Thursday, October 29, 2009

That Print Again

I'm being haunted by Braquenié fabric. A few weeks back I posted about one of my favorite Braquenié prints, "Le Rocher", that has been retired but that does make a banded appearance in their current "Bordure Cheverny" print. (Kim Huebner of Pierre Frey was kind enough to comment that "Le Rocher" has not been permanently discontinued, only sent for a rest in the archives. Frey owns Braquenié.) You can see "Le Rocher" at top and "Border Cheverny" beneath it.

So as I was reading The Givenchy Style over the weekend, I saw the photo below of the "Châmbre d'Hélène" in Givenchy's estate Le Jonchet. The glorious fabric draped, swagged, and upholstered all over the room is Braquenié's "Tree of Life". The tree has roots of what appears to be my beloved "Le Rocher".

I'm thinking that this was a sign that 1) "Le Rocher" will be reintroduced in the Braquenié line and that 2) it will eventually find a place in my home. There's no harm in being hopeful, is there?

(Givenchy photos from The Givenchy Style by Françoise Mohrt)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour

Need testament to the glamour of the good old days? Then by all means, pick up a copy of Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour by Louise Baring. Parkinson, one of 20th century's most innovative photographers, captured the sophistication that was fashion during the 1930s through the 1980s. What was unique about his work was that Parkinson was one of the first photographers to shoot models outside of the studio, often posing them on the street or in some incongruous setting. (Look at the cover, above, which features a model in a butcher shop.) Much of Parkinson's work was featured in Vogue (both British and American) and Harper's Bazaar, magazines at which Parkinson worked with the likes of Alexander Lieberman and Diana Vreeland. In fact, it was Parkinson to whom Vreeland remarked "How clever of you, Mr. Parkinson, also to know that pink is the navy blue of India."- this in response to Parkinson's photo of a model posing in a pink coat in Jaipur.

While the text is quite interesting, it's the glorious photographs that make this book a must-have for you glamour pusses and fashion hounds. And if you're a fan of the legendary model Carmen, then you're in luck; there are lots of photographs of her posing for Parkinson through the years.

Celia Hammond photographed for a Wetherall advertisement, Paris, 1962

Carmen Dell'Orefice on a crane in front of Old Bailey, London; Queen magazine cover, September 1960.

"Young Velvets, Young Prices" photographed for Vogue, 1949, from the roof of the Conde Nast Building.

(All images copyrighted Norman Parkinson Ltd., provided courtesy of the Norman Parkinson Archive, London. Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour, by Louise Baring, Rizzoli New York, 2009)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My London Flat

What? You didn't know that I have a flat in London? Well, actually I don't, but I'd love to own one someday. And I always say that if I do obtain a London home, I will most certainly decorate it in a very British manner. I know, some might say how boring or expected, while others might think "damn American trying to out British the British", but why not? So what would my dream flat look like? Well, probably something like this- the flat of Tom Parr in Eaton Square as featured in Living in Vogue.

Parr, seen above, is the former director of the venerable firm Colefax and Fowler. You might also recognize his name as he used to be the design partner of David Hicks. What I'm taken with is the home's warmth and coziness. As Parr said about his work "When you walk into a room, you should think 'What a lovely atmosphere' and not just notice individual objects." I couldn't agree with him more.

The image at top and above are the dining room/ guest room. Behind Parr you can see the sofa which doubles as a bed. The bookcases are faux bird's eye maple, and there are numerous Indian Raj paintings in the room. The dining table is a Colefax & Fowler design. Also, I think the lighting is close to perfect in this space.

The drawing room walls are covered in a handmade paper inspired by an old damask. The carpet (a pattern called "Rock Savage") is a replica of that in Cholmondeley Castle. Note too the marbled molding. And I think that mossy green velvet sofa with the bullion fringe is terrific. (Remember my post on bullion fringe? This is the way it should be used.)

Beyond the drawing room is the tomato red bedroom. The Colefax velvet sofa turns into a bed. This room is actually my least favorite of the three, and I can't decide if it's because of the ferns in the photo or if it's something about the velvet on the sofa. Or maybe it's the way that shade of green looks against that red. I guess it doesn't really matter because the other two rooms are knock-outs, or at least they are to me.

(All photographs from Living in Vogue by Judy Brittain and Patrick Kinmonth; photographer Snowdon.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations

I just finished reading my review copy of Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations: Entertaining at Home with New York's Savviest Hostesses. I love to curl up in bed and read cookbooks...and sometimes cook from them too. This one came along at a fortuitous time as the holidays are right around the corner.

Members of The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have contributed their favorite recipes that they rely on to celebrate holidays and the seasons. There are menus and recipes for Valentine's Day, Passover, Derby Day, and of course what I'm thinking about now: Christmas. I haven't tried any of the recipes, but I thought the Society's previous effort was a success so I'm anxious to try my hand at a few of these dishes. (Also, the fact that Florence Fabricant is associated with this book is like a seal of approval.)

I've included a dessert recipe below that I'd like to make, but if you're not someone who enjoys cooking or reading cookbooks, you should at least look at the photos of the gorgeous interiors and tablesettings. You just might be inspired to get into the kitchen and whip up something to celebrate.

Roaring Twenties Coffee Bavarian Cream (Makes 12 or more servings)

2 packets plain gelatin
1 cup whole milk
1 cup brewed espresso
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
Small chocolate truffles for decoration, chilled

Place the gelatin in a 4-cup glass measuring cup and stir in the milk. Bring the espresso to a boil and whisk it into the milk mixture. Stir in the sugar. Transfer the mixture to a metal bowl and place it in a large bowl filled with ice and water. Stir from time to time as the mixture cools. When the mixture starts to thicken, transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat the mixture at high speed until it is smooth and fairly thick and lightens in colors. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until they hold peaks but are not dry. Fold the egg whites into the gelatin mixture.

Whip the cream until stiff and fold it into the gelatin mixture. Transfer the mixture to an 8-cup metal ring mold or another fancy mold. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To serve, unmold the mousse and decorate it with chocolate truffles, if you like, which can also be piled into the center of the unmolded dessert.

(Recipe and photographs from Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations: Entertaining at Home with New York's Savviest Hostesses, Rizzoli New York, 2009, photographer Ben Fink.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Style in Miniature

A few months ago, I wrote about miniature rooms that were created by McMillen back in the 1930s to help market their firm. That led to a discussion of the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, some of the most famous of all miniature rooms. Well, I got all excited when I found photos of other tiny rooms (in this case 15X24 inches) in a 1934 issue of House Beautiful. (Obviously, it doesn't take much to get me excited.) Additionally piquing my interest was the fact that one Mary Miller, a decorator from Atlanta, designed the rooms. I'm not familiar with Miller, but I think if I were around back in '34, I'd hire her to decorate my home based on these pint sized replicas alone.

The room at top, my favorite, was designed in the Regency style. According to the article, the walls were chalky white and the ceiling was deep emerald green, while the black floor was bordered in boxwood green and outlined in white. I love the tiny leopard print rug not to mention the stars on the overmantel mirror. And look at the charming curtains, swag, and arrow motif rod. A bit elaborate, but I wouldn't mind having them in my home. Large scale ones, of course.

Then there was the Georgian room. The Romney portrait and the Aubusson rug established the color scheme of the room. The apricot pink walls and ceiling and pastel colored fabrics allowed the mahogany furniture to take prominence.

And since it was 1934 and all of the magazines were breathlessly touting the "modern" look, Ms. Miller designed a Modern room with a neutral color scheme which included a dark brown rug and ombré brown walls. I'm not so sure about Miller's choice of browns, but perhaps it was a 1930s thing. My favorite detail is the mirrored fireplace surround.

Now, I know that we are all rushed for time so hobbies don't seem to be a priority, but don't you think somebody should consider creating a new collection of miniature rooms? Don't look at me- I don't have the time nor patience. I just like to look at them!

(All images from House Beautiful, March 1934)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spellbound by Color

I love color in my home, but not so much in my wardrobe. (Look through my closet and you'll see a sea of black, gray, and bit of greige thrown in for good measure.) But a panoply of bright colors is usually not something to which I gravitate. Lots and lots of shocking, wild color in one room feels like getting hit in the head with an anvil. But if an array of vivid color is limited to one piece or a confined area, and if the colors are arranged in a tight, linear way, well, that's an entirely different story. An angular composition of color seems to give a semblance of order to what otherwise might be chaos; it adds a severity and an edginess to the colors which I like.

Take, for example, the fabric I've shown at top. I don't know who made this fabric, but I'm absolutely in love with it. I realize it's not for everyone, but think about this geometric print being used in a controlled way- perhaps on a seat cushion, pillow, tablecloth. It could very well bump a room from great up to fabulous. And it has the Brooke Astor seal of approval.

Think something like Harran II, Frank Stella, 1967; the Guggenheim Collection.

I think this quilt, Bittersweet XII by Nancy Crow, 1980, would be magnificent hung on the wall as artwork, especially if housed in a very minimal, contemporary space.

This Donald Brooks coat from the 1960s/70s is fabulous. The colorful bands read sophisticated, not cutesy. It's that wow piece that would make the rest of your neutral wardrobe sing.

There's a reason that this book makes appearances so often in chic interiors, and it's just not because it's about Christian Liaigre. I think it might also have to do with that cover.

Even better than the Liaigre cover is this one, American Painting by Barbara Rose.

(Unfortunately, I can't remember from which publication the photo at top was taken.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Things To Do This Weekend

If you live in Memphis or happen to be in Memphis this Saturday, October 17, please come to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art for a panel discussion on "Updating the Traditional Home", moderated by yours truly. Sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust, the discussion will include three of Memphis' top designers. DAT lectures are free with museum admission. The event begins at 10:30am. For more information, visit the Decorative Arts Trust website.

And if you're looking for something to do in Atlanta this Sunday, I invite you to attend the Plaza Towers Tour of Homes and Silent Auction which benefits MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta). The tour runs from 1pm to 5pm followed by a silent auction from 4-6pm. Tickets are $40. For more information, visit the website. Seeing that I live in the building, I'll be going through the units on tour. If you see me wandering around, make sure to say hello!

(Image of Plaza Towers: David Christensen, photographer.)

Update on "More is More"

A few people have inquired about the limited edition sets of Tony Duquette and More is More. Boxed sets (covered in that wonderful Jim Thompson "Gemstone" fabric) are available at both Saks Fifth Avenue, NYC and via Each set retails for $550 plus shipping.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Clean Freak

Sometimes, I think people in the design world are just far too picky about the details. I don't mean details like the trim used around a pillow or the way a curtain is finished. And I'm not talking about hardware, lamp finials, or the other sundry decorative accents that really are important. No, I mean details like household products. How many times have you read an interview in which a designer mentions that he or she only uses a certain type of soap or toothpaste because of the packaging it comes in? Sound silly? Well, I always thought so too until I realized that I'm guilty of it myself. Just open my pantry door and you'll see cleaning products that were chosen not only for their ability to keep things spic and span, but also because of their chic, retro bottles, jars, and tins.

In fact, when I was at the hardware store and saw this glass cleaner that looked like something Betty Draper might have used, I bought it. It's the drawing of the 1950s housewife that got me (it's hard to see in this image). It actually seems to work pretty well, too.

I have not yet bought Town Talk Wax or Marble Polish, but I really want to- only because of those tins! Since it's been around since 1895, it must work well, don't you think?

I love my Tibet Almond Stick to touch up scratches on furniture. It really is quick as a wink. And the metal canister has a Victorian look to it, which I'm sure is what initially caught my eye.

There's Wenol metal polish that's originally from Germany. It's utilitarian looking in that 1960s European kind of way.

There's my Stick Um candle adhesive, selected because of the tin..

..and my Hagerty silver polish- love that shade of blue!

Is this post completely random? Of course it is! And what's with Rosalind Russell's photo at top? Well, my mother once read where Roz loved to clean and enjoyed going to the hardware store to buy the latest cleaning products. Wonder if she was a sucker for the packaging too?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Old School Entertaining

I hope you'll indulge me in another post on entertaining. It's been on my mind a lot lately because 1) I'm speaking on the subject for the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle's Christmas House and 2) I've got to figure out what the heck I'm going to serve on Christmas Eve. And, as the holidays are a time for formal entertaining (at least I think it should be formal), why not look back to the 1960s when International Society entertained in a very formal way. Let's see what these soigné hostesses liked to serve thanks to an old issue of Town & Country.

Take, for example, Mrs. Samuel Pryor Reed (that's Annette de la Renta to you and me). She preferred soups, puréed vegetables, and all kinds of soufflées but nixed meat, though she admitted that poultry and veal were acceptable. (You don't see puréed vegetables on menus anymore, and I wonder why not? It's like fancy baby food for adults and it's usually delicious.) I agree about the soufflées too; I never met a soufflé that I didn't like.

If you want to get really fancy, take a cue from Madame Pierre Arpels, who was really gorgeous by the way. Her suggested menu included "Truite en gelée, sauce maison, served with Pouilly-Fuissé; Selle d'agneau, haricots verts, pommes noisettes, served with Bordeaux Leoville-Las-Cases; salade, fromage, and a soufflé Grand Marnier accompanied by Champagne Dom Perignon." You see, another soufflé.

Of interest to many of you will be Donna Marella Agnelli's choice in food. In the country, it was Piedmontese cuisine like white truffles, bagna cauda, and venison. In the city, it was French. French food seemed to be a favorite amongst these hostesses, and it's not hard to understand why.

Traveling over to London, there was Mrs. Diana Phipps. (Fabulous paisley dining room and dress, by the way.) What was served in her swinging dining room? Pancakes with smoked haddock, cottage cheese, mushrooms and mornay sauce, marinated lamb on skewers, saffron rice, and fried aubergines, then Crème brûlée with peeled grapes. (I'm an adventurous eater, but this just doesn't sound very appetizing to me.)

So what am I going to serve for Christmas Eve dinner? I haven't a clue, but after reading this I realized that I want Annette de la Renta's hair, Madame Arpel's good looks, Marella Agnelli's style, and Diana Phipps' dining room. And maybe the courage to serve a soufflé to a houseful of guests!