Thursday, June 30, 2011

Best Friends for Frances

Frances Elkins arrived by post on Monday, swaddled in brown paper, and promptly changed my life.  It may be a week, a month, a year of Elkins, but for now, here is the dining room of Mr. and Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed, Lake Forest, Illinois, 1929.  This room came up last week (and you can see the later version of the room here) and many readers referred to the room as Elkins originally designed it.

The hidden door and the camouflage screen are both there, but indeed, no chandelier (and certainly not two) and then there are the wonderful bamboo chairs.  And, yes, if Mrs. Elkins sat next to me on a plane, I do think we would be friends.

Image from Frances Elkins Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny; photography by Luis Medina.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paper Dolls

Cole & Son Georgian Trellis may be the paper for the front hall.  The color looks remarkably not like this at all, but is a creamy background with a bronze design.

I've had Rooms to Inspire in the City open to Tamara Mellon's London apartment, designed by Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, for about a week.  This paper is Cole & Son as well, Pompeian in Beige and White, I am pretty sure.  It's such a striking room, but what caught my eye was the lovely shade on the ceiling.  Nowhere near "ceiling white" and making a humongous difference to the room.  Which is leading to more ceiling paint here at The House with No Name.

Image from Martyn Lawrence-Bullard's site, used without permission - please, please forgive me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Too Much is Never Enough

In other dining room news, I bought more chairs.

At first I wondered if they were better than, or just different from, my current chairs.  Also, there is the issue of my chair addiction.  Further, I am now captivated by the idea of the bamboo dining chairs in the Reed house.  Still, the long and short of it is, I am usually long on ideas and short on funds and it is likely that it would take me a while to a) find better chairs and b) afford better chairs.

So when these literally landed in my lap it seemed wise to snap them up.  (I have two pieces of art on my wish list as well and they are taking priority.)  I was originally thinking I would paint these black, but this pale yellow is so cheerful I wonder if it should be the "new" color as well as the old.  They have, literally, lifted the spirit of the room.

I haven't the heart to count my chairs again, but whatever the last horrendous number was, it is now that + 6.  Sakes.

The wall color is Farrow & Ball Folly Green.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Design Therapy

I hadn't realized that I was unconsciously mining this image for inspiration until last week's episode of Million Dollar Decorators. When Mary McDonald walked through (by? I can't remember) this dining room, my conscious mind went, "Oh, yes, of course.  That has been it all along."

I wish this little nugget had slid into the conscious side of my brain a little sooner.   I'd been holding off on ordering the stencil for my dining room project as something about it seemed not quite right.  It wasn't working with the rest of the house and I couldn't put my finger on why.

When I saw the dining room (again, fully conscious) I realized that the stencil, above, was too bold for my space.  Too heavy.  Too much.

So, I'm ordering this all-over pattern instead and am going to use it in pieces to create an airier silhouette similar to the wall above.  It wasn't my first foray into analysis, but it was most certainly the most fun. 

Top two images, Mary McDonald Interiors, Rizzoli, photography by Melanie Acevedo.  Remaining images via Stencil Library.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Emerald City

The paint has arrived for my dining room.  The final two choices still remain, side-by-side, on the East wall and occasionally I wonder if I selected well.  Selected best, I suppose, as they are both fine shades of green.  The universe keeps handing me gumdrops of reassurance, not the least of which was this wonderful image from Matthew White and Frank Webb.  They are partners in the firm White Webb and produce a lovely design log which you can find here.  This issue they are exploring the glory of green and make reference to Oz in the nicest way; I couldn't resist.

Today the electrician comes to scoot the sconces out a bit.  I think Mr. Blandings would advise to play it where it lays, but he is keeping it to himself.  By the weekend I am hoping the room will be ready for the wizard himself.

Image courtesy of White Webb and is used with their permission.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Now You See It

Many of you will recognize this as the dining room from Reed House designed (between 1926 and '28) by David Adler.  The Colonial Revival House notes that Adler's sister, Frances Elkins, "became heavily involved with selecting interior furnishings."  So, as we finish out the week sprinkled with Chinoiserie walls and screens, it seems fitting to top it off by noting the screen camouflaging some domestic tediousness in the right corner.  Not the only sleight of handsome; there is a hidden door on the left.

Image, The Colonial Revival House, Richard Guy Wilson, photography by Noah Sheldon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Greens of Summer

When my babies were little Mrs. Green told me, "You can't put sleep in the bank."  When I had toddlers Mrs. Green told me, "Put the oxygen mask on yourself first."  And a few years later, when summer shifted from splashing in shallow pools and long naps on hot afternoons to swim practice and baseball and two loads of laundry a day, Mrs. Green told me, "Lower the bar."

She didn't mean to parent less or lazily.  She just realized that it's better to focus on what must get finished, to be bothered less by the mess and to slow the heck down.  So, there are dishes in the sink and likely a wet swimsuit (or two) on the floor, but there is also a final green paint swatch on the wall of the dining room.  We all have our own priorities.

Books, clockwise from top, Walls, Florence de Dampierre; The Colonial Revival House, Richard Guy Wilson; A Flair for Living, Charlotte Moss; Interiors, Mary McDonald; Elements of Style, Michael Smith; Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People; Regency Redux, Emily Evans Eerdmans; Wallpaper, Carole Thibaut-Pomerantz.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lazy Hazy Days

What if I had a month of one-a-days?  I tend to use about five images a post so that would put me at about a 20% workload for the summer.  (See how I've now stretched it from a month to over two?)  If I did, limit myself to one image a day that is, I'd have more time to lounge about on this pretty, airy love seat.  And love it, I do.  Stripes softer than crisp and the Bennison fabric on the wall - pretty as pretty can be.  And that punchy little pillow is just what I need beneath my head.  (You won't mind if I prop my feet up on the arm, I hope?)  Oh.  Except it's not mine.  Bother.

With all this time on my hands, I realize it's been a long while since I've seen East Egg; perhaps this is the summer to go back.

Image, Luxe Magazine, Spring 2011, design Peters & Mbiango Interiors; photography Troy Campbell.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Backing Up

Hey.  Quick question.  (How many forty-minute phone calls begin this way?)  I have an empty and awkward corner in my living room (we try not to discuss it in front of her, poor dear) where I'd like to have a Chinese screen.  Except.  Well, except that I tend to like the backs of Chinese screens better than the fronts.  That's the wrong side, right?  Or were both sides displayed and those of us who have a quieter bent can just stand where there's less show?  The screen pictured above seems perfect (even outside of the eight-paneled 1840-ness of it.)  Would you guess that that is the back?  And, can I just appreciate it like a Pilates-toned matron?  Or do I need to come to grips with the face-to-face?

Image, House and Garden, April 2003, design, Maxine Harrison; photography, Melanie Acevedo.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Addition

Dexter Shackelford
Born: March 16, 2011
Time: Long past due
Weight: Unknown, though he can eat it in puppy chow

We have all been wanting another Boxer for a long time, but the move (and pure fear) had held us up.  Our next-door neighbors have three dogs and it was actually Rosie's longing at the fence that sent us in search of a new dog.

As with all older siblings, we are telling her that we brought Dexter into our family for her.  She is skeptical, but tolerant.

He's a pain, of course, as all puppies are pains, but also adorable, as all puppies are adorable.  He's all the things that Mr. Blandings remembered as "not that bad."  Up early.  Chewy.  Unhousebroken.  An added bonus is his kicking his bowl around the kitchen when it is empty and he feels it shouldn't be.  And he's incredibly soft, pounces on blowing leaves and sleeps under my chair when I'm working.

The inside of his ears are like the palest pink satin and his coat is the silk tiger velvet that I will never have.  The youngest named him after the Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory and not the mild-mannered serial killer, though he may have qualities of both.  I might have forgotten to mention to Mr. B that his mother weighed sixty pounds and his father eighty, so don't tell him if you see him.  We will just let that part be a surprise.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


"It is essential to know how to use volume, how to manipulate the space at your disposal.

A certain rhythm is necessary, a sense of balance,

an understanding of color.

I think a designer should know as much as possible about everything that has been made in the world, and about everything that is being made today.

Not that there is any question of copying someone else's work, but a certain familiarity with all aspects of design and its history is basic.  This knowledge gives the designer a confidence that allows him to achieve a result so harmonious that it seems spontaneous and natural."  Paco Munoz Cabrero

All images Munoz's own home in Madrid, Architectural Digest Traditional Interiors, published 1979.  Photography, Jose Luis Perez.  And, yes, trellis.  I couldn't resist.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Welcome to the Retail Revolution

Over Memorial Day weekend we were out in the Flint Hills with friends.  A guest at the party asked me what I considered the most intolerable trait, what was the one thing that would turn me off of someone immediately?  "Pretension," I replied. "It makes me uncomfortable when people pretend they are something they are not."

That weekend, the WSJ Magazine published a profile of Restoration Hardware and its co-CEO Gary Friedman.  (You can read the piece here.)  Friedman has stewarded the company to comeback.  From kitsch to something that reads success as sales are up.  Undoubtably, it has been a dramatic transformation from mass-consumer basics to Axel Vervoordt-land, though Friedman says he took no inspiration from the Belgian designer.

"We said, 'Let's forget about the customer for a minute,'" Friedman recounts as their philosophy for the makeover.  I find this an admirable start.  In tough times, "People need to be inspired to buy something." So, with a clear go-ahead from the higher-ups, presumedly some capital to work with, Mr. Friedman preceded to copy Parisian chandeliers, 18th century Swedish and French chairs and Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair.

And it's not as if I care, really.  I like Restoration Hardware.  I've bought cabinet hardware and lighting from them and have found them quality products.  It's just disappointing when someone has the opportunity to really do something, to make an impact, and what he does is recreate the Sears & Roebuck catalogue.  For giants.  Or giants' houses.  And call product designers "artisans."

I agree that it is a good thing that if you are doing enough volume that you can offer linen that normally retails for $85/yd for $14/yd, that's a nice service.  But to go on to say about your reproductions, "But is it better for the world if we make 50 or 500 of them, so there's that many more people who get to enjoy it?" makes me think you have an inflated view of what you are actually doing.  Is it better for the world? I'd say it affects the world hardly at all.  It's not changing the world; it's making a buck.

Is it better for buyers?  Or "design?" Again, I don't think it has an affect at all.  It's just stuff.  And, no, I don't think providing 500 of them (hundred?  thousands?) is better.  I would think creating really interesting, innovative product would be better.  Make something new.  Really create.  Craft something that someone will still want one hundred years from now.  That would be a genuine "transfer of happiness."

Image of iconic Danish Modern chairs from Lars Bolander's Scandinavian Design.

Cross My Heart

A very thoughtful reader sent me the image, above, scanned from her tear sheet file.

This is exactly what I was thinking for the front hall.  The paper, St. James Trellis, was manufactured by Cole & Son (I believe it is discontinued) and I have another of their flawless diamonds taped to a wall as we speak.  (Write.  Read.)  I am waiting for one more and then I will pull the trigger.  It finally feels like things are coming together.

Images, Traditional Home, originally published April 2007, the home of Valerie and Anthony Evans, managing director of Cole & Son.  Currently on their site here.  Photography credit unavailable.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sucker for Seersucker

My sister-in-law, she of the very big brain and very good taste, sent me this link.  The conundrum?  Color, of course, but also being betwixt and between on wanting to use them and risking the barbecue stain.  I say throw caution to the wind.  And serve cucumber sandwiches.

Image via Kim Seybert.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Simple Things

When I was little I drew on walls.  Intricate neighborhoods down staircase walls and animals and friends, but mostly I drew flowers.  I was an only child at the time and my mother's nonsensical question, "Who did this?" resulted in the immediate and clever creation of an imaginary friend/scapegoat.  In the slightly unreliable landscape that is my memory, I recall that the flower garden, a mural really, over Krissy Livengood's parents' bed was the last straw.  Grounded?  It was before that was vogue.  Spanking? Tried and ineffective.  (It was a different time.)  No, my mother, who I think reveled in the concept, but resented the removal, relegated the inside of my closet free reign.  I could draw whatever I wanted there - as far as I could reach.

I know money can't buy happiness.  I know things do not bring us joy.  But Lindsey Adams Adelman's Blow light fixture above my dining table just might return me to the days before the pink and purple crayons stayed crisp and sharp in the box and stems were just one curving green line from earth to bloom.

Image, Elle Decor, June 2011 via their piece on Jason Miller and Roll & Hill.