I recently had a joyous day antiquing and popping into art galleries in Lambertville, New Jersey, which along with its sister city New Hope, Pennsylvania, located on the other side of the Delaware River, might be some of the cutest towns in America.
A sign next to a painting called “The Rediscovery of Port Norris 1900-1907” by F. Hutton Shill caught my eye. It said that Port Norris New Jersey (located nearby in the Delaware Bay) was once the center for the “greatest oyster harvesting industry in the world.” Port Norris is home to towns called Bivalve and Shell Pile (how great are those names?) which were bustling at the peak of the oyster boom, but are reportedly ghost towns today. There was a time in America where Delaware Bay oysters were hawked on the streets of Philadelphia, Trenton and New York, just like hot dogs are today (according to this report on Delaware Bay Oyster Culture). Soon after, I learned that ground up oyster shells mixed with sand formed the base for roads in the area, predating cobblestones. What a beautiful pearlescent shimmer those roads must have had.
I also love oysters. In the past few years since I introduced seafood into my diet after being a strict vegetarian for 22 years, I can’t get enough. They are the most sensual, classiest thing you can order at a restaurant. I’ve eaten them at cafes in Paris, on the streets in Brooklyn, at charmingly past its heyday Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan.
So what’s all this oyster talk have to do with home design? Well you know how when you notice something you just keep noticing it everywhere? Everything is coming up oysters lately and I’m feeling compelled to bring this interest of mine into the home.
I recently selected a pearlescent tile for a client’s kitchen and while the tile is called “gin” and not “oyster shell”, I loved how much it looked like the creamy, shimmery inside of an oyster shell. And guess what pairs perfectly with a plate of raw oysters? An ice cold gin martini (my favorite cocktail).
When I found myself at a Princeton pottery class in which we were all making little pots with our hands, my pot ended up being a shimmering oyster. I think I’ll display it in my kitchen.
And I am completely taken with the works of Italian designer and artist Antonello Radi and his luscious and playful still life of food and everyday objects, like this one below, which is available at Il Buco homewares store in NYC.
I little mantra I have, mostly for writing, but also it applies for home design is “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” The things you notice again and again (or read, or listen to or talk about, or seek out) are the things you’re interested in. And one way to create a soulful living space is to incorporate those interests in a way that is also aesthetically beautiful.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a soulful home that is comfy, stylish, and showcases your interests in a cheeky way, consider hiring me as design consultant.
And if you’re not already subscribed to this design inspo/oyster history email, please do that.