Durham Castle

Durham Castle

Romancing a castle, or is it romance in a castle? We are fascinated with the idea of a castle. Kids create sand castles, sculptors carve ice castles and street artists paint 3-D images of castles onto sidewalks. Castles were built for the Crusaders as protection–designed for strength, not beauty. Yet their massiveness and skillful masonry convey a sense of grandeur and of style. There is no mistaking the character of a Norman Keep at the top of a castle.

Durham Castle Keep exterior

Durham Castle Keep exterior

Castles were designed to deal with weapons and tactics which changed  slowly, and the availability of materials, manpower and skills was also influential. The shortage of timber in Palestine, for example, encouraged the use of more stone than in Europe.

For some centuries, the security of life in towns depended upon their fortifications, and the constricting girdle of walls and towers did much to shape the architecture of cities. As with the island of Manhattan, they encouraged high rather than wide building. Castles were fortified villages, sheltering people of every level of society and providing a store for grain against famine as well as imminent siege.

Durham Keep Terrace

Durham Keep Terrace

Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, England. In 1837, the castle was donated to the newly-formed University of Durham by Bishop Edward Maltby as accommodation for students. It was named University College. Architect Anthony Salvin rebuilt the dilapidated Keep from the original plans. Opened in 1840, the castle still houses over 100 students, most of whom are in the Keep.

Castle Keep details (Dover Castle)

Castle Keep details (Dover Castle)

Click the Keep above for the details.

The castle stands on top of a hill above the River Wear on Durham’s peninsula, opposite Durham Cathedral.The castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman king’s power in the north of England, as the population of England in the north remained “wild and fickle” following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an example of the early motte and bailey castles favored by the Normans. The holder of the office of the Bishop of Durham was a appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf, the castle was his seat.

Castle Bodiam moat

Castle Bodiam moat

The design of castles has always been a subject worthy of princes. Château Gaillard is a ruined medieval castle, located 90 meters above the commune of Les Andelys overlooking the River Seine in the Upper Normandy region of northern France, one of the most original designs, was the personal achievement of Richard I of England. The owners of most castles played a large part in their design.

Chateau Gaillard, France

Chateau Gaillard, France

The evidence is scanty, but we can reasonably surmise  there was a close working relationship between the princes and the peers who designed the castles and their usually anonymous master masons, who signed their work with their individual marks.

chest 12th century

English: 12th century oak chest iron wrapped. Original purpose-to store alms from sinners seeking remission

The styles of this period are known as Romanesque and Norman (800-1150). After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the new king, William the Conqueror granted protection and repose to the conquered Saxon Thanes. Medieval homes were sparsely furnished by modern standards. The most common items were chests. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Besides serving as easily transportable storage containers, the chest also served as tables and for seating. Wood of the day was oak, or whatever local woods were available. A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, will give you a first hand look at this type of work.

chest-Tudor type (wood-oak)

Oak chest-iron wrapped

The seven Crusades that occurred between the years 1096 and 1270 were of great political, economic and artistic importance. The Crusades did not accomplish any lasting good so far as their original purpose was concerned. They brought, however, a great change in the thought and in the manner of living of the people of Europe that was first noticeable in the Gothic period. They awakened interest at home in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Asia Minor, and the highly developed culture of the Eastern Empire, and they developed a doubt concerning some of the doctrines of the established Roman church, that later formed the roots of the Renaissance.

Durham Castle is jointly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, a short distance across Palace Green.

Would you like to live in a castle? Hmm, well, experience living in one for a day, a week, a year?



* Beautiful Blogger Award *

* Beautiful Blogger Award *

Yay! Its Thursday and I have some good news to share.

Beautiful Blogger Award

Marian Lanouette, writer, has passed The Beautiful Blogger Award to me. I am pleased, honored and grateful. Thank you for poking me Marian! Marian writes mysteries with romantic elements. Her first novel and the first in the series, If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery, will be released in September 2012 by MuseItUp Publishing. Marian is from Brooklyn like me. Yay Brooklyn. Check out Marian at

And another thank you to Casey Wyatt, whom I think awarded it to me a few months ago.  But I wasn’t ready to accept such a distinguished standing. She publishes two posts every Friday. If you have a chance check out her blog at and Secrets of 7 Scribes blog, you’ll be glad you did.

Life is busy for me, always; great and grinding, I seem to find it easy to dig my own grave. Digging out is difficult, but not when you are creating and sharing like when I am doing this blog.

And here are the rules for the award, which I’m not going to follow to the letter. I like to create my own rules now and then.

Rule 1 – Share seven things about me.  I’ll do six.

1. The first is above. I like to tailor the rules from time-to-time.

2. I am bionic. Pins hold me together at the hip and my tennis-serving arm.

3. But I maintain my membership in the professional tennis teaching United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA). I taught tennis for twenty years. The painting below is in the USPTA Houston headquarters.

USPTA Watercolor by Gail Ingis Claus

4. We own three cars, but there are only two of us.

5. I failed history in High School, but I founded a school of interior design and had to teach it!

6. My favorite book is “Gone with the Wind.” And I am writing an Historic Romance.

Gone With the Wind image from the movie

Rule 2 – The next rule is to pass the award to seven bloggers. I am passing it on to five.

The award is passed to:

1. Katy Lee, Katy is a published writer and hard working dedicated home-school teacher. See more here:

2. Kate Rothwell, Kate is a multi-talented published author. She has worked as a service manager/parts runner in a Saab garage, and much, much more. See more here:

3.Thea Devine,Thea is the author whose books defined erotic historical romance.  Romantic Times calls her “The Queen of Erotic Romance,” Affaire de Coeur: “… the divine mistress of sensual writing …”

4. Julianne Stirling, ASID, (American Society of Interior Designers). Julianne is an interior designer extraordinaire, President of her own company. You can find her blog in her website links.

5. David Dunlop, David is an amazing artist, lecturer and teacher. He shares his knowledge and artistic skills with his students. His students follow him here in the USA and across the seas.

Do you have a favorite most beautiful blog?

This was fun and a change of blog direction. Last week was the start of color, come back next week for more.




It is hard to know the best design magazine with so many from which to choose. One of my favorites is Contract.

Harry Bertoia Diamond chair 1952. Steel rod and Naugahyde seat pad. Mfg. Knoll International, USA MOMA

In the current issue, the article by Jan Lakin about the Cranbrook Art Academy and Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, inspired me to write about the special schooling for designers, among whom are Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, among many, who were student collaborators with figurehead designer and architect, Eliel Saarinen. Professionals that helped to define art and design for decades.

The Cranbrook Educational Community, a National Historic Landmark, was founded in the early 20th century by newspaper mogul George Gough Booth.

Eliel Saarinen, fresh from Germany and involvement with the Bauhaus,  had firm ideas of what an art school must be. He was commissioned to design and then teach at the campus of Cranbrook Educational Community in 1925. According to the article, the Academy is renowned for the masterful campus planning and architecture by Eliel, complete with studios, classrooms, workshops, a library, and art museum-that would foster craft, the intense study of the arts, and a spirit of discovery. The school was intended as an American Equivalent to the early 20th century now defunct Bauhaus in Germany. The Bauhaus (scroll to “Grand Stand” blog) was the icon of art schools followed by Cranbrook.

Saarinen became president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932. He  influenced subsequent furniture design. Saarinen also designed the museum at Cranbrook, now being renovated.

Cranbrook Art Museum - Wikipedia

About Cranbrook Art Museum
Cranbrook Art Museum is a contemporary art museum, and an integral part of Cranbrook Academy of Art, a community of Artists-in-Residence and graduate-level students of art, design and architecture. The Art Museum, which was established in 1930 and opened at its current site in 1942, is Eliel Saarinen’s final masterwork at Cranbrook. Today, the Art Museum presents original exhibitions and educational programming on modern and contemporary architecture, art, and design, as well as traveling exhibitions, films, workshops, travel tours, and lectures by renowned artists, designers, artists, and critics throughout the year. In 2011, the Art Museum completed a three-year $22 million construction project that included both the restoration of the Saarinen-design building and a new state-of-the-art Collections Wing addition. For more information, visit

To see the article, click Contract and scroll to see on the left of the page, “Cranbrook Art Museum.”

Next week, we’ll take a look at Eero Saarinen. A powerful influence and world renowned designer and architect, the son of Eliel Saarinen.

Do you believe there is such a thing as “good design?” Do you believe in special schooling to become a designer? If you wanted to be a designer, art, graphic, interior, what considerations would you give to your training? If you hire a designer, do you ask about credentials?






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