Friday, August 19, 2016

That Was Entertaining

As you well know, vintage magazines are my one of my biggest indulgences.  Copies of House Beautiful from the 1930s?  Divine!  Late Sixties issues of House & Garden? So Age of Aquarius!  And Architectural Digest from the Seventies?  Fantastic!!  But the issues that, frankly, rather bore me are those from the 1950s and very early 1960s.  The design mood of that era was a little bland.  But what I do enjoy about magazines from those years are the entertaining features, because entertaining at home was serious business back then.

First, there were often suggested themes for sophisticated dinner parties and buffets.  A flambé supper?  Hmmm, maybe not, but I can get on board with a soup buffet supper or even an omelette party.  (Hiring a chef to make those omelettes would be a must.)

Also, all of the accoutrements of gracious entertaining were encouraged, not pooh-poohed.  Chafing dishes, coffee services, and casseroles were on full display in the magazine photos.  And while I realize these photos were staged, many people had- and actually used- these kinds of table accessories for their at-home entertaining.  Oh, and they dressed up for dinner, too.  How novel.

As much as I pore over these old entertaining photos and wax rhapsodic over elegantly-set buffet tables of yesteryear, the reality is that I'm not going to host an elaborate buffet supper anytime soon.  My excuses are lack of time, too much work, and a kitchen that is awaiting a renovation.  But it certainly doesn't hurt to fantasize about being a hostess par excellence. Who knows?  Maybe someday I just might host that omelette party.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ralph Rucci at Home

It's been a while since I first reviewed Ralph Rucci: Autobiography of a Fashion Designer, and four years later, I still enjoy perusing it. An autobiography that is told through images of the fashion designer's home and office, the book is an intimate portrait of one man's interests and tastes, both of which reflect a life seemingly well-lived.

I thought it worthwhile to revisit the photographs of Rucci's Manhattan lair, which was decorated with the assistance of designer Susan Gutfreund. Dark and dramatic, the apartment is a jewel-box gleaming with mirror and lacquer, an elegant backdrop to the furniture, books, and, above all, objects that Rucci seems to have chosen with exactitude.  Meanwhile, Asian influences abound, which is to be expected considering Rucci named his fashion house for chado, the Japanese tea ceremony.  But perhaps what strikes me most about Rucci's home is that while it's very personal, personality was not allowed to run amok.  There is a sense of restraint that brings harmony to the home of a man who, like so many of us, has great interest in the art of the interior.

All photos from Ralph Rucci: Autobiography of a Fashion Designer; Baldomero Fernandez, photographer

Friday, August 12, 2016

Where to Spend a Saturday Night

There was a time in my life when weekends were spent going out, catching up with friends, and having too much fun.  Well, that time has come and gone, because as much as I still enjoy being out and about, I love nothing more than spending a quiet Friday or Saturday night at home.  But the more time I spend at home, the more I understand how important it is for one's home to be inviting, comfortable, and, above all, cozy.  Because if you're going to spend a Saturday night at home, you want your home to give you a warm embrace and not the cold shoulder.

One home that must have been supremely cozy on a Saturday night (or any night, for that matter) was the Mayfair apartment of the late decorator, Geoffrey Bennison.  Seen here in photos from the April 1987 issue of House & Garden, the apartment was filled with all kinds of interesting furnishings, which was hardly surprising for a man who began his career as an antiques dealer.  But look beyond the pictures and objects, and you'll see the pieces that really contributed to the home's cozy atmosphere: comfy upholstered sofas and chairs, generous curtains that kept the hustle and bustle at bay, glowing lamp light, loads of books, and a most impressive canopy bed.  If that were my bed, I would have a difficult time getting out of it in the mornings.

Now tell me, wouldn't you rather spend a Saturday night at home in digs like these rather than the enduring the agony of a hip and trendy restaurant?  I know that I certainly would.

All photos from House & Garden, April 1987, Christopher Simon Sykes photographer

Monday, August 08, 2016

Slim's Pickings

OK, so the title of my blog post is corny, but there is nothing the least bit feeble about the Manhattan apartment of the late socialite, Slim Keith.  A California girl who went on to become one of New York's most soignée socialites, Keith led a remarkable life.  She was a wife to a few highly-successful men (including film director Howard Hawks and theater producer Leland Hayward), a mother to prominent interior designer Kitty Hawks, and a friend to Truman Capote, who later based an unflattering character on her in his controversial book, Answered Prayers.  Needless to say, the friendship ended.

With a life as rich as hers, it comes as no surprise that her Manhattan apartment, seen here in 1987, was equally as rich.  Not rich as in expensive (although her furnishings were exquisite,) but rather, rich in character and personality.  More Continental and English in feel than American, the interiors were a lesson in quiet sophistication.  No jarring colors, no outré art, and nothing that visually lunged at you.  Rather, her home was tasteful and pretty, just like Slim Keith.

If you're interested in learning more about Keith, you should read Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life.  I read my mother's copy of the book back in the summer of 1990, and as I recall, it was a good read.  It might be worth reading again.

All interior photos from House & Garden, January 1987, François Halard photographer. Photo of Slim Keith by John Engstead.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The World of Jerry Zipkin

Walker of walkers.  Social moth.  Humpty Dumpty.  If you read W back in the Eighties, you will likely remember these now-classic zingers that the magazine's editor and publisher, John Fairchild, frequently hurled at Jerome "Jerry" Zipkin, one of Nouvelle Society's more memorable figures.  Perhaps best known for his friendships with Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale, the often acid-tongued Zipkin seemed to frequent all of the Eighties' most fashionable spots, including Le Cirque, Mortimer's, and the Reagan White House.  It seems like only yesterday that I, a young teenager in Atlanta, anxiously awaited the latest issues of W in hopes of finding out what Zipkin, Nan Kempner, Pat Buckley, Georgette Mosbacher, and Manhattan's other leading socialites had been up to, where they had been, and which ones had made W's infamous "In and Out" list.

Although Zipkin died in 1995, his name continues to crop up in articles about Eighties' society.  For years now, I've been searching for photos of Zipkin's Park Avenue apartment, where he resided his entire life.  (His real-estate-developer father built the building.)  And thanks to my good friend from Macon, Carey, I now have the 1987 issue of House & Garden that features two rooms of his apartment: his sitting room and bedroom.  To say that he packed a lot of stuff into these two rooms is putting it lightly.  But instead of finding the dizzying array of objects and art a turn-off, I'm taken with these rooms because of their personality.  Zipkin was an enthusiastic collector, and his myriad collections and interests- Meissen leopards, shells, snakes, and needlepoint- were on full-display.

So what explained his popularity as a walker?  According to everything I've read, he was cultured and attentive, though quick to give his lady friends unsolicited advice on their clothes and their appearances.  But he was supposedly discreet, too, something which gained him his friends' trust.  According to his New York Times obituary, written by the great Enid Nemy, Zipkin chalked up his popularity among females to the simple fact that he was a man.  "A woman cannot have a best woman friend.  A best woman friend will do her in."

The red sitting room was massed with objects, mementos, and art.

The bedroom's yellow walls were a zesty counterpoint to the adjacent sitting room's red palette.  Even his bedside table was laden with objects.  Dusting and tidying up must have been a nightmare for his poor maid.

All photos from House & Garden, October 1987, Eric Boman photographer.