Friday, November 30, 2007

Beads on a Thread

As I have been trotting out my vintage images, a certain "anonymous" reader has been commenting and giving me much-valued advice. Anon suggested I pay special attention to the Louis Gopp years at House and Garden; he also recommended Mark Hampton's monthly column in these issues as particularly informative.

I've been a bit of a Hampton fan. I was very fortunate to find a signed first edition copy of Mark Hampton: On Decorating at Spivey's, one of our used book stores "in town." As I began saving the articles from House and Garden, I realized they had been compiled for On Decorating.

Part of the charm of this book is Hampton's illustrations, some of which accompanied the articles. One of my favorites is "Long Live the Enfilade." The word enfilade means strung along like beads on a thread. This architectural approach to design is classic and enduring and creates particularly lovely views.

Vogue Living, Fall/Winter 2007; Port Eliot, Cornwall, England. Photographed by Francois Halard.

As Hampton notes, the enfilade can be used effectively in houses both grand and modest. The advantage of this layout is the feeling of discovery as you pass through the spaces, and the elimination of what are often dull hallways.

Farrow and Ball; The Art of Color, designer Sallie Giordano, Photographed by Edward Addeo.

Hampton speculates that the enfilade passed out of favor because the long vistas were difficult to heat and cool and provided less privacy than a more complicated floor plan. Apparently, it's difficult to ditch the servants if your rooms open on to one another in this way.

Mica Ertegun, American Designers' Houses.
As Hampton notes, neither of these factors is a common problem in the modern day.

John Saladino's Robin Hill in Influential Interiors. Guess where he's from?
As I am more a decorator, and less a designer, it's difficult for me to fathom moving doorways three to four inches, but Hampton believes what must be done, must be done.

Spaces Magazine, Zim Loy, designer. Photographed by Landon Collis.
He retells the story of the legendary Albert Hadley and how he threatened to run away from home unless the driveway was repositioned "to form a circle centered on the facade of the house." This is a guy who needs an axis. And yes, as the tale goes, the elder Hadley changed it.

It is a lovely view. I think I'm drawn to Georgians for this reason.

There's a particularly striking sun dial at Christopher Filley's right now (or there was last week) that I'm thinking would be perfection on a stand right in front of that window. It's not for me, you understand. I think I owe it to Mark and Albert.
Drawings, top, all Mark Hampton, Mark Hampton: On Decorating.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


You might remember from a previous post, that I was stitching up some fun for the Blandings boys for Christmas. Each year they pick ornaments, usually something to do with their current obsession, and I work away to have them finished before we put up the tree.

The eldest's red Jaguar.

This year, with a bit of encouragement, they all chose cars from Joanie Sherman's new line.

The mal-adjusted middle child's yellow Mini. I'm kidding. He's not mal-adjusted. Yet.

Joanie has painted and designed so many of my projects; she's a local treasure.

And the youngest's (I am not a baby) orange bug.

There are other models in the line including SUV's for those of us who want to be environmentally conscience, but just had too many kids who have too much stuff.

The great thing about these projects is they are small, easy to hold and don't take that much time. Unlike the Chinese chrysanthemum that is currently languishing in a bag.

You can contact the Studio on line to order ornaments for next year. See, you're not behind, you're ahead!

Life is a Dance

Holidays have you a bit edgy? Need a little get away? How about here?

Welcome to Li Galli, as pictured in House and Garden in August of 1992. The island, and it's imposing home, have a long and rich history.

The island is one of three off the Italian coast that are the basis of the sirens myth from Homer's Odyssey.

The castle-like structure was built in the twelfth century. But even in '92, she'd had a little work done. By Le Corbusier. In the twenties the island was owned by Leonid Massine who was a choreographer for the Ballets Russes.

By chance, Rudolph Nureyev heard the family was looking for a new owner. He took a look. "I could see myself on it." Well, yes, why not?

Nureyev adored pattern and his wardrobe was made up of patterned caps, sweaters and jackets. In accordance with his taste, he covered the interior of the house with antique tiles.

The house did not have water when he bought it; he installed a pump. Per the siren myth, it's a little tricky to get to in choppy water. Apparently, it works out better if you have a helicopter.

Nureyev noted that there is not a lot to do here.

I saw Rudoph Nureyev in the Rome airport in 1980. He was exactly the age I am now. And totally gorgeous. He had a large scarf, something like a pashmina, wrapped over his shoulders. My guess is, even in the toughest circumstances, he didn't have trouble filling his time.
Rudoph Nureyev, 1938 - 1983. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. All other photos, David Seidner.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Leap of Faith

There are moments in your life that you can't really appreciate at the time. After I had my first child, the corporate environment of the foundation where I was working began to chafe. It got harder and harder to stay there, away from that baby, if I didn't love it. And I didn't love it.

So I left to stay home and devote myself to motherhood. For about six months. Then I started to get a little crazy. A few people had asked me to help with their houses and I thought it might be a good time to give it a go. Fun and flexible. Not a million meetings. No performance review to write. Perfect.

I really had very little idea what I was doing, so a decorator I had used kindly took me in and showed me the ropes. But who would hire me? I mean, really. I was a broadcasting major who had worked in not-for-profit for ten years. Then someone did.

A woman I had worked with at the Foundation called. She'd heard I was in the business and she was interviewing decorators, and was I interested? Well, sure. She's fabulous; likely the smartest person I know who just happens to have amazing taste.

She was moving, but we met at the old house and she showed me a rug and her two favorite sweaters. At that moment, I didn't know if she would like my work, but I knew we spoke the same language.

The project was a dream; it moved in phases over the course of several years. Most things went right; a few things went wrong. But we got to be friends and we had a great time and we certainly laughed a lot.

My dear friend moved to the west coast a few months ago. She invited me over before she left and we talked about what to take and what to leave. She generously gifted me some of her chairs.

We didn't talk every day, or even every month, but I do miss her.

She's doing just fine in her new digs and loving so much being closer to her family.

I ran across these pictures this weekend as I was cleaning up some files. Ten years later I look back and wonder what led her to allow me to mess with her nest. Lucky for me she has a high tolerance for risk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Make Mine a Cone

When we were in Sag Harbor this summer, my big city friend was lamenting his dining room light fixture. A vintage eel trap, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but was chafing a bit in the long haul. Problem was, he just can't seem to find "it."
So I pulled out my laptop and showed him this:

For a while now, this light from Albert Hadley's dining room in Southport, Connecticut, has been bouncing around in my head. It's a bit similar to the ubiquitous shades that are here and there and there. But not. It's sculptural and unobtrusive, but still has impact. You know how things go, once you start to notice something, it turns up everywhere.

These are Flos in a room by Andre D'Elia, courtesy of Farrow and Ball, The Art of Color. (I am hoping they don't sue me; I held off as long as I could, but can't help posting a few images.) I like these in glass, I really do, but it's the metal that really gets me.

Again, Farrow and Ball, this time Barry Dixon. This is perfect. Well for me, anyway. Again, sculptural, almost industrial; black, or almost, in direct contrast to it's traditional setting.

This image is from the December, Elle Decor. Photographer William Waldron and his wife, Malene have done a lot of the work on this New York farmhouse themselves; she designed and painted the ceiling. I do like a girl who will wield a paint brush. The light is from Paula Rubenstein. Crisp, clean black and white that mirrors the tub. Perfect.

Different altogether from the others, of course I'm attracted to the aqua and red, vintage pottery, that white and black enamel ware and the sink. Is it me or are angels singing? And come-back brass? Yep, on the fixture. Except this is vintage; House and Garden September 1992.

Will he take my advice? Unlikely. He rarely does, though I am always flattered he asks. As for me, I could not stop thinking about this handsome royal blue lantern from Christopher Filley. The youngest Blandings boy has a room just at the top of the stairs. It would be such a treat for me to see it as I'm bringing up the shoes and the books and the Legos. And as for boy number three, you're never to young for good design.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I used an image from Farrow and Ball's, The Art of Color in my post yesterday. Joni has already posted on this book, but if you are composing any kind of wish list, this book should be on it. The rooms, and the photography, are inspirational. This is one of my favorite layouts.

The book includes images of most of the house, but I'm captivated by this series of rooms. This historic Richmond, Virgina home was decorated by Sallie Giordano and her mother Leta Austin Foster. They used different patterns of Mauny paper in the dining room and breakfast room.

I mean, this shouldn't work, right? The scale is almost the same, it seems like you'd have to choose one fabulous print or the other. But you would be wrong. Maybe it's the flip/flop of the background color of the paper and the trim color. I don't know, but I can't get enough. Of course, the architecture and the mouldings don't hurt.

I have hardly ever seen a green, black and white room I didn't like. The yellow china, the home owner's grandmother's, doesn't hurt either. Seems the perfect setting for a little pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 19, 2007


This is the dining room from the Beene layout from House and Garden that I posted yesterday. The shades are Brunschwig and Fils and the walls are painted to match. The leopard and zebra rug is by Stark. Mural by Jack Plaia.

I just had to show this, too. It didn't fit with yesterday, but I thought it was a bit of a must-see. As an aside, this layout was in the same issue as the Boston apartment from last week.

Seeing Red

Being a bit of a drama queen, I do love a red room. I know the room, posted below, has made the rounds a bit, but it's quite good. The high shine of these walls is enviable and the dark mouldings are striking.

Elle Decor, December, 2007, design my Brian MCarthy.

From the Blanding's archives comes this little Bill Blass number. His own home on Long Island, Beene said he wanted to "bombard myself with color." Mission accomplished.

Beene said he had always been drawn to neutrals, but suddenly needed color. To his great surprise, he found red "neutral" as well. "You can put red with almost anything ...and it works."

House and Garden, December, 1989.
Especially if your "everything" includes a 16th century Flemish silver-gilt mirror, French sconces, American folk benches (a pair) and a Chinese rock crystal urn. And the shoes? Oh, yes. The silk pumps are fabulous neutrals as well.

Farrow and Ball, The Art of Color, Maine cottage designed by John Lyle and Mark Umback.

Equally lovely, but entirely different in tone, is this room from the new Farrow and Ball book. Just as red, just as shiny, this red reads differently. Classic and restrained, it highlights the gilt of the 19th century American bulls eye mirror and the creamware rather than taking center stage itself. This seaside dining room in Maine would certainly make you want to linger over your clam chowder.

You still have time, you know. If you don't have to mess with trim all you need is one full day without children. Living room? Dining room? Study? If your mother-in-law gasps, you can smugly reply, "What? It's neutral!"

Image, top, Mrs. Vincent Astor's library, Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer. And one of my favorites. But, maybe I've mentioned it.