Friday, July 29, 2011

Treasure Chest

Catherine Futter, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, commented to me once, "All art is decorative."  And, indeed, most artists create for personal buyers.

One of my favorite spaces in Paris was the Musee de l'Orangerie.  The Waterlilies, yes, the waterliles.

But more so for the remarkable collection of Paul Guillame.  Guillame was a dealer and collector in Paris in the early part of the century - a great supporter of the arts.  He amassed a remarkable collection that his widow, Domenica, donated upon his death.  Cezanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Rousseau. (My youngest son studied the Impressionists in second grade and since he will say things like, "That is so Rousseau," and "That's definitely a Matisse."  His voice was in my head the whole visit.)

There are small dioramas depicting Guillame's home, its walls graced with the art now in the galleries.

It was so personal.

The collection is actually the Jean Walter and Paul Guillame Collection.  Domenica named the collection for both her husbands, Guillame and Jean Walter who followed him.  This seems a little wacky to me, but women do all kinds of crazy things when it comes to men.  All images my own, some tragically blurry, but I could not leave them out so charming were the "rooms."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Details, Details

Paris was such an interesting combination of large and small.  It's difficult not to be struck by how many enormous and enormously beautiful buildings there are.  And the enormous egos and energies that it took to create them.

Additionally, the amount of detail involved was staggering.  No anonymous, graceless office buildings these, but intricately detailed spaces.

Sometimes it was all I could absorb, the painstaking details of the personal necessity of these spaces.

As we approached the massive facade of the Louvre, I asked my son, "Can you even imagine conceiving of something so massive?  Of designing something so large and in such detail?"

Without a glance to me, his gaze steady on the building all the time, he said, "Yes.  I can."  And I marveled some more.

The top image is a detail from a statue near Napoleon's Tomb; the next two images are of one of the lanterns at Les Invalides, now the military museum.  The lanterns are held by rope that threads through the pulleys attached to the chain; the ropes then run down the wall and into this box, which one would assume contains some sort of crank for raising and lowering.  The ropes appear fresh, though I wonder if they still function as originally intended.  The following image is the interior and exterior windows and interior shutters at the home where Rodin lived and worked; the lion is one of a few on the property.  The last is a column that I can't remember except for its brilliant blue, which has not begun to be captured in this image. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From the Ground Up

Hugo saved Notre Dame with Hunchback, so writers can have great impact, but what am I going to tell you about Paris?  Writers and artists and photographers for ages have captured her spirit better than I ever could.

It was rainy and chilly, which dampened not our enthusiasm, our energy or our exuberance for Paris.

Only there seven days we did not see it all, but checked off many of the greatest hits: the Louvre, the Orangerie, Versailles, the Rodin, les Invalides, the Conciergerie.  Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle. The Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe.

We delighted at Deyrolle, received a C- from our guide on the Fat Tire Bike Tour, ate our weight in bread and pastries and bowed down to the French teacher who was our guide; she made the entire visit both spectacular and spectacularly easy.

And through all of it I marveled at the floors and steps, some tile, some marble worn into indentations deep enough to offer a dog a good, long drink.  After all those feet upon those treads, what can I tell you of Paris?

Friday, July 15, 2011


We are off tomorrow.  I will not be posting while I am gone.  Hubris to believe that is necessary to have something here while I'm away; folly to worry about internet connection and posting comments while in France.  Back soon.

Yet another image from House Beautiful, March 1965.  A lovely table bursting with pattern from Van Day Truex, then design director of Tiffany and Company; photography by Wesley Balz.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Magical Charm

The March 1965 issue of House Beautiful which I featured yesterday is titled, "The Individualist."    It's delightful even forty-six years later.

Besides the Mathews' home there is an entire section of "applied individualism."  These images are of Mr. and Mrs. Tony Duquette's bed-sitting room in Los Angeles.  If you described the palette it might sound like you were describing a bruise, but there's nothing painful about it.  It's hauntingly beautiful.

Images, House Beautiful, March 1965, design by Mr. Duquette, photography by Danforth-Tidmarsh.  The title of the post is a description of the room from the article.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Elegant Rewards of a Disciplined Choice

I'm nearly hopeless at furniture placement.  

Mine is nearly always a ring around the rosie (otherwise known as the coffee table) with the sofa against the wall like it's getting a mug shot.

Somewhere, sometime (it's been nearly four years for heaven's sake) another blogger mentioned "the ladies who love dead decorators" (or something like that.)  I can't assume that I was referenced, but I recognized myself in the description.

I do like looking back to see what still strikes a note; it helps me pull out my own aesthetic.

These rooms were created before I was born.  My mother could have rested this copy of House Beautiful on her bulging belly.  Perhaps that is why I recognize this tailored treat and that wonderful, wonderful view.

All images House Beautiful, March 1965, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Mathews.  The post title is the same as the title of the article which implies that the decorating was done by Mr. Mathews who was with the architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.  Photography by Ezra Stoller Associates - and isn't the lighting amazing?  By the way, there is wear on the third image, not a pattern on the carpet which appears to be a solid, short pile.

Friday, July 8, 2011

We'll Always Have Paris

I leave for Paris in a week.  I am taking my oldest son.  I love to travel, but hate to fly over water so had talked to my doctor about a small prescription (both in strength and number) of Xanax, which cures my ills.  I had decided not to take it after a friend, who had just made the trip, assured me that one is not over open water all that long.  The news yesterday sent me to the pharmacy.

Now that I am assured of the edge being chemically taken off, I'm on to the next thing on my list.  Help me out with a couple of things, will you?  Please suggest one thing, one, that you think I should see (or eat) while I'm there.  Please, please, please, please, please do not recommend something like Versailles or Laduree.  I'm looking for something I wouldn't find in a guide book.

I'm also taking recommendations of either the best book or movie you would take on the plane to set the mood.  One.  Pick the best.

Image, Architectural Digest International Interiors, 1979, the home of Princess Claude Ruspoli on the Ile Saint-Louis.  Photography Pascal Hinous.  And, yes, trellis.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh, Nicky You're So Fine

Alternately titled, "Whoa Nelly, Olsen!"

I had a crazy day yesterday (such days call for my writing my schedule down on a separate piece of paper which I carry around like a security blanket) and still made time to sit down and enjoy the apartment designed by Nick Olsen in the July/August House Beautiful.  And if eight pages of Olsen aren't enough, you can watch an on-line interview where he shares his secrets of decorating big in a small space.

Image, House Beautiful, July/August 2011; photography Bjorn Wallander.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Significance of Petty Details

I stood barefoot at the kitchen island Monday eating pasta from a small, white bowl.  It was a recipe I'd requested from the night before.  We've avoided pasta and the like, existing on cold dinners and carry-out in an unspoken resistance to heating the kitchen, but crackers and pizza crusts were not satisfying my gluten gluttony and my husband agreed to boil and toil.

So I stood, the next day, enjoying again the snap of the peas and the bite of the pancetta, reading a hamburger recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, which friends had made for us Saturday night.  The hamburgers had achieved mythical status in my mind and I needed to know just how difficult they would be to prepare.

I flipped through Keller's book, soaking up both knowledge and olive oil while gnawing left-over ciabatta.  I breezed through searing and stock until I discovered the recipe I'd been looking for.  Our host, the night of the dinner, had asked, "Do you really think it makes a difference to grind the meat yourself?"  Well, yes, now I do.

It was a beautiful evening and we sat under white lights and fabric flag garland ironed and hung by their fourteen-year-old daughter.  We had dined together just a week or so before and had come around to my interest in astrology.  "You must have The Secret Language of Birthdays?"  "What?  I don't.  Do I need it? Are you mocking me?"  "Yes, a little, and yes, you do."  So in a reverse sort of hostess gift, they gave it to me and we read aloud our profiles after dessert.

"Those born on this day are not overly concerned with petty details, choosing instead to focus on the broad line, the big show."

And as I read Keller's recipe I wondered if this is why I am not a good cook.  Wondered if inherently I can't attend to the pre-grind seasoning, to the careful not over-combining.  Wondered if this is why it is unlikely that I will create a dish as elegant as Keller's or rooms as elegant at Frances Elkins's.

All images Mr. and Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed home, architecture David Adler, design Frances Elkins from Frances Elkins Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I don't mean to imply that you should collect (hoard) old design magazines as I do.  I can't recommend that you fill shelves and drawers with images and ideas.  It's perverse.  I mean, wonderful new magazines are published each and every month chocked full of wonderful, wonderful pictures.

But, if you do, you might want to keep an eye out for House & Garden, September 2004.

This particular issue is an out-of-the-park home run.  To begin, it opens with that fabulous shot of Miles Redd leaping in his mirrored bathroom and offers pages of his insight into the process of decorating his own home.  I offer here the close-up of his kitchen and its mirrored backsplash.

The issue focuses on designers' own homes (always favorite fodder) and includes Charlotte Moss's townhouse.

One of the things I enjoyed about HG was the tidbits that it offered on process and resource.  Naturally, this little gem on mirrored trellis and its maintenance caught my eye.  (I might have mentioned that the new house likes mirror.)

On to Piero Castellini's Milan palazzo and finishing up with

Paul Fortune's Hollywood home, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Snuggled in the credits in the back is Fortune's recipe for pomegranate margaritas, long before pomegranate was known as a "super-food."  The first shot I ever took was at the bar at the Mad Hatter in 1986.  It was Mr. Blandings's idea (he was a drinking buddy then.)  Being a gentleman he allowed me to pick my poison.  "Tequila!"  "Are you sure you don't want a watermelon shot or something?"  "Watermelon shots are for sissies," I declared as I licked that tender spot between my thumb and forefinger, sprinkling it with salt.

I still believe this, but now we know that pomegranate is full of anti-oxidants.  So these are good for you.

Enjoy the 4th.