Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Second Chances

"Really, it's not you, it's me."

"Just tell me what I can do."

"Nothing, honestly, we were a perfect fit in the beginning, but I've changed. TVs have changed. It has nothing to do with you, but I think we are through."

"I can change."

"I don't know - can anyone ever really change?"

"Just give me a chance. One chance. I'll do anything. I think you still need me."



"The thing is, my tastes have evolved. I need something a little more sophisticated. More worldly. Maybe...darker."

"Be honest, is there someone else?"

"It's nothing, nothing really. We're just friends, not even, I've just seen him across a room."

"I have a dark and moody side, I've just never felt like I could share it with you before."

"Oh, my. That little touch of bling is so unexpected from you. Darling, quick, hold my stuff."

I painted this piece in the bathroom as it was far too much trouble to lug it to the basement and back up. Three cans of green beans held the trash bags in place and all the while I kept thinking corn would have been a nicer accent. There is no method to painting the piece gray first; I had gray paint handy. The gold leaf is easy-peasey; I put the sizing on before carpool and applied the leaf while I helped with spelling. It's a piece of cake and don't let anyone tell you differently. It is a horrendous mess.

The only image not mine, Elle Decor, design by Dransfield and Ross, photography by Simon Upton.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tweet, Tweetley Deet

Just so you know, I'm on Twitter, here. Who knows how it will go; you'll notice the calendar in the side bar has vanished. Still, I'm giving it a go. Sometimes it's good to step out, as the Jackson 5 have here in their yellow, orange and white. Think it's a look you can't pull off?

Jennifer Post,

Keith Irvine,

Muriel Brandolini,

Dan Carithers and

David Hicks managed just fine.

Image, top, photography by Anita Calero, next, Michael Mundy, both from House & Garden Book of Style; third image, Pieter Estersohn, Style and Substance, The Best of Elle Decor; next, Estersohn, again for Southern Accents on Color, image, last, uncredited, from David Hicks: Designer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bracelets I Cannot Afford

Foraging for that charming little chicken-legged egg cup, I found myself wandering off track. A horrid day called for jewelry therapy, and, sure enough, Asprey offered up something to chase away the blues. The Protector.

No blue in sight, just that lethal combination of green, black and white. Everyone needs a protector now and again and, if one is not enough, if the demons are swooping in fast and fierce, take two and call me in the morning. Wonder Woman wore double cuffs, a good sign, and serpents might be just the answer for my musophobia.

Is it God in the details? Or the devil? Or perhaps it is where the the twain do meet.


Or, How to Lay an 8' x 11' Rug in a Room with a 250 lb. Desk by Yourself

The reconnoitered antelope rug for my office arrived on Friday. The finished rug is 8' x 11'; the pad is slightly smaller. It was late in the afternoon, just before carpool, when the rug was delivered and I thought, "I will have Mr. Blandings help me with that tonight." Then an unfortunate thing happened. Mr. Blandings took all three boys for hair cuts at five o'clock. "I think," I thought, "that I can get that rug in there myself. I do." It was not an easy task so I have provided the instructions below:

Begin with rug pad.
  1. Drag rug pad into room. Realize as the 8' roll is about half way through the door that the angle precludes a straight shot.
  2. Fold rug pad somewhat like a fortune cookie and continue through doorway.
  3. Drag rug pad to edge of room and line up, as well as you can by eyeballing it, with wall.
  4. Fetch tape measure.
  5. After realizing that the left side is about a 1/4 of an inch closer to the wall than the right side, udge the right side forward.
  6. After realizing the the right side is about 1/4 of an inch closer to the wall than the left side, udge the left side forward.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 a minimum of fourteen times until pad is straight.
  8. Unroll pad until it hits the 250 lb. desk.
Now that the pad is partially in place, address the rug, which, while being only slightly larger than the pad, weighs three times as much.
  1. Clasp your hands under the rug about two feet from the edge.
  2. Pull.
  3. Pull again.
  4. Consider waiting until your spouse/partner/roommate comes home.
  5. Envision the moment of triumph in showing your spouse/partner/roommate the success of your hard work when he/she arrives. Persevere.
  6. Use a strategy of pull and rest combined with a 48-point turn to move the rug into the room.
  7. Pray that when you pull the rug across the pad that the pad does not move.
  8. Thank a higher power that your prayer was answered.
  9. Maneuver rug to overlap pad by one inch on all sides. This, compared to squaring the rug pad, will be surprisingly easy, fortifying your initial feeling that this is a reasonable project to take on yourself.
  10. Unroll rug until it hits rug pad which is resting against 250 lb. desk.
  11. Have a moment of sanity and think, "I will wait for my spouse/partner/roommate as there is no way I can move that desk even an inch by myself."
  12. Go to the kitchen and eat four crackers.
  13. Return to the office and circle the desk. Put both hands just under the lip of the top and try to lift. Nothing will budge but a disk in your back.
  14. Eat three more crackers.
  15. Stand in the doorway of the office with arms crossed and head tilted to one side.
  16. Realize that if you could lift the desk and tip it over the rug pad/rug, the rug pad/rug will allow the desk to tilt back without a lot of force, enabling you to lower the desk to the other side of the rug pad/rug at which point you can roll the rug the rest of the way out.
  17. Smell victory.
  18. Stand with hands under the drawer opening on the keyhole side of the desk and lift, tilting the 250 lb. desk back as envisioned. Lower it gently onto the floor until it is resting on its top.
  19. Wonder if this entire task might be easier if you removed your boots with the three-inch heels; leave them on.
  20. Roll the pad and carpet to the three bookcases where it should hit just the edge per your careful measurements.
  21. Consider the two inches of carpet rolled up against the (completely full of design books which weigh four pounds each) bookcases.
  22. Have a lucid moment when you realize that if you wait for your spouse/partner/roommate to come home he/she can easily help you lift each bookcase without having to unload the books.
  23. Eat three more crackers.
  24. Remove 157 books from bookshelves.
  25. Roll rug flat.
  26. Replace bookshelves.
  27. Think, "It doesn't really matter that the bookcases are not level (as the front half is on the rug); no one will notice.
  28. Eat four crackers.
  29. Go to the basement to find shims; place under the back edge of three bookcases.
  30. Re-shelve 157 books.
  31. Realize that if you had put something under the desk when you lowered it, you would have been able to lift it back to standing at which point confetti would have fallen from the ceiling, bands would have played and you would have lived forever in the glory known by people like Lindbergh, Hilary and Clarkson. Instead, you stand in your three inch heels, your job 98% done, knowing you are not even an asterisk in the history books of do-it-yourself.
  32. Admit defeat.
  33. Finish sleeve of crackers.
  34. Read the text from your spouse/partner/roommate, "Carry out?"
  35. Text back, "Yes! Am starving - haven't had a bite," and open a bottle of wine while you wait for the calvary to arrive. Hell, even Hilary had Norgay.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Come on Over

Isn't this the happiest little neighborhood? Cheery and bright, welcoming as the car lights swing into the drive.

Antithesis to homeowner-association-dictated beige.

The sort of spot where you would offer your divided hosta and peonies,

and she would invite you in when you come hunting for sugar or egg.

Marigolds wrapping paper from Paper Source, which I am using to line envelopes, but could be a number of any wonderful things, here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Perfectly Balanced

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad is like this

with words.

Image, Carlton Cabinet for Memphis by Ettore Sottsass.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everything's Coming Up

Just when I thought my heart belonged to Cowtan and Tout, I dropped in hunting for archival designs at Pierre Frey (which I never found; I'm terrible with directions) and stumbled upon this. Perhaps the most wonderful cotton floral ever. (Though Mr. Blandings just reminded me that I am prone to exaggeration; I did think the guy said eight inches of snow on Wednesday.)

Or I thought it was the most wonderful cotton floral ever, until I saw its cousin, whose blushing enchanted me.

A Personal Touch

I noticed a charming shot of Tilda Swinton on Facebook pre-Golden Globes and she was carrying this bag. Olympia Le-Tan recreated the Auntie Mame book cover specifically for the actor and stitched just at the bottom on the back is, "This Bag Belongs To: Tilda." Not a diamond in sight and it is the purest luxury.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wandering Minds Want to Know

As I push furniture and measure windows, I am thinking about what I want. What I want, which is something entirely different from what readers want or what is best or what is on-trend. As I think it over, or over think it, my mind's eye is drawn to a couple of things. One, was Thomas Jayne's new year resolution at Elle Decor, "I resolve to listen to my design instincts. At this point in my experience and education, my first reactions are often the best ones."

The second was in Albert Hadley's advice to those who are starting out on Architectural Digest's web page, "The best rooms have history and meaning: photographs that remind you of someone, furniture that has a story. Whatever you put in your house should be interesting. I may not like it, but that doesn’t make any difference. And decorating is not about dollars and cents; it’s an emotional thing, it’s passion."

I don't have Jayne's education and experience, of course, but I think his resolution and Hadley's observation go hand in hand. I'm making my home. Mine.

And all this ruminating led me back to the books, as usual. This Los Angeles home in Hancock Park was built in 1938. Almost '40's, the decade whose aesthetic seems to be wired into my hard drive. The grounds, the patio, the wrought iron awning, all delightful.

But the dining room ceiling, a modification of the owner, is an update that enchanted me. It's dramatic and subtle at the same time, reminiscent of plaster ceilings of the past while being clearly modern.
Further, the collage panels in the powder room contain butterflies, the heads of which are photos of family friends. And what struck me, was that these details are so completely personal. Nine people out of ten, perhaps anyone whose picture was not included, would walk by that wall without a second glance. But for the owners it is a treasure trove of sentiment.

Hadley, again, "Decorating has never been superficial. It has always represented the best of times. Now I’m talking about the rich, who have always furnished their houses elaborately. But even a cottage is a castle to the person who lives in it."

Image, top, from Thomas Jayne; next, a Hadley design via Arch Digest for an on-line interview; the profile in the magazine was by Mitch Owens; all remaining images, Classic Homes of Los Angeles, which I received as a review copy, by Douglas Wells; photography by Melba Levick.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


January's holiday seems so premature, one and done. No sooner have you popped the cork and it's over. Maybe that is why Valentine's Day has always made my heart skip a beat. My first date with my husband was, coincidentally, Valentine's Day (so cornball.) Still, it's something to look forward to as the snow creeps in the top of your boots. Have a friend trolling the internet for love? Take

Set that lonely heart up with a

and watch sparks fly. It could be their

though, I do hope you won't be begging,

if he turns out to be a bounder. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Still, they may end up

leaving you to exclaim,"
,"as they pull away in a flurry of rose petals (or butterflies or bubbles or whatever it is one pulls away in a flurry of now.) Oh, I do like a happy ending.

Mrs. Blandings

All bottles available through Swanson Vineyards. A very special thanks to Caroline and John who shared their Expensive Christmas Wine with us Christmas Eve. (And, yes, I do know that "Merci" is French for "thank you" and not "mercy.")

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Can't See Clearly Now

I had a friend from my Foundation days whom I did a little work for right after I quit my real job. She is just a little older than I and really, really smart. Really smart. And cool. She has great stuff. In her bathroom, she had this large, lighted, magnifying mirror and it always made me wonder. She's beautiful, but didn't strike me as vain, and I could just never see her as a pore-gazer. Only recently have I realized that she wasn't micro-managing, she was just trying to do things like pluck her eyebrows, which is incredibly difficult wearing glasses. I know.

So, I have been sort of looking for a stylish mirror to help with these trivial tasks and I turned to stylish, jazzy product guru, Thomas O'Brien. Beyond product (and there is a lot of product) there is really nice information about how he goes about his craft. I think process is as interesting as results and there is plenty percolating at Aero.

You know what would be better still? Hearing O'Brien speak in Los Angeles, January 21st at the California Gift Show in the L.A. Mart. Yep, that's what I would do. 11 to noon with book signing to follow. More info here. (I promise you will enjoy it; I loved hearing him in Chicago and a little bird has told me that this may be his last engagement for awhile though I have begged and begged for a Kansas City stop.)

All images via Aero Studios.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day

I knew that using the sun room as my office was complete and total genius. I revel in these really good ideas when I have them as they are so few and far between. This, this, was the day I was waiting for. On three walls, encompassing my entire peripheral vision, are windows. It is as if I am in a snow globe; I could not be happier.

It is a large room and the floor is slate tile. Good for dog feet, bad for human feet. In a fortunate twist of fate, the antelope carpet from the old house can be reconfigured for this room. The former office was just a smidge longer and a good bit narrower, but I had saved the remnant and as the room was dark there was no difference in the color. There will be a hopefully not unseemly seam.

The lantern from the front hall of the old house will replace ceiling fan 1. Using skills gleaned from long-abandoned parenting books I have convinced Mr. Blandings, through positive reinforcement, that he will be able to switch them out. "You absolutely can do it! I will help. I swear." He knows, of course, that this means I will stand by and say things like, "Oh! Careful! You're going to gouge the ceiling!"

In addition, Cowtan and Tout Papillon Jardin will live in this house somewhere. I know, who knew I'd need the pinky, floral girliness for my own? But I do.

And this is the casualty of the day. Today I was going to start painting an old armoire inspired by this wonderful cabinet. Black paint. Gold leaf. Project heaven. Maybe tomorrow. Today I sit in the middle of what looks like a 1940's MGM movie set, happy as a midwestern clam.

The image, second, is Todd Romano via the Peak of Chic; the floral chair is an old Cowtan and Tout ad; image, last, is John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross's home featured in Elle Decor, July/August 2010; photography by Simon Upton.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flannel and Forgetfulness

I think I may have caught through the keyboard what Meg and Maxminimus had. Some kind of creepy bug that I'd thought I'd weathered the worst of when, yesterday, I found myself forgetting to offer a visiting friend food or drink. An additional warning sign should have been my willingness (enthusiasm, really) to wear my slippers to afternoon carpool. A regretful decision when I realized I needed to go to Office Max for the long-and-oft-promised replacement lunch box. Still, in that neighborhood, I don't think anyone noticed.

An exchange that I had had with Courtney Barnes at Style Court about white walls sort of bounced around in my foggy head all day.

She mentioned Michael Bastian's apartment which, she noted, has "flair to spare," and I had to agree with its unpedigreed chic.

So as I guzzled the cough medicine that Mr. Blandings picked up "for me" (after mentioning the productivity of my cough while he knows that I hate any conversation concerning bodily function of any kind) I tucked myself in knowing that White Walls and I can make a go of it. "There is a place for us!" I declared as the waves crashed against the rocks. Or maybe that was just the ringing in my ears.

All images Domino, September, 2008; photography Melanie Acevedo.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Knit Wit

I've never wanted to learn to knit. Too much counting while needlepoint offers the mindless stitch-by-colors. But this? This cable on steroids? Yes, I'd like to make that.

Image, Living, etc., November 2010.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Shock and Awe

I can give or take orange most days. I know, there are folks who are devoted followers and I like it just fine. In fact, there's not a color I really don't like except purple. Orange seems to scream for attention in a way regal red does not. "Look at me! Look at me!" waving its arms and jumping up and down. Or maybe it's the heavy association with Halloween, a holiday which I've grown to fiercely abhor. Still, when this clipping of Charlotte's Locks from Farrow & Ball slid from the envelope into my hand, well, I crushed. It's rich, it's bright, it's bouncy. Orange you glad they did? (Couldn't help it.)

Oh. And the purple I don't really like? Well, it's not these purples. Not these smoky, complex purples that might be right for reading poetry on a quiet day. Brassica, top, from the "family of vegetables" (do get back to me on that as I will forget to google it) and Calluna, its paler, breathier cousin, are both new colors from Farrow & Ball as well. There are six others, but I won't spoil your fun - click here to see the rest when the collection is launched.

Why is she posting about paint? What happened to the white wall wonderland?

In my own F&B news, I sent off for a few pots of samples myself. Yes, yes, I know, I said white. And I meant it. Butmaybenoteveryroom. I think I told you that I painted the boys' rooms. In addition, Mr. Blandings's study is a tiny room. A dark room. Hardly a room at all, in fact, it's smaller than a Manhattan socialite's closet. So, light to make it bigger? Nonsense. Dark, dark green to make it better.

Walls, ceiling and trim. Most likely Calke, though Card Room has a fan.

"I put up paint samples today, what do you think?" "I like the lighter." "Oh?" "You don't." "I didn't say that. But I think with a little time you might find you like the darker."

Don't worry about Mr. Blandings. He knows better. He's used to me.