Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Points of Interest

My plate is full to overflowing and when that happens my thought process, which is not all that linear to begin with, starts to pop like corn. It's a sort of crazy connect the dots, though the end product looks more hypotrochoid than picture. Unfortunately, those symmetric lines and loops are a little harder to translate into words. So, this draft has sat, unattended, for the last three days. I plan to give it a go and if it seems a jumble forgive me; my life is currently a jumble.

As a lover of needlework I fell right into Olympia Le-Tan's clutches in World of Interiors. Combined here is a passion for creation and stitching with a love of first edition books. How could she go wrong? Handiwork of nearly every kind appeals to me because of the work itself - the time devoted, the process - and the role of the stitcher. It has largely been women's work and past-time and hobby and it is interesting to see the craft translated from busy-ness to business. And art.

Oddly, at the time I received the issue I'd been trolling the pages of old HGs with the same sort of nostalgia most people feel flipping through their childhood photo albums. Open on my desk was a story of a home decorated by Pierre Le-Tan (Olympia's father) from April of 2003. The living room is still remarkable fresh, though that was not the page that stared back at me just inches from my right elbow for over a week.

I had meant then, and still intend, to research Line Vautrin who created these fanciful bronze boxes, right and bottom (the painting on ivory is by Le-Tan.) I did hit Vautrin's site and expected to cull images and information, but at a time when I am winnowing my list to things that must be done it just seemed that I could point you there from here.

As near as I can tell, it takes about a minute and a half to read one of these posts, and I can't suppose the lack of them makes all that much difference, but things may be a bit spotty over the next couple of weeks. I just wanted to let you know and hope that you will, please, stand by.

Images from top, World of Interiors, October 2010, photography by Bruno Suet; next and bottom, House and Garden, April 2003, photography by Francois Halard.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Off the Rack

A quick heads up. I know that not everyone makes a point to pick up World of Interiors every issue, but there is a terrific piece on Anna Wintour's second Long Island home designed by Jesse Carrier in the October issue. Terrific. And if you think it's a coincidence that I chose an image with a huge needlepoint pillow in it, you would be wrong.

Image, World of Interiors, October 2010, design by Jesse Carrier; photography by Eric Boman.

Off the Rack and Bracelets I Did Afford

Hey! Look at this! For the next five minutes, and completely by coincidence, I am in style! Of the moment! Only I'm not just "wearing it now," I've been wearing it for years. "It" being this gold link bracelet, that was originally a necklace, which I wrap twice around my left wrist where it clicks and clinks against itself and my wide watch. Just as Vogue says I'm supposed to. I have a friend who has asked for it nicely while looking up over dark lashes. I'd give her a kidney, but not the bracelet.

Being au courant will be fun while it lasts and frustrating when it turns up "over" by spring.

Maybe then I can get a deal on that Diane von Furstenberg bracelet for H. Stern. Because more is surely more.

Vogue feature, October 2010, by Filipa Fino.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Men's Club

I saw an astrologer a couple of years ago and one of the things that he told me that pops into my head now again was that this is my first life as a woman.

My first best friend was Krissy Livengood, but the next was a boy. Hard to believe, but Phillip Kent and I caught tad poles and played kick ball and had sleep overs, and ever since I've felt more relaxed, less on guard, in the company of males. We did have a minor misunderstanding about rock concerts, but it was mutual, and our parents were very patient as they sat in his backyard and listened to us as we described each specimen in our collection.

Women are often a mystery to me and the girl code is something that I feel like I've never unlocked. Women tell me things and I believe them. They say, "Don't come," or "Don't cook," or "It's not dressy," and I think that they mean it, but I find myself standing in my kitchen five phone calls later still trying to determine if it is better to go or to cook or to slip on a strapless.

Men are easier, usually. They are more straightforward, mostly. They can be crafty, sometimes, but even then it might work out to one's advantage.

The design in all of these images is the work of artist, Frank Faulkner. I initially found Faulkner's work trolling Stephanie Hoppen's Perfect Neutrals; the first two images were found there, photographed by Simon Upton. The last two are via his site. You can see Faulkner's current residence on Pretty Pink Tulips here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

White Lightning

Geez, Louise, but it is hot and sticky here in Kansas City. I'm a warm weather fan, but this Indian Summer is wearing out its welcome.

I aimed to beat the heat inside but my quest for white wall inspiration led to Melissa Rufty and I ended up hot under the collar.

I think I've shied away from white walls in the past because I have such an itch to color outside the lines, but Rufty's rooms show that white can be just right. These spaces are anything but vanilla.

It helps, of course, that her furniture choices are so distinct; mine are not nearly so fine though what they lack in pedigree they do make up for in chutzpah.

Everything looks so crisp. Everything looks so clean.

Even when the upholstery is not as exuberant the look still goes, "pow!" Who needs colored walls? White is the answer!

Or turquoise. Oh, my.

I had a vision of Rufty's work that I spied on Style Court, here. All images courtesy of Melissa Rufty at MMR Interiors. She does tons more than white walls, in fact, she's in House Beautiful this month - check it out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Local Landscape

If you are intrigued by ceramics, you don't have to wait until Forever for an engaging exhibit.

Cary Esser's Lay of the Land at the Sherry Leedy Gallery (here in town) is another exploration of permanence and change.

In this exhibit Esser, Ceramics Chair at the Kansas City Art Institute, explores the relationship of clay to human history and shelter.

She has created these tiles by pushing clay into molds; the glazes are beautiful, though I haven't really captured them here. The groupings suggest topography and landscape (and cityscape, too, I think.) While numbered to ease recreation of the installation, I am intrigued by the thought that they could be manipulated by the viewer. It seems an interesting manifestation of the artist's intent and the viewer's perception. Also, it's always fun to build with blocks.

You can see Cary Esser's Lay of the Land at the Sherry Leedy Gallery of Contemporary Art through October 30th.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


As I savor Freedom, I am also anticipating Forever. Forever is Clare Twomey's first solo exhibit in the United States, opening at the Nelson-Atkins Museum October 9th.

Twomey had been in Kansas City visiting the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute when she had the opportunity to view the Burnap Collection of English ceramics. The collection, 1345 pieces, is the largest outside of England.

One of the things that intrigued Twomey was the permanence of the Burnaps' gift, "in trust forever." Which brings to the forefront of our minds the significance of the intent of the gift coupled with the fragility of the pieces themselves.

If you are familiar with Twomey's work (I was not), you know that several of her exhibits have been interactive. Consciousness/Conscience, above, was an installation involving 7000 hollow cast bone china tiles created to be destroyed.

Trophy included 4000 Wedgwood Jasper Blue clay birds scattered about Clay Courts that were taken by the audience.

And, Blossom was comprised of thousands of fragile ceramic flowers left to decompose out of doors.

Forever, too, allows the audience to interject itself into the exhibit. Twomey will install 1345 scaled-down replicas of an 18th century caudle cup from the Burnap collection at the Nelson. Visitors will have the opportunity to apply for ownership of one of the pieces. Each cup will be unique and numbered and the applicants must choose a specific cup in their requests. It's interesting to consider the responsibility the owners will have to their cups as the Nelson has had to the Collection. The cups will go home with their new caretakers when the exhibit closes January 2nd.

Top three images courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; remaining images courtesy of

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Simply Divine

It's been bookshelf bounty around here the last couple of days. I have neglected everything else and have been reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom when not toting or driving or fixing something for someone else.

Today's post was supposed to be about finding cool stuff for yourself instead of letting catalogue companies reproduce it and deliver it to your mailbox, but I took a turn at Spivey's Books and never made it to the River Market Antique Mall.

There I found this tiny little pamphlet-like thing, Interiors, Character and Color edited and written by Van Day Truex. For $3. Wonderful. Being so close to Half-Priced Books I stopped in to see if Vreeland's Allure was still there. Was. Truly, I don't need to be spending $50 on a book, but it seemed some kind of divine intervention so I lugged it around while making a quick dash through the design section. There, completely unaware that it is fashion week, was The Fashion House with no price tag. "How about $2 since the jacket is torn?" said the nice woman behind the counter. Um. Great. Thereby justifying the alluring Allure.

So while the youngest did his math homework and spelling, I was tutored by Vreeland and Truex. After all her musings on style and photography and attitude she declares, "...really, we should forget all this nonsense and just stay home and read Proust."

Then, with iCarly in the background, I noticed Yves Saint Laurent's note in the Fashion House that his entire home was conceived around Rememberance of Things Past. But I can't possibly return to Proust right now as Franzen has my fancy and in the meantime I must ponder the allure of Bill Blass's white walls.

All images Bill Blass's home in The Fashion House by Lisa Lovatt-Smith. Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg.

Jonathan Franzen will be at Unity Temple on the Plaza, thanks to the wonderful Rainy Day Books, September 22nd. Information here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spin the Wheel

This week has been a bit of a meander with no discussion of interior design, so let's finish it up that way and perhaps I'll reboot for next week. Not to go too long without pulling something from a magazine, I bring you Belief-O-Matic via O, the Oprah Magazine. A quick-ish (though be prepared for a million pop-ups) quiz to help you figure out where you fall in the spiritual spectrum. Before you click off in a huff, I am not making fun. Mary Karr's latest book, Lit, landed in my lap at a time when putting some framework around my belief system has seemed significant. Hitherto, I've cobbled together what I believe like I gather book advice, sort of scribbled notes that I find months later at the bottom of a bag. Something that I thought about that I meant to get back to.

In Lit, Karr describes her journey through alcoholic recover to Catholicism without making me blanch. Me, who flips closed the lifestyle section of the Saturday paper a page early to avoid the Beliefs section. After twenty questions, here are the Belief-O-Matic's picks for me:

This is interesting and amusing only because my friend, the chicken sex expert, has been trying to set me up with the Unitarian church for a couple of years.

The bottom five contained no surprises, though I did say, "I told you so," to my deceased mother at the last place finish of the religion of my youth. Still, I bear the Church no grudge; She provided a framework I value still.

Click over and see what comes up. I keep telling Mr. Blandings that I think we should both set up profiles on to see if a computer would set us up. So far, he's declined. (Speaking of chickens.) This could be a little bit like that. In any event, your boss could hardly get mad at your taking an online survey about religion.

Also, the biggest ads? CB2 and One King's Lane. Maybe there is some correlation between spiritual discovery and a quest for great glasses.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mary Karr

Home Before Dark is a regular reader and frequent commenter on Mrs. Blandings. Her comments have always rung true to me. They are thoughtful. I wish I were equally consistent. She emailed me after a post, I've forgotten which one, and said, "You should read Mary Karr." I'm quite sure I wrote Karr's name down somewhere, but nowhere that I have run across since.

Then, in Colorado Springs, being held hostage on my way back from California, I made a brief escape. An hour, perhaps two. And to where did I flee? A bookstore. Not any bookstore, but a used bookstore in an inauspicious shopping center. I lingered longer than I ought. I was eavesdropping on the owner, a man who I assume refers to himself as the Bookman, as he talked to a regular customer about a book, the name of which she had forgotten. The plot, also, was fuzzy; she would bring it in. He talked with her about it pleasantly for a very long time. And then they visited about his cat, who happened to be there and didn't seem to mind at all that she was being discussed.

I wandered up and down the aisles, with no particular book in mind, wondering how in the world used book stores make the rent and being forever glad that they do. I've noticed, in these situations, the wandering ones (much like this post), the right volume tends to fall into my hands. I did glance at design books first, and there were some fine offerings, but none that I needed so I headed to memoir. For someone who avoided non-fiction for forty years or more, I've read nearly nothing since for the last three.

And there she was. Mary Karr. Wasn't that the author that HBD had suggested? I thought it was. So I bought both the Liars' Club and Cherry and headed back up the mountain. It seems remarkable to me that the very small town (it is not a town, really, but a sign on the side of the road) where my husband's family has vacationed for nearly one hundred years is the very same spot where Karr's mother took her children when she left their father.

I gobbled them both then bought lit. Hers is a remarkable story and she is a wonderful writer. I recommend the books and the Bookman; their works have heart.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rabbit Stew

In the last two weeks we have tackled back-to-school and readying the house to put it on the market. I ramp up quickly and unwind slowly so it has been a couple of weeks of my feeling like a high-wire performer who has had too much caffeine. I wish it were a foreign feeling; it is not. Usually, just about the time I think I might come undone, my brain starts to send out satellites to see what else we can add to the mix to really tip things over the edge.

Over a week ago, as I was talking to an incredibly interesting woman on the phone, I looked out the back door to see Rosie putting her nose on the ground then lifting it up. Touch, pull back; touch, pull back. Like a ballerina whose shoe hovers just above the stage. "Great," I thought, "there's something icky and dead out there and now I have to go get it before the carnage begins."

So, still on the phone, I made my way across the yard to see what was up. There, in the dry grass was a very still furry creature. I couldn't quite tell what it was, mole or mouse or rabbit. Rosie stood next to me, looking down at the discovery then up at me to see what I would do. I put an index finger under her collar and brought her inside so I could pick up the boys.

I filled them in on the way home and when we got back they went to investigate. "A rabbit," they declared, "Really small, but a rabbit." Sakes. The last thing I needed was a baby rabbit in the middle of my back yard. Later, I was off to "Curriculum Night" so I brought Mr. B up to date and was out the door.

One of my best friends is well educated in wildlife. She amazes my children by picking up turtles and frogs and most things furry. She recently filled me in on chicken sex, but that is another story for another day. She mentioned that the nest was probably very nearby. "I don't think so. It's right in the middle of the yard."

When I got home Mr. Blandings and I went out with a flash light and our rabbit was where we had left him. With a bit of poking around we found the nest was, indeed, just a few inches away, nearly directly in the center of our backyard. And, naturally, our new friend had siblings. Three. "What a dumb bunny. What in the world was she thinking? And he must have been quite a dashing hare to have swept her off her feet so late in the season." We sort of nudged the loner back into the nest and went inside.

"I really don't know how I'm going to keep Rosie away from them."

"I was thinking I'd put up a little fence." Pause. And a beat.

"You kill things."


"You kill things. You're kidding me that you are going to create a wildlife perserve in the middle of our backyard."

And the mighty hunter indignantly declared, "I don't kill infants."

The next day began with tragedy. Our friend from the day before had been evicted from the nest again and had passed in the night. It was a speedy service; we did not tell the boys. When they left for school I purchased some wire fencing and had a chat with my old friend the internet. As it turns out, our bunny was not so dumb. Rabbits nest in the open because their predators are less likely to hunt there. Also, rabbit mommies are not nearly as high strung as I. They do not fret over homework and transitions and the amount of sleep their darlings are getting. They nurse their babies about five minutes a day, usually at night. So basically they deliver their children into a shallow den in the middle of the open and kick some grass and fur over them and come back to check every twenty-four hours or so.

The fence, of course, did not keep out the curious Boxer. I looked out a couple of times to see her looking back at me with rabbit fur on her muzzle. It was not the fur of the young, but the camouflage of the mother; the bunnies were fine. I rolled a wheelbarrow into the yard and tipped it upside down over the nest, propping it on bricks so their mother could drop in if she felt like it. The boys sprang to Rosie's defense, "She doesn't want to eat them," they declared, incredulous that their pal had been labeled a potential mass murderer, "She's protecting them."

"Really? You think so? That seems a little inconsistent with canine instinct."

"She's seen you taking care of them, so she is taking care of them, too." Maybe.

We checked every day, lifting the wheelbarrow and pushing aside the dry grass and hair. As their cover began to stir they would jump slightly like the pulse of a heart. I can't say they welcomed our intrusions, but they allowed the petting and cooing, turning their faces to the side of the den employing the strategy of human toddlers, "If we can't see them, they can't see us." We referred to each as "he," "him" and "his brother" because it is all we know. They were significantly bigger every day.

Then, about a week into our ministrations, when we lifted the wheelbarrow, one hopped out of the nest. He didn't go far and my middle son corralled him back in. That night we saw another in the yard. The next morning they were gone.

We haven't seen them since, dead or alive, and as the boys liked to imagine Rosie the Great Protector, I like to imagine they are happily munching the landscaping of my neighbors and making plans for their own litters in the Spring. I like to think those bunnies made it despite the odds and that sometimes cute and fluffy prevails over hard and sharp. I like to think that sometimes things work out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

If Walls Could Talk

As we think, and talk, about moving a few people have said, "Oh, it will be fine. I know you love your house, but where ever you go you will make it great."

But it doesn't work like that. Some houses are just great. The architecture is beautiful and the scale is just right and everything has been beautifully calibrated. Houses like that are not within my reach.

But the houses I will see, far less grand, will either have soul or they won't. Houses have soul. I've yet to see someone inject it; it's there or it's not regardless the wallpaper or paint or linoleum.

As I came up the walk of my current house, toddler in one hand, baby carrier in the other, I thought, "This isn't it. Darn. A waste of time." A sort-of Tudor, seemingly smallish from the street, sure to be full of awkward rooms and nooks and crannies that a symmetry-and-space-loving woman like me could never appreciate.

And then I stood on the threshold of the front door, and, as it turned out my next ten years, and its energy washed over me in a way that the scent of baking cookies could have never conveyed.

Images courtesy of Vendome Press from Lars Bolander's Scandinavian Design by Heather Smith MacIsaac, photography, these images, by Staffan Johansson. The book is beautiful and brings to life the philosophy that country does not mean kitsch. The rooms delight and while distinctively Scandinavian, provide inspiration for anyone interested in using that soothing mix of formal pieces, informal fabrics and wonderful color.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Style in Spades

"She seems so lovely," has been the comment I've heard again and again since the September issue of Spaces hit newsstands and mailboxes. She is. Spaces's September issue focuses on fashion and I was over the moon when my editor requested an interview with native Kansas Citian, Kate Spade. You can read it here.

I was delighted, too, to see Spade wearing Ted Muehling's Queen Anne's Lace earrings in the accompanying photo. They are very high up on my wish list. I made a stop into Muehling's shop on my last trip to New York and was not surprised when the woman who helped me confided, "You know, besides being an amazing designer, Ted is so nice." I've enjoyed knowing that as much as I've enjoyed the earrings I've worn nearly every day since.

Image, top, Spaces, September 2010; photography by Noe Dewitt. Image bottom via Muehling's site from a piece in Departures, October, 2001; I could not find a photo credit, but happy to add it if you have it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Animal Vegetal Mineral

A couple of readers have asked about the chair in the previous post. It is the Vegetal Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec whom you may remember from a past post on bathroom elements.

Information on the design of the chair (which, in a nutshell started with the concept of it growing from the ground) here; you can purchase the chair here.

Image via Ronan Bouroullec, photography, I think, is Paul Tahon.

Sumptuous Not Stodgy

Farrow and Ball, darling, you were just reading my mind.

My bedroom, the one out of which I may be moving? I was just thinking it should have this subtle but not so neutral palette.

And then you send me this. A little wallpaper Valentine telling me that, yes, the stars have aligned and all is just as it should be.

The new Baroque Collection which is available this month in this particularly appealing and never before seen combination of Charleston Gray (ground) and Parma Gray (pattern) and sixty-two others. Yes, that's right, sixty-three color-way combinations. No wonder they are calling it "sumptuous."

All images courtesy of Farrow and Ball; the second is a scan of the paper and is most representative of the color. Or colour.