A Pop of Red: In Memory of Albert Hadley

March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ugh. I feel simply terrible today, as I just learned that one of the most important and beloved interior designers of the 20th (and 21st) century, Albert Hadley, has died. You may not necessarily know his name, but trust me, there isn’t a well-turned out contemporary room that wasn’t influenced by his incredible talent, both during his years working with Sister Parish at the legendary Parish Hadley, or at his own firm formed after Sister’s death, Albert Hadley, Inc. And there are many, many well-known designers working today that started out under his wings, including Bunny Williams, David Easton, Mariette Hines Gomez and Thom Felicia. (Yes, the one from that TV show a few years back.)

For an excellent account of Mr. Hadley’s life and work, I highly recommend Albert Hadley: The Story of America’s Preeminent Interior Designer by Adam Lewis. I think I read it all in one day, and regularly refer to it for a little inspiration when decorating my own rooms:

Aside from a marvelous collection of the work, Mr. Lewis gives the reader a very full biography of the designer and a real sense of his approach to living. Notions that work as well in decorating as they do in daily life: Suitability, comfort, and hospitality. And beauty. Definitely beauty.

I also suggest two other books if you want to go a little deeper. They are a tad harder to get one’s hands on, but do give Alibris a shot:

Parish Hadley: Fifty Years of American Decorating by Sister Parish, by Christopher Petkanas and Christopher Perkins

and

Albert Hadley: Drawings and the Design Process by Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, David Easton, Mariette Hines Gomez and Bunny Williams

The first is a survey of the work of the venerable Parish Hadley. If you grew up in the seventies and eighties and wondered what all that chintz, wicker and needlework was all about, Parish Hadley was the beginning of the style in the States. (Sister started the company during the Depression.) But a closer look at the work reveals how much of a modernist Mr. Hadley was, even in the confines of the classic “Sister” style. And there is also an excellent chance you will recognize some of the rooms, including his famous library done for Brooke Astor. Every new red library owes a debt to this one.

The second is a book based on a lecture Mr. Hadley gave at the New York School of Interior Design some years ago. It is filled with wonderful sketches of Mr. Hadley’s work and the accompanying text provides additional insight into how he conceived a space. There are also excellent essays by some of his colleagues, including Mark Hampton and Bunny Williams, that gives us a peek into what the designer himself was like. I found an autographed copy of this last year and will treasure it a little bit more as of today.

Now, if you are wondering about the title of my post, well, Mr. Hadley was known for a number edicts on design — including a recent urging of designers to move on from the beige rooms that have been so popular in the last ten years or so. But it is possible that his best known rule was that every room should have “a pop of red”. And I could not agree more. In fact, as I looked around the house today, it appears as if the command has been internalized…

The bar, which is like three inches from the dining area in case things are looking familiar to you. (And no, Mr. H and I aren’t always boozing it up, but you need to have variety.)

The kitchen, on top of an open cart which also contains a number of bright red cookware. (Yes, sometimes I buy things simply because they are adorable. These cherries count, but we will also use them in cocktails. Until then, they stay visible.)

And a part of the living room. The candle, a gift, is by Frederick Malle and is available at Barney’s.

I would be remiss of I didn’t mention one of the things I admired most about Albert Hadley:  His apparent professionally generosity. Design — all forms — is a pretty cutthroat business. Even when you are on top, you are either too busy with work, or too concerned with staying on top (or both) to take the time to contribute to the profession as a whole. That never seemed to be the case with him. From forwards in books, to encouraging employees to spread their wings, I get the sense that “what’s in it for me” didn’t come up much in the way he conducted himself — an increasingly rare thing.

Maybe this was because Mr. Hadley was a member of The Greatest Generation.  (Yes, he fought in World War II, and then when right back to decorating.)  Maybe it was because he was — without a whiff of irony  — “A True Southern Gentleman”.  Maybe it was that he simply knew that someone doesn’t have to lose for you to win. My guess is that it was a product of all of these things, and his death makes me a little wistful for a world filled with more of that way of being.

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night.)

Need To Do

March 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

I started thinking about writing something on the topic of doing too much when I looked down as my ersatz desk yesterday afternoon:

As you can see, in addition to my laptop, I have a blackberry, an iPhone, a diary and a full note pad. For the record, I am not a disorganized person. It just seems that my life has evolved into requiring all these things to do what I feel I need to do.

Hmmm. “Need to do” is such a slippery slope, isn’t’ it? I need to be out of my office right now because I am doing some work on the house that needs to be done. (And some of it is genuinely necessary, but it is possible that the other stuff wasn’t really critical. There, I’ve said it.)

I need the blackberry so that wherever I am, I can reliably be in contact with and direct the people on my team at work. (The iPhone doesn’t really cut it for those long emails I write about contract terms, ad placements, one-off requests and the like.) And of course, I need the iPhone for all manner of personal things, including directing all the work that is currently going on at my house.

The diary is needed to jot down notes because I am 40 and was brought up taking notes. I also love the feeling of the pen crossing off something on one of the three different “To Do” lists that I keep. In my book, it is one of Life’s best feelings.

The note pad is for other notes and sketches that aren’t necessarily archived like things in my diary. And in truth, I can’t function without my laptop, since I can’t really read things as well on any of my other devices — even my iPad. (Yeah…I have one of those, too. But at least that is mostly for entertainment or light computing.)

So, all of these things have become more important to have with me than my keys (lots of people have copies of those!) and almost everything in my wallet. And I can’t help but wonder if maybe I am doing something wrong here.

Am I doing too much? (Are you?)

I think the answer is a resounding “YES!”, but if you are at all Type A (check), have a business or demanding job (check), have children (ok, this I don’t have), like things “a certain way” (check) and are at all goal oriented (check, check), it is hard to avoid the “Too Much” Pickle. But as I round the corner into 41, I am thinking that maybe I should give it a shot.

The other day I was thinking about a list I made six months before I turned 40. It was a plan to achieve various things by that fateful birthday, including (and I am not kidding): learning French, exercising at least 3 times a week, meditating at least three times a week, planning all my evenings with social and deliberate “at home” time, and a whole bunch of other stuff that was going to make me a Better Person. Inside and out.

All I can tell you about that plan is that when I turned 40, I was able to say “pencil”, “the bike is yellow” and “the fish swims” in French. But honestly, what was I expecting? To achieve it all, of course! That is what we all do, right?

Well, a more rational person may suggest that one must accept the fact that you can’t put everything on a schedule or a project plan. (What??) Maybe I will get around to learning more French in the next year or two. I meditate when I can, but try not not stress about it, since that seems illogical, even to me. And somehow in the last three months, I have miraculously become someone who exercises almost every day. It didn’t happen on schedule, but it did happen.

And that is the trick, I guess: knowing that you can achieve a lot in this life, provided you give yourself a break here and there and recognize that, like a garden (I just met with my most excellent landscape designer regarding yet another project, so the process is on my mind), it all takes time to mature and blossom.

So, here’s to our gardens –and to giving ourselves a little break so that they can grow!

xx

(Photo…and I know it is a kind of blurry, but I think that reflects my state of mind at the time it was taken: Some Cozy Night)

Colorful

March 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, spring is here and I still maintain that almost anything goes when it comes to fashion these days. Aside from the new-ish Deco trend (which is a pretty option for night, but unclear to me for day) and patterned pants, the only thing fashion editors seem to agree on is that you should be wearing a skirt. Great. I have some, so I am good there.

The one thing all of these trends (Deco aside) seem to have in common is that color is still very “important”. I happen to like color, so this is good news for me. It is also good news for my newest pair of sandals:

I wore them constantly on vacation last month and look forward to things warming up so that I can wear them some more. A lot more. I also fell head-over-heals with a super-intense pink silk top with a very pretty scarf detail at the collar, and am feeling the need for a pair of pants with a colorful stripe down the side. But those might burn out fast. We shall see.

In the meantime, for those of us who live in Weather Challenged areas, there is the matter of being sick of wearing winter clothes, with temperatures too low to bust out anything for spring. I think this is where color comes in especially handy: A brightly colored plain woven sweater and a light colored, but heavier weight pant can help get you from “cuddly” to “chipper” in no time. I must also sing the praises of the blue and white striped T to go under said sweater or even a blazer to brighten things up without turning yourself into a human icicle.

For venturing out-of-doors, may I suggest the trench (liner in, if it has one) and a soft, light-colored scarf? Shoes are tough, but maybe just focusing on not wearing anything that looks too Ski Chalet is a step in the right direction.

Stay warm and bright!

xx

(Photo of the sandals I will be wearing all summer long: Some Cozy Night)

Just a Little Green

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Oh, I am sure everyone is blogging about springtime right now, but I can’t help it. Even though the winter here was rather mild, I am always happy to see signs of all the green that is to come just beginning to pop up outside…

The first teeny bits of leaf on some of our hydrangeas.

Classic late-blooming daffodils all lined up like little soldiers.

And earlier blooming daffodils already making an appearance.

Snowdrops taking their final bows for the year.

I also like try to to keep things a little green indoors year-round. So when the temperature start dropping, I try my best to keep my herbs alive by taking them inside. It isn’t always a slam dunk, but I did have a few successes…

Fresh sage after a ruthless mid-winter prune. (Aphids. It had to be done.)

The prettiest thyme. Perfect for use in tomato sauce (and a zillion other things) when the basil up and leaves.

And some mint, because the stuff is very good in many cocktails. And salads. (Fruit and otherwise.)

And in case you aren’t seeing enough green in nature, there is always a little green around if you look for it…

A favorite hankie.

One of my most beloved cuffs. It goes with everything.

And one of Life’s most essential greens…for when all the other lovely things don’t quite do the trick.

Happy Spring!

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Even Bill Cunningham Agrees

March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Except he thinks that the trend is ballet flats, not just lower heels…

http://video.nytimes.com/video/playlist/style/1194811622321/index.html

God, I love Bill Cunningham. In fact, one of my best New York sitings ever was him cycling down Park Avenue in his trademark blue windbreaker, camera across his chest. Classic.

And what can I say about the ballet flat except that whenever I am looking to be comfy and stylish, you will find me in a pair. I suppose they are classic as well.

My brand of choice is Lanvin, since they build in a little one-inch heel on the inside, so the look is completely flat, but you get a little lift. And who doesn’t need one of those now and again?

xx

(Photo of the ballet flats I walked all of Versailles while wearing: Some Cozy Night)

Lazy Saturday

March 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, it is a beautiful day here by the beach and I did manage to make some delicious four grain pancakes for breakfast and take a ton of photos of the real signs of spring’s arrival, but I haven’t felt like doing much else. This is a good thing, as I have a nice pile of books to get through…

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And some willing participants in General Loafing.

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Hope your Saturday is a relaxing one. And I promise a proper post soon.

xx

(Photos of my book pile and A+O at rest: Some Cozy Night)

Not to Make You Feel Bad, But…

March 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

If there are any holiday greens left in or around your home, I would like to remind you that you should probably take them down. Now. Please??

Spring is starting to show, which makes all those dried out wreaths and weather-beaten bows look especially dreary. So it is time to clear out the old and let nature put on its newest production…

See…there are BUDS on the trees!

And daffodils everywhere. Aren’t they cheery? And to think: More blossoms to come! Yay.

Next up: Transitions from Winter into Spring clothing, knowing full well that in many places, it will still be cold.

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night, about five minutes before she fell flat on her face, while in white pants, in front of three New Yorkers who didn’t even ask her if she was ok. No, I am not bitter.)

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