Federer & Nadal

Federer & Nadal 2014

Borg & McEnroe 1980

Borg & McEnroe 1980

Forget Federer & Nadal and Borg versus McEnroe. According to Marshall Jon Fisher who wrote Terrible Splendor, convincingly demonstrates that the greatest tennis match of all time was Gottried Von Cramm versus Don Budge in the 1937 Davis Cup semifinals. At our visit to the Newport Casino this past weekend, we took a tour of the newly renovated Newport Tennis Hall of Fame. Our tour guide Liz, an avid tennis player and former nun, knew her tennis history well. She spoke about Fisher’s book and told us that Von Cramm got a call from the Fuhrer (Hitler) before the match. He wished him luck, and said, “Win for the Fatherland.” Budge won that one, a year later Von Cramm disappeared. Knowing what we know, his disappearance makes you wonder, doesn’t it? This was a fascinating tale, and so is tennis history.

Played off that wall, Real Tennis circa 12th century

Played off that wall, Real Tennis circa 12th century

Tennis began with the use of your palm in France in the 12th century in the monastic cloisters. By the 16th century rackets appeared and was being called real tennis. Francis I of France (1515-45) was an enthusiastic player and promoter of real tennis, as it was called then. It was played indoors where the ball could be hit off the wall, like squash and racquet ball is played today. History has it that King Henry VIII was playing tennis when his wife Ann Bolin was taken away and beheaded. When he tired of them, he disposed of his wives in this uncouthly manner. Guess  polygamy was not a preferred sport.

man in tennisoutfitImagine playing in these outfits?

Between 1859 and 1865, in Birmingham, England, Major Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish merchant, combined elements of the game of rackets and the Spanish ball game Pelota and played it on a croquet lawn in Edgbaston. In 1872, both men moved to Leamington Spa and in 1874, with two doctors from the Warneford Hospital, founded the world’s first tennis club, the Leamington Tennis Club. It made its way outdoors in 1874 and was played on grass.

This looks like serious tennis.

This looks like serious tennis.

In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, designed and patented a similar game. His idea was to outline the territory, and have a net dividing the two different sides. He wrote an eight-page rule book. The court had an hour-glass shape with a 4’-8” net, higher than today’s 36” center height and 42″ at the net posts. The way it is today is pretty close to Major Wingfield’s ideas. Scoring is not though. He wanted a 1, 2, 3, 4 simple scoring, but we have 15, 30, 40, game. It’s more involved than that, but you’ll find out quick enough when you learn to play and get on that court.

hourglass tennis court, originally designed by Major Wingfield

hourglass tennis court, originally designed by Major Wingfield

Major Wingfield, Father of Tennis

Major Wingfield, Father of Tennis











Who was the Father of Tennis? A question on my written test in 1977 for the USPTA.* This image on the right is Major Wingfield, the Father of Tennis.

Remember white balls and wooden racquets?

Remember white balls and wooden racquets?

Tennis Birthplace of first lawn tennis Edgbaston club

Tennis Birthplace of first lawn tennis Edgbaston club











In order to become a professional teaching member of the USPTA, you must pass a written and on-court exam. I took the test, passed, and still have my certification to teach tennis. I did teach for many years, played too. Intense, but fun, met great people, great players, even did a watercolor painting for the USPTA’s 75th anniversary. USPTA watercolor Went to conferences, Forest Hills, sat in the best seats. But you know, you do not have to pass tests to play. If you don’t play, you are missing a great game, a sport that gives you fabulous competition, keeps those synapses growing, and good exercise while you swiftly run to hit the ball. There are ways to hold the racquet, stroke the ball, body positions are critical, hearing and seeing the ball, and how the racquet is strung all matter. The game of tennis is just like playing chess, but the physical part adds another challenge.

If you enlarge the image above, you’ll see numbers that identify the players.

Players Directory
Left to right – top to bottom:

Top: 1. Jimmy Connors, 2. Chris Evert, 3. Jack Kramer, 4. Billie Jean King, 5. Roscoe Tanner (serving), 6. Pam Shriver
Bottom: 7&8. Two anonymous players in backcourt, 9. John McEnroe, 10. Peter Fleming, 11. Arthur Ashe, 12. Fred Perry, 13. Rod Laver, 14. Althea Gibson, 15. Stan Smith

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson

I don’t want to forget to mention a great woman and athlete, Althea Gibson, who coached me for three years, at the Northvale Tennis Club in New Jersey. Althea Gibson (August 25, 1927 – September 28, 2003) was an American tennis player and professional golfer, and the first black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title (the French Open). The following year she won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals (precursor of the U.S. Open), then won both again in 1958, and was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in both years. In all, she won 11 Grand Slam tournaments, including six doubles titles, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. “She is one of the greatest players who ever lived,” said Robert Ryland, a tennis contemporary and former coach of Venus and Serena Williams. “Martina couldn’t touch her. I think she’d beat the Williams sisters.” In the early 1960s she also became the first black player to compete on the women’s professional golf tour.

Althea Gibson 1980's

Althea Gibson 1980’s

Venus & Serena Williams

Venus & Serena Williams


Yellow balls, so you can see the balls when playing on grass. White got lost.

Yellow balls, so you can see the balls when playing on grass. White got lost.

Watching an intense match from the stands is dramatic, who do you want to win, and why. It’s a tough sport. Takes a good number of years to teach your muscles how to hit that ball and keep it in the court and away from your opponent. There are different types of tennis surfaces, grass, clay, carpet (no longer used), hard court and wood. I have played on all the surfaces. They all play differently, the ball bounce is different depending on the player and conditions.


Tennis Hall of Fame Newport, RI

Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, RI

Borg & McEnroe, friendly foes today!

Borg & McEnroe, friendly foes today!

*United States Professional Tennis Association

Do you  play tennis? What’s your favorite sport to play or watch?

Thanks for help from Wikipedia.





Last week I told you about Cromwell and 17th century happenings in England. This week I want to tell you about the interiors and furnishings before, during and after Cromwell.  I found a marvelous resource with useful information that I think you will enjoy as much as I did.

Jacobean Interior1608

Jacobean Interior 1608














During the Jacobean, Cromwellian and Carolean portions of the Stuart period, that is to say, between 1603 and 1688, the articles of furniture in common use were chairs, stools, forms, settles or settees, love-seats, day-beds, bedsteads, mirrors, tables, footstools, chests, cupboards of sundry sorts, cabinets, buffets and dressers or sideboards.


The contour and style of the furniture of the Jacobean period, as of every other period for that matter, more or less faithfully reflected the social, intellectual and religious temperament and manners of the times. One can scarcely imagine Dean Hook seated in a dainty Sheraton chair, while one of Cromwell’s lieutenants in buff and bandolier occupying an Adam settee would be as absurd an anachronism as Julius Caesar driving abroad in a hansom or a motor car. The furniture was stout and staunch, even to clumsiness and severe in form and line even though bedizened with a superfluity of ornament. It matched the coarse manners, abrupt morals, and vigorous theology of the day with all their grotesquerie, terrible earnestness and redundancy of polemics, brimstone anathema and persecution. Contour and style were both thoroughly in accord with the genius of the people.


In the cabinet work of the later Cromwellian era the contour of carcases remained much the same except that cupboards, while still squatty, were apt to be of greater length and, with the growing strength of Dutch influence, “bun” or ball feet on chests (Fig. 6) or cupboards became more common. Chests of drawers or chests with combinations of drawers and cupboards came more into fashion.

During the Stuart period there is such a diversity of contour resulting from the modification of native English traditions by an increasingly large influx of Continental influences that it is doubly essential to grasp the typical forms as exemplified in the Key at the beginning of the book and the line drawings in the text.

In the truly Jacobean or early Stuart period we find a predominance of straight lines, simplicity of structure and craftsmanship of downright British vigour and energy. All the different sorts of cupboards and dressers were of no great height and even the bedsteads with their ponderous testers carved and panelled, supported on heavy posts, were low – much lower than one would imagine from looking at pictures of them. The squat proportions of the furniture were due to and quite consistent with the usually low-ceiled rooms.


Development in the form of chairs and the marked increase in their number during the three divisions of the Stuart period afford one of the most interesting and instructive features of that fruitful mobiliary epoch. Hardly anything so faithfully and fully reflects the manners and customs of an age and the changes taking place therein as furniture, and of all articles of furniture the chair is by far the most sensitive to new and foreign influences of changing styles – much more so than cabinet work. It reflected not only the flux of fashion but accurately registered political and social changes as well.

In the early Jacobean period, chairs were comparatively scarce, stools and forms being in more general use. These early chairs usually had arms and were seats of great dignity. Both chairs and settles had high seats and usually heavy stretchers between the legs. Chair seats were square or almost so and chair-backs were high and perpendicular or so nearly perpendicular that the rake was scarcely perceptible. The triangular seated and heavily turned chairs, whose pattern had been brought to England, probably by the Normans, were met with but were survivals in type.

The characteristic chair of this date was the wainscot or panelled back chair. These chairs probably owed their inspiration in the first instance to choir stalls. In Elizabethan chairs of this pattern, the top rail bearing the cresting is within the uprights of the back. In Jacobean chairs the top rail caps the uprights and is part of the cresting. These wainscot chairs (Pic. 2, b) continued to be made long after the Restoration. Seats were made high with the express expectation of using either the stretcher or a footstool. There were also occasionally to be found X-shaped chairs pretty well covered with upholstery, but these occurred in the earliest Jacobean days and were so scarce that we can afford to pass them without further mention.

a. Jacobean Oak Monks Seat or Table Chair, c. 1660.(a)

b. Jacobean Oak Panel back or Wainscot Chair, c. 1630. Carved, turned and inlaid.(b)

Fig. 2. a, Jacobean Oak “Monks Seat” or Table Chair, c. 1660; b, Jacobean Oak Panel-back or Wainscot Chair, c. 1630. Carved, turned and inlaid.

By Courtesy of Mr. R. W. Lehhe, Philadelphia.

Slightly before the Commonwealth we find the Yorkshire and Derbyshire type of chair with open backs (Fig. 3, a). The uprights ended in carved finials and there were usually two or three carved and hooped crosspieces and these were often further ornamented by acorn pendants. Sometimes instead of the hooped crosspieces, there were several horizontal bars, the spaces between which were filled in with arcades of slender spindles and carved rounded arches.

a. Jacobean Oak Yorkshire Chair, c. 1650.(a)

b. Late Jacobean Walnut Chair, c. 1685.(b)

Fig.3. a, Jacobean Oak Yorkshire Chair, c. 1650. Height of back, 3 feet 7 inches; height of seat, 17 inches; breadth of seat, 18 inches; depth of seat, 16 inches. b, Late Jacobean Walnut Chair, c. 1685, formerly belonging to Robert Proud, now in the collection of Pennsylvania Historical Society. Showing Flemish and Baroque influences in high caned back, scroll carving and ornate arched stretcher between the two Flemish scrolled front legs. Height of back, 52 inches; height of seat, 18 3/4 inches; seat in front, 17 inches; seat in back, 14 inches; depth of seat, 15 inches.

At the time of the Commonwealth chairs were made in much greater numbers than previously, as the democratic principles, then rampant, permitted master and servant alike to use the same kind of seat, whereas, formerly, the use of a chair implied certain dignity and position and the baser sort sat on stools. From this period date the low-backed chairs with turned legs, stretchers and uprights, the upper part of the back and the seat being padded and upholstered (Key I, 2) with leather or some sad-coloured stout goods. The backs had more rake than previously.

At the Restoration, and even before that date, when popular taste was undergoing a revulsion against the spirit of repression and dulness that had so long been uppermost, a fondness for carving, though in altered form, again came to the fore. Open backs appeared in greater number with either caning or vertical balusters or slats.

Top and bottom rails of many chair-backs showed a slight concave curve, more calculated to the sitter’s comfort, while not a few arms were either curved longitudinally or bowed laterally. Others, longitudinally shaped, flared outwards from the posts. The knobbed turning of legs and stretchers, that had been popular in the Cromwellian period, retained considerable vogue for some time after the Restoration and was employed concurrently with the new style of carving.

About 1665 spiral turned legs came into much favour and were used for tables and other articles of furniture as well as for chairs (Fig. 7). This detail of style is apparently attributable to Portuguese influence and probably due to an East Indian source.

Up to the Restoration all the better chairs had been made of oak but walnut now became generally available and lent itself much more readily than oak to delicate carving and turning. Cane-backed chairs appeared at first without cresting, the uprights ending in carved finials. The top and bottom rails of the back were often decorated with a lightly incised pattern of zigzags or roundels. Afterwards cresting was added, usually of acanthus and roses, the latter the royal emblem, from the prominent use of which in the decoration, this particular type of chair gained the name of “Restoration Chair.” Stretchers and uprights as well as legs were spirally turned, while Flemish scrolls and elaborate carving in backs and cresting came more and more into vogue. The caning at first had large meshes which, however, decreased in size in succeeding years.

The next step in chair development was the addition of an elaborately carved, scrolled and usually hooped stretcher between the front legs. Very soon the Flemish scrolled front legs appeared and when these were set obliquely to the seat the approach to the cabriole form at once became evident. In the middle and latter part of Carolean times chairs and sofas with seats and high, square backs, upholstered with gay imported fabrics or some of the handsome textures that were already coming from English looms (Key II, 8) came into fashion. These also had the Flemish legs and highly ornate hooped stretchers.

The last type of Stuart chair to which we must pay special attention is the high and almost perpendicular cane-backed creation of the end of the Carolean epoch, reflecting in every line strong Flemish and Dutch influences (Fig. 3, b.) These chairs showed Flemish legs, scrolled ornament of pronounced Baroque character and caned or baluster backs.

Do any of these look familiar?

This section is from the book “The Practical Book Of Period  Furniture“, by Harold Donaldson Eberlein And Abbot McClure. Also available from Amazon: The Practical Book Of Period Furniture.



Durham Castle note crenelation on top of structure

Durham Castle–later a Cathedral (note crenelation on top edges, typical of fortified structures)

Durham Castle, seen here with its crenelated top edge was fortification.The Normans, upon conquering England, fortifications came first, they provided shelter and protection. But churches were also built, small and grand. Medieval churches were often hurried affairs in a wood design, replaced later with rusticated stone. The churches eventually grew into cathedrals, larger than life structures. Since religion was the dominant interest of Europe, architecture consisted primarily of church construction.

Bracewell in Lanchashire church

Bracewell in Lancashire church

Bracewell is a small village just northwest of Barnoldswick, Lancashire. The church of St Michael’s is a lovely old Norman building, dating to around the year 1100. It was not established as a parish church, but as a private chapel for the Tempest family.


church PC GreenstedGlassSt Michael stained-glass can be seen from inside the church.

Greensted Church north wall - wood

Greensted Church north wall – wood

Greensted Church

Greensted Church

It has been told that Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar in Essex, England, is the oldest wooden church in the world and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century. Its full title is The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar. It is, however, commonly known simply as Greensted Church. Greensted is still a functioning church and holds services every week. The most interesting feature is probably the south doorway, which is typically Norman, the chancel arch, also Norman, and the tower arch, which dates to the 14th century and an early example of the soon to come Pointed Gothic style. Very little of the original medieval glass remains, but there are fragments of 14th century glass depicting coats of arms of local gentry. The nave pews are by the famed Kilburn woodworker, Rober Thompson, aka ‘The Mouseman’, and show Thompson’s favoured mouse motif. The church was featured on a British postage stamp issued in 1972.

800px-Durham_Cathedral_from_the_south-2This is the Cathedral side of the ‘castle’ seen above in the first image. Durham Cathedral replaced the 10th century “White Church”, built as part of a monastic foundation to house the Shrine of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The Chapter Library contains one of the most complete sets of early printed books in England, the pre-Dissolution monastic accounts, and three copies of the Magna Carta. Durham Cathedral occupies a strategic position on a promontory high above the River Wear. From 1080 until the 19th century the bishopric enjoyed the powers of a Bishop Palatine, having military as well as religious leadership and power. It was built as the residence for the Bishop of Durham. Initially, a very simple temporary structure was built from local timber to house the relics of Cuthbert. The shrine was then transferred to a sturdier, probably wooden, building known as the White Church, later replaced by a stone building by the same name. The flow of money from pilgrims of power embodied in the church ensure that a town formed around the cathedral, establishing the early core of the modern city.

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns on columns

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns incised on columns and arches. Ceiling ribs have the patterns incised as well.


The current Cathedral was designed and built under William of Calais, who was appointed as the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080. Since then, major additions and reconstruction has been prevalent. But, the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman Design. This is a term related to the styles of Romanesque architecture by the Normans in lands under their influence in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There were other structures as well, all characterized by the usual Romanesque rounded arches particularly over windows and doorways.

Norman Arch

Norman Arch

The buildings show massive proportions in simple geometries, the masonry with small bands of sculpture, perhaps as blind arcading, and concentrated spaces of capitals and round doorways and in the tympanum under an arch. The “Norman arch” is the round arch and sometimes slightly pointed as in the Durham interior ceiling here above. Norman mouldings are carved or incised with geometric ornament, such as chevron patterns, frequently termed “zig-zag mouldings”. The cruciform churches often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the great English cathedrals were founded from 1083.  As Gothic with its pointed arches became more popular, Norman eventually became a modest style of provincial building.

Do you have a favorite ecclesiastical architecture, past or present?

Look for more next week…





Storage has been the bane of our existence. Where does this go, where does that go? Throw it in the closet, throw it in the armoire, throw it in the cupboard , throw it in the linenpress. Its tough to part with stuff, so we keep it, throw it somewhere never to find it again. Unless…we get organized, and have a system. Perhaps the linenpress is your answer. This linenpress is a 2-piece storage unit with an overhanging, molded cornice. The upper section has a cupboard with 2 paneled doors concealing 3-5 shelves, possibly with sliding trays or drawers. The lower section is slightly wider than the upper section, with 3-5 full length, usually graduated drawers. This has a molded base with plain skirt and simple bracket feet. Others could have claw-and-ball feet. Paneled, dovetailed, and pegged construction. Lots of space to get organized and store stuff. The woods used are local and could be mahogany, cherry, walnut, or birch. Secondary wood is pine or poplar. The hinges are brass. The pulls are brass mounts or rosettes with bail handles. Escutcheons are matching brass or brass keyhole surrounds. Height: 72-84″ Width: 40-47″, Depth: 17-21″.  Made circa 1770-1800 in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Most show some restoration, particularly inside the cupboard.  For example, in the 19th century, when there were no closets, they were often fitted with hooks to serve as wardrobes. If you hunt for a linenpress as a collectable, make sure that you have a true linen press and not just a cupboard mounted on a chest of drawers.

Cabinets of all types have been designed since the beginning of time to store what we aren’t using at the moment.  We are still struggling with the issue. Here’s some sweet history about the linenpress. It acquired the name back in the 17th century as it was used to press linens. It consisted of a flat bed upon which damp linen was placed for flattening through pressure applied with a large wooden screw. The linen was then stored in the cabinet. The actual press looked like the piece here with the apparatus, the screw, visible. It is Dutch, made in the 17th century in walnut and is typical William and Mary style with its turned legs and stretchers attached to the legs and straight frieze at the top.

Linenpress screw

The phrase William and Mary usually refers to the co-regency over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, of King William III & II and Queen Mary II. Their joint reign began in February 1689, when they were offered the throne by the Parliament of England, replacing James II & VII, Mary’s father and William’s uncle/father-in-law, who was “deemed to have fled” the country in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After Mary died in 1694, William ruled alone until his death in 1702.

Where do you store your “stuff.” How do you organize or not?




Heaven. Are there any chairs in heaven? Wait a minute. I heard we get to bring our favorite chairs with us. Do you have a favorite chair? Oh, I know … an Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker’s Chair from “All In the Family”

chair, right smack in the middle of heaven. The one that was right smack in the middle of his family room. I bet Archie is up there sitting around in his easy chair with its winged back, wide seat, arms and comfy soft cushions, poo pooing everyone looking his way. “You’re jealous, you want it, you can’t have it! It’s mine.”

Do you really want Archie’s chair? Wait, you haven’t seen anything yet. Reality is, way back when, chairs were only for royalty and the privileged. The rest of the crowd, if allowed to sit in the presence of a sovereign, sat on their buttocks … on the ground. I would have grabbed the first rock. The first sitting device had to be a rock. Then someone figured out how to shape natural material, like clay, like bamboo, like wood, and later even cardboard into a place to seat oneself.

Clay Chair

King Tut, XVIII dynasty, circa 2630 B.C. A golden throne made of sheet gold worked around a wooden base and inlaid with faience, colored glass, lapis, lazuli, and calcite.

Frank Gehry's cardboard Wiggle Chair 1972

Did you know if you remained seated while others stand, you considered yourself superior? Chairs have changed dramatically since the first rock and so has our philosophy. I don’t know about you, but if someone is standing addressing me while I am seated, I will invite them to join me, or I will stand. This facilitates eye contact and offers equality.

Egyptian chairs were thrones, hard and stiff, the lesser folk serving the one on the throne, got to sit on stools. That’s a seat with no back. I love a good stool, how about you? You can place yourself wholly on it or part way on the edge, either way it is easy to get up and out.

Chairs are a different species. Did you read in my blog last week, about the stocky stockbroker and the White Castle table and bench? He couldn’t get in, imagine if he did, how would he get out?

Chairs change styles, sizes and scope of designs depending on the country and culture.

The famous Frank Gehry‘s layers of cardboard chair is here in this blog, namely “Wiggle Chair.” It was innovative then, and still today is most unusual. Gehry is an out-of-the-box thinker.

Yoda Easy Chair by Kenneth Cobonpue

The bamboo easy chair is an innovative, trendy 21st century design, reminiscent of Frank Gehry’s cardboard chair of the 70’s above. Mr. Gehry visited New York Bloomies when I was a young designer working in the design department. He demonstrated the strength of the chair by standing on it and jumping several times. The chair was impervious to the test.

More to come.

Do you have a favorite chair? Would you take it to heaven or perhaps to the beach?

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