Neighborhood Notes

First lamp show of 2014

Comments Off on First lamp show of 2014 Written on May 28th, 2014 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Neighborhood Notes, Olive Design
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Mary Olive Design: Unique Lighting

June 8th, 2014 12pm – 4pm

209 Westminster Road, Brooklyn, NY 11218

Join me at my home studio, and browse my collection of lamps, lovingly handmade from salvaged, vintage, and repurposed parts. Each one has been carefully considered and crafted for beauty and balance.

Featuring a trunk show of works on paper by Katie VanVliet, a printmaker from Philadelphia, PA. You can preview her work at

Many of my lamps are available to preview on my Etsy shop, and many many more will be unveiled during the show!

Family Photo Dilemma

Comments Off on Family Photo Dilemma Written on April 13th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Neighborhood Notes, Olive Blog
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Often when I am helping my clients with their spaces, we are re-organizing, as well as repainting. Disconcertingly we find layers of family photos on every available table top and surface. They sprout like mushrooms, in mismatched frames, and every one of them absolutely precious.Photo Grouping

If reclaiming the surfaces and decluttering is a goal, one solution I offer is to make groupings of family photos and hang them up. Sometimes we trail them down stairways, or they pop up in a dining room. Grouped this way they tell a compelling story, invite perusal, gladden the heart to see your family gathered around you.

My Photo GroupingThe family photos I have grouped in my dining room around the oval mirror feature Olive Van Vliet at the top, my business’ namesake. She has now been in various movies and TV shows, as the prop folks seem to like the arrangement when they use my house for film.

I have a client who has vintage photos from her girlhood in Cuba, I like to keep the black and white vintage photos in their own groupings, when possible. She had so many, and many of them were already framed, so we just went with the flow and kept the eclectic mix of frames.Wall Grouping

But often the myriad pictures are just the tip of the iceberg! Lurking in the back of the closet — or right under the couch — are boxes and boxes of photos. What to do with all of them, how to corral them, make sense of them, preserve the memories? I met a woman who does just that, Martie McNabb from “Memories Out of the Box”.

In her own words, Martie who is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, organizes and curates family photos and documents to tell the story of her client’s lives. She calls it “preserving their past and telling their story”, a story she learns from sifting through what’s often boxes and bags full of old documents and photographs. The intimate lens through which she sees her clients’ lives, the objects they deemed important enough to hold on to over years and sometimes decades, allows her to build their story.

Most clients ask that Martie compile their archives into a book. She says that 95% of the time, she does ends up making a physical book, but also creates multimedia displays shown on flat screen televisions or in digital frames. Each project she works on presents different challenges. She put together a book for one of her client’s sons, representing his life from birth through college graduation. His archive contained some of his early ”books” written in school, a tooth, airplane boarding passes and his father’s college id among other memorabilia.

Another client asked Martie to archive her grandfather’s story. A man who lost his legs and sight in World War II, the client’s grandfather managed to come back from the war impossibly positive and raised enough money for his family to survive.  Everyone in the client’s family wanted the book Martie created, so she scanned it, made seven copies and took the original to a book conservator.  At times, instead of creating new books, Martie works on things that are already made but in such bad shape that people can’t even touch them.

It is a fine thing to have personal historians among us, if not to personally curate for us, to remind us of our relationship to the past. I feel inspired by Martie, and am glad to recommend her to my clients yearning to break out of the box(es).


Cycles Recycled

Comments Off on Cycles Recycled Written on February 22nd, 2012 by
Categories: Neighborhood Notes, Olive Green
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Vintage Bikes

In the hope of Spring, and because this false winter has been so easy, I went bike shopping last weekend.  I was after a good solid bike for myself and one for my 11 year-old daughter.  The new ones I have looked at were either too cheaply made or the decent ones stratospherically expensive.  But as my style seems to lean toward yesteryear anyway, and I love recycling, I went for the vintage experience.

Brooklyn Vintage Bicycles, by Peter Whitley, is housed in a tent and basement store in Gerritsen Beach.  It’s a residential area and doesn’t look like anything from the street.  You call ahead and make an appt. with Peter.  I told him the two bikes I was after, my height and my daughters height and age.  When we got there I was amazed by the selection- more bikes than most bike stores I have visited.  All of them beautifully restored and ready to roll.  He showed us each about 4-5 bikes and we narrowed it down to a few that he and his partner brought upstairs so we could road test.Recycled Bikes

The caveats:  All the gears and cables are new or tuned up or reconditioned, everything works great, and there is a 30 day guarantee.  But remember these bikes are from the 60’s- 90’s and there are some dings, dents, rust.  You have to be into the style and value and not be hung up on it being shiny and perfect.  If you like vintage, this is probably not an issue, but just to mention.  The bike I was retiring was pretty decrepit; my new one is absolutely a Beauty Queen.  I will miss being able to lean my bike up against the side of a building and go in to do my shopping without any fear of someone swiping the bike (really, it was so unlovely that I rarely locked it!)  but the ones I bought last weekend are truly fantastic.  I ended up with an unusually colored brown Schwinn “Tourist” bike, and my daughter with a periwinkle blue wonder with chrome fenders.  We are really pleased with our purchases.  I consider them excellent value.  The two bikes together, with a lock for my bike ended up at $500.  Bikes I looked at ranged from $200-$280, all of them road-ready, often new tires and cables.Vintage Bikes

To make an appointment with Peter Whitley call him at 347.733.2079.  He says once the season starts he sells 35 bikes a week.  Stock is great right now.