Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Class of 2015

My oldest son is graduating from high school Wednesday.  As I scan my Facebook and Instagram feeds I am seeing dozens of faces of his classmates and my friends' children as they take next steps.  So many people comment that it went so fast.  They say that they blinked and suddenly there is an adult standing before them.  But it doesn't feel that way to me.  Though I can still feel the fleshy pillow of his hand, it seems a lifetime ago since I walked him into pre-school with his security blanket tucked discretely into his bag.

In a way, we have grown up together.  I was a woman when I had him, thirty-one, but he made me an adult.  It occurred to me the other day, that for the most part, I did what I set out to do.  He is kind and he is curious.  He is funny and he can laugh at himself. He is tolerant and he is not afraid to take risks.  He is a horrible slob and an incorrigible procrastinator, but I fear he gets those things from me so I cannot complain.

He was an old soul when he came to me, and subsequently, easy to raise.  I have ferried him to the threshold of adulthood; the joys and challenges and responsibilities of his life will take him the rest of the way there and I will no longer have a leading role, but will instead be a supporting player.

My middle son is not taking the idea of his brother going away to college very well.  He does not like to talk about it, and when we do I smile and tell him how excited I am that his brother will have the opportunity to see the world in a new way.  It is thrilling.  "Aren't you going to miss him?" he asks me.  Of course I am going to miss him. But I feel so fortunate to have had him with me nearly every day for his whole life until now.  If he stayed with me, I would not have done my job very well.  Besides, as he goes into the world, just as he carried that blanket into school, he will carry a piece of my heart inside of him wherever he goes.  I hope he takes it far.

Out and About - KC CO.

Part of the impetus for starting Mrs. Blandings was to let folks know that there was a lot of great stuff going on in Kansas City.

In the last seven years, there's been significant growth and coverage of our creative community.  This makes me happy.

But I've found that recently, I have started to travel the same paths and frequent the same joints.  Last week, I decided to get out a little more.

I've covered KC CO., a local leather brand, before, but I had not seen the studio.  So I emailed the owner and craftsman, Dominic Scalise, and asked if I could come down and poke around.  See his process.  Ask some questions.

People here are, on the whole, friendly and creative people are, on the whole, excited to show someone what they are doing.  Scalise was no different.

He showed me the prototype for the new briefcase/portfolio he is working on.  He ran his finger over the loop of the closure and told me how there is metal underneath the leather to keep it from collapsing.  He furrowed his brow ruminating on the kinks he is working out, though they were not visible to me.  KC CO. shares space with custom furniture maker, David Polivka, and while the room was quiet when I was there, there was a current of energy in the air.  It's a pulse of new ideas paired with old world skills, not unknown to the types of people who are excited by not only finding the best thread from France, but also who are delighted by its label. 

Scalise started by making watchbands for himself.  Now he has a collection of belts, bags - including the new tote and the clutch,in the picture above, that is one of my favorites - and a really swell keychain.  You can find his entire collection here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just a Shade to the Right of Fantastic

After my noodling around about drawing on lampshades instead of walls for a change, Temo Callahan emailed to say, "You must see the painted shades done by that kid George Venson. Divine!"

Mr. Callahan knows a thing or two about these sorts of things, so I quickly clicked over.  I spent more time than I care to admit (on more than one occasion) on Mr. Venson's site, Voutsa, but I cannot discourage you from doing the same as it is, beyond product, something of a keyhole view into the artist's creative process.  

Perhaps not everyone is interested in such things, but I can't imagine why one wouldn't be.  Venson's site is an explosion of color and creativity. If it doesn't make you want to break out a paint brush, I don't know what would.  (He'd probably like it better if you'd just buy one of his pieces, and I can't discourage that, either.)

I've grabbed a few of my favorites to show you here, but there are more as well as wallpaper and a clothing collection.  

If you're smart, you'll unwrap your PB&J and have your lunch there.  If you have a little more flexibility, you can find George Venson and his wonderful products at Maison & Objet in Miami through tomorrow (Hall C 327) or at ICFF in New York May 16-19 (Level 1, 0959.) He's on-line here (I signed up for the newsletter; what joy to receive an email filling me in on his latest adventures.) And you can see his collaboration with Printworks here.

Monday, May 11, 2015


I have a few peony bushes on the east side of my house.  Last year they didn't bloom.  They are in the shade of an entirely unappealing tree that is skinny and tall and drops fuzzy pods in the spring. It is also too close to the house.  The peonies do not like the tree and neither do I.  It does, however, have a thing going with the hydrangeas.

This year the peony bush that is furthest north and receives the afternoon sun has offered a few blooms in appreciation. Saturday I cut them all and brought them in just minutes before a charming pink truck delivered flowers to my door.  The white bouquet and the peonies did not acknowledge one another.  I think they were both a little threatened, so I spoke to each pleasantly, but did not expect them to become friends.

Monday morning as I was reading the paper, I heard a sound behind me.  It was as if someone had tipped a box of new leather gloves onto the floor.  Soft, but distinct, like fingers drumming without a rhythm. I turned to see a pile of petals in a heap on the table.  The bloom had held them as long as she could and finally had to let go; she seemed a little relieved. As I turned back to the paper I thought that if I had made my coffee five minutes later, even two, I would have missed that magical sound and would have only seen a mess as I came into the room.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Noodling Doodling

Doing an interview last month I visited a local designer's home. In the bunk room for her grandchildren hangs a large board featuring each member of the family's name; all visitors to the house are encouraged to sign. What more significant gesture of welcome than to have your hostess invite you to draw on something of hers in permanent marker? It is as if you become part of the house.

It reminded me of Cecil Beaton's powder room with its clever handprints. (I'm especially fond of the women who drew in their bracelets.)

I like drawing on walls, as maybe you've noticed, but the idea of doodling on lampshades has come up before.  (I'm quite taken with Temo Callahan's home and his bedside lampshade decorated by his friend James Shearron, which was featured in House Beautiful.

Which leads me back to Nicky Haslam's new book and its applicable inspiration.

 A few of Haslam's rooms feature these exquisite lampshades with highly detailed illustration.  It's the sort of thing that makes a room undeniably personal.

Lacking Mr. Haslam's skills, I'm mashing together all of these ideas and ordering a paper shade for the entry lamp that my friends can sign or doodle on their way in or out.  (The current shade came on a yard sale find and, until this picture, was still dusty from the basement when I shifted the lamp downstairs. I worry that she thinks she's living there, and am avoiding telling her that it's only temporary.) That is, I'm ordering the shade just as soon as I finish painting the interiors of the dining room built-ins, a project that I had not planned that has turned that space upside down.  How do these things happen?

Inspiration, it seems, comes when it comes.

For those who asked, the paint of the dining room that you can see just beyond the stairs is Benjamin Moore Queen Anne Pink.  The interior of the cabinets is - almost - Goldfield.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Weekend in Bed with Nicky

The appeal of design books is not just the beauty that they bring into our homes in tidy little packages, it's the inspiration that they unleash.  With luck, ideas leap from the page like the most delightful pop-up book.

A couple of weekends ago we were shrouded in relentless gloom.  I was reminded of my desire to flee our dreary, rainy Spring weather when I was in college and head south to the consistent sunshine of Texas. Now I do what I did then; I take a book to bed.

Or books. But in this case I snuggled up with Nicky Haslam and read his words and his clippings and slid my finger over the thicker end of the post-it note marking pages.  Mr. Haslam likes iron railings.  I sometimes like iron railings, like the one in the Musee Rodin.  But I very much do not like the iron railing in my house.

Mr. Haslam made me see it in a new way.  Another friend had suggested painting it black and all I could think was, "Whatever for? It will still be the swirly, girly nonsense that I cannot stand." But that image, above, with the black and white floor and the pale walls and the much-more-beautiful swirly railing made me think, "Well, maybe...."

You can find Mr. Haslam's book, and maybe an epiphany therein, here.  

Image, top, from Nicky Haslam: A Designer's Life, by Nicholas Haslam, Rizzoli New York, 2015.

(And, get ahold of yourself.  I know the lampshade is wrong, but it was handy.  We're going to talk about it tomorrow.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fantastic X 2

I have purchased three bookcases in the last year and I'm sure there are some people who think, "Seriously, show some restraint." When it comes to books, I cannot.

I wondered if I could enjoy Nicky Haslam's new book as much as I did the last, which was a lot.  (You can find my review here.) While that book focused on Haslam's house in the country, this is a broader view of his work and his philosophy as a designer.

It is filled with collages of newspaper clippings, sketches and personal photos that catalogue a life so full that I was almost overcome with envy.  In addition, there are practical sections on decorative elements, the use of color and when it's okay to cheat.

Haslam's rooms may not, at first glance, strike you as easily translatable, but in fact, I gained a lot of inspiration from this book.  (And not only that I want to be living a bigger and bolder life.) In addition, his voice is charmingly conversational and you will wish that you were seated next to him at a dinner party or side-by-side at a coffee shop.  On the aching shelves of my bookcases, there are few decorators who include their craftspeople in their acknowledgements.  So, basically, he had me at, "Hello."

You can find Nicky Haslam: A Designer's Life here.

All images courtesy Rizzoli New York, 2015.

Book It - Postwar Dream Home

Quick heads-up that there are two intriguing events through the Kansas City Public Library this week.   The Postwar Dream Home: The Ranch House, a presentation by Mary van Balgooy, is at the Plaza Branch Tuesday, April 28 at 6:30.  I would be there with bells on, but everything in my life is happening between 3 and 8 pm Tuesday evening.  Balgooy is a leading authority on ranch houses and has written a biography on architect Cliff May.  There is a reception preceding at 6:00.  More information here.

Equally intriguing, for those with curious and creative minds, Joshua Wolf Shenk will discuss his new book Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, on Wednesday, April 29th at 6:30 pm at the Central Library downtown.  Again, there is a reception at 6:00. More information on this event here.

In general, there's loads of good stuff happening at the library and you'd be smart to sign up for their weekly newsletter.

Image lifted with only the purest intent from KC Modern.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Time to Medicate

It's foolish, really, to be so bothered by the weather.  When I complained about the cold as a girl my best friend would say, "You just have to let it wash over you." But my heat-seeking mind and body find that waves wash over, while cold is always a brutal assault.

Even as I typed, "I'm having serious trouble with this weather.  Like 'red rum' trouble," to a friend yesterday, I recognized my shortsightedness.  50's and sunny by the end of the week.  Florida coming into view on my calendar.

And then today there was a breath of spring in my in-box.  Green and black and white is one of my favorite combinations and my sofa pillows are so tired. (Dexter and Rosie and I am looking at you.) What could be more harmless than using bold and graphic fabric to assuage the final assault of winter?

New pillows from Angela Adams can be found on her site here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I was particularly out of sorts yesterday.  Nothing was working. The words were not coming. The weather is awful. The wolf is at the door.  I slumped and grumbled through my day.

One of my tasks yesterday was to create a poster for my oldest's swim banquet, and I was struggling with both the details of what to put on it and the cosmic force that encourages mothers to create work for themselves for children who care nothing about things like swim posters. (Maybe girls do.  Maybe some eighteen-year-old boys do.  But I doubt it.)

After loads of time, more than I devoted to work certainly, sorting pictures both in boxes and on my desktop, I uploaded and printed and was ready to paste.  My large, white poster board mocked me.  "I dare you," it said, "to leave me white.  In fact, I double-dog dare you." I could not, of course.  I went out to look for wrapping paper that I could cut to fit, but was dissatisfied with either color or pattern.  I came home surly and empty handed.

Looking down at a picture of my man-child standing on the side of the shallow end of the pool when he was two, his suit and hair dry, the shimmer of the water in the background looked so inviting. I pushed back my chair and opened the craft cabinet (which my boys call the "crap cabinet") and pulled out my watercolors.  In no time the poster and I were better.  Paint, no surprise, was the answer.

While I paint on paper rarely, I paint on walls often. It's difficult for me to keep my brushes from it.  I'm midway through a project in my dining room (dining rooms being great spots for a little extra oomph) that is, again, white on a colored ground; for the last few weeks I've been creatively stalled. The chalk outlines call out to me, but I walk by pretending that I don't see them.  Spaces Kansas City's 10th anniversary issue features a "celebration" on its cover.  The table is beautifully styled, but this week I emailed my editor, "Whose house is that? And who is the artist?" It's a mural that would delight as much at breakfast as New Year's Eve.  It inspired me, like the shimmer of the water in that photograph, to pick up my brushes again to sweep away the gloom of winter.

Mural by Tim Northcutt, T.J. Hawk's Painting Plus.  If you'd like contact information, please email me directly.