Thursday, July 31, 2008


I hate to shop.  I know you fashionistas will think this is a cop out, but I love J. Crew.  Always have.  I think it's easy.  And, by the way, I'm not on the red carpet, I'm in the carpool line so it works just swell.  Anyway, I'm flipping through the latest and I notice this...

And, their stylishly messy-haired models are wearing one in almost every image.

"Collection" is a stretch as there is one.  (If a collection is one then I have a collection of diamond rings, Ted Muehling candlesticks and boxer pups.)  But it's a good one.  Rolex 14K gold "shell" Oyster Perpetual on riveted Oyster bracelet.  Note that for their first selection they chose yellow gold.  This is the men's model.  For the record, the scale of a vintage man's watch on a woman's wrist is near perfection.  Can't wait to see what's next.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Did She Have a Little Work Done?

A few commenters have noted the change in Mrs. Blanding's appearance.  At his elegant home on Saturday night, David Jimenez mentioned Patricia van Essche's charming illustration that I use for the header of the blog.  It made me realize I hadn't "seen" it in a while.  I started Mrs. Blandings almost a year ago.  For a while, her title was simply typed at the top of the page in red, then Patricia created the engaging illustration above just before I was headed to New York.  Enchanted, I knew it must be my header, but blogger was a little trickier then and I couldn't quite figure out how to do it.  Eventually, I created the old image in Word (it's funny how far you can come in a year), printed it, scanned it and posted it.

Courtney, at Style Court, was gracious and noted that it had a vintage feel.  OK, so it was a little fuzzy, I'd get back to it later.  I wasn't thinking nine months later, but that is kind of how I work.  After David's comment caused a mental nudge, I realized I could easily update the header, which lead to a little more tinkering.  The template is the same, but I changed it to a wider version to expand the margins a bit.  "Wordy," this keeps the text on Mrs. Blandings from looking quite so long.

I also changed the font.  This is cleaner, I think, and I am a Arial user in "real life" so this is a better fit for me visually as well.  And it's larger, which might be a little easier to read on screen.  Overall, I think it's crisper.  I initially changed the background color to white, and I must say I liked it, but I could not give up this gentle shade as I've grown so accustom to it.

I know it takes the eye a while to adjust to change.  Hopefully, Mrs. Blandings just looks better and fresher, not different and strained as sometimes happens with cosmetic alterations.   Or so I've heard.

Past Due

After I mentioned Suzanne loaning me some of her vintage design books, I received an email from a reader asking me which design books I would recommend.  This is a little tricky, but let's start with Suzanne's stack.  I adored The Power of Style, though it is not really a design book.  Billy Baldwin - most definitely and it is a delight to read.  (Yes, read.)  Vogue, how could I have doubted you and your astronomical price tag?  I'm not sure I can say it's worth every penny, but it is very, very good.  World of Interiors, yes.  Hicks?  Actually, I prefer the newer one for all the reasons his son mentions in the forward.  I know it's sacrilege, but I would pass on this.

Now, mine.  The thing is, to me, a design book doesn't have to be a home run to win me over.  A few good images can keep it near and dear to my heart.

Home - a fabulous read I wish I'd thought of myself.  Browning's book, de Wolfe, Hampton (mine is a signed first edition - I'm showing off) and the Van Day Truex bio all have amazing content.  Tarlow has some of the best decorating advice ever.  Ever.  Well Lived Life I refer to often.  So Chic allowed me to clear out most of my Elle Decor tear sheets; it's all in there.

Any of the vintage House and Garden books should be snapped up, but the 1960 is my favorite.  Inspirational Interiors I would clutch to my bosom as I fled my burning house assuming my family was safe.  Gomez, absolutely wonderful.  Again, Baldwin, this time "Remembers" is a delight - more to read than to look at, though there are knock-out rooms as well.

Adore Southern Accent's Color.  Adore.  Hoppen's Perfect Neutrals is a new favorite and I love the way she has compiled so many designers' work.  Influential Interiors is essential.  The aforementioned Hicks is a must have as is Smith's Elements of Style and Rooms to Inspire does just that.

A few are too large for the under-the-window-seat shelf (which is just to the left of my desk - handy) and are on the bookshelf just behind.  von Kersting's book is a complete delight and I almost feel like I have to wear white cotton gloves when I look at it.  The paperback binding will surely not withstand my constant pawing.  Farrow & Ball is gorgeous.

These I had on my desk for a while, but, as I am so messy, they kept taking up space I need to pile, well, stuff.

Albert Hadley I go back to again and again and the new Vogue Living keeps offering up surprises every time I am on the hunt.  I have so many on my wish list, the first being the Parish Hadley.  As you can see, I need it.

I did not link to all of these books because the post would have looked like it was hit with buckshot and I couldn't stand it.  I believe if you click on the photos you can see each spine clearly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ode on a CB Glass

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness
Thou foster child of commerce and market
Blogging poet, who canst thus express
Wonder of form wherever I park it
Clean and clear with classic lines magnificent
One marvels at your beauty unlimitless
At two dollars and fifty heaven sent
Tho if you shatter it is quite a mess
Clear glass, clear liquid and a squish of lime
Mr. B and I find you mighty fine.

Glasses here.  Sincere apologies to John Keats. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

Your (Not) Stu pod

My sister is six years younger than I am.  One day we were at a friend's house and I did some forgotten (by me) unkind big sisterly thing and she wrote me and my friend a note that said, "Your stu  pod."

When my friend and I recovered she said, "I'll be stu and you be pod; those are your initials anyway."  We called each other by the monikers from time to time, but like most things that spring up in seventh grade, they eventually fell away.

High school was an era of monogrammed sweaters and people would note that mine spelled a word, but, again, it was nothing more than a passing comment then on to English Lit.

In college, I worked at a drinking establishment.  College students, being long on need of entertainment but short on cash, had the unfortunate habit of writing bad checks.  To try and control the situation a bit, the owner posted a "Bad Check List."  Employees had to check the list every time they took a check and initial the corner; if the person was on the bad check list and the just-initialed check bounced, the employee was responsible for covering the check.

"pod" graced the corner of a lot of my friends' checks.  And then it stuck.  Dozens of folks call me nothing else.  Mr. Blandings calls me pod; if he uses my first name it makes my head jerk up in alarm.  Like the middle and last name of my childhood scoldings, my given name on my husband's tongue means trouble.

It's not exactly a pretty name and I'm sure there are folks who have heard it and have wondered its origin.  

Recently one of my readers emailed that she had seen some of Lost City Products embroidered textiles at the Chicago Merchandise Mart and that they were quite great.  A few of their patterns were inspired by Josef Frank.  Personally, I was thrilled to see one of the patterns contains pea pods.  But what I found most interesting is that on the site they note the inspiration for all of their hand-embroidered designs.  In addition, they tell the story of their company and the evolution of the new line of silks.  And they do it in an incredibly entertaining way.  So rather than recap here, I'm sending you there.

At a dinner party on Saturday which was lively and engaging and relaxing and easy all at the same time, we stood in the kitchen talking forever.  Neither hosts nor guests would be aware of my maiden initials or my alias so I was expecting to see my given name at my spot.  When we sat down to dinner I found my place identified by the graphic black ink on the crisp white card marked clearly, "Mrs. B."  

Friday, July 25, 2008

House & Garden, Part 2

"Come in," said Cindy Sutherland, and so I did to this charming home.  Not magazine slick or jumpy or trendy.  Quiet and lovely and loved.

The wash on the walls in the entry was subtle and soothing developed to mimic the tone of a French mat on an old print.

Sutherland added the horizontal accents to the existing balustrades to give it a more interesting Chippendale feel. 

The dining room, where we sat and visited, is as sunny and relaxed as its owner.

She had originally tried botanicals on the walls but they never felt quite right.  The majolica eventually came home here.

The TV room also serves as library (and houses the Aarons's book of the last post.)  Sutherland is so glad they updated the kitchen but did not "blow out" the back as many had suggested.  She reports that her husband comes home to sit in the same spot every night.  The lesson learned was that people do gravitate to small spaces and the soaring ceilings and masses of square footage do not translate to "more."

I adore the hunt scene, and, as you might have guessed, Sutherland painted it.  She's begun to paint more and is delighted and slightly amazed that this passion is finding an audience.

Things were bound to go well for me here, right?  Yellow and white, that soft red and chintz.  Blandings heaven.

Oh, yes, and needlepoint.  Sutherland stitched this pillow that was once a kit offered at the Nelson, much like the one I had painted recently.

I tried putting it under my shirt, but she noticed.  Now I'm kidding.  But I would've.

The house was built by Edward Tanner, a prominent Kansas City architect, as a spec house for the J.C. Nichols development.  One house on the street originally had a three hole golf course.  Sutherland can trace the changes to this house from the original floor plans and pictures included in the original brochure.

 The room is filled with family pieces as well as a significant collection of Staffordshire.

This is the women's wall and is hung with portraits of family members, a couple by Sutherland herself.

The oyster wood chest was her grandmother's.

It's difficult to tell because of the light in this image, but the slipper chairs are upholstered identically to my office chair.  Smudgy turquoise and red.
 Sutherland took me up to her studio where light flooded the room.  She has captured her children, her own pets and others', as well as scenes from her garden.  She shows to a small group once a year.

Currently working on illustrating a children's book, she also has cards available at George Terbovich Gallery in Crestwood.

It was a wonderful morning, a welcome break from shuttling boys and picking up toys.  

And while this seems a "very Mrs. Blandings" house the real appeal is that it is really all Sutherland's own.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

House & Garden, Part 1

Suzanne called and said, "I talked to Cindy Sutherland and she'd love to have you come see her house and garden.  It's very Mrs. Blandings."  Any recommendation of Suzanne's was bound to be a good one, but I felt so awkward, heavens, how would I go about asking someone if I could post pictures of their home on the internet.  

Sutherland placed the gate here because she likes the view it creates from the front of the house.  While a visitor did not see the point, she said, "The point is I like looking at it."

No surprise, Cindy is lovely.  When I told her I feared it was such an imposition she assured me that it would be fun.  She loves to share it.

White crab apples and narcissus create a stunning early-spring display.  Cool and inviting, still, in July.

We all have houses that we drive by all the time and think, "Favorite."  Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to see the house that was "very Mrs. Blandings" was on my short list.  Georgian Revival, but more fondly known as "Connecticut farmhouse" to me and Mr. Blandings in our conversational shorthand.  

The parterre outlined in gravel paths.  

The kind of house, regardless of size, that could never intimidate, but is forthright and candid in its ability to be gracious and hospitable.  "Come in." it invites and Cindy does, too, then out we go to see the glorious garden.

Sutherland has the original plan for the house and this bit was added; originally a screened porch, she and her husband decided to open it up.  Usually working when she is outside (although she assures me it only takes a short time every day) this is a favorite spot during a rain shower.

Cindy tells me that gardening has been a recent passion.  She puttered with flowers all along, but once her children were older and the yard was no longer a playing field she began to lay it out in her mind then with her hands.

The small pond has been encircled to keep Rosie and Lily out of peril.

Tall and lovely, her eyes snap as she discusses the garden and how it came to be.  Twelve years ago she began laying out the allee and the parterre.  She believes a garden with structure satisfies everyday of the year; flowers cannot be trusted.

The plantings closer to the house are more formal and then as you move out it has a wilder, more prairie-like feel.  

Cindy has been careful to establish the views from inside the house so paths and beds are on an  axis with the windows.  

The beds within the wall have three bursts: spring bulbs, peonies and day lillies.  Sutherland avoids planning for late summer as it is usually hot and humid here.  You're often better off inside.

Talking to a gardener like this is bringing a dawning of understanding about the planning.  I'm starting to "get it" and I can't help but be drawn in by her enthusiasm.

A family of foxes has taken up residence in the neighborhood.  Here is Sutherland's charming tribute.

We started outside then moved in to refresh.  The thing is, my path should have crossed with this woman's a million times.  We know the same people, we go the same places.  There is a slight age difference, but still.  We traded views on houses and schools and children and all the things that come with and all the while I couldn't help but think, "How could I have missed this engaging woman for all these years?"

Currently completely obsessed by the Mitford sisters, I asked her if she had read Hons and Rebels, a book recently given to me by another amazing woman, and she dashed to the library to pull out Slim Aarons book to show me the famous "Mitford eyes."

The patio is mostly potted evergreens and some, only white, flowers.

So even this town, my home for over twenty years, keeps unfolding.  Stay-tuned tomorrow for the inside.  Treasures await.

(Oh, how Mr. Blandings loathes "to be continued..."