style house you have.

Stickley the new Studio Collection

Prairie Style Architecture and Furniture

There is a fertile piece of land in America that stretches from the Appalachian Mountains west to the Rockies, which eastern dwelling city folk find strange because it is both simple and natural.

Traveling across this green and fruited plain and dressed in suits and finery, these city folk must have wondered who could leave behind the wonders of the industrial age for this wasteland. But to the God-fearing and hard-working Americans who lived here, this was their paradise.

One took delight in the rising and setting of the sun. The milkman delivered fresh milk. The egg man newly laid eggs. And a corner grocery store stocked necessary sundries. Screen doors banged throughout the day as children came and went, headed out to an empty lot to play baseball, or coming home to cookies and milk, and backyard fences were gathering places for good neighbors to talk while the laundry was hung to dry.

A Midwesterner by birth, Gustav Stickley settled in upstate New York, deep within the forest of the Allegheny Mountains at the western edge of the Appalachias, in a region called the Fingerlakes. There eons ago, glaciers left their mark carving out the beautiful lakes that give the area its name. And there, Gustav Stickley found his inspiration in nature, establishing the American Arts and Crafts Movement and creating the Prairie Style that would become better known as Mission Style, perhaps because of its association with California. In his magazine, Stickley preferred the use of Prairie Style and Craftsman Home, but he acknowledged the influence of the California Missions because of their simplicity in style and decoration.

Like Henry Ford and his Model T, Stickley new Prairie Style was meant for working-class families and those who loved the simplicity of well-made homes and furniture. The home that Stickley designed and featured in The Craftsman Magazine was called the bungalow, or more aptly, the American Bungalow. It was inexpensive to build, practical to live in, and easy to maintain. And because this was the age before television, there was always a front porch where at the end of the day, neighbors exchange the news of the day.

The popularity of the Prairie Style was immediate. Plans could be found in Stickley’s magazine and even entire homes could be purchased from a Sears catalog; and Craftsman homes cropped up like wheat from the suburbs of Chicago to California, where in Pasadena, the Greene and Greene brothers gave the style their own unique twist.

Pasadena Bungalow bed by Stickley

The furniture that Gustav Stickley designed for these homes was both “simple and honest”. This was a term Gustav Stickley interpreted to mean that it was made of natural native woods like oak and cherry, that the construction was always handmade, using time honored techniques. Stickley’s classic designs include the Prairie Settle and Prairie Bed. Borrowing a design from noted English designer William Morris, Stickley redesigned and improved the Stickley Morris chair in several variations including the beautiful bow arm reclining chair.

In 1904, Stickley was joined by architect Harvey Ellis, who added an element of refinement to the furniture, graceful arches, and delicate inlays. You can see the full line of Prairie Style furniture at Traditions Furniture in Overland Park and in Wichita, Kansas.

Visit Traditions Home

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Timeless thoughts

I caught an episode of Timeless last night.

I had just returned from Dallas, and before that from Belgium and France, and just prior to my future plans to leave for Colorado and after that to Las Vegas. The television series about a stolen time machine seems appropriate for one, like me, who travels a lot. Sorting out the story line was, again, for me, difficult. Three protagonists all have their own agenda. A villain has a lot going on and his life story is seemingly contradictory. In the midst of the drama, the web of history is spun out, retelling tales that are true and semi-true. Reality conflates with perception.

Rewriting history is the goal, but for what reason?

It is autumn, when the good times of today, are the sad thoughts of tomorrow. It is a Bob Marley quote that has nothing to do with autumn. Still, it is a wonderful observation about time and change. What is good today is sad tomorrow. Spring and summer have come and gone. A walk by the lake with the dogs is a passing memory, one that I can almost reach out and touch, but not quite.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How do the words go?

At home in Bodega Bay in northern California. It is morning

Bodega Bay sofa by Stickley

Last night Pandora was playing “A case of you”. Not Joni Mitchell, but Diana Krall, slow and sultry with a hint of sadness. I left a note on the coffee table and went for a walk along the beach with a half drunk glass of wine and thoughts of you. 

There was a chill in the September air, but the sand was still warm and felt good to my feet. The ocean stretched out and the full moon reflected off the waves. The only sound was the wind and the waves and the music in my head. 

How do the words go? 

“Just before our love got lost you said 
I am as constant as a northern star 
and I said Constantly in the darkness 
Where's that at…?” 

If you want me, I'll be at the beach 
Until the song ends and the moon drops below the waves. 
Then, what am I to think?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cottage Garden

I wandered lonely as a cloud
   That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze...

William Wordsworth, The Daffodils

Where is a cottage garden to be found? For certain, Dove Cottage, home to William Wordsworth, one of the Lake Poets of the 19th century.

English Cottage Garden, photo Guido Gerding, wikipedia

Some say that the cottage garden originated in the time of the plagues which entered England in  1337 and took the lives of one third to one half of the population, and continued at intervals until 1665. One can visit the plague pits outside Winchester, England at St. Catherine's Hill to see where victims, too numerous for the consecrated ground of the church, were buried. Villagers, taking advantage of the depopulation of the countryside, left crowded cities and villages for greater peace in the country. Others say that landed estates built cottages for the tenants who tended the farms on the estates. Finally, there are those who say that it was the rich landowner himself seeking escape from the maddening crowds and the confines of city life.

Cottage Garden

English Garden
There is truth in all of this and more, for one can imagine Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother living in the forest far from the village, there tending her garden with its sweet smelling flowers and vegetable that she would sell at market for the little money she needed.

The cottage garden is designed to appear artless, but nothing can be further from the truth. Instead of mass plantings and carpets of color, the cottage garden is an artfully contrived irregularity that simulates the wonder of nature. Let neighboring plants and flowers live in harmonious simplicity. Lawns are replaced by tufts of grass, paths of stone that meander, and plantings of flowers that go right up to the edge of the path. Orderliness is found not in the mass, but in the microcosm with all its variety and contradiction.

OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
          A visitant that while it fans my cheek
          Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
          From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
          Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
          To none more grateful than to me; escaped
          From the vast city, where I long had pined
          A discontented sojourner: now free,
          Free as a bird to settle where I will.
Wordsworth, The Prelude, introduction

Those that live in antiquarian libraries and study the art of the cottage garden suppose that the cottage garden had its roots in the Elizabethan Age. Then, they suppose, poetry and prose lead to experimentation in planting. Pshaw! I cannot believe that.

There have always been nature lovers and certainly the cottager of earlier days must have found beauty in the occasional wild flower growing in between the vegetables. The old lady who lived on the outskirts of town knew the medicinal value of wild flowers and dispensed her magic to those who came seeking help. And even the villager who found safety behind the town walls sought to build his own castle and accompanying gardens where he and she could take delight. Thus, a pot might contain a world of color and smell. A neighboring pot an herb for stew. Another, a cure for a tooth that aches. Necessity demanded vegetables for nourishment, but mankind also needs the beauty of a rose to inspire the soul.

English designer William Morris was a proponent of the cottage garden and incorporated elements of flowers and trees in many of his patterns. Gustav Stickley was also a proponent of the honest and simple life of the craftsman home and believed in extolling the benefits of nature. The Stickley rug collection contains many beautiful hand woven Nepalese wool rugs, including Cottage Garden and English Garden.