Monday, January 30, 2012

Idol Worship

I have an issue with my mailman.  Or I have no issues with my mailman, depending on how you look at it.  I think that I have mentioned before the rarity of my big mail delivery.  Perhaps he feels this 1950 ranch should have 1950-size mail; for most days letter size is my only prize.  About once a week my mail slot is crammed, stuffed, smushed with catalogues and magazines.  Except for February's.  No February magazines at all.

So I bought them.  (This annoys Bill and when they eventually arrive he will say, sadly lifting them from the kitchen island, "Oh.  That's too bad."  It's as if he thinks they have died in vain.)  Worth the double dip as I found Claire Weiss awaiting me on the pages of AD in that remarkable vintage Azzedine Alaia dress.  And those pearls.  In front of that mural.


The Cartier pearls are "the only jewelry she wears."  (They rest atop vintage Fornasetti trays, which is, well, perfect.)  The grandness of this overwhelms me.  It is the kind of thing that I would proclaim and then find myself a week later mouthing "liar" in the mirror.  Still, I wish I were a little more Weiss-like. Read the whole article here.

Images, Architectural Digest, February 2012; architecture, Steven Harris; design, Lucian Rees Roberts; photography, Thomas Loof; produced by Robert Rufino and the balance of the number of small object in the piece is nothing short of miraculous.

Off the Rack - Luxe de Luxe

Just a heads up that Luxe Interiors + Design has wonderful images from the recent Maison de Luxe show house in their Winter 2012 issue.  Michelle Nussbaumer's green and black and white foyer and card room are offering some personal inspiration, but all the rooms have photographed beautifully.

Great coverage of the house at both the Peak of Chic and Style Beat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Progress Report

We are in flux.  I'm offering a quick update on Dexter.  He is big.  In fact, the boys are delighted as I call him a "big galoot" ("galute" is also an accepted spelling) and they think I have made up this word.  Dexter, in his current state, could inspire the creation of the word "galoot."  He lumbers and lopes (when he is not running and leaping) and often bumps into things.  He is ten months and Bill keeps saying, "I think he's finished growing," but his feet still seem too large for his (big) body and his ears are overly floppy, often backwards as a result of exuberance.  I used to hold him while I worked and he doesn't seem to realize that he's rather outgrown this.  He drapes himself across my lap and rests his chin on my desk.   Remember, he was the runt.  I adore him.  He is soulful and I feel sure that he will be a noble beast.  Currently, in flux.

The chairs are back, but I have ordered a round table and now it needs a cloth.  Flux.

I've made progress on the hallway, but still have about half of this stretch to finish.  Flux.

And I am adding lamps here and there, though there is still a cavernous dark spot in the back of the living room.  Every time we entertain I drag lamps from the bedroom in there and think, "By the next dinner...."  These are for the hall and await their shades.  Flux.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hit and Run

My first real friend, my first chosen friend, was Phillip Kent.  He lived across the street from me in Atlanta and was the youngest of four boys.  His brothers were high school aged and older when we were in third grade.  His mother liked to say he was a “blessing.”  I agreed.

We moved from “the apartment” to the house across the street from the Kents and Phillip introduced me to the joy and wonder of the creek.  The creek was a small stream that ran behind his house bordered by banks about a foot high.  In the spring it was full of pinchy crawdads and tadpoles as big as Tootsie Pops.  We would kneel on the side and scoop the life out of it, capturing wonder in Mason jars.  When the weather grew warmer we would stand bare legged, water half way up our shins and watch critters swim under the water and rest on top.

My mother would rant and rail against the Georgia clay ground into my clothes on my adventures with Phillip.  “Stay out of that creek!” she would shout, though we both knew it was for not. Before there was Phillip I had hosted tea parties and taught school with a legion of stuffed animals.  I can’t imagine now what I had to offer him, though he would take a place at the tea table on occasion.  Besides the creek and all it had to offer he tutored me in kick ball and won us a place in a pack of older kids who roamed the neighborhood.

Phillip and I planned rock concerts for our parents, who sat politely in folding chairs while we showed them treasures from our rock collections.  We spent the night at each other’s houses to the delight of his older brothers who hoped we were setting precedent.  Near the end of the third grade we were allowed to walk home from school together.

It was a few blocks, five at most, made longer by having to cross at the light and come around “the long way.”  It was a hard-won battle and we were sworn to cross with the guard at the busy street.  Mostly we did, but on days that we lingered on the playground after school, we would walk the winding road that led to a path through a wooded area that backed up to our street.  The shortcut covered our naughtiness.

On a day without a cloud in the sky we decided to take the shorter route.  We ambled along the empty road until it spit us out at the edge of the busy street.  This side street was just over a crest in a hill and we sprinted across, exuberant in our deception. 

I was just in front of Phillip so I cannot explain the clear image that I hold in my head of his body as it flew over ten feet in the air after being hit by the car.  I have no memory of the sound of the wheels as they skidded to stop or the impact of the car when it hit him.  I cannot remember a single detail about the car or the woman who was driving it.  I did turn back to see the papers from his notebook raining down around him. 

I do remember the woods and the trees, some no larger than sticks, as they blurred by in my peripheral vision.  I remember the pounding of my heart and the stitch in my side as I ran across the lawns of our neighbors, home, to tell my mother that Phillip was hurt.

I burst through the front door screaming, “Mom, Mom!  Phillip was hit by a car – you have to come!”  She did not say a word, but grabbed her keys and drove right to the spot, the spot that she must have worried over the dozens of times we walked home uneventfully.

In the few minutes that it took us to drive there, neither of us spoke a word.  Just as we arrived one of Phillip’s brothers came running down the street, his arms held wide, screaming his name.  There was a crowd and then there was the ambulance.

He was in the hospital for months.  A ruptured spleen, countless broken bones, a collapsed lung.  He would miss the rest of the school year, but he would live.  “I heard she was driving too fast.”  “The children weren’t supposed to be walking home that way.”  “I heard she swerved to miss Trish.”  The women of the neighborhood whispered in clusters on the curbs of our street.

At the beginning of summer vacation my mother took me on a trip to see one of our friends.  On the day we bought matching clogs she told me that my parents were getting a divorce and that it was not my fault. 

Phillip was not out of the hospital before we moved.  I did not see him again until I was in college, back in Atlanta for a visit. He was a man I did not recognize and some of the old neighbors said he never really recovered after the accident.  He was my first friend and that day in the woods I am not sure if I was chasing it or if it was chasing me, but that was the first time I felt death in my presence and we were there both breathing hard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The General Store

 After my big city friend moved to New York and we began visiting regularly, I confessed, "I can't figure out this upper-lower-east-west-village thing.  What the heck?!"

And he patiently pulled out my Streetwise Manhattan and pointed saying, "Prairie Village, Mission Hills, Leawood, Brookside.  They're neighborhoods."  And I was never confused again.

We have our own names for things here, too, and shorthands and zip codes.

Which can be cozy.  And reassuring.  The only problem being that sometimes something really good is happening outside your burg.

For me, this means I sometimes need a little extra nudge.

The Star.  Spaces.  And finally a text from Mrs. Larson (reaffirming my belief that personal is the most influential) asking, "Have you been to the General Store in downtown OP?"

Overland Park is not my usual stomping ground, though there are several cute shops and good places to eat.  In the midst of carrot cake and swim pick up I dashed over.

Really, it's too good to be true.  Chocked full of carefully curated treasures, you are sure to find something you need.

Design services, too.

Don't wait as long as I did.  Go.

The General Store
7922 Santa Fe Drive
Overland Park, KS

You can ring them at 913/797-9915 or find them on-line at

A Happy Tune

I went to the symphony last weekend.  It's not on my usual list of weekend events: basketball, school project supplies, laundry.

It was an amazing treat.  Mozart was lovely, but it was Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 that delighted my ear and captured my heart.

It is such a happy piece and I was struck with wonder at the ability to create something, anything, so beautiful.

Here I sit surrounded by projects undone.  An astrologer scribbled three stars next to the date "February 15," underlined it, circled it, then added a bracket for emphasis.  The point of which was, "Get off your duff and do something."  My stars are aligning.

So I was thinking (wasn't the point to stop thinking and "do?") that music might move things along.

Would you send other suggestions?  Classical music that will uplift, inspire, delight.  Brooding I pretty much have covered.  I'd love your recommendations.

I intended to illustrate this post with busts of composers, but once I hit 1st dibs I was enchanted by the variety there.  So, these are irrelevant, except that I like them.

Anon - thanks, my mistake.  You can see why I need the education.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Morning After

The dinner turned out just fine with no major mishaps.  The stand-out dish without a doubt was the Triple-Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which you can find here.  I did, as the recipe says, grate the carrots on the smallest side of a box grater.  I did not have a comparable attachment for my food processor and I believe that it made all the difference.  The consistency of the carrots post-grating was similar to canned pumpkin, so the cake was incredibly smooth and rich.  The recipe says that 1lb. of carrots will equal about three cups.  This is a complete and total bold faced lie, or was in my case; I needed 2lbs.  Carrot cake in my book is only a vehicle for cream cheese frosting anyway, so the extra layer made it a total home run.  I had it for breakfast the next day.

We copied the Brussels sprout salad from a dish that we had at the Mixx here in Kansas City.  You can vary it to your taste, sprouts, arugula, cranberries, almonds, bacon*, shaved parmesan with honey mustard dressing.  The Brussels sprouts are raw.  Yep, raw and delicious.  Trim the bottom and separate so they are basically leaves.  Bill did julienne (right?) them a little.  I'd be careful with the sprout/arugula ratio as ours seemed a little arugula heavy.  Better yet, eat in or carry out from the Mixx.

*Mr. Sulzberger, you are welcome to order yours without bacon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Does She Bake an Apple Pie?

"What do you want to do for your birthday?"

"Um.  Nothing."

"I was thinking we could have a few people here."

"Maybe it would be easier to go out."

"I was thinking I might cook."


"I was thinking I might cook."

"The dinner?"

"Yes, the dinner."

"What were you thinking of making me?"


"I'm already happy."

"I'll figure it out."

So I am making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, a Brussel Sprout Salad with arugula, bacon, cranberries and parmesan with honey mustard dressing and a Triple-Layer Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting.  Favorites all.  I am hoping that I can pay as close attention to detail as Mr. Gambrel has here.

All images from

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You Say "Solarium", I Just Say "Office"

I was telling a friend yesterday that Frances Elkins and I have been having an on-going tete-a-tete about my office.  Ms. Elkins used her solarium as her home office as well, and she sat overlooking the walled garden that her brother, David Adler, designed for her.

My office is three walls of windows very similar to this, though they go nearly to the floor.  I was telling Ms. Elkins that I did not care for the style of the mullions on my windows; they are a bit arts and crafts for my taste and don't relate to the house in any way.  She paused before pointing out that they are exactly the same as her windows, though hers had a further flourish.  This reassured me a bit as she knew it would.

In the spirit of solidarity I ordered a new white bamboo desk chair.  (She did not have white bamboo here, but I was sure that she would approve.)  It was happily in place when Bill came home from work.  "Is that comfortable?" he asked taking in the criss-crossed lattice of the back.  I stared back blankly and he nodded, "Never mind."

He thinks it would be a fine idea, however, to buy a day bed to go underneath the windows on the long wall opposite my desk.  "You could read a book there.  Or nap."  This made me wonder how he thinks I spend my day, but rather than take the bait I noted, "The only beings that would sleep there would be Dexter and Rosie." "Well, that would be ok, wouldn't it?"  It would, actually, as it would provide an excuse to hunt down two rope lamps to flank it.

I can feel my work improving already.

(By the way, if you think there is any chance that I could get the boys to say "solarium," you are delusional.  I can't even get them to say "sofa" though they have never heard me utter the word "couch."  I blame the media.)

Image from Frances Elkins Interior Design, Stephen M. Salny, W.W. Norton & Co. 2005.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Look Into My Eyes

 "I want you to use the Retin A on your forehead every day."

I stared back at my dermatologist and tried to decipher just what she was saying.  She's equal parts clinical and personal, and I like her not just for her flawless skin which gives me hope.

"Oh.  Yes, well, the forehead isn't really the problem, it's my eyes."

She arched one perfectly drawn brow in response.

"Yes, actually I've seen a plastic surgeon about it.  My eyelids are so heavy that unconsciously I am raising my eyebrows in order to lift them off of my lashes.  That's what is causing the wrinkles."

"It's significant enough that I think your insurance might cover it.  You should check with your optometrist."

Cut to a clandestine meeting in a neighborhood coffee shop where a friend said, "She could be right.  I think you should make an appointment."  Neither woman said the word, "bad" as in "bad enough to be covered by insurance as your eyelids have dropped to the point that they are impeding your peripheral vision."  But that is the case.

It's not a surprise, really.  If you saw my father's eyelids you would see where this is headed.  Still, as I stood in the kitchen and explained the stitches and the bruising to Bill he said, "Please don't do it."  I just can't tell what would take more courage; the scalpel and the slice or the slow slide.

Living elegantly with a little wear was Princess Claude Ruspoli in, yes, Paris.  She was quite fond of antique fabrics, the patina of which adds to the allure of her apartment overlooking the Seine.  Architectural Digest, International Interiors, 1979; photography Pascal Hinous.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Happy Book

And so we are off.  The boys are back at school and I am home again in the quite with only the rustle and woofing of the dogs to disturb me.

I received an email, the subject line of which was "Be Well in 2012" and I originally thought the sender was "The Universe." Ominous, once opened it turned out to be from The University of Kansas.  Nice, but less profound.

I could use a little profundity as I have had a few projects come to an end and rather than feeling relieved, I feel adrift.  Two volunteer projects sit on my desk like bags of snakes.  They twist and curl, slither and hiss just here at my left elbow; I keep thinking I have their sacks firmly tied, but they make me anxious just the same.

And, our new year feels more like mourning than morning.  Over the holidays we were seeped in death, dipped again and again and again.  It did not diminish the joy of the carols, but often made them seem a little too loud.

As joyous as the season is, and as much as it touts beginnings, it is the end of things as well.

To shake off the snakes and escape the gloom of my musings, I set out to see the world.  A great find came, as great finds often do, on a dusty shelf in a thrift shop.  It was waiting there for me, without its wrap (and not needing one as our weather has been fine), knowing that I would find it and its meaning in good time.

Ludwig Bemelmans's The Best of Times is a compilation of his articles for Holiday magazine recounting his travels through Europe following World War II.  Mr. Bemelmans took his title from Dickens, and, indeed, it is not always a rosy view.  But to me it said, "Go.  Don't wait.  You never know."

All images by Ludwig Bemelmans from The Best of Times, Simon and Schuster, 1948.  The title is taken from the introduction.  "I set out to write a happy book.  The mood was somber, then as it is now, but I disagreed with the opinion that was screamed at us from the radio and the front pages..."

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Modern Man

When one of our friends told us he was gay I said, "I would be so disappointed if one of the boys..." and before I could finish he said, "was gay."  "No. Was gay and felt like he couldn't tell me."

Ten years later what strikes me is that there is a need for any telling at all.  That the gender of the person to whom you are attracted is news.

Born in 1922, interior designer Melvin Dwork, grew up in Kansas City.  I have no idea if there was a discussion or not, but he notes that his family took his homosexuality in stride.  This is remarkable not only for its day, but for this city where coming out stories of forty and fifty year old married men are not uncommon even now.

As a few local designers have done, he loved the Nelson, attended the Kansas City Art Institute and furthered his design education at Parsons.  He enlisted for service in the U.S. Navy's Hospital Corp during WWII.

Upon suspicion of his homosexuality, the Navy confined Dwork to the Brig for a month, breaking his confinement only for interrogation and psychoanalysis.  The Navy eventually released Dwork from service with an undesirable discharge.  He returned to New York and Parsons allowed him to attend on scholarship.

Seventy years later, after decades of work, the Pentagon changed the status of his discharge from undesirable to honorable and reinstated his benefits.

Filmmaker, Mike Jacoby, is making The Undesirable, a film of Dwork's story.  Much work has been done, but they are still raising money to complete the production.  I have made a small donation and I am inviting you to donate, too.

Dwork has had a successful and celebrated career in design.  His work has been featured in nearly every major shelter magazine and the New York Times.  He has been a member of the AD100 and Interior Design magazine's Hall of Fame.  That should be his story.  Being persecuted for being gay shouldn't be anyone's story.  If we tell these stories enough, maybe they won't be.

More information on The Undesirable, here.  To donate, here.  And, my latest piece in Spaces KC profiling Dwork is here.

Top two images from House & Garden, next, via Blue Remembered Hills, the New York Times image of Dwork's apartment follows, then one from The Peak of Chic.