Friday, February 29, 2008

The One That Got Away

Barbara Farmer, from Parrin & Co., called me early this week and told me that she had seen a wonderful table at auction, and it made her think of me. (See, good things happen when you know your dealers. They look out for you.) So she bought it.

An absolutely stunning Tommi Parzinger dining table. Barbara thought it would look great in my dining room. Except she sold it. Before she even had a chance to call me. I totally understand. A willing bird in the hand is worth more than a flighty bird in the carpool line. I went to visit it anyway, I mean, wonderful is wonderful, sold or not.

As I worked my way up the block I ran into Christopher, who asked, "Have you seen the table? I wanted it for myself." This was serious. So we all stood there together and ohhed and ahhhed.
And then I moved on. One has to. She did have a terrific collection of the silver and enamel Reed & Barton bowls that I can't seem to get enough of. Not too long ago, Louis, a reader, let me know these are not Alexander Calder as he and I had previously believed. I found out from lovely Louis; he, sadly, found out through the grouchy Calder Foundation. I still love them.

And the table, if it's piqued your interest, has a twin on 1st dibs as we speak. Click now, these are going fast.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Great Spaces

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but one of the great things that has come my way since I started blogging, is the opportunity to write a column on collecting for our local shelter magazine, Spaces.

It's a great publication, and while I have been trying not to scan images from current magazines, (oh, except I have all week) I think this one is worthy because it's local, and most of you are not. And believe me, here in Kansas City, you can live here for twenty years and not be a local.

The images, above, are Linda and Brian Johnson's garden house. The Johnsons use this retreat year round. Part of the appeal of this story, outside of the lovely design, is the fact that they featured these, basically, outdoor rooms in the winter.

The other garden house in the feature, images above and below, was conceived by landscape designer Patrick Kappelmann. Guess who collaborated on this little gem?

Architectural salvage. Wonderful urns. Great iron. Well, if you've been paying attention to my little antique shop romance, you will know, it's Christopher Filley and his partner Rich Hoffman.

The table is a glazed terra cotta piece modified with a marble top. The antique chairs are iron.

I'd love to have a campaign bed in the sitting room off my bedroom, and only hope I find one as fabulous as this red, 19th century piece. The console was constructed from balcony surrounds from Buenos Aires. The tile is Portuguese.

Is Mr. Blandings jealous? Heavens, no. He knows I'll always come back from Christopher. With a table. Or a lantern. Or an urn. He just looks the other way.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bazaar Bizaare

The yummy little number on which Tinsley Mortimer has her elbow propped in this month's Bazaar is Clarence House's Noveau Bizaare. Issued a couple of years ago, I originally saw it in the New York Times Style section. Memo, please!

It's still in my "house" bag. I wanted to use it just as Mrs. Mortimer has done, with one other something, here a damask, of similar scale. And the tassel fringe. Are you paying attention? If you aren't familiar with passementarie, now is the time to learn.

Is the grommet hilarious? It's to deter cheaters like me from skirting the two yard minimum, ordering the memo and whipping up a pillow at virtually no cost. At 400 + retail, it's probably wise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

The March issue of Vanity Fair is promoting the new big screen production of Brideshead Revisited. I am horrible at playing those games and answering those questionnaires that ask you your favorites. Psychologically, unlike aesthetically, I am not black and white; I live in the land of grey.

Emma Thompson as the matriarch Lady Marchmain.

So, rather than the one-word association game I'm supposed to be playing, I'm often working in paragraphs, and everyone else has moved on. I'm particularly conflicted on favorite book. But, one of my top ten, no, top five, would be Brideshead Revisited. It's a book of love affairs, mostly those of Charles Ryder, and the best is his love affair with the house.

Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder.

The author Evelyn Waugh clearly had fallen in love with a house or two in his day. The home, Brideshead, is, without question, a character in the novel.

Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte.

Some folks are a little worked up that anyone is taking on this project. A television mini-series that aired in 1981 is, apparently, beloved. I was oblivious, in 1981, to Brideshead Revisited, and almost anything other than Tony Ward, but that's another story.

Ben Wishaw as Sebastian Flyte.

In case you have not read the book, one of the main characters is Sebastian Flyte, a college-aged man (boy) who carries a teddy bear named Aloysius with him almost everywhere he goes. Before you comment on what kind of nut case has a teddy bear in college, I need to confess, I took my childhood bear with me to college and slept with him almost every night. Sadly, his name is not so clever (it is Bear) a point which vexes me to this day. I was quite a theatrical child; I think I could have done better. In Sebastian's honor, I named the first pet I adopted as an adult after him. A yellow and white pound cat, he was not nearly as Flytey as his namesake.

The mini-series location was Castle Howard, pictured top. The movie, it has been reported, is being filmed at Chatsworth House, above, which is, as you can see, beyond beyond. Jennifer Dwyer did a great post on the house and it's owner a while back. I already know I love the story and I can't imagine I would be disappointed by the settings, but I plan to rent the mini-series to see how they all stack up. Besides, it's a great excuse to snuggle up with Mr. Blandings. And Bear.

All images of the actors, Vanity Fair.

Post-script: Joni, of Cote de Texas is correct.  Chatsworth House was an original location for the movie, but it was actually filmed at Castle Howard as well.  Thanks for the heads-up.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bridal Shower

Image of poster, courtesy of bb8.

Megan Samuels's beachbungalow8 was one of three blogs that delighted me daily, and ultimately inspired me to "sign in" myself. Megan's from Kansas City, and while I'm only a transplant, we have covered a lot of the same stomping grounds. And Megan, in case you didn't already know, is getting hitched. Based on the the number of times she's made me laugh, the number of products she's made me want to buy, and the number of times she's offered me stellar advice, I'd like to throw her a little bridal shower. On-line.

Her good friends from L.A. (and beyond) have already thrown her the girlie shower with the girlie food, so, I going to break things up a bit. First, we're wearing jeans. Not fancy jeans, 501's.

And we're going to Bryant's.

Kansas City is known for it's barbecue (or bbq depending on how much sign allowance you have) and one of the oldest and best is Arthur Bryant's. It might be an acquired taste. The meat of your choice (please don't order turkey in ear-shot of Mr. Blandings, the eye-rolling is so dramatic and exaggerated, it's a bit embarrassing) is piled high on Wonder white bread, of which you can have extra slices if you request them. The sauce is thin and spicy and the French fries are amazing. The beer is always cold. Please, don't wear your stilettos as the floor is always a little slick. It is not gross, it's unbelievable.

Bracelet, Janet Mavec.

And when we are so full that we might need to unbutton our top buttons, I'd give her this. For her love of pretty, shiny things, and birds, a little something to jingle on her wrist as she is sitting on the beach with Nick. Oh. Nick. Should I get him a little something, too? Well, he has Megan, which should surely be enough. Maybe I'll just pick him up a little sauce on the way out.

Best wishes, darling Megan, enjoy every minute. Then tell us all about it when you get back.

StyleCourt , Cote de Texas and Pigtown Design have offered up some treats for Megan as well!

Friday, February 22, 2008


The Wind in the Willows, illustrations by Dick Cuffari. Technically, this is a rat.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Blandings and I came home and our babysitter was sitting at the kitchen table with her feet up on the riser. Everything ok? Yes, everything fine, boys were a delight (is this ever true? Could they be that much better with other people than they are with me?) the only thing was, there was a mouse. Under the sofa. Except he wasn't when we checked. She's a lovely girl, and quite bright, smarter than me times ten. But days went by and I never saw our new lodger, nor any ugly sign of him.

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown.

Then my mother-in-law was here (it was a week later, just in case you thought my life was a constant party) and she saw him, too. Her feet were also amusingly up when we came home. A few more days and I still hadn't spotted him.

Love is a Handful of Honey, illustrations by Vanessa Cabban.

Then, my middle darling, reported a sighting in the dining room. "He went right across the room and under the radiator." I believed him, of course, but right across the middle of the room? At dinner time? What about all my mouse knowledge - nocturnal, baseboard skimmers - none of this was adding up.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, Robert Barry.

Then at the end of the week things began to get wacky. He ran right behind me while I was fixing dinner and talking to Mr. Blandings. Right behind me. Under the radiator. Well, sure, it's freezing here, that's where I wanted to be as well. But now, it was time for action. We started with traps. thank you. My eldest reported that he saw him run right around one.

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, illustrations by Felicia Bond.

We resorted to poison, always a scary tactic in a house with a dog. Not a sign of a nibble. Are you laughing that I think I had one mouse? I really do. He was little. Over the course of two weeks I saw him pretty often. Mr. Blandings jokingly said we should mark him with a paint gun so we could tell.

Dear Mrs. LaRue, by Mark Teague.

Then, as I was getting a bit attached and the boys were requesting a cage so we could keep him, I tried live traps. It seemed so humane. All he wanted was a little warmth, after all. Not even food as far as I could tell. No dice.

Flora McDonnell's ABC's.

I was a bit worried about my dinner last Saturday. As I mentioned, these were newer friends and I really didn't want a mouse running across my dining room mid-meal. But he didn't show. I thought the poison might have taken affect. But, no, Sunday he was back. This further endeared him to me as I think he was aware that his presence at the party might have been badly received. Like a tipsy in-law.

Poppleton, illustrations by Mark Teague.

My neighbor, who never liked the live trap idea, suggested glue traps. Awful. Inhumane. Horrid. But I was at my wits end. I abhor mice. Truly, I'm the shrieking-standing-on-the-table person. We had already determined that our mouse was either anorexic or had a nut allergy, so I baited the glue traps with Cherrios and a dried cranberry.

Pearls Before Swine, The Sopratos, Stephan Pastis.

It was an empty victory. Horrible as we had both expected. Mr. Blandings said as he picked up the trap our visitor clung to the sisal with his front paws. Our boys were stunned. When they heard the news you would have thought we left Rosie in the trash to starve. Part of me hopes he has a little cartoon chutzpa and plucks himself from his prison to live another day. Outside.

Stuart Little, illustrations by Garth Williams.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oh, Happy Day!

This does not look like it could possibly be the beginning of a very good day, but in fact, it was. To begin, we had some lovely "new" friends to dinner Saturday, and despite the coq au vin being a bit purple (at first, by the time we served it, it seemed much better, and tasted devine) we had a wonderful time, so I already had a spring in my step.

Also, I had had a little retail therapy. There are upsides and downside to making friends with antique dealers. The upside is, they are usually happy to see you, fun to talk to, and, if you are lucky, they often have something really yummy you might need. Mr. Blandings might question the definition of "need," but I think you know what I mean. The downside is, sometimes you drop in just to say "hi" and things happen. Perhaps you want to put something on the wish list for the next buying trip, and it turns out you are on a buying trip yourself. This happened to me at Suzanne Cooper's on Saturday. I'd been eyeing these vintage jars for a while and she finally "gave" them to me. Sort of. But they are quite big, very heavy, and will be fabulous filled with holly or sunflowers, and absolutely glorious when the peonies bloom. Which may be never as it is a ridiculous 17 degrees here.
My subscription for domino finally arrived. I not sure my pregnancies lasted longer, or ended with at much relief, as this process. I danced a jig at the mailbox.

And, the rug came. I have a wonderful receiving company that I use, and one of the nice things about them is they don't balk when you say, "Um, I do have a couple of things that need to be moved." and the things are a 200 pound desk and a 500 pound chest that you didn't get around to emptying. Well, you saw the living room, it's not like I didn't do anything. And I Swiffered. And picked up no fewer than fifty Legos.

I have to say, I love it. I wanted to do wall-to-wall, but Mr. Blandings furrowed his brow, which means he's highly concerned and I conceded. I still think I was right, because that is how I am, but I'm very happy with the results.

If you are wondering if he noticed, he did. He said it wasn't the new-carpet smell that gave it away, but the first thing the boys said when they came home from school was, "What stinks?"

And darling Rosie. What a day. First she had to follow me back and forth through all the emptying out. Then meeting her new friends, the delivery guys, was very exciting. Then the following back and forth to put everything back. Days like that can really wear a girl out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

20.51, or the Better Half of 41

In the last of my presidential posts, I have to give a little shout-out to Barbara Bush. As I mentioned before, my dad has had to opportunity to work on every presidential election since 1960.

He has always spoken very kindly of Barbara Bush. In his experience, she was always lovely and gracious to the press. Not everyone is. He has recounted witnessing her watch election results sitting on the floor while campaign insiders buzzed about.

In June, 1989, House & Garden showcased the Bush's home in Kennebunkport. While I never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Bush myself, the image, below, seems to reflect my dad's impression. (I don't know if there was a designer involved on the project, but I'm getting a little Sister Parish vibe off this.  I will now think all houses in Maine are appointed this way.)

I don't care for women who put on airs, be they First Ladies or grade school mommies. I'd much rather sit on the floor and dish with the gal wearing a big double-strand of pearls.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I was a bit conflicted about yesterday's post. I felt like it needed to focus on Washington, as, sometimes, I'm a bit of a purist. But my favorite president, when it comes to design anyway, is Thomas Jefferson.

Cliche, I know. It's not as if I was the first to notice his deft hand at balance and scale. But mostly I like Jefferson because he was a thinker. His home reflects his ability to discern what he believed to be good and still allow the influence of others. He married what he thought an American home (estate) should be, while allowing the best of what he had discovered in Europe to creep in.

The entry hall reflected his interest in natural history, containing fossils, antlers, artifacts and the seven day clock of his own design.

Jefferson began designing Monticello when he was 25. He followed a standard, readily available pattern book. Construction began two years later in 1770 and continued for the next fourteen years. (And you thought your kitchen remodel took a long time.) Then he went to France.

The tea room connects to the dining room with sliding doors to accomodate larger parties. The plaster busts are Benjamin Franklin, Lafayette, John Paul Jones and Washington.

French architecture was a defining influence and he remodeled Monticello extensively to include the elements of design he learned there.

Ah, the enfilade, which ends with the view of Jefferson's desk - designed to be used while standing - and leather chair.

The frieze, above, was part of the plaster work of the dining room (below.) The motif alternates with one of cattle skulls to represent Jefferson's interest in agriculture and his working farm.

Clearly, Jefferson was focused on detail. Blue and white jasperware is inlaid in the chimneypiece.

The study, including the walnut bookstand of Jefferson's design.

Jefferson's bedroom connected to his study and the bed was tucked into an alcove between. The skylight provided an additional source of light; the portholes provided light and ventilation to a storage loft on the mezzanine.

That should be enough, right? He sketched his own curtains. How can you not love a president who sketches his own curtains?
All images House & Garden, April, 1993.