St. Paddy’s Day

(Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”)

I visited Ireland once in high school on a British Literature tour. We visited The Book of Kells, The Cliffs of Dover, Trinity College, Dublin, Killarney, and the original place where Irish Coffee was invented in Limerick County (which included waiters milking and whipping fresh cream on the side of the road). My favorite Irish authors include the classics: W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and C.S. Lewis. However, my favorite contemporary Irish feminist and poet is Eavan Boland (READ HER NOW).

Rather than focusing on the traditional Irish Flag hues – Kelly Green and Orange – let us delve into a less literal approach for Irish interior design. I remember staying in several old B&B’s, castle lodging, Victorian inspired Hotels, and modern caravansaries. During my tour I passed hundreds of shaggy sheep, miles of peat moss bogs, and would sometimes find myself screaming, “HEATHCLIFF” across the moors (or was that Wuthering Heights? OK, I know it’s technically in Northern England but the Brontes are originally from Ireland). The emerald isle was gorgeous, but is not just GREEN colored – other than WITH ENVY for its beauty. Har har. Here are two of my favorite hotels and respectively, each space’s interior delights:

The G Hotel in Galway, Ireland. The Pink Salon image courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler, HERE. The g’s glamour is completely local: Mad milliner Philip Treacy, a hometown boy, designed this 101-room stunner.

The G Hotel in Galway, Ireland. The Grand Salon image found HERE.

The G Hotel in Galway, Ireland. Matz Restaurant image courtesy of Adventures of Brute Force, HERE.

The G Hotel in Galway, Ireland. The Suite image courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler, HERE.

The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin by Renaissance Hotels and Resorts in 2008 – “The grand dame of Dublin cultural society”, Image found HERE.

The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. The Constitution Room is where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922 under the chairmanship of Michael Collins. Images courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler and The Shelbourne, Dublin.

The Grace Kelly Suite in The Shelbourne, Dublin. Image found HERE. This suite is named in honour of the Famous Hollywood film star, Grace Kelly. Princess Grace and her husband stayed at The Shelbourne Hotel many times and had an attachment to room 270, with the finest view of St. Stephen’s Green of all city centre Dublin hotels. 

The Lord Mayor’s Lounge at The Shelbourn Hotel offers high tea service wherein the teabags are made of silk. Lord Mayors of Ireland take a stroll in this elegant, sunlight room during their inauguration.  Historical note: During The Easter Rising in 1916, forty British soldiers were garrisoned at the hotel. Consequently the Shelbourne came under regular fire. When fighting broke out on the Green on Easter Monday, afternoon tea was relocated to the rear of the hotel for safety.


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Terra Firma

What is a Terrarium You Ask? (What? You didn’t ask that? Oh well, here we go!)

Terrariums were originaly used in curiosity cabinets or research labs as simulated portion of an ecosystem for a particular species on smaller scale. A terrarium is built to mimic the natural ecosystem of said plants, with controls for the environment that would appear naturally such as rocks, lava, peat moss, etc.  A terrarium is particularly for land based species with a focus on dry habitats or woodlands, but I bet you can recognize some of the other conjugations of the word’s latin root  – Aquariums, Insectariums, Vivariums, Planetariums, and  Paludariums. A terrarium is mostly commonly in a transparent to translucent container, such as glass, so as to allow for observation of growth!

(Image found HERE.)

The bringing of the art of the terrarium is generally credited to a man penned Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. He published a book called “On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases” in 1842. Terrariums were all the rage during the Victorian Era. During this time period a terrarium was actually known as a “wardian case”, the style of the case looks very similar to a gas lantern or a moroccan lantern, cast in steel with clear plate glass walls. A terrarium was considered a craft and a hobby by the women of leisure, they were obsessed with collecting exotic plants, feathers, shells, and taxidermied animals as a way to show off one’s skill, design, and curio cabinets.

I prefer my terrariums to be a bit less serious than those during the 19th century. Today’s DIY is dedicated to making a terrarium as cheaply, quickly, and yet beautifully as possible (clearly I like adverbs).

Step One: Find a friend! You can obviously make a terrarium by yourself, but it’s more fun hunting down supplies and running errands with a friend. I chose Kimberley, if you have a friend named Kimberley, choose her too for the sake of proper duplication!

Step Two: Go to a Thrift Shop (try on hats, jewelry, and ephemera) but also buy a glass vase with a large mouth for less than $2.99. Kimberley’s was $2.99 and mine was $1.99. Vases of the same shape and construct run into the $30.00’s-$100.00’s  for new ones!

Step Three: Go to the $0.99 store (aka the Dollar Store, where most things are actually $3.00-5.00 dollars in NYC) for toy dinosaurs! We placed ours in the terrarium scene to mimic the Jurassic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic era – they look as though they are walking among the ferns. You can also create a scene with toy soldiers, snowmen, or any other miniatures available. The sky is the limit when one’s imagination is involved.

Step Four: Go to Home Depot or your local Mom-And-Pop hardware store to collect “Succulent and Cactus Soil” (important for drainage, succulent’s roots cannot be WET, they begin to ROT and smell), a bag of rocks (planting rocks, small to medium, again for drainage, these things do not want to be WET). These ingredients cost about $10.00 total.

Step Five:  (or maybe Step One) Purchase succulents or cacti in bulk online for cheap HERE or HERE. They came quickly (2 to 3 days), expertly packed, and healthy!  You can also buy these in person at most florists or some hardware stores.

Step Six: Place rocks on the bottom layer, then soil, then plant your plants, the rocks again! You can layer these as many times as you like, think about when you were young, at the carnival, and you used to make SAND BOTTLE ART.

Oh hello Mr. Cagney Ferdinand Toledano-Veisblatt. You are a cat, you aren’t supposed to be a vegetarian! Why do you always chew my lucky bamboo, aloe, and greenery?

Step Seven: Place dinosaurs! Et Voila! Find a suitable spot in the house for your designs. Preferably a place that gets sunlight for part of the day.

If you don’t have time for, or just plain don’t feel like DIY-ing, Terrariums can be purchased online in a pre made kit, or even in fully formed and ready to send varieties (try here or here or here)! If you want to learn more about this art form, I would highly suggest buying Tovah Martin’s The New Terrarium. Aside from being informative it also makes a lovely coffee table book.