Monday, August 31, 2009

The September Issue

Last week I received a call from Mr. Blandings's aunt. She is something of a grande dame. She and her husband are movie star gorgeous. They look a bit like Lauren Bacall and William Powell. Only more stylish.

When we see them Mr. Blandings says, "I hope we look that good when we are their age." And I say, "Darling, we don't look that good now." And he knows that it is true.

Clothes, as you know, are not so much my thing, but as I was talking to Mr. B's aunt about Valentino she said, "Oh, I have a bunch of old stuff you could have. Too bad you're so tall." Never in my life, not for two seconds, not even when I had a crush on a pre-growth-spurt boy have I ever wished I were shorter. Until then.

But I went last week to see the "stuff" as she assured me she had a seamstress who could work wonders as well. Her house, well, her house is simply stunning and I try not to gawk when I am there but I don't think I succeed. Like her clothes it is classic and chic but never boring.

She carefully pulled open the doors of the two closets in the spare room and we began to pile clothes on the beds. She told me stories of trunk shows and runway shows and shopping in New York. She recounted tales of parties large and small, of things she thought worked and things that didn't quite when they arrived, and she told me of finagling a coat from Pat Buckley who had had it on hold.

"Take it, take it," she said, "I'll just end up giving it to the thrift shop." She reminded me that this bounty did not come from a single spree, but years and years of careful investing. "I don't think any of it looks dated," she declared. And she was right.

There was not a pair of harem pants in the lot.

All illustrations by Virginia Johnson from Kate Spade's Style.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just a Click Away

Hop on over and check out Hollyhock's new web site. Even if you are not in sunny California you can take advantage of Suzanne Rheinstein's perfectly pitched picks. This octagonal 19th century tea caddy is just one of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to School Shopping

The boys started school yesterday. A friend snapped a picture of me and Mr. B in the parking lot. I'm foolishly grinning from ear to ear; you'd think I'd just received a reprieve from an undeserved prison sentence.

What to do, what to do, what to do? So much time. So much quiet.

I did have an article to finish, but I wrapped that up by lunch.

Like a moth to a flame I headed to the shops at State Line. To see my friends. I'd like for you to meet them - aubusson cartoons in the window at Christopher Filley's. The colors are startlingly vivid. And there are more coming from the framer soon.

You can reach Christopher at 816/668-9974.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


There are a few additions to the dream house. Mr. Blandings's Father's Day present came back from the finisher. I'd completed it in plenty of time but drove around with the canvas, pillow and fabric for weeks before I made it to the shop. Mr. B is the fourth Blandings with the same name, not my fourth in any way.

The dusty tarnished jumble in the office continues to acquire some stuff.

The spider, which will occasionally be jewelry, but mostly decoration.

And the malachite box. Both pieces from the Rock Shop. I'd really like the boys' quartz pieces here, too, but 1, 2 and 3 are quite firm that their treasures remain in their own rooms. A little stingy considering I gave them life and all, but I let it go.

And, Mr. Blandings surprised me with Girl with Purse by Tom Corbin for my birthday. I've wanted her for a long time. My youngest said, "I think she's waiting for the bus." She's wearing a strapless dress, so I don't think she is waiting for the bus. But I agree that she is waiting for something.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Disarmingly Incongruent

The blog break was caused by two things. The first was my weariness with making the boys wait while I scanned or posted or replied and the resulting sulking.

And the second was the buzz in my brain that was growing louder, "Why am I doing this?" The emphasis was on the subject and not the verb. Some would say this is typical.

In any event, this home provided the tipping point. You see, this is where I thought we were headed. After our mash with mid-century, every room a greatest hits, I thought we were on our way here.

Climbers do occasionally become part of the mix and a generation later they are "old guard." I had an inkling that those precocious youngsters would eventually settle in with their elders - simply become part of the vocabulary.

Then I stumbled upon Bernd Goeckler's home in Classic Style. Viennese chandelier, Louis XVI writing desk, German day bed, Beidermeier secretary and Le Corbusier armchairs. A lot has been said lately about incongruent chairs, but these seem quite comfortable in their Neo-classical nest. Published in 1998.

Unfamiliar with Mr. Goeckler, I googled him. Sakes. Already in the midst of an engaging exchange with reader Toby Worthington I all but wailed, "I didn't even know who Bernd Goeckler is." And he typed back, "So. You didn't and now you do." Or something like that.

And the book sat open on this page for two weeks. Each member of my original audience surely saw it but it elicited not one comment. And then I remembered why I was doing this in the first place.

All images from Classic Style by Judith Miller, photography by Tim Ridley.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off the Rack - Back in Black

At first I thought the altitude was making me light-headed.

But after returning to the plains I was assured that my original assessment was correct.

Black is the new black at least when it comes to wall color in the September shelter mags.

Shiny or matte, paint or paper, I applaud them all.

I considered matte black walls in the dining room of our first house and a friend with solid, if conventional, taste gasped, "It will look like a chalkboard! Don't!"

In a crisis of confidence I demurred. It was not the the first time nor the last that I allowed someone else's opinion to change my course.

I rarely look back on these shifts with relief and often with remorse. Life is shockingly unsure. Be bold.

Images from top: Bookshelves and tray-top table, Mark Badgley and James Mischka's Kentucky library, Elle Decor, photography by Roger Davies; Robert Duffy's Provincetown library, Elle Decor, photography by William Waldron; Windsor Smith's entry and glimpse of game room, House Beautiful, photography by Victoria Pearson; Eric Cohler's Manhattan bedroom, House Beautiful, photography by Jonny Valiant; Houston home designed by Rob Southern, House Beautiful, photography by Victoria Pearson (the paint here is actually a smidge brown); Jane Krakowski photographed for Town & Country by John Huba in Steven Gambrel's New York townhouse. All images appear in the September 2009 issues.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hey! I Know Him!

My friend David Jimenez's Palm Springs home is in the New York Times! Here.

To Do List

I'm not really here, but there are a few things that needed mentioning before the weekend. Steve Rogers at Prize is having his annual clearance sale - a don't miss of terrific treasures.

Gerard Yosca's fall collection is in at Miriam Garvey's in Fairway and it does look fantastic. Get your statement piece for the season here.

Whether you are in town or out you can let you fingers do the shopping at R. Ege's Antiques on line right here. Rick's shop is in St. Louis so you can latch on to some of his absolutely incredibly amazing finds (am I gushing? You bet I am.) at midwestern prices. Again, here.

And if you are just lazing through the last days of summer, as I am, do click over to Frognall Dibdin, a most delightful blog of a most delightful book collector. This image is his.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


We are just back from vacation. We traveled to Mr. Blandings's family's home in Colorado. The house, as near as we can tell, welcomed it first visitors ninety-eight years ago next month.

The boys love it there. We hike almost everyday and our middle son appears to be part mountain goat. The oldest, tentative as oldests tend to be, is more likely to stop and evaluate the best way to get around a prickly bush while his brother never pauses and comes back happily covered with bruises and scratches, badges of honor of a day well spent.

The house is beloved by Blandings. Well, the house is beloved by Blandings with a genetic link. I think I do a fine job of stiff upper lip but Mr. Blandings rarely lets a day go by without mentioning to some stranger that I would rather be somewhere else.

This is not exactly true. I love being there with my family, immediate and extended, and there are many things about the house that I think are pretty terrific.

The house holds remnants of a former matriarch whom I never met. I think we might have had a thing or two in common.

It was here that I first saw this pottery with this combination of brown and turquoise glaze. There are a few pieces in the house, none marked, but I stumbled into an antique store close by which had a pitcher marked "Redwing" and a collection was born.

We are just up the hill from a wonderful Rock Shop. It sits just at the base of the Pike's Peak Highway and contains treasures galore. Mr. Blandings said they never went there, though it has been open since the 30's; his grandmother called it the "gyp shop." But his oldest sister says she and her cousin went there, though it might be "better" now. She may be being kind as I adore the Rock Shop and extol its wonders to all who will listen.

The boys are completely on-board and agonize over the selection of geodes and crystals. As the world is typically unjust my Rock Shop budget is bigger than theirs. And I tend to go back. This time I picked up a malachite box and a silver spider.

The spider is a pin, but she is going to live on a table in the office. The woman who wrapped her up for me told me that spiders are strong symbols in Native American cultures and one myth credits the spider with creating the alphabet. That seemed fitting.

So, we hiked, we shopped, we ate and the boys planned a project. This was the first time in several years that Mr. Blandings and his sisters were in the house at the same time. After participating in a similar project earlier this summer the boys thought it would be fun for all of us to make tie-dyed shirts.

Just to give you a sense of the audience, other than the boys, I am the most likely to wear a tie-dyed shirt. I like them. I will wear mine. The boys will wear theirs. The others were incredibly good sports. We all thought our shirts were headed for disaster about half way through the dying. Mr. Blandings was convinced his would be solid brown.

But after the rubber bands came off and they were rinsed each shirt was as personal and distinct as its creator.

And, on this vacation, I decided to give Ernest Hemingway another try.

Hemingway and I go way back and For Whom the Bell Tolls has waited on the shelf since I was in high school. I am pretty sure I never made further than the first thirty pages or so. I like Fitzgerald and had sort of figured it was a Ginger or Mary Ann situation and it just wasn't meant to be with me and Papa.

This year I was determined. I guess it thought it was going to be about the glory of war with this little romance on the side and I'd prejudiced myself against the story before I started. I've been stunned by my ignorance so many times by this point that it no longer surprises me and sometimes pleases me.

I have a history of taking on wildly inappropriate vacation novels; I read The Prince of Tides on my honeymoon. This book. This book is still tumbling around in my head and firmly embedded in my literary DNA. It might have helped that I could smell the pine needles as Robert Jordan was crunching them with his rope soled sandals.

So it was relaxing. It was as relaxing as a vacation with three small boys could be. My sister-in-law said at one point, "You are going to need a vacation after your vacation."

And I do. But I am not taking a vacation from the boys, I am taking a blogging vacation. This week will mark two years of writing Mrs. Blandings. I asked Mr. B right before we left, "Why am I doing this?" He replied, "Because you love it." Oh, right.

But in order to keep loving it I am going to take a little time off. A week. Maybe two. Mr. Blandings does not think I will make it two weeks and he is likely right. But I'm not fighting fascists here. It's just a little design blog. I'll be right back. You'll barely know I'm gone.