Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Goes to a Party

I gave up resolutions a few years ago. They never really provided any satisfaction, rather just a feeling of defeat following Christmas that I had a weighty to-do list from last year that was left unattended.

Still, I have a few things that give me a mental nudge now and again. Usually about now.

Don't yell so much. Don't spend so much time on the computer. Quit biting cuticles. But there is one, a set really, that revolves around being a little braver, trying a few new things, putting my toe over the line every now and again. I'm bad at it and though a very wise man said to me once, "I think the dye is cast," I start the new year again wishing for a little courage.

These images are from a feature in Life magazine (March 1938) called, "Life Goes to a Party." Captured here is the revelry of devoted supporters of the Kansas City Art Institute. The guests began this affair at a cocktail party at Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hart Benton's (he was a judge for the costume contest) which spilled into a dinner at the Hotel Muehlebach before culminating in the fundraiser itself. (It seems a good bet that everyone at this point was pretty well juiced.) Of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Malang (above), who won the costume contest in both divisions (he took home a case of whiskey and she an airplane trip) Art Institute president, Fred Vincent, said, "This is a disgrace to the Art Institute."

I'm sure Mr. Vincent's heart and honor were in the right place. But now that it is all said and done the director's outrage seems irrelevant, while Mr. and Mrs. Malang still appear to be having a swell time.

Courage. But, maybe wear a shirt.

Images courtesy of Life. Here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

He's the Most Darling Man

I'm taking the week off. The boys are home and we are going to alternate between playing in the snow and playing Beatles Rock Band. In the meantime, I'd love it if you'd pop on over and introduce yourself to Reggie Darling. He's a long time reader and blog friend of mine who has just set up site. He's getting ready for a big do and the preparations so far are beyond promising.

See you in the new year, unless, you know, something comes up, but really I am nearly off-line and loving it.

Image of Darlington House swiped from Reggie Darling.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Design Star-ish

Just a quick note to say thanks to Stacy Downs of the Kansas City Star for including me in her round-up of predictions of trends for '10. I'm in amazingly good company with Peter Dunham, Keith Johnson and Susan Bartlett Crater. In fact, I'll be the first to say it, out-classed by far.

Image, courtesy of the Kansas City Star, is a room by local designer Caroline McCallister.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Hopefully, amid the hustling and bustling, whether you did it yourself or witnessed it in others, you are able to celebrate a season of generosity and caring.

We are wishing you a very healthy and joyous new year.

Mrs. Blandings and the boys

All images December 2009, British House and Garden, photography by Jake Curtis.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Vacation

Vacation for whom exactly? OK, it is getting easier as the boys get older. Sunday the youngest Blandings and I baked Peppermint Meringues. Meringues, if you like them (and I am not sure that I do though I am giving them a rather good go) are a piece of cake. Um, a breeze. My youngest is a "picky eater" though we lovingly refer to it as Sensory Integration Disorder around here. Cooking helps with tasting and he is certainly developing an interest.

Getting to smash candy canes didn't hurt. Besides, we have now added the separation of eggs and identification of soft and stiff peaks to his repertoire. Not bad for a six-year-old. It's not a recipe for those with short attention spans, though it allows for plenty of activities in between steps. It is as follows:

Peppermint Meringues

2 egg whites
1/8 t salt
1/8 t cream of tartar
1/2 c white sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with foil.

In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over cookies.

Bake for 1.5 hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside. Do not allow to brown. Turn off oven. Keep oven door ajar and let meringues sit in oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.

I neither allowed them to cool completely, nor lifted them from the foil with a spatula and all seems well. It is likely that if I continue to eat two meringues every day to determine if I like them or not, I will eat all four dozen before the two months are up. They are particularly pretty.

Recipe courtesy of the Kansas City Star.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peppermint Twist

Custom cabinetry aside, this handy little paint trick has me falling right in line.

"Why not?" said Henry B. Swap. "Why not?" said Mrs. McGillicuddy.

"Why not?" said all the people.

Why not, indeed, snappy designers have been doing it for ages.

Marian McEvoy lined them up with Sharpie.

Suzanne Rheinstein colored outside the lines with this eye-catching display.

And don't feel confined to handwriting on the wall, you can easily outline your objectives on the furniture, too.

Image, top, designed by Steven Gambrel in Elle Decor, January/February 2010, photography by Eric Piasecki; the lines on this doorway are blue, as is the railing atop those very jazzy lucite balustrades (ala current style setters Alexis and Trevor Traina), design by Baldwin & Martin. Hmm...Baldwin & Martin again with the diamond mine, and a twist of orange by Mallory-Tillis all from HG's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration, 1960. Marion McEvoy from Rooms to Inspire, photography by Tim Street-Porter as is Rheinstein's black and white and red all-over by painter Paulin Paris. And, once you are finished admiring the lovely Modigliani, do click the image, bottom, to admire the refreshing red sorbet popping against the pink carnations and fizzy cocktail from Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Mann's Philadelphia apartment featured in House & Garden in 1953 from The Well Lived Life by Dominique Browning. Pieces of the text refer to Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nature v Nurture

As I was strolling arm-in-arm down the street with Miles Redd the other day he was reminiscing about his childhood. Oh, wait. Perhaps it didn't go quite like that.

Redd and I did have an exchange about his childhood, but it was more like this - I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Thomas Britt a few weeks ago. In my living room. Britt is from Kansas City and was in town to see friends. My editor and I thought it would be interesting - great fun, really - to interview him for the magazine. Beyond interesting, it was fascinating and immensely entertaining.

He told me stories of Studio 54 and maharajahs, but some of his most interesting tales were of his growing up. He told me of redecorating his parents' dining room while they were out of town. Really redecorating. Painting the floor and walls and installing salvaged columns and moving things around. "How'd they take it?" "What?" "The redecorating, when your mother came home from her trip, how did she react?" "React?! She loved it, of course!"

Of course. That is the kind of mother I want to be, but sometimes fall short. The kind of mother who would come home to find that her incredibly talented son had redecorated the dining room, better than she, and celebrate it. It got me thinking.

So I shot Redd an email. Did he, I wondered, begin showing an interest in lacquer and lamps while knee-high? And if so, did his folks just hand him a paint brush and go back to the Journal Constitution? Pretty much.

"As a child I had a fascination with with front doors and chandeliers," said Redd,"the grander the better. My bedroom was an ever-evolving canvas. I remember arranging stuffed animals and was always into the arts, painting and drawing.

My parents were very supportive. My mom, ever clever, would get me to decorate the house for Christmas. I would slave on pomanders and polish all the silver, but she had a strong sense of her own style and we did not always see eye-to-eye. I wanted ball fringe on everything, and my mother had a very colonial approach to things. She loved that scrubbed, Spartan look - polished mahogany, hemstitched linen, very plain silver, air twist glasses. She taught me restraint and understatement, and I suppose I teach her about a certain grandeur.

My mom has [my] Christmas list from age five requesting a fire place in my room. I thought falling asleep to the dying embers would be nice."

If only one of my boys would refer to me as "ever clever," I'd be quite content.

Image courtesy of Miles Redd.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wonderfully Cutting

Ever see grand rooms like this and admire them, but think they have nothing to do with you and your dream house?

Think again.

So many classic design concepts can be applied to a variety of contemporary interior styles.

Here, George Terbovich has used a very similar concept as the print room in Yester House, above. Instead of etchings and swags he has applied images from the book, "Letters to Giorgio" by the late Jean-Michel Folon. Click the images and you will see charming illustrations from Falon to his friend. They are decidedly personal as the recipient of the letter and the shop owner share the same name.

Images, top, from In House by Mitchell Owens, photography by Derry Moore.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gambrel Anonymous

For those of you who, like me, cannot get enough of Steven Gambel's designs, there is a new project in Elle Decor this month. Pardon me while I post up by the mailbox.

Spa Day

Yesterday was a day to catch up. While it wasn't entirely a day I spent on myself, I'd made a deal to wedge in something that I would love. Spa? Shopping? Well, sort of.

I went and looked at fabric. No project, really, just kicking tires. I can look at fabric for hours. All day. I understand when people tell me they can only stand showrooms in small doses, that too much makes their vision begin to blur. Not me. There's always something that jumps off the wing wall or that little plastic hanger. Yesterday it was Clarence House's Harlequin Quilt. It's thick. And heavy. And really quilted.

Seems there's always room for one more pillow, right? The boys would like it as it references both Chiefs and Jayhawks. Even at the spa I can't quite get them out of my head.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prom Night

As a follow up to the DIFFA Holidays by Design post, I offer this. Shortly after posting my wardrobe dilemma a fellow board member emailed to say, "The board members agreed at the last meeting that we would wear all black," thus eliminating either jazzy choice. Fortunately, Mr. Blandings and I had an event last night that gave the sequined leopard an evening out. I think she had fun.

My dad was in town. He's a photographer. What can I say?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Making a List

While you are doing your holiday shopping, and oddly mine seems to result in buying as much for myself as for others, keep in mind a few titles that were released this year.

In House, with photography by Derry Moore and text by Mitchell Owens, is an incredibly beautiful book of sophisticated homes from around the world. Each home has a wonderfully distinct aesthetic. If you enjoy World of Interiors, you will love this book. Or, um, someone on your list will love this book.

Style and Substance, The Best of Elle Decor by Margaret Russell includes some of the best features from their pages over the last twenty years. I had always wondered how I missed their story on Albert Hadley, then I saw the date of the issue. February of 2000. I had a new house guest - Blandings boy #2 - too busy/tired/hormonal to pick up a magazine. Now I have it here.

Chairs by Judith Miller with photography by Nick Pope. Can't say enough how much I adore these lovely portraits of the great characters of design. Any chair lover/hoarder/crazy will adore this book.

Perfect English Cottage by Ros Byram Shaw with photography by Jan Baldwin has images of home after home in that perfect mix of cozy sophistication with nary a touch of 80's over-done nonsense.

Rooms to Inspire in the Country by Annie Kelly with photography by Tim Street-Porter is a lethal one-two punch of words and pictures. Terrific projects each. This is the second in the series; look for Rooms to Inspire in the City this Spring.

Have someone on your list that cannot get enough of unapologetically pretty rooms? Pop Suzanne Kasler's Inspired Interiors into your shopping cart. Lovely.

Jacque Grange Interiors will be one of those books selling "used" at $500 when your children discover they need it. Save them the bother and pick up a copy for them now. It can wait in your library until they are ready for it.

And Wallpaper: A History of Styles and Trends by Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz. Gorgeous and informative - what else could you want? It's history, it's good for you. I mean, them.

All links here are to Amazon for your convenience, but please shop your local book dealer if you are able.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Patch

Toad, it's not a fun shirt, but it is making me pretty jolly.

Image Patch Tartan Sport Shirt via Brooks Brothers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remember the Night

Turner Classic Movies has cracked open the vault and is encouraging us to take another holiday movie into our hearts. Remember the Night is supposedly delightful. A tale of good boy meets bad girl (hmmm...this is sounding familiar) who end up thrown together by fate when she can't keep her mitts off a pretty spectacular bracelet. It does look absolutely terrif on those black gloves after all.

Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star, Edith Head did the costumes and Roland Anderson and Hans Dreier, who worked together on my all-time holiday favorite Holiday Inn, provided art direction. Have you seen it? I missed the first showing, but TCM will air it again Christmas Eve at 7CST. Set the DVR.

All images via TCM.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Horse of a Different Color

When I was in high school I worked at Swensen's Ice Cream in order to expand my Polo wardrobe. My mother was willing to provide the basics - white, blue and pink - but when it came to stripes and plaids I was on my own. I can remember standing at Connolly's, cash in hand, nearly every week. The only disappointment was, occasionally, Ralph and I did not agree on the best color for the pony. Sometimes he'd go, say, green, when I thought blue would have been better.

Enter the Ralph Lauren Custom Shop. On many items (men's, women's and kids') you can now choose the color of the pony or apply your own monogram. While I'd certainly use this myself, it seems like a terrific gift for the young fashionista who would like to show her school spirit in an understated way. (Or his. Fashionisto?) I've previewed blue and black as these were Mr. B's high school colors. The best part? Items ship in two days.

No scruples were killed in the making of this post; I have not received compensation from Ralph Lauren or anyone else. I just like his stuff.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I was just flipping through Lonny again and noticed that Rubie Green's Habibi fabric has a very similar feel to Franz Kline's painting. And slightly easier to bring into your own home. The black is actually blacker, and more fabulously graphic, than this image.


There was an interesting article in the paper this weekend about the loss of serendipity. The theory is that as we hunt and peck behind our screens we are less likely to stumble upon something new and fresh. Everything is sorted for us. There is little opportunity for surprise.

At the Nelson yesterday my friend and I stopped in front of this painting by Franz Kline. As we were walking away the museum guard, who had stood quiet and unalarmed as our children darted here and there, stopped my friend to tell her that Jackie Kennedy had endorsed Kline. It was considered a brave choice, he said, for her day and position.

Sometimes it's good to get out.

Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


So, we're busy. Last week especially our plate was overflowing with goodness. Good friends, good parties, good events.

Mr. Blandings and I make a point of only being out together one night a week. If we can. Then we both have the occasional meeting, but at least the other is home to help with homework and sports carpools and computer glitches.

Last week was nutty bananas. We were so lucky to see Eddie Ross and Jaithan Kochar when they were in town. Twice. The last time at home and we could have stayed up until two a.m. catching up.

But yesterday things settled down and the youngest Blandings boy and I had the chance to go to see the new American Indian galleries at the Nelson with a friend of mine and a friend of his.

The weather has been cold and yesterday was overcast. In addition, this weekend we've been upended as the flue on our furnace draft is not opening which is leading to carbon monoxide venting into the house instead of outside the house. We have detectors, but it's troubling.

Always when I enter the Nelson the world melts away and yesterday was no different. The meetings and projects and downdrafts were gone. My friend and I wandered through with our six-year-olds and asked questions about piles of rice and rows of beads and cages for crickets. The girls agreed that given the opportunity, all the turquoise bracelets should be worn all at once and definitely not one at a time.

And while not all of us were aware, a couple of us were, that collectors and givers like Morton and Estelle Sosland have shared their passion in an incredibly generous way. Certainly, and unknowingly, they provided a respite from daily cares and the anxiety of postponed holiday shopping.

Go, if you can, to see the Nelson and particularly the newly opened American Indian galleries. Admission is free.

And if you don't have carbon monoxide detectors, don't delay.

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