Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Literary Leopards

It seems that camel and leopard prints are going to be hot this Fall, at least according to the fashion magazines. Well thank goodness because I have a closet full of both. But really, both are classic, so were they ever really out? I don't think so; I just guess they're a little more "in" than usual.

I've never met a leopard print that I didn't like. (Although, I'm not quite sure about that Givenchy ensemble at top.) I have leopard print coats, purses, sweaters, and shoes. My apartment isn't neglected either. There are leopard print Wilton weave rugs and leopard pillows. Something else I have? Books with leopard print covers. Now I really love those. If I see one in a bookstore, I make a beeline for it and usually end up buying it.

To be perfectly honest, I tend to buy leopard print books as accessories rather than for the text that lies between the covers. I know, shame on me. It's really the only time I buy a book for its cover. But you know what? They really do look pretty nifty on display in my home. I'm always looking for books to add to my collection. Are there any leopard print books that I've left out from the list below?

Now, first let me say that I don't display my books on the floor; I was just experimenting with the layered leopard look. (Not so successful, eh?) I bought this book (Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots) for that cover alone. What I found inside, though, was pretty darn a sick kind of way.

We all love Jan Showers' glamorous work as well as her book Glamorous Rooms. Have you peeked underneath the dust jacket? That print on the book's boards is Hinson's "Snow Leopard". I've been displaying this book without the jacket- for obvious reasons.

When I was trying to come up with leopard print books, I remembered the Assouline title Les Must De Cartier. I ordered my copy a few days ago so I'm anxiously awaiting it. In the meantime, here is an image that I found on the web.

It may be hard to see, but this leopard print book in Chris Spitzmiller's apartment is Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style- a book that I really wish that I owned.

Another title I'd give my right arm to own? The 1999 Christie's auction catalogue "Innovators of Twentieth Century Style Including Property Sold to Benefit the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation". The copy shown here is available at Nick Harvill Libraries.

(Givenchy photo from; Spitzmiller photo from Elle Decor, William Waldron photographer; auction catalogue photo courtesy of Nick Harvill Libraries. Glamorous Rooms and Dictator Style photos by Jennifer Boles.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Joan's Way of Life

Have you ever watched a Joan Crawford movie and noticed that inevitably, one of the film's characters- with a straight face, mind you- will describe Joan's character as being "a fine looking woman", "beautiful", even "gorgeous". Well, it always leaves me thinking "Really?...Really?". Because let's face it, Joan really wasn't very attractive. Oh, I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that describing Joan as beautiful is pushing it. Really pushing it. But, Joan was a real piece of work, so if Joan asked (or even demanded) that her character be beautiful, well, who dared argue with her? I sure as heck wouldn't. I'd say whatever she wanted me to.

This observation of mine- made at 5:30 yesterday morning while trying to sleep- led me to my bookshelf where I pulled down one of my all-time favorite works of high camp: Joan's 1971 how-to guide
My Way of Life. Don't let the price dissuade you from buying it. It is totally worth it to read Joan's advice on raising children (yes, child rearing advice from the woman who beat her daughter with a wire hanger), beauty (I think I covered that in the first paragraph of this post), housekeeping and decorating, and taking care of one's husband. I say husband rather than man or male companion because in Joan's world, a woman had to have a husband. You had to close the deal and make it to the finish line of marriage or otherwise you were, God forbid, not a "complete woman". And speaking of husbands, did you know that you should "never let your husband see you exercising. No woman rolling around on the floor looks really adorable after she's passed her third birthday." I didn't realize that either.

So seeing that this is a design blog, I'm going to extract some of Joan's decorating tidbits from the book. Taking decorating advice from a woman who covered her furniture in plastic slipcovers is a bit risky. (Carleton Varney, Joan's decorator in the 1960s and 70s, once wrote "Joan had more plastic on her furniture than was used at the meat counter in an A&P supermarket.) Still, I have to admit that much of what she said makes sense to me. I think that she was more down to earth when it came to her home than she was with her beauty tips: "Organize a beauty club. The best thing about the club is getting down on the floor with half a dozen other women...and seeing if you can improve faster than anyone else." Now that sounds like Joan to me.

Joan's Take on Decorating:

A good marriage deserves a lovely background.

I think the first gay, happy things I ever bought for myself were chintz curtains. But the place got so damned busy that it made me dizzy- too many patterns have the same effect on me as those very tiny mosaic tiles you sometimes see in public places, especially in airports. Judy Garland used to get so seasick looking at them that she had to be carried out of the area with her eyes shut tight.

I feel that [bedrooms] should be very feminine... I think men feel much more masculine walking from a brown or green dressing room into a lovely feminine bedroom.

I think one of the most important things in decorating is that you should like every room in the house or apartment. If you find yourself always avoiding one of the rooms, something's wrong.

People who have good taste are bound to make a mistake now and then, because they're human, and when they do it's a horrendous one. It's so ugly you can't believe it. On the other hand people who have terrible taste are bound to make a mistake and buy something exquisite- and you can't possibly understand how that could happen!

(Image #1 from My Way of Life by Joan Crawford. Images #2 and #5 from Celebrity Homes: Architectural Digest Presents the Private Worlds of Thirty International Personalities. #3, #4, and #6 from Houses in My Heart: Carleton Varney: An International Decorator's Colorful Journey by Carleton Varney.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Avedon, Stars, and Style

I think that I'm predisposed towards interiors, fashion, food, celebrities, and the cognoscenti of yesteryear. Perhaps it's genetics, or maybe I was born in the wrong era. I don't know, but it really does seem that style- an individual sense of style, that is- was more prevalent "back then". Seeing an actress today, for example, schlepping her Starbucks cup while wearing Uggs just kind of ruins it for me. You know what I mean?

A book that seems to drive this point home is one that a
photographer friend gave me recently- Performance: Richard Avedon, a compilation of his photos of performers. Noel Coward is in it as well as Diana Vreeland (if blog posts are any indication, we still revere this woman today.) Hepburn (both of them), Porter, Nureyev, and Capote also make appearances.

So, without further ado, here are a few images that caught my eye. And as I couldn't resist adding a design twist to this post, I'm also including a few images of their respective homes- just to help prove my point that these luminaries did have quite a sense of style.

Was there anyone with as much flair as Cole Porter?

Well, yes, but it wasn't a "who" but rather a "what": his Billy Baldwin designed apartment in Waldorf Towers.

If there was anyone who could give Porter a run for his money in terms of wit and a way with words, it was Noel Coward.

One might have expected his London home (shown here in 1937) to be frothy, but instead it's a bit rustic around the edges.

We all remember Edward G. Robinson as the cinema's ultimate mobster.

But did you know that he also had a renowned collection of Impressionist paintings, shown off to great effect in his Beverly Hills home? His home, by the way, was the handiwork of Samuel Marx and Frances Elkins. I bet that Little Caesar would never had had such elegant digs.

Rex Harrison. Leave it to "Sexy Rexy"... have such a sexy dining room courtesy of Keith Irvine.

They say that Marlene Dietrich was the ultimate hausfrau. You certainly would not have known that by looking at this photograph.

You wouldn't have known it by her palatial Beverly Hills home, either.

(All portraits from Performance: Richard Avedon. Porter home photo from Billy Baldwin Decorates; Coward home photo from a 1937 issue of Arts & Decoration. Robinson home from UltraModern: Samuel Marx Architect, Designer, Art Collector; Harrison dining room shot from Keith Irvine: A Life in Decoration. Dietrich photo from House Beautiful, 9/2001.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Orange is the Happiest Color

Or so said Frank Sinatra. Frank loved his orange. Me? Not so much so. However, there are certain shades of orange that I find to be stunning. I wouldn't say that these particular shades are necessarily happy but rather moody. Moody in a good way, mind you. Not moody as in tedious. More Paris than Palm Springs, the place that Frank called home. You know, orange without all of that Vitamin C.

You know who else must have liked orange? The late (and still great) Henri Samuel. I flipped for the photos of his Paris apartment that were featured in the 1989 book
The Decorator by Florence de Dampierre. It was a refined home and yet that Hermes shade gave the room a sense of vigor. This, to me, is orange the way that it should be.

Interestingly, when asked what his favorite color was, Samuel responded that it was mauve. OK, so I'm not sold on mauve, but I'm sure if anyone could successfully use the color, it was Samuel. Now I just need to find some photos to back that opinion up.

Of course, an orange room looks that much better when one owns a Giacometti table and a Balthus painting.

Samuel's sitting room. The fireplace was Empire "in the Egyptian taste".

(Photos from The Decorator by Florence de Dampierre, Antoine Bootz photographer.)

Grant K. Gibson is a Tastemaker!

Well, we already knew that. It's no surprise that One Kings Lane tapped him to be the curator of tomorrow's Tastemaker Tag Sale. There are so many great items that Grant has chosen for the sale: architectural prints, framed intaglios, antiques, and objets galore. I've spent more than a few evenings in Grant's stylish dwelling drinking champagne and secretly coveting many of these items. Now's my chance (and yours) to actually get my hands on something! Then, perhaps, my apartment will look as pulled together as Grant's. Check the sale out tomorrow on One Kings Lane's website.

A sampling of the goods:

And the way some of them looked in Grant's apartment:

(All images courtesy of One Kings Lane)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Like Sands Through the Hourglass... are the Days of Our Lives.

Am I the only person who thinks of that intro when the topic of hourglasses comes up? (I've never even seen that soap opera before but I certainly know that theme music..and I know that Macdonald Carey spoke the words. Scary.) But back to hourglasses. I actually haven't been thinking of hourglasses themselves so much, but rather I've been really drawn to the hourglass shape. Perhaps that pinched middle reminds me of a nipped-in waist, something which has also been on my mind as of late because of my recent birthday. Another year older and fortunately my waistline is still trim- and it better stay that way. (I say this, of course, after having a dinner of pasta and vino. Someday, it's going to catch up with me.)

It all started with Chris Spitzmiller's Hager lamp about which I wrote last week. I ordered a navy one with a gold base from Chris' Seconds Sale . I'm showing the matte white version above, but I am very excited about having a navy lamp. And the shape is so pleasing.

Then, I was at Pieces the other evening for a party honoring Jonathan Adler. He was signing his pottery, and he was so nice and charming that I just had to buy something so that he could sign it. (Did I say he was nice and charming?) So the piece that caught my eye and that I ended up purchasing was the Cyclone Vase. Perhaps it looks a bit more like a nuclear reactor than an hourglass, but once again, it has that skinny middle.

A few days after that, I was on a plane reading Town & Country when I saw an ad for the new Balenciaga fragrance. See the hourglass to the side? A sign that I needed to write this post! What I like even more, though, is that gorgeous perfume bottle with that craquelure stopper. I need to go check it out at Neiman's.

I haven't a clue as to what my next brush with the hourglass will be, but I believe it will happen. After all, it's these kind of things that I look for during the days of my life.

(Image of Hager lamp courtesy of Christopher Spitzmiller; vase photo taken by Jennifer Boles.)