Sunday, May 31, 2009


She:  We need to call the critter guys.

He:   Honey, don't start this again.

She:  No, really, there is something in the attic.

He:   No, really, there is not anything in the attic as the critter guy told us last spring.

She:  I can hear it.  Them.  Whatever.

He:   The guy told us last year, when you were hearing things in the attic, there is nothing there.  It's bats and they are on the outside of the house.  Under the gutter.

She:  I can hear them scampering.  In the attic.

He:   You know what's funny about you?

She:  Hmmmm?

He:   You don't know anything about critters.  Nothing.  This guy has a wildlife degree from a reputable university.  He's been ridding our house and yard of creatures for over five years and has been in business a good deal longer.  And yet you still think you know more than he does.

So I let it go.  Until I lay in bed from 3:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.  Listening.  I now agree that it may be possible that it's bats on the outside of the house.  Which completely convinced me that we need to call the critter guy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I'd love for you to meet Joanna Votilla and her wonderful new shop.

I stopped in last night for a celebratory cocktail. Christoper Filley and Rich Hoffman, whose shop is just up the block, had been by earlier and left their encouragement by way of this charming note attached to the door.  

Joanna has taken over the front portion of Suzanne Cooper's spot at 45th & State Line.

Her artfully selected pieces have plenty of room to preen in their new home.

Joanna has had a spot at Mission Road Antique Mall for a while.  If you haunt their halls her aesthetic may look familiar to you.

It's as if a new baby has been born in the neighborhood.

The other dealers are thrilled to have a new kid on the block.

Joanna is open today.  If you have a moment do pop in. 

Don't be surprised if you've missed a few treasures.

These chests were already on hold and I was right on time.  You know, the good stuff goes fast.  But I think Joanna's here to stay.

Joanna Votilla
1715 W. 45th St.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Completely Outdone

So here I am going on and on about myself and I receive a lovely email from a reader.

Dana Gibson writes to tell me that she has just finished a project herself.  Dana painted this poppy pattern on the walls of her bedroom.  Freehand.

I know.  Unbelievable.  

Then, when I emailed back and said, "Get out!" or something like that and she emailed this:

She painted the floor of her dressing room in a hounds tooth pattern. She started the floor using a stencil, but gave it up because of smearing.  So she outlined the pattern and painted from there.

But wait there's more.  Dana went on to tell me, "The large portrait (above) was one I painted from a magazine clipping. I was looking everywhere for a 'vintage' type painting but couldn't find one and probably could not have afforded it if I could. I saw this in a magazine and just used acrylics to copy. I’m developing this theory that decorating is sometimes a lot of problem solving."  Problem solving and talent, I think.

But Dana is not the wayward housewife as am I.  Dana is focused.  Dana does things.  In fact, she has her own business.  

She has been a potter for the past fifteen years and her decorative items might look familiar to you.  They are carried by some of the snazziest retailers around.  Here in Kansas City you can find her pieces at Trapp and Webster House.

She has recently expanded the line into tole lamps and wastebaskets.

What she didn't mention, as she is far too gracious, is that she is the grandniece of Nancy Lancaster and a descendant of Charles Dana Gibson.  (Get it?)

Now you could fuss and fret about not having the time or the talent to paint as Dana does, or you could just pop on over and take a look at her things.

A cheery lamp could easily brighten up a dreary corner.

And a pretty place to toss your tissue will be a creative way to solve an age old problem.  Click and order.  It's just a different kind of do-it-yourself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't Look Down

I seem to have a thing for striped rugs.  Which is why I am hesitating on using this as a stair runner.

Black, natch.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


*Disclaimer: 1) not a designer, 2) it's not styled and 3) it's a playroom.

With all projects there is a kind of "Big Bang Theory."  Everything sort of explodes before it comes back together.  I pushed everything to the center of the room and painted, moving the ladder strategically through the two foot border I had created around the perimeter.  I tried Benjamin Moore Aura for the first time with great results.  It covered the yellow, which should have been named Acid Trip, in two coats.

I taped off a red border around the ceiling to give a little more structure.  It's horrible to paint with red, by the way.  It took at least four coats to give a solid stripe and it might have been five.  I'm quite impatient and more than three coats makes me grouchy.

Once that was finished I made a few samples to scale to decide how close the dots and starbursts should be.  Then I measured it out with a yardstick and marked the pattern with pencil.  

I did the dots first with a black paint marker.  For me, I have to save the best for last or I abandon the whole thing.  If I'd started with starbursts I might not have finished the dots.  The rubber stamp worked great and survived to stamp again.

I'm not going to be glib.  It took a long time.  Though low-skill, as all of my projects are, it was often tedious.  And the pattern of the dots did make my eyes cross now and again.  Also, for the record, the boys did not help in the least.  

But I had fun.  This is the kind of thing I want to do.  I just told a friend the other day that the thought of playing tennis or bridge makes me want to hurt myself.  I'd be eternally happy painting one room after the next, but fear my family would commit me.

I picked up the vintage goose decoys at Suzanne Cooper's.  Mr. Blandings thought I might reconsider and let him take them to the Duck Club; I did not.

I replaced a reproduction pine hanging shelf with these shelves from West Elm.  Cleaner, lighter, fresher, better in every way.  

Of course, I didn't hang them, I just stood and directed.  This is where Mr. Blandings's enthusiasm for my projects begins to wane.

This housed the built-in ironing board.  The rectangle to the left is metal and folds down as an iron rest.  When we had the rooms painted I wanted to take these out and fill in the opening but the painter somehow talked me out of it.  I can't even remember the explanation of why it wouldn't work but in hindsight it was stuff and nonsense and a mistake.  We mounted L brackets here to create more book storage which has proved handy.

I ordered incredibly inexpensive white cotton curtains from Pottery Barn and added a black grosgrain ribbon.  I used hemming tape because I can't sew.  Frankly, sewing would probably be just as easy.  

The issue, of course, was never the blue and red, but rather the green and red.  The white of the wall cuts it enough that I do think it escapes looking like a Christmas display.  The room could use a little grounding and I wanted to paint the floor black.  (Please don't tell Mr. Blandings; he might come undone.)  But in an email exchange with frequent commenter Toby Worthington about the curtains he suggested painting the baseboards a dark grey.  A better solution, especially as he reminded me that a black floor would show every speck of dust.  

Maybe over Labor Day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Best Laid Plans

When we bought the Dream House we had a little time between closings, so we had the opportunity to paint the bedrooms before we moved in.  I had promised the eldest, who was reluctant to move, that he could have a red stripe on the wall of his new room.  That was before we found the house and the picture frame moldings made fulfilling the promise tricky, so we painted the inside of the doorway to the dressing room red.

The nursery was the same green in this house as the last and all the hand-me-down bedding moved in as well.  (It has since evolved to a "big-boy" room.)

In between the two, in the southwest corner of the house, is a room without a closet.  Technically not a bedroom and not very big it is likely that it was originally some sort of work room.  It was not a maid's room, certainly, but was equipped with a built-in ironing board.  It became the playroom.  The color, chosen from a stripe on the bathroom paper, never seemed right.  Too bright, too acidic, too, well, too.  But I didn't want more blue and I wasn't sure what to put between those two rooms, one with the red accents and the other green, that would provide a bit of harmony and not ho-ho-ho.  

Recently, the room had devolved to a jumbley mess and the color was grating and it is in the back of my mind that someday one of the boys will want to move in.  Time for a change.

This was around the end of last year.  I thought it would be grand to paint during Christmas vacation.  I love to paint, the boys could help, tra-la, tra-la.  Trolling for something else I flipped past Albert Hadley's room for the Kips Bay show house in 2001 and found the answer.  

The clean white wall was appealing.  Trixie, the fabric pattern, was irresistible.  And the combination of green and red seemed right and not at all holiday.  I ordered memos of both paper and fabric.  I'm in a full-on love affair with both, but they were too expensive for the playroom.  Also, wallpaper in that room seemed folly.  But there I was with three weeks on my hands.  Three wintery weeks.  Why not paint the pattern on the wall?

Dots and a starburst.  Easy!  Well, no.  Dots were easy, but my starbursts were, let's say, unpredictable.  I decided to stamp.  I looked high and low to no avail so I had one made, which may have saved me in many ways.

I ordered a custom acrylic stamp from Village Impressions.  Fast, easy, inexpensive and the acrylic back allowed me to see through so placement was consistent.  Three weeks?  No.  Not even three months, but I did finish in time for summer vacation.

(Stay-tuned for the finished product.  It took five months - you didn't think I'd give it all away in one post did you?)

Hadley images from Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer by Adam Lewis.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Comfort was not a priority; aesthetics were."

I just finished reading William S. Burroughs's Queer and the Beat goes on.  I had read On the Road a few years ago and all I kept thinking was, "Oh, for heaven's sake, get a job," but this was different.  Burroughs was a midwesterner who was born in St. Louis and died in Lawrence and bounced around in between.  And when I say bounced, I mean bounced.  While Kerouac just seemed like the deadbeat (ha) boyfriend your mother would lie awake at night worrying about, Burroughs made me feel his ache though we've nothing in common but geography.

Concurrently, I've had this article from House & Garden on my desk for weeks for no other reason than I like it.  More photo essay of Oberto Gili's Italian get-away than article, the brief text seems appropriate.  I wanted to post it, but there did not seem to be much point.  Pretty, but no context.  

But if an entire movement of literature can be comprised of young men's drug-induced stream of consciousness then surely my blog post needs neither explanation nor qualification.  

My year came to an end yesterday.  I have two calendars running at the same time and I am always distinctly aware of where I am in each.  While we are nearly mid-way through the calendar year we are at the end of the school year.  Summer begins today.

But yesterday as I was tying up a dozen loose ends I stopped to look at these images again and suddenly they captured everything that is summer.  This escape was no vacation home for Gili but instead a working farm which provided its relief not in relaxation but in a different sort of work.  He tended his garden, milked cows named for old girlfriends, gathered eggs and cooked.  He tried new things like making cheese from unpasteurized milk.  

And, yes, took pictures which he developed in his darkroom and edited at his kitchen table.  He had family nearby.  

And the bottom of his pool was tiled as the American flag - a tribute to his adopted home, but also just plain pleasing as the ripples of the water made it appear the flag was waving.

And, oddly, we have something in common, this playboy Italian photographer whose pictures I have posted and admired and I.

My escape from routine will entail a different kind of work.  And peonies and peaches and pools.  And I celebrated its beginning on a working farm staring into the big, brown eyes of calves and had my boot pecked by a chicken recovering from the abuse of an angry, perhaps disenfranchised, rooster.  She was wise enough, at least, not to let him put an apple on her head.

By mid-July perhaps I will have unraveled the mystery of where the stylist first placed I Married Adventure or decided if I should put iron conical lights over the kitchen island.

But today we begin late.  With doughnuts.  And all I can grasp is the appeal of smudgy turquoise with red and white, the scale of the blooms and the wrong rightness of the royal blue chair.

I spoke here in the past tense of Gili's Italian home featured in House & Garden, November, 2005.  He may very well still own this home, but I cannot be sure.  The title of the post is a quote from the article. Gili goes on to say, "and a sense of purpose."  All the photographs are his work.  The article was written by Marella Caracciolo and produced by Carolina Irving.  I Married Adventure, featured top, was written by Osa Johnson; she was from Chanute, Kansas.