Officially Season 4 of Downton hasn't started yet on PBS Masterpiece, but I must confess I've seen the whole darn thing already. I'm so excited for the Christmas special! Hopefully no deadly car crashed this year. And hopefully lots of fabulous outfits and sets and jewelry.

But what I'm really here to tell you about is that you should follow the official Downton Instagram feed here

There aren't too many posts up yet, but it's pretty yummy!

Like many I marvel at the dinner scenes, which obviously take quite a whiile to film. I just die for the stemware. How amazing to get a close-up peak at a table setting. 

...and of course the stunning teacups and saucers and spoons.

The caption doesn't say, but I wonder if this tea setting might be at Crawley House or the Dowager Countess's home, since the china pattern is different from above. I might have to rewatch to see if I can spot this set. #nerdalert.

It's full-on 1920s style in the costumes for Season 4 and the colours and beading are magnificent. I especially love how the beaded dresses catch the light. And Lady Mary dons a couple of stunning purple velvet frocks. It's fascinating to see how her wardrobe evolves as she comes out of her all-black morning. Keep an eye for it.

Another favourite part of Season 4 is how Lady Edith really blossoms. Watch for her in some truly stunning — and even sexy — ensembles. This olive green colour is so interesting and it looks fantastic on her. Love the hair ornament and her waves are perfection.

Here's another closeup vignette. No idea where this is but that painting is the bomb, as is the brass box!

And speaking of hair ornaments — hello incredible headband! And look at the mastery of her makeup: blushy cheeks and stained lips and those brows, and little else. Happy Birthday Michelle Dockery! She and her perfect eyebrows are celebrating a birthday today. In honour, I shall post my first gif -- look for the most subtle raise of the brow. Remember this: "I wouldn't want to push in."

And you can see a few more here.

And lastly, also speaking of that scene. Here's a screen cap of a wide shot:

Check out that pretty little piece of furniture, which I crushed on since first laying eyes on it. 

Mr. A just go this look-a-like in over at his shop. Check it out at the Vintage Fine Objects blog. 

collecting: fern ware

I'm easing back into this blogging thing. Thought I'd start a series about collecting. As you may know Mr. A and I are pro shoppers. We like stuff. Especially the good interesting old stuff. You could call us collectors but please, do not refer to the things we acquire as "collectibles". It's just a term that makes me shudder. Conjures images of troll dolls and beanie babies (OK fine, I have a couple of beanie babies, but they were gifts from a former boss who was a crazy serious collector of them. Truth. She use to delight in telling us what they were all worth. Seriously hope she sold hers before the bottom fell out of that craze. But I digress). 

Alas, back to the topic at hand, which will be Fern Ware. Now, I guess, strictly speaking 2 items is not quite enough to consitute a collection. Let's consider it a burgeoning collection. This one started about 8 years ago when I gifted this Fern Ware box to my husband on the occasion of his birthday. We have a lovely tradition of buying decortive boxes for eachother. I will tell you more about the box collections later. Today is about Fern Ware. As it happens, we also have a soft spot for fern botanical prints, fern fabrics etc. When we spotted this box at an antiques sale we both admired it. It stuck in my head so I contacted the dealer after the show to see if he still had it. He did. It was fate. 

Fern Ware looks a lot like magic to me. It originated in Mauchline, Scotland (hence why it is also called Mauchline ware) in the 1820s and continued until 1933. The fun thing about Mauchline Fern Ware is that it is essentially a little DIY project that was turned into a deorative arts industry. The effect is produced by laying actual ferns on a sycamore wood object, colouring around the ferns using dark brown, removing the ferns and then varnishing the finished project. (By the by, I once overhead a young buck DIYer claiming ownership over this reverse print idea -- my eyes almost rolled out of their sockets - No, you most certainly did not invent this technique. Some poeple.) As an aside, the same town in Scotland also produced Tartanware. Also love.

Not long after, Mr. A found this pretty volume and gave it to me. It is the Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper, 1870! So in love.

It's probably the most beautiful book we own.

As if I needed further convincing of its charms, here is the inscription in the most glorious hand.

1st Prize

Awarded to

Simon B. Briekes 

For general proficiency

in 5th Class

New Dundee March 23, 1870

C.B. Lawlor


Take another look at that P.

So beautiful.

vintage fine objects - my favourites

I could go on and on about my blogging delinquency, but I will not. So here I am with the biggest news to hit the Austins in quite some time. Voilà above is Mr. A's new venture, which opened on the coldest day of the year in Toronto's Corktown neighbourhood. The space, I must say, is the perfect backdrop for his vision: double-fronted window, south-facing, high-ceilinged. Mr. A and his crew even managed to reveal much of the building's original 120-year-old flooring in all it's beat-to-heck glory. 

The sign design above and his biz cards are the work of graphic design wizard Ashleigh Schouwerwou. They are the perfect iteration of Mr. A's aesthetic. Ashleigh is the typography whisperer - check out her cool new paper goods line Paper Society Co.

So anyhoo, back to Vintage Fine Objects. Here's a little tour of some of my favourite things. First up, that mirror, that commode. The mirror is a French Empire split column mirror that I find to be handsome and understated yet so grand thanks to its massive scale. Cylinder commodes are rare and versatile little creatures that are incredible examples of the cabinetmaker's art. I marvel at the curve of the wood. Love these in a bathroom or as a bar cabinet or bedside table. I told you - versatile! (and um, the floor!)

Dear mass-market furniture company based in California (you know who I mean), never in a million years will your "craftsmen" be able to replicate the authenticity of a true classic club chair. There are a pair of these. They are really from Europe. They are beautiful.

This desk. Rosewood. Mid-century. Chair to go with. Eat your heart out Don Draper.

Mr. A and I both have a thing for old art gallery posters. This one is super cool. He also has one for a Rothko exhibit. It rocks. Then there's that art on the right -- no idea how to describe that. I have a love/hate relationship with it. And those nifty little black and white stools - Mr. A has those custom made. Simple and perfect.

Mr. Acorn here is a little cutie. It's a lidded box that's hand-carved and one of the gems from Mr. A's collection of smalls.

This sexy beast is one of a pair once owned by Canadian interior design legend Ray Staples - you can see it in the background of this pic of Ray from 1989 (and yes, a leopard pillow is just what this chair needs!). Ray was a big fan and supporter of Mr. A and it makes me a bit sad that she didn't get to see this new achievement of his. But her chairs are here and I think she'd be proud of that. She would have said "You've done good kid!"

PS That wallpaper! Mr. A's idea for a show-stopping accent wall leads your eye into the two rear rooms. Well-played Mr. A. And the carpet - want that for our Tweed place. It's classic seagrass from Reznick Carpets.

Visit the new space at 328 Queen St. E. in Toronto, 416-686-5614, or here on the Internets: ; or follow him on the Twitter here.

forgotten furniture: tall case clock

Some pieces of furniture become obsolete. And then sometimes they come back in fashion in an instant. You just don't see tall case clocks, aka grandfather clocks, very much these days. I would say their curvy Swedish cousins, Mora clocks, are a bit more familiar. However, any style of clock in a home is mostly redundant -- every appliance has a digital time display and most of us have a smart phone no more than arm's length away at all times. When's the last time you looked at a clock -- a device designed to tell the time and do nothing else -- to tell the time?

Now, I wouldn't say tall case clocks are making any kind of a massive comeback. I just think that designers with a certain eye appreciate them. Ever since I was a little girl I thought they were magical things, imbued with a sort of Chronicles of Narnia otherworldliness. But of course not every home has a spot suitable for a tall case clock. Oh to be so lucky as to have such a home...

sources: 1. Darryl Carter via 1stdibs. 2. 3. swedish interior design  4. ?. 5. Victoria Hagan.

antique markets: aberfoyle and freelton

Mr. A and I sure like antiquing. In fact, our second date was a fun treasure hunt in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood, followed by a long chat at a nearby café. Since then, we've gotten up before dawn more times that we can count to sell or shop or both. We've camped out in a tent at the Christie Antique Show in all kinds of weather to sell, and then shopped by flashlight in the pitch black before sunrise and long before the gates opened. We've been to the Paris flea markets, and Portobello and Bermondsey on London. Every time we visit New York, we check out the 26th St flea, even though it keeps getting smaller and smaller. There's one dealer in the garage flea who knows us and remembers us every time. She has the coolest quirkiest stuff. 

Last Sunday was a real treat for us -- we haven't been antiquing together in so long. We hit the Aberfoyle Antique Market in Aberfoyle, just outside Guelph, Ont. and then the Freelton co-op, just down the road from Aberfoyle. To be honest, it was a bit slim pickin's out there. It's end of season and it was drizzly. But we've been at this long enough to know that some days are more fruitful than others. We just enjoyed what we saw and being together. 

This would make the most excellent kitchen island. Either painted up in dark grey or as is in all it's industrial primitive glory.

I've been kinda obsessed with director's chairs lately so I really wanted these, but the seats were just barely wide enough for my behind -- could never deal with a chair as a constant reminder of girth -- I've got skinny jeans to do that.

Old corbels -- always love and there a just so many ways to reinvent them. These ones had a perfect degree of decrepitude and were a good versatile size.

These three were just standing around waiting to be made into lamps.

His and hers Cruisers in my favourite colour were murder to resist, but the timing just wasn't quite right for these in my life. That's the thing about antiquing -- gotta be the right price AND the right time for the find to enter your life or you have to walk away.

Nancy Drew, I will always wish I was you!

Hardy Boys (aka Shawn and Parker), I will always remember the crush I had on you.

Happy and a touch Scandi.

Mother of pearl handled silver tea strainer -- there is no valid reason why you did not come home with me. You should have -- there's always one that gets away.

Truly nobody ever got telephone design right after this one...and now it's too late. I haven't had a land line in 3 years.

Here's the lone winner. We couldn't leave empty-handed so this little table came home with us. It will get a new top and a coat of pant -- there's a drawer in the bottom part. Love the turned spool legs.

The morning ended with a classic diner brunch -- small town service, no waiting, seat yourself, no 'tude, no fancypants eggs benny ten ways, no soy latte, no homemade granola and greek yogurt option -- just 2 eggs over easy, toast, side of sausage and a toasted western + home fries, lots of coffee -- perfect.