Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Orange Crush

I've enjoyed the Kips Bay Decorator Show House coverage.  While it's not in my back yard I couldn't help but weigh in on this particularly happy room.

Joe Nye balanced a great use of color with classic elements and a dash of humor.  You didn't miss the pop bottles, right?  (Or since they are in New York are they soda?)

Just a touch of black, something I think every room needs, and oh, that ceiling.

Only one of the reasons I am yearning for spring in New York.

All images courtesy of Marisa Marcantonio at Style Beat.

Monday, April 27, 2009

So Entertaining

To all those concerned that the table in the last post was a tad tight, I offer this image.  Seems everyone is having a good time and no one's elbow is in his neighbor's soup.

But the concern reminded me of a charming book, The Party, by Sally Quinn whose name has been on the tips of many a stylish tongue of late.  My sister-in-law, Lucy, worked for Ms. Quinn for a while and gave me the book for Christmas one year.  The sub-title is "A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining."  It was back in the day, during a time when Mr. Blandings and I had an annual Christmas party.  It all started innocently enough.  

We were married in October and as a way to show our appreciation to the people who had entertained for us during our engagement we threw a cocktail party.  Between the two of us we did not own a Christmas ornament so I went to Wal-Mart and bought four boxes of gold balls in various sizes.  We had been fortunate enough to receive many wedding presents from Hall's and their wedding wrap included yards and yards of wide, cream grosgrain ribbon which served as garland for the tree.  We stocked the bar.  Mr. Blandings cooked.  It all seemed very grown up and quite fun.

The following year we decided it should be an annual event.  Without the natural parameters of the previous year the list grew a bit.  And the next year a bit more and, well, you can see where this is headed.  It was a great mix of people, a few duds of course as there always are, but mostly a lively crowd with a cheerful disposition.  Which was good because by the time I called it quits on the whole thing the guest list had reached about one hundred and seventy people.  The Dream House is medium sized at best and while people came and went it was a crush.  Keeping the bar stocked became an ongoing joke as we would buy based on consumption of the year before but never anticipated correctly.  "Oh, darling, don't park in the driveway.  I'm quite sure Mr. B will have to run to the liquor store."  

It was the kind of party where you were not surprised to pass two gentleman trading ties in the living room.  So when I came across Ms. Quinn's term "PRF" I knew just what she was talking about.  The Blandings' Christmas party was a PRF.  

Putting the Christmas party to rest was like putting down a beloved pet.  All my memories were fond, but the reality was that the joy was gone.  We held the party on the second Saturday of December.  When we started having it we had nothing but our pesky jobs to distract us.  I was giddy to pour over invitations.  I was thrilled to order parrot tulips by the truck-load to fill the Christmas stockings.  I wanted to spend an entire weekend trimming the tree as my ornament collection was now something of an obsession.  Once the boys started showing up things got a little trickier.  The second week in December is a popular time for school Christmas programs and parties and oh, by the way, I was no longer that fresh young bride, but now Santa Claus as well.

The first year that we didn't have it we would run into people, people who normally would have been invited and you could see that wary look.  "Hey, so, what have you guys been up to?"  "No, no, you haven't fallen off the list.  We're not having the party."  Mr. Blandings, for the first two years, referred to it as a "break."  It's been five years since the last one and every Fall he says, "What do you think about the Christmas party this year?"  I think the PRF should RIP.

Image, top, Christopher Spitzmiller.  Illustration, next, Susan Davis from "The Party."

Chris and Roy Set the Table

There is so much inspiration to be found from dining events and the tables that the designers put together.  I hope to have pictures from Dining by Design soon, but in the meantime wanted to share these images from Christopher Spitzmiller and his table at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House party at Sotheby's.

Christopher threw the pots in the center and Roy Hamilton created the wood grain.

Roy also threw the chargers.

They used moss around the base of the centerpiece and the tablecloth and napkins are felt.  I love the restraint on the centerpiece.  The ferns are so lush and the empty vases become sculpture.

Chris said someone came by and felt the tablecloth during set up and said, "Oh, cashmere!"  A good reminder that people often see what they expect to see.  The mix of high and low, while adding some dimension, can also bring the "low" up.

The charming frog place card holders were floral district finds.  Be sure to click the images to see the pottery in detail.  I must say, some of my favorite pieces are the low votive holders; the candlelight makes the glaze glow.  Information on both Chris's and Roy's work can be found here.

All images courtesy of Christopher Spitzmiller.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gros Point

Everyday little surprises pop up in my in box.  Products and services that folks are trying very hard to sell and promote.  Sometimes they are quite good and I pass them along.  Yesterday I received a notice that the newest issue of St. Louis Seasons, a regional magazine, was available on line.  "Oh!  I like St. Louis!  I'll check it out."
Aren't there times when things just come to you and all of a sudden you realize why?  One of the features of this month's issue was on a Ladue resident who makes me look like sloppy seconds when it comes to needlepoint.  She stitches rugs.  Really.  Big rugs and a lot of them.

"When we moved into the house 54 years ago, I couldn't afford an Aubusson rug, so I decided to make my own."  That first rug was actually designed and made by someone else, but then the owner began to design and stitch rugs herself.  Fourteen so far.  Some she has made for her own home, but she comes from a long line of women who have acquired things with generations in mind and she has stitched for her children as well.

The top three images are her dining room and the rug pattern was based on her wedding china.  In addition, each chair cushion is stitched with the initials of a family member.  The entry rug is based on a French garden design and the runner, above, features the blooms from her garden as they appear through the seasons.

The first rug took her seven years to make.  Her partner in craft is First and Last Stitch a nationally known (for people who know these things) needlepoint shop.

The rug above and below is her daughter's dining room and, again, the pattern is based on wedding china.

She says she is never bored and finds stitching soothing and I must say that is part of the appeal for me as well.

This is the daughter's living room and the pattern was based on Chinese Export pottery that has been in the family for several generations.

When asked how she's cares for her rugs the daughter replied, "You hope someone spills something and then you don't worry about it anymore."

"Everyone should enjoy their things."  That came from mother to daughter as well, I bet.  To read the text and enjoy the rest of the magazine, click here.

All images courtesy of St. Louis Seasons.  No, really, this time I asked.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Started well and

ended with a bang.  When the youngest Blandings was born my mother-in-law said, "Lucy (Mr. Blandings's sister) thinks it's so funny that your babies' heads are so big."  I didn't see the humor at the time, but as they keep clunking them into things, I have to wonder.  He's fine.  His teacher told me there was lots of blood but three cookies seemed to make it all better.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Do As I Say

“Mom, can we walk up to Brookside?”

You have to stop. You have to stop and think right there before you answer.  Seemingly innocent you can say,  "Yes, fine, you can just have Czechoslovakia,” and the next thing you know all of Europe is Hell and gone and you know you have no one to blame but yourself.

Swiveling in my chair to face him, “Um. I don’t know. What do you have in mind?”

“You know, it’s a nice day. I just thought it would be fun to walk up there. You know, our whole family.”

I know what you’re thinking. “So dear.” You can’t even see him so you don’t know how charming the freckles, how endearing the stock of hair so like his father’s but still wearing childhood’s golden glaze and the magic sparkle of his blue eyes. All this, combined with the query posed so sweetly would make you want to say, “Say yes! Why wouldn’t you? He’s adorable and is just asking for a little unstructured time with his family!”

But what you also don’t know is that it’s not particularly a nice day. Cool and rainy on and off, it’s not the best day to commit to a fifteen-minute walk both ways if things take a turn for the worse. And he’s smart. And savvy. He knows that both the walking and the family part are sure to get me.

“Is there something, perhaps, that you want in Brookside? A particular reason you would like to walk up today?”

“Oh. Well, no, not really,” says he as he averts his eyes.


“Well, I do have some money…..”

So here I go, the mental dance, the pas de deux of good mother/bad mother bouncing around in my head. It is his money. But there is a trunk size box of Legos upstairs, oh, yes, more Legos is what he is after, that are not interesting as they are not part of a kit. And he just received new Legos from the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny whom he knows does not exist, but we are all, the four of us, complicit in the lie in order to let the youngest have some glimpse of the comforting myths of childhood.

“Darling, really, there must be two million Lego pieces upstairs. Wouldn’t it be better to make something of your own? Use your imagination! And, really, there cannot be something new all the time. What about the Legos you just received? We need to find joy in what we have.  We can't always be looking to the next new thing. We have everything we need.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” as he turns away, head bowed, and angle of his shoulders drop twenty degrees. And I turn back to my desk, eyes just sweeping the new lamps awaiting the new shades across from the new basalt bowl.

The American Galleries

I had the great pleasure last week of seeing the renovated American Galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  The museum is, indeed, on a trajectory as its director, Marc Wilson, said in his welcoming words.  That trajectory began with a great big jump start with the opening of the Bloch building in 2007, but a steady and impressive climb continues with the opening of the American galleries this week and the Native American galleries in November.

Wilson lauded the donors who invested in this vision as providing the fuel.  Midwesterners are uncomfortable talking about money and I thought this was such a lovely perspective.  You can certainly feel the energy in these new galleries.

The galleries are arranged by time period.  They begin with 1776, an inky blue room which dramatically offsets both the portraits that hang there and the Nathaniel Gould Chest-on-Chest.  Each gallery contains examples of painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the period, so the viewer has the opportunity to absorb a snap shot of the age.

The gallery space was existing, and people familiar with the museum will be aware that it encompasses the space that previously housed five period rooms.  While interesting, those rooms were not entirely accurate and were, frankly, dark and a little difficult to see.  As part of the 1776 gallery, the drawing room of the Robert Hooper House has been restored.  In the previous space this room was painted cream and panels had been removed to make it fit its new home.  The room has now been restored and the paint and glaze were painstakingly applied to closely resemble the original.  It is a rich shade of robin's egg, slightly paler, with a glossy glaze applied to reflect light.  The baseboards and window seats are bark brown and flat providing a distinct contrast.  The floors are not original to the room, but are composed of 19th century wood resembling the original.  You cannot see much of the furniture from the image, above, but the upholstery is a deep, rich red damask.  (I liked it, just in case you couldn't tell.)

The galleries unfold through 1826 marking the National Academy of Design in New York, 1850, 1886 recognizing the first Impressionist exhibit in America, 1913 coinciding with the Armory Show which sparked concepts of modernism and 1939 the year of the World's Fair in New York.

Sometimes you have the opportunity to see works by an artist together, as with three works by John Singer Sargent, but sometimes works grace different galleries reflecting growth and change.  Thomas Hart Benton's lovely but somewhat conventional portrait of his sister appears along side the Stickley table, the Tiffany lamp and other works in 1913. But, around the corner, in 1939, you will find his dramatic Persephone and Hollywood hanging out with Georgia O'Keefe and a later Frank Lloyd Wright chair which suits both as furniture and sculpture.

It is a terrific way to absorb the art.  Wilson noted that museums are democratic.  The Nelson, which charges no admission, provides the space for us to explore our heritage.  As the museum is free, you don't have to go and rush and push and see the whole thing in the matter of a couple of hours, overwhelming both your soul and your soles.  You can go, take it in, see a piece, a room, a period.  You should.  It's yours.  Go see your new rooms. 

The new galleries open Wednesday.  More information on events surrounding the opening here.  The images are by Allison Long for the Kansas City Star.  Other than the Hooper House room, they do not correspond with the text and I can't for the life of me remember the significance of 1850 other than it preceded the Civil War.  That's another good reason to go.  Also, the color of the walls throughout are completely stunning.  That's not what you're supposed to be looking at either.  I'm just saying.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Signature Event

Tax Day, Smax Day.  Who has time to be depressed when there is so much to look forward to? We are just ten days away from Kansas City's Dining by Design event and I happen to know that this year's table designers are not letting the ho hum economy inhibit their creativity.

While noshing with friend and DIFFA/KC board member, David Jimenez, a couple of weeks ago he mentioned that he was gathering popular signed design books to put in the silent auction.

Kelly Wearstler and Vicente Wolf had already agreed.  Hmmm.  "You know, I might be able to help."

So I sent out a few emails and the generosity of the design community did not surprise me.  Jonathan Adler and Margaret Russell said "Yes!" right away.

As an extra surprise, a thoughtful supporter was our advocate and this little treat arrived by post.

Oh, Michael.  I adored you when people were saying, "Michelle who?" All three volume were hard to hand over as I felt they would be quite happy in my own library.  C'mon, bid against me.

Don't forget, Table Hop Friday the 24th from 5 - 9, $25 and the public viewing the 25th from 9 - 12 - just $10.  To bid on these fabulous books you will need to attend the Gala, Saturday at 6:30, tickets $175.  Click here for more information and reservations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At Loose Ends

I have an itch to paint.  I just finished painting the playroom and while I started in December (it's complicated, more later) I just don't want to put the brushes away.  A floor would be fun.  Or a ceiling.  Did you notice that this one is blue?

Pottery?  Yep, these were sprayed black which would be easy as pie.

A headboard for the poor, neglected third child?  This would offer a chance to use the jigsaw as well.  Bonus.

Stair risers as I've never been able to settle on a runner?

Speaking of easy, I'm such a pushover for black and white and nearly any other color.

The inspiration for the playroom project was Albert Hadley's Trixie wallpaper through Hinson.  I had it sent from the Chicago showroom so I asked them to throw in the fabric just in case.  It's been living on my desk for a while.  Trixie likes it here.  Right here in the office where I can see her.  Maybe I should put away the brushes and pull out the staple gun.  

All images from Rooms to Inspire in the Country by Annie Kelly.  Photography by Tim Street-Porter.  From top, Ellen Ward and Chuck Scarborough's Connecticut home, Carol Bokuniewicz and John Smallwood's home, also Connecticut (I can never write Connecticut without thinking of the nightclub employee in the movie Holiday Inn.)  Final two images, Steven Gambrel in Sag Harbor.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

It's really impossible to imagine that all will not be well when the crabapple blooms.

Speaking of Dresses

In all my days I will not have the pleasure of wearing art as Emily Blunt is so fortunate to do on the pages of Vanity Fair this month.

I know it is not where our heads are supposed to be right now, but I can't help but gaze in awe on these creations.

At the very least it cuts the gloom.

Ms. Blunt is wearing dresses by Dior Haute Couture in both the top and middle images and Armani Prive bottom.  All images Vanity Fair, May 2009.  Photographs by Michael Roberts.  To see the complete slideshow click here.  The combination of the subtle aqua and blue and white always reminds me of the late Roger Banks-Pye.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

One for You, Three for Me

Last year I put together a collection of vintage design books for the Dining by Design silent auction.  This year I did not have as much luck on the hunt.  I've been haunting Spivey's, Prospero's and the antique malls but nothing really great has jumped out at me.  For the auction.  I did pick up the Calder book, Dorothy Roger's The House in My Head and Decoration for myself.  I know.  This seems mean spirited, but my library needs a little love, too.

Then, today, I asked.  I asked the nice man behind the desk at Spivey's if there just might be something that wasn't out.  "I just took Billy Baldwin Decorates up there yesterday."  "Really, I didn't see it." Back up.  A few minutes later he appeared with the holy grail.  "Oh, it needed a jacket cover; I still had it downstairs."  Do look for it at the event; it comes with a Blandings bonus.  I'm still on the hunt for a dress.

By the way, Decoration, a 1963 publication work by French & European Publications, Inc., is one of the most engaging and comprehensive books on interiors that I have run across.  I'd love to know if you have it in your library.  It was originally recommended to me by Kansas City designer Kathy Kelly.  I'm incredibly grateful that she shared her knowledge.