Monday, March 30, 2009

Still More Lion Than Lamb

"Dad?" "Yes?"  "There are a couple of branches down in the backyard."  "OK, I'll look at it in a minute."  Mr. Blandings was testy.  He was helping me hang shelves in the playroom when our oldest called up the stairs.  Actually, he was hanging shelves and I was helping, which really means I was telling him exactly where the shelves should go and then getting snippy when he started talking about studs and bolts and details that I did not find all that interesting.

Once we'd reached an agreeable compromise (perhaps a quarter of an inch was not as significant as I had originally supposed) we pulled aside the shade to assess the damage in the backyard.

I'd like to say we were having an unseasonable snowfall.  It's not usual for us to have snow this time of year but it happens.  Saturday started out cold and rainy, progressed to freezing rain and sleet and then rounded out the day with a heavy, wet snow that resulted in about four-to-five inches of accumulation.

The "branches" it turned out where about half of the Bradford Pear, a lovely tree that has no business living in this part of the country.  It was the last of three, and while it makes me feel unkind, I said, "good riddance."  The other two were felled by the same fate; now we can replace them with better suited sentries.

The branches fell on the fence and into our neighbor's yard.  It was an ungodly mess that badly damaged their dogwood, but fortunately did no harm to their pool cover.  They have been out of town all week.  "I think we need to move that so it's not so much of a disaster when they get back."  "We do?"  "I can help you."  "Honey, it's incredibly heavy.  We can't move that."  "Of course we can.  Not pick it up and move it, but shift it, you know leverage."  

Their gate was locked so we (he) set up ladders on each side of the fence so Mr. Blandings could climb over to clear some of the mess.  I'm a big enough woman to say that he was right, but not quite big enough to move a two hundred pound limb.  I did remain cheerful while he handed me branches and kept my advice to myself.

The images, above, by the immensely talented photographer and artist, Lee Bowers, are not of my yard, but a lovely reminder that Spring will come.  This feature is in the current issue of Spaces.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Regrets, I've Had a Few

Let's be frank, we've all passed on a few things that still haunt us.  I'm a bit sick that I did not grab this table and hoist it onto my shoulder and carry it down the stairs at the River Market Antique Mall the minute I saw it.  No, instead, I thought about it.  Posted about it.  Then, returned, to find we were not meant to be.  I've gone back to the spot just to reminisce.

While there, I've stood, weight on my right leg, left hip slightly jutting out, arms crossed, head cocked slightly to the side to consider these chairs.  I wanted them, but did I need them?  Yes, that is what I wondered until I went this week and now they, too, are gone.  Rats!

I was there to pick up at least one of these enameled silver pieces that have been there for weeks and weeks and, guess what?  Gone.  What the heck?  Will I never learn?

The basalt bowl is still there, but I didn't get it.  Just not sure.  I might pick it up the next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From the Land of the Taj Majal

We are incredibly fortunate here in Kansas City to have an amazing exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum running through June 14th.  From the Land of the Taj Mahal is a collection of court paintings from the Mughal Emperors of India on loan from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.  The Mughal dynasty ruled much of southeast Asia from 1526 - 1857 AD.

These incredibly colorful, detailed and revealing miniature paintings are basically pages from albums commissioned by two of India's most powerful leaders, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, who is best known for building the Taj Mahal.

These albums contained portraits of family, friends, servants and animals.  They included folk tales and recreations of significant events in the lives of the rulers.  They were personal and private.  They were, in essence, scrapbooks.

They just happened to be scrapbooks created by some of the most talented artists of their time and place.  The curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, Kimberly Masteller, explained that artists would have focused on their strengths; some focused on calligraphy, others painting figures and others still would work on the intricate borders.

The exhibit is beautifully laid out and the museum has provided magnifying glasses so you can study the detail of the paintings.  There are stools placed throughout so children can see more closely.  These manuscripts have rarely been on view and it is my understanding that it's quite unlikely they will return to the States anytime soon.

Chester Beatty, by the way, was a New Yorker who made his fortune in mining in Cripple Creek, Colorado.  A collector from a young age, he eventually focused his passion on rare books and paintings, especially those from Asia, the Middle East and Egypt.  He lived for a while in London then moved to Ireland where he established the Library to house his collection.

You can click on the images here to see them larger and the Nelson's site has a great selection of the paintings with details of the subject matter and the ability to zoom in on the details.  Several programs are available that support the exhibit.  Members can enjoy the exhibit for free; admission for adult non-members is $8.

All images courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Still

You know, I thought I was finished, too. I thought I'd had my little run with style icons and their affinity for needlepoint. (You're kidding, she's still on this?) I know. But. As I have been stalking the mail slot - my big city friend has had his Elle Decor for over a week - Vogue arrived and offered additional evidence that stitching is bewitching.

Polly Mellen, a fashion editor at Vogue for 28 (!) years with an additional eight years as creative director at Allure is interviewed in the current issue of Vogue by the equally beguiling Marina Rust.
Mellen exclaims, "I am a big needlepointer." I must agree. She stitched the plaid rug, above, in small squares while biding her time at shoots and shows.

She has a large collection of pillows that she has made based on artists she admires and pieces of her mother's as well. Rust writes, "in the 1950's her mother, Leslie Smith Allen, won first price in the world needlepoint exhibition." Says Mellen, "I miss her, and I will always miss her."

How I do hope I'm in the garden, serving strawberries, wearing red, talking needlepoint with my granddaughter someday.

Images, Vogue, April, 2009. Photography by Eric Boman.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Off the Rack

My magazine club met last night and one of the issues we discussed was the February/March issue of Western Interiors.  When Rosie heralded the arrival of the mail today I was delighted to find the April issue in the slot.  The crew last night agreed that the magazine is very strong and this issue does not disappoint.  I was especially charmed by Dan Marty's Los Angeles apartment, pictured above.  (Marty owns a showroom in L.A.  Check his site as the vignettes are quite inspiring.)  Another feature that will be a fan favorite is a project by C. Renea Abbott, owner of Houston's Shabby Slips.  Do pick up a copy, or better yet, subscribe today.

For much better coverage of Marty and the changes at Western Interiors hop on over to Katie Dunham's Katie Did as she did a much better job than I.

Image above, Tim Street-Porter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Eyes Have It

Only my pocket book is keeping me from it.

Image, top, the Hon Desmond Guiness and his children via Aesthete's Lament.  The photographer was Slim Aarons, c Getty images.  Ikat in nearly every color combination you could imagine via

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Devil is in the Details

As often happens, once I'm on something it tumbles around in my head a bit.  I've had the article on the Vreeland apartment on my desk for a week now and every day I'm noticing something new.  It's easy to be overwhelmed by the color and miss all the wonderful stuff.

(Slightly off subject, matching cuffs have held long-time appeal and both sets of Vreeland's that are pictured in this piece are enviable.)

I was struck by Vreeland's quote in the article, "I was always working, not hunting valuable antiques.  Couldn't afford them anyway.  Frankly, antiques bore me to death."  And yet.  And yet her home is layered and sophisticated and some of her stuff is quite good indeed.

Megan's post yesterday made me flip back to this page as Vreeland, who was a fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar and editor-in-chief at Vogue, used several fashion sketches on this wall.

Included in the jumble is this picture of Winston Churchill (natch) guarded by a prowl of porcelain leopards, a gift from jeweler Jean Schlumberger.  

Chic! Unique, no?  But then there's this.  Staffordshire dogs.  

And this charming Staffordshire couple.  Staffordshire is just the type of collectible for society women, of which Vreeland assured she was not one.  And here, they are part of a salon set just on its ear, staged as "garden in hell."

I don't quite have the nerve to paint my doors black ( I know, Joni, I know) but giggle with delight at Vreeland's red door which reminds me neither of the church of Arden or the Church of England.  In the article Vreeland reminisces on her home in Brewster, New York, "It had one pink door, one blue, one yellow.  And I had a ball getting each color just right.  The painter did the samples fourteen times."  

This little tablescape of shells makes a happy home for the coral necklace with the jade clasp.  It does seem many of Vreeland's things were gifts including many of the Scottish snuff horns with silver tops and cabochons.  Seems folks would catch wind of what she liked and her collection would grow "one by one."
For a different view of the apartment do check Jennifer Boles at the Peak of Chic here.  Style Court's Courtney Barnes has a terrific post on one of Vreeland's portraits and Aesthete's Lament has captured some of her wisdom here

All images House & Garden, May, 1988.  Photography by Oberto Gili except the image of Vreeland in grey, which is by Priscilla Rattazzi.  Interior design by Billy Baldwin.  Also, there were similar pieces of Staffordshire at Suzanne Cooper's (45th & State Line) when I stopped in last week.  Suzanne is transitioning into semi-retirement and much of her inventory is greatly reduced.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Off With Her Head!"

So could have proclaimed Lucy, a reader with a keen eye, who gave me the heads-up that the pillow used in the Bazaar shoot is available to any and all without toil.  But she didn't, she just sent me the link.  Simply click here (and pay) and Jonathan Adler would be delighted to send one of these beauties right to your door.

Or this.  Or both!

I will tell you that Adler's bargello pillows were one of my favorites from the New York Gift Fair in January.

Bright, cheerful, loaded with color and well-executed they would give a pop of color to brighten up any room looking a little down in the heels.

And I know that Katie has already told you, but Adler is giving away the store.  Sort of.  Sign up for his email list and you are entered in a sweepstakes.  You'll receive the happy thrill of Adler's updates and a chance to win prizes including a JA $2000 gift card.  That would be happy chic, indeed.

Friday, March 13, 2009


There was a snappy layout in Harper's Bazaar recently featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as Diana Vreeland.  This particularly terrific needlepoint pillow was part of the styling.

The inspiration for the photo, above, was chocked full of needlepoint treasures.  

The card pillows would be a breeze to whip up yourself.  Super easy to enlarge a copy of a card, place under the canvas, outline the pattern and stitch away.  Be sure to leave plenty of room around the pattern for finishing as the Studio has gotten after me a couple of times for this.

Needlepoint is a very personal gift, though one of my friends said once, "You should only stitch for someone who needlepoints; no one else will understand what it means."

I haven't ever signed a piece, but seeing Vreeland's stitched signature here is quite endearing.

No time?  No energy?  No interest?  Then follow Vreeland's lead on parrot tulips which are never a bad choice.

Image, top, Harper's Bazaar, photograph by Peter Lindbergh.  Other images, House & Garden, May, 1988, photographs by Oberto Gili.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Sets

Maybe it's because of this, but I'm a little weary of the straight and sleek.

Troubling times call for a little lift.

Follow my mother's advice - you may not be able to change your life, but you can always change your hair.

A shampoo and set or some such thing.  Some bounce.  An errant curl to toss out of your eye.

Make sure it's a bit of mess to show you're not too much of a good girl.  The time is right.

Image, top, January Jones and Jon Hamm from Mad Men used without permission, but much gratitude, from AMC, Ingrid Bergman, Sofia Loren, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, all from IMDB.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Per Richard Hamilton's suggestion, I re-hung the botanicals over the sofa.  I used an old Martha Stewart trick that works like a charm.  Cut templates for the pieces, place them on the wall, nail right through the paper once you determine where it should go.

Works like a charm.  If you use newspaper, as I did, do make sure the bothersome "enhancement" ad is to the wall to avoid awkward questions from any loitering children.

Why, oh why, did I not buy six of these when I had the chance?

p.s.  Joni suggested this a while ago, but I was too lazy to measure it out.  A dinner party this weekend spurred action as they always tend to do.