Wednesday, October 31, 2007

That Old Black Magic

I know that there are people who count Halloween as their favorite holiday. I hope this doesn't come between us, but I don't like Halloween. Never have. I don't like to be scared. And, surprisingly, for a drama-queen like myself, I don't like costumes, especially masks.

But, as you know, I love black.

Architectural Digest, October1979, featured designer Eric Bernard's apartment in Manhattan.

The grid of slate squares was rubbed with shoe polish (!), a striking backdrop for the Scalamandre leather-clad sofas.

"The lacquered storage cylinder" (upper left) "conceals a bar and sound system." The tea service is Josef Hoffmann.

"An opulent study on canvas, by Albert Moore, counterpoints the bedroom's sleek platformed simplicity." This image was also the issue's cover. Saying this room is simple is a bit like me trying to sell Mr. Blandings on how low-maintenance I am. I can make the case, but complexity abounds.

My other little vintage Halloween treat is a 1984 creation from Bob Patino and Vicente Wolf. Appearing in the March issue of House and Garden, the clients report that they wanted the apartment mostly for entertaining in the evening. The wall, above, is black glass.

In the slate-tiled dining room (no mention of shoe polish here) the walls are upholstered in gray flannel. The chairs are Mies's "Brno" chairs, circa 1930.

This is the wife's sitting area. Her chic cashmere throw has jazzy red leather piping to highlight the original aniline red of the Eames chair. Notice how the television is placed in the built-in so it's flush with the wall.

These rooms are dark, but not dreary; sleek, but not scary. No tricks, just treats.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Natural Blond

Welcome to Sharyn Blond. A jewel of a shop in Fairway, Kansas, Sharon offers the very best in tabletop and gifts. I love nearly everything she carries, (after fifteen years can you "re-register" for china? Seems one never has enough.) but the real treasure here is her linens.

Hand embroidered in Madeira, the pieces are works of art. After recognizing that the styles and colors of truly fine linens had remained static for years, Sharyn began designing new patterns with motifs and colors for the modern gal with exceptional taste.

In addition to table linens, there are wonderful bed linens, fingertip and guest towel and cocktail napkins for the discerning buyer.

Sharyn Blond Linens are now available for purchase on-line. If you are in-town, however, do drop by. She has great gifts for everyone from your favorite girlfriend,

or her new baby,

to your hard-to-please mother-in-law. I said "yours" not mine. Mine is delightful.

I think so many of the designs are charming. I must confess, two of my best girlfriends gave me the "monkeys" for my birthday last year. Next on my list?

Oh, I have to get to work on that powder room.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Creative Mind

In my past life, I worked at one of the city's charitable foundations. We did a lot of good. We also spent a lot of time talking about how and what we were doing. This process led to a lot of meetings. In one such meeting, I was called on to record. One of the focuses of the foundation was education, so we had many former teachers working there. In the room. Where I was to record. So, one thing you need to know is, I'm a terrible speller. Truly awful. So, as I went before this room of very bright people I had to say, "I am willing to record, but I am a terrible speller. If you noticed I've misspelled something, you must tell me." One of the women in the room, a former principal, particularly smart, well-respected and gorgeous, said, "Weakness in spelling is a sign of a creative mind." I don't know if this is true, but I will be forever grateful.

That is why these appeal to me.

This image was in the Kansas City Star last week, and these dictionaries reminded me of the of that kind and smart woman. If you have a weakness, at least be stylish about it. Graphic Image offers Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in a variety of hues. But when I logged on to see these gems, look what else I found.

Entertaining journals with place setting information, seating charts, a place for your entertaining resources, as well as pages to record the details of each and every event.

These are also available in a rainbow of colors and textures. These, and most of the other styles, can be personalized. What? Oh, other styles? Yes, lots.

With graph paper.

Spirals with lined paper and perforated pages.

Date books in a number of sizes. They also have wine journals and golf journals and family histories, picture frames and picture albums.

Go ahead, it's OK to be a little weak.

Friday, October 26, 2007

How To Murder Your Wife

Mr. Blandings and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary last week. Thank you, but no congratulations necessary; we are just getting started. In a funny twist of fate, a very stylish friend loaned me the movie "How to Murder Your Wife." The movie was made in 1965, coincidentally, the year Mr. Blandings and I were born. My friend, who would scoff at being termed "stylish," though she is, thought I might enjoy Jack Lemmon's apartment in the film.

Whoa. I have been searching the internet for a week, and have contacted our local paper's movie critic, whom I adore, but to no avail. I cannot find one image other than the movie poster. I do know the film was shot on location in New York, but have no idea if the interiors were a set or not. Richard Sylbert was the production designer and his career is legendary. Think Rosemary's Baby, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Manchurian Candidate, and, my favorite film of all time, The Graduate. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, do I give you advice? Well, do I give you advice often? I insist you rent/buy this movie. Insist. I will do my best to describe it with some visual aids, but you really must see it for yourself. (As a disclaimer, I refer here only to the sets. The movie itself is a mass of un-p.c. tongue-in-cheek, women are the death of us kind of stuff. It's amusing, if you can manage to not over-think it.)

Lemmon's character is a chic, single, swinging cartoonist who lives in a townhouse in Manhattan. (When we see him in his first adventure he is wearing a turtleneck and dark suit, the jacket of which has red lining.) His little slice of heaven is surrounded by new construction which he tries to ignore. The film begins with his butler, Charles, giving a tour of the place.

Lantern by Charles Edwards.

The entry is the only room on street level, a classic dream of black and white marble floors. Climbing the staircase with the iron railing you can't help notice the fantastic lantern over-head. Entering the main floor of the townhouse, you are greeted with ebony-stained wood floors, a subtle Empire vignette in the hallway. Zebra rug, leather sofas, big, bold black and white painting over the fireplace.

Miles Redd via Patricia Grey - she has done a fabulous week of zebra.

Billy Baldwin via Patricia Grey, by way of Style Court.

Outside is a terrace that would make Dorothy Draper swoon. Trellis and iron, striped canopies; perfection.

The butler's pantry is two long walls of ivory lacquered cabinets trimmed in black.

Two walls of cabinets like the box, top. Unbelievable. Boxes, West Elm.

Just to the right is the entry to the master, the doors of which could be by Fornasetti himself.

Screen image courtesy of
If you think bathrooms today are loaded with innovation, you will realize how little progress has been made when you see the bath. Travertine floor and ceiling, sliding doors encasing the sunken marble tub/shower with temperature control and multiple jets.

The bed itself is some kind of brass extravaganza. A mis-step in my book, but when a thing like this show up in a spot like this it makes me question my own taste and not the tastemaker's. Barcelona chair in the most amazing buttery-camel leather and the most hilarious rickety TV stand and TV that will remind you of your grandmother's. Pickings must have been slim in this area.

The butler's room is quintessential English "man" room. Simple, classic, phone by the bed to be on the ever-ready.

OK, he's a cartoonist, remember? The third floor is his studio. Two levels with soaring vaulted ceilings.

The movie itself is a delight if you like old screwball comedies. Verna Lisi plays the wife in question. The only issue Mr. Blandings had with the plot is why Jack Lemmon wants to get rid of her; she's gorgeous, wants to fool around all the time, is an amazing cook and speaks no English. "So she's the perfect wife?" I coyly asked. "No, darling, I have the perfect wife." I can't wait for the next fifteen years.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bringing a Little Kansas Chic to the Big Apple

In a previous post, I sang the praises of Chuck Comeau and his team at Dessin Fournir. Dedicated to quality furniture, lighting and fabrics, Chuck has built a bit of a design empire on the Kansas plains.

But everyone needs a little town with their country. Dessin Fournir has opened a stunning showroom that encompasses the entire second floor of the Fine Arts Building at 232 East 59th Street in New York.

It's a fitting spot. The Fine Arts Building is the former stables for Bloomingdales. Seems not only can you not take the stable out of the boy, you can't even really get the boy out of the stable. If you are in "the" city stop by; if not, you can still visit on-line at
The showroom is open 9 - 5, Monday through Friday. While it's open to the public, you are required to work through a designer for purchase. The showroom features Dessin Fournir's lines: Dessin Fournir, Classic Cloth, GĂ©rard,Kerry Joyce,Palmer Hargrave,Rose Cumming,and they are representing Watts of Westminster, a historic English fabric and wallpaper company.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Perfect Gift for the Perfect Host

Hmmm...brown envelope. Something unfortunate for Mr. Blandings?

Heavens, no. That would be unseemly.

It's a little, no, quite big actually, package from pve design.

Perfection. A lovely host gift for our big city friend. I had no idea how much he loved the one with the mice - his screen saver for weeks, as I understand. These little jewels are especially for him.

I can't wait to wrap them up and send them off. Our visits there are always special; it's sometimes difficult to come up with just the thing to let him know how much we enjoy them. Fortunately for me, Patricia Van Essche has an extraordinarily talent; these are spot on. Lucky friend, lucky me.

Carter for President

Ok, you've seen a few of my favorite haunts already. Parrin and Co., Christopher Filley, Scott and Warren, Retro Inferno. The first two are in our antiques district and the later are in the Crossroads. There's another little spot I know, a diamond in the rough. The store's the diamond, and while the neighborhood isn't exactly rough, it's not exactly charming either.

But come on in, the stuff is fine.

These Johnson Hadley Johnson chairs live at Nick Carter's at 3410 Main Street. Right across from Costco. (There are 4; 1200 each pair.)

It's a crazy little mix of just about everything good. A little mid century over here.

Little chinoiserie over there. (This screen reminds me of Style Court and her headboard obsession.)

Entry hall? Powder room? Vanity?

Nick Carter also carries a lovely selection of Arts and Crafts pieces.

This very well could be the fixture from the Blandings's entry hall of our first house. It was, unfortunately, a split level with several retro light fixtures. I sold them immediately, for almost nothing, but it was before it was all the rage.

This could bring a smile to your face as you're Wisking away.

The color on this set was lovely and unique. It would be great to mix in with black pieces as well.

Vote for Nick. He knows things.