Friday, May 30, 2008

Crystal Clear

Yesterday morning the two older Blandings boys had orthodontist appointments. (Are we going to have to hear about her errands all summer?" Well, maybe.) As is usually the case, I ran into a good friend and got to catch up while my two were being evaluated and hers was being fitted for a new retainer. Broken. Ouch.

After she left and before I was called back to see what sort of damage genetics had wreaked, and what sort of residual damage that would cause to my checkbook, I had a chance to flip through O Home.

I didn't get far before I stumbled on these lanterns from Juliska. I have liked their glassware from the get-go, though thought they suffered from a bit of over-exposure for a while.

But these are dreamy. I like them individually, but they seem to want to group, no?

The round sea urchin looking one would be great fun at the beach either in a dressing room or a few over the kitchen island.

I love the starkness of the clear glass with the detail of the embellishments. And no detail has been lost on the function; the bulbs are brilliant.

As was my mother who always said, "You should be an orthodontist. They work 3 1/2 days a week, get paid up front - and how many orthodontic emergencies can there be?" She knew as she had shuttled me and my sister back and forth through inherited cross bites and common crookedness. Thank goodness that light bulb did not go off. To think I almost missed the fame and fortune of being a former grade school auction chair.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bull's Eye

The new issue of Spaces came yesterday. Its focus is second homes and it is spot on. One of the things I like best is that most of the features are second homes within driving distance of KC.

Dan Auman and Kirby McCullough wanted a country house within an hour-and-a-half of the city. They scoured their determined radius from east to west before they settled on two adjacent lots in Arrow Rock, Missouri.

I haven't been to Arrow Rock, but know folks who have hit the jackpot in its antique shops. I have stayed in a family home in nearby Glasgow and the countryside is picturesque and lovely.

Auman and McCullough used the floor plan of the George Caleb Bingham house in town as the jumping off point for their new construction.

Clean and fresh, the owners wanted to express a different side of themselves here. Their home in town is mid-century modern and they were wanting something a little "different."

The house has a country aesthetic, certainly, but you can see the modernist influence here. Spare lines, un-fussy curtains and upholstery and graphic art give the owners room to breathe.

Ultimately, it was the people they met there who drew them in and made them feel at home. With only 32 full-time residents, my guess is they pick you as much as you pick them.

Looks like a match made in heaven.

Photography by Landon Collins.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And They're Off!

Welcome to Camp Blandings where the three young inhabitants will begin the summer filled with excitement and enthusiasm.

We will swim and play golf, walk to Brookside and likely hike in Colorado.  I will make every effort to keep the electronic demons in check.

At some point the season will make an ugly transition and it will become "too hot for the pool."

But for now, we begin summer again and even I cannot forget the feeling of your world breaking wide open when the bell rings for the last time.  Exultation and relief.

Even for the resident camp counselor, who often stands head in hand wondering if this was really what I signed up for, the last day of school is always a good day.

Because of a cooler spring, the peony hedge in the front is a little late in blooming this year.  Its stalks are usually heavy with blossoms for Mother's Day, but this year we had to wait a bit.

So yesterday, when we drove up, car crammed with boys and backpacks and cubby labels and artwork, the peonies greeted us like fireworks, welcoming us home to days of laughter and lounging and beastly boredom.  Summer in the Dream House begins today. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008


1st dibs has a nice little feature on Chinoiseries, the stunning book by Bernd Dams and Andrew Zega.
It reminded me of the story I pulled from a vintage House & Garden, December 1988 on Frederick the Great's country retreat.  Not having the budget of Louis XIV, Sanssouci is on a much smaller scale and is modeled on Grand Trianon and not Versailles.

These images are of the tea house.  Life sized gilded figures surround the palm tree columns.  I'm completely enchanted by the tassels hanging from the roof line.

A hearty figure crowns the building, carefully shielded from the elements by his smart parasol.

The library in the main house is a circular, domed room outfitted with built-in bookcases.

The bas-relief monkey adorns the walls of "Voltaire's room" where the philosopher lived for three years.  Martin Filler, the article's author, notes that Voltaire might have been, "the king's most important French acquisition."  His quarters certainly capture the spirit of his homestead's name, which translates as "without care."  The entire room was decorated with carved and painted flora and fauna.  Too bad writers are no longer considered collectable.  This wouldn't be a bad spot to be a resident blogger. 

Photographs, Erich Lessing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guidance and Inspiration

My maladjusted middle child got into the car on Saturday sweaty and a bit grimy and queried, "Why does life have to be so discouraging?"

Which is serious business when you're eight. Or the mommy of an eight year old. These are the kinds of things that keep us awake at night wondering if they are ok, if they are over-scheduled, if they have friends.

He had just played soccer with his friends, blocked four shots as goalie, received a medal and had a popsicle. Seemingly boy heaven. And yet, discouraging.

As I am prone to do, I over-reached the moment. "Life, darling, is mostly what you make it. You can focus on the sweaty and tired or the beautiful day spent playing a game you like with your friends. Happiness, sweetheart, is a decision." And on and on. No surprise, in real life, as on the page (screen) I have a lot to say.

Which is a lesson I needed to repeat to myself yesterday. The last few days of the boys' school year is always a bit hectic and frenetic. Meetings and field days (which I always dodge thanks to Mr. Blandings) practices and games seem to multiply in May.

Other mommies must be a bit over-extended, too, as I have been on the receiving end of a fair bit of testiness.

So, I sat down last night, wanting to post. Needing a little inspiration. Courtney had wondered yesterday about Gambrel ever using red and white stripes and it made me wonder myself.

I clicked on over to to cruise through the portfolio. Unlikely, I supposed, and it appears that I am right, but look what I found on my hunt.

A new little number right there under "Country." Chic, as usual. Lots of blue, which is what keeps me from full on cut and paste from his inspiration to my dream house. Gambrel seems to steer clear of yellow and in the last Elle Decor layout (which featured a lot of yellow) he mentioned that yellow can be tricky; he prefers to use it in fabrics more than on walls.

I adore his work. (Really? Gosh we hadn't noticed as you mention him once a week.) And seeing something new is always a treat. I like city Steven, but country Steven soars.

Botanicals, baskets, lanterns, yes, used lovingly, but not unexpected. But the Robsjohn-Gibbings stool set just off from the periwinkle-felted pool table? Delish.

Like a hot steamy shower, suddenly I was refreshed. Invigorated. Ready to face another day of reports and notebooks and calendar-watching children.

And, just in case you were worried, number 2 seems just fine. After my moving soliloquy he said, "Um. OK. But, Mom?" "Yes?" "My shin guards are itchy."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who's Crazy?

How can the same person who sees an image like the one above and has to be careful not to drool upon it have the identical reaction to the image below?

Joni recently posted about cluttered or clean, and while I have that issue as well, I have a bigger problem with what I will call tonal rooms and rooms that are wonderlands of color.

My tear sheets are almost equally divided. Half are serene and elegant rooms with variations of the same tone and contrast only in texture.  Sophisticated and soothing, they are a nice antidote to my big and bossy nature.  "Come in, " they suggest, "Relax.  We've been waiting just for you."

The other half are rooms likes these featured in the current Western Interiors, by Lynn von Kersting, that make me literally bounce up and down in my chair.  "Pick me!" my heart sings when I see this symphony of color and pattern.  Happy and joyful these rooms guarantee a good time.  You're still invited, and welcome, but the party is clearly in full swing.

It's rare that I see a von Kersting room and don't want to cover any available surface with red and white stripes.

It's hard to meld the two, though the designer did choose a neutral wall below.  I think you have to make a choice.  Or live forever in a mixed-up world of design schizophrenia.  Like me.  And me.

Image, top, House Beautiful, June '08.  Design by Christopher Maya.  Photograph by Eric Piasecki.  Rooms by von Kersting from June/July '08  Western Interiors.  Photographs by John Ellis . 

Friday, May 16, 2008

Holy Grail

My pulse always jumps a bit when I see the email from Dessin Fournir with that optimistic subject line "New Releases."

I've always marveled at the creative process. Artists of every kind astound me. Musicians particularly because I am so decidedly unmusical, the thought of being able to string notes together to make a happy noise seems mystifying. Then the thought of different happy noises, different than anyone has created, well, that is the kind of thing that can make me take to my bed.
These kinds of mental puzzles often make me call Mr. Blandings in the middle of the day and announce things right after he has answered like, "I'm not sure I'm a Christian." I can picture him at his desk, phone in hand, lines blinking while he replies in a moderated tone, "Really? Hey, honey, can we talk about this when I get home?"
I mean, I'm a creative sort myself, but much more a copy cat than an innovative mind.
But I can appreciate that gift when I see it. The "Oh!" that escapes at the wonder of the new.

Many of Dessin Fournir's pieces make me feel that way and I don't care how many times I see that perfect dining room table in one layout or another, I will always think of it as mine.

But Chuck Comeau, the company's founder, is an innovator of another kind as well. Do check Cottage Living this month to see their profile of what he is doing in Hays and Plainville, Kansas. There is also a video on their web site. He's my kind of savior.