Back to School at 42!

September 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

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I never considered myself to be someone who loved school. I did love learning new things, especially anything involving the arts.* But I never got into the whole ritual of school, except to make sure that I got good grades and was decently popular. I am human and a touch competitive, after all.

When I finished grad school at the tender age of 28, I thought that I was done with the classroom forever.** And I was thrilled. No more schedules, no more textbooks. No tests! And best of all NO MORE PROJECTS!!! I was going to be a Working Woman of Leisure.

All that aside, I still found myself wanting to learn new things. Is there some kind of gene for that? If so, I appear to have it. So, there were tons of books to read on all kinds of topics, museums to visit and professionals to interrogate about their craft. (Thank heavens people who love plants and flowers tend to be pretty mellow — I would kill me if I were a client.)

There were even a few “classes” here and there — lectures at The Met, knife skills and intensive cooking programs, cheese class, wine class, you get the idea. But I never signed up for anything that required any real “work” on my part. (Unless you consider drinking wine and eating cheese to be work. I do not. And if you do, I might need to ask why you are reading my blog.)

And then I got all crazy about interior design. I always loved making my bedroom, Barbie Dream House, dorm room and Single Girl Apartments as comfy and pretty as possible (even then, this often included fresh flowers and a dog), but Mr. H was a bit of a Furniture Head when we met. And that was kind of the end of my casual interest…within a few years, I was hooked.

I now have Furniture Crushes, Imaginary Homes decorated in styles I can’t quite pull off in my current surroundings (my L.A. Apartment is a blast of white and oversized art, the one in Paris, spare and sculptural), and find myself “helping” friends — whether they like it or not — with their own spaces.

A few weeks after our Big, Hairy Project that Took Years to Complete was done at work, I started thinking that maybe now would be a good time to admit it to myself: I think I want to go back to school to study interior design more seriously. At this age??? Seems like a lot of effort for someone with a pretty demanding job. But still. And more still, Julia Child didn’t start her career until she was 40. And I think even Chrolotte Moss worked on Wall Street for some time before she got cracking. So, yes, I am going to give it a shot.

But before I jump right back in to the whole affair, I decided to dip my toes in with a six-week course on the basics. I report to school on Monday, and I already have homework!!

But I am also already loving it — it just must be in my genes.

xx

* How I must have driven my family crazy when in High School during the Humanities lectures that introduced me to Handel’s Water Music. Seriously, I find the incessant harpsichord completely mind-numbing now.

** OK, I did toy with the idea of going back to get an MFA in art history, but the language requirements — German AND French — made me balk.

(Photo: Some Cozy Night)

A Little More England! Kingston Lacy

June 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

For the  record, I took around 3,000 photos on this trip, which is insane. But I am told by almost all good photographers I know that the key to getting a few great shots is to take A LOT of them. So, I did. And I am not saying that these are all great photos, but I am trying to up my game a tad.

And now back to England. The first leg of the trip was focused on the areas surrounding Bath and one of our first stops was farther south in Dorset, at Kingston Lacy (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy/), which was built to resemble an Italian palace. For all I know that was “tacky” in the day, but I find it to be pretty today. And from the 17th century until 1981 it was the Bankes family home.  (In case you are at all interested:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankes)

We arrived on a rather dreamy day…cloudy enough to get the “English” feel, but with just enough sun and blue skys here and there to make you want to walk your legs off to enjoy the house and grounds.

KLFrintView with tourists

The walk leading up to the house kind of surprised me. Why? Because as an American who spends a lot of time seeing really big developer’s houses all over the place, this house actually seemed reasonable in size. I know this is nuts, but I have always felt that many houses are just too big these days — especially for their lot sizes — and this is estate pretty confirmed my beliefs. Is it large? Yes. But it contained a family and a staff and is sited on 8,500 hectares. (Which is a lot of acres. Please don’t ask me to do the math. I’ve been doing it all day.) And the combination of the scale of the house with the size of the property felt Just Right.

Some of my favorite moments…

KLCeiling

Amazing ceiling in the center hall. One interesting fact I learned on this trip: Many times, more “violent” paintings  — animals killing each other, for example — were placed in staircases, as they were not considered “polite” for sitting rooms. (And this center hall definitely delivered on that trend.) I tend to agree, but generally I am not one for violent art anywhere in the home. That said, when you are talking Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel, I suppose one can relax the rules a touch.

thisissometimesmymodKL

I do love the amount of carving and plaster that can be found in this building — and many others that we saw. This one, though, just cracked me up, as I am pretty sure that I make this face at meetings sometimes. And when on the phone with my Dry Cleaner.

Abedroommygmwoudllove

As imposing as the more public spaces can be, this place still felt like someone’s home. And this bedroom really drove that home. When I walked in, all I could think of is how my Grandmother would have loved this room. And the reading contents were pretty excellent as well…

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And, to make good on that Manor House Thing, some other shots…

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OK, this one is blurry…but that lady was just constantly in my way!

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And then there is the back of the house, which leads to the wonderful grounds…

KLBackview

Yeah…this is the payoff. But there is more…

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onegardenpath

fiddleheards

gorgeous

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(I want to paint my closet this color…or at least find a lipstick in this shade.)

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Yes. This is a headstone for a pony. Next to it was one for “a dear friend”, which I am hoping was also not human…or Silvertail must have been some pony.

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You have no idea how long it took us to figure out that these sheep “looked different” because they were shorn. (I thought they were goats at first. You can see it, right??)

Sure…we pretend to be in The Country at the beach, but no matter how many herbs we grow, we are helpless city folk. I am hoping that we are slowly educating ourselves on these matters. Which, in addition to just being outside, having fun and seeing new things, is kind of the point of the whole affair.

Until next time: know your shorn sheep from your goats!

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

No Pressure, But… (Holiday Edition)

November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again: The Holidays.

You will probably remember that I am not a fan on account of all the rushing and general insanity this time of year brings. But I have made a little promise to myself not to be so Grinch-y this year.

Sadly, that does not exonerate me from the planning and prep, which does make the actual events of the season go much more smoothly. And since things can get so hectic at year end, I get started early to avoid finding myself In The Soup. So, in order to discourage you from getting into The Soup yourselves, here are some of the things I rely on quite heavily this time of year:

Wrapping

Paper Mojo (www.papermojo.com)

These folks have the most lovely gift wrap, available by the sheet, so that you don’t have to commit too heavily to one or two styles. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to wrangle those long rolls of paper, which is one of my least favorite things to do.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t really do “holiday” themed wrapping — I just try to put interesting combinations together that hopefully feel delightful. This year I went gaga over PM’s Chiyogami and Katazome papers, and wound up doing a larger selection than usual. But I could not help myself and I honestly can’t wait to see them all.

One King’s Lane (onekingslane.com)

They regularly have gift wrap available  and if you free yourself from the need to have specific holiday-themed papers, you can purchase it whenever, and use it now and later. Their prices are pretty good as well, which makes wrapping larger gifts feel less painful. Order early as they take time to ship.

Kate’s Paperie (www.katespaperie.com)

Oh, yes. They have been around forever and while I can’t go into the store without some kind of beta blocker, I find their house brand of ribbon to be perfect for almost anything. So, I heavy up this time of year and use leftovers until I run out. Order online to keep the insanity level low.

Dempsey & Carroll (http://www.dempseyandcarroll.com)

Here’s the thing about Dempsey & Carroll: If you look hard enough, you will find things that are well made but aren’t trying too hard. Since my wrapping will be on the effusive side this year, I just purchased enough of their cream colored gift cards for slipping under the ribbon of each package. It is just enough space to put a little something sweet without having to go on forever. Because let’s face it: People want to open the gift. And a long card feels like all those trailers you need to watch before the movie.

Gifting

Our company gift and recipient list is all taken care of by October. But that still leaves me with around forty — yes, forty…4-0* — gifts to buy for family, friends, colleagues and all the wonderful people who do so much for us year round. Need I say I use a fierce little spreadsheet to track it all? I do. It eliminates confusion and puts the attention back on the gifts themselves, which is more fun.

For hostess gifts and other smaller tokens,  I always opt for something a little luxurious or totally delicious. A fabulous nail polish (Chanel, Tom Ford, YSL), fresh yummy baked goods,  mini Diptyque candles…stuff I buy to treat myself that I think others will also enjoy.  You can find these things at the usual places, but that does not mean I don’t like a good deal, so I also like One King’s Lane for some of these items. And I really can’t tell you how much people love things from Zingerman’s (https://www.zingermans.com). I do, too. So I guess it all makes sense. Oh, and did you know that Russ and Daughters ships?? They do. So I do, too. (http://russanddaughters.com)

As for the children in our life, I love The Land of Nod (landofnod.com). With careful digging, one can find really great things that seem to go over quite well with the Wee Folk. I always try to include an art project or two for children that will be home for the holiday break. I figure that leaves one less activity that their parents need to plan, and it doesn’t create as much long-term clutter.

More personal gifts for good friends and family are always harder, but I do think that experiences (concert or show tickets, dinners to a new or favorite place) are always nice presents for people who have all the sweaters, pjs and electronics that they need. I’ve also had great luck online with 1st Dibs (1stdibs.com), Net-A-Porter (just add the “.com”), Ruby Lane (yeah…add that “.com” again), Paul Smith (www.paulsmith.com) and Design Within Reach (dwr.com). And nothing beats taking a little time to go hunting for that perfect thing in some well-known or off the beaten path place. You know the drill.

Still, my absolute favorite gift to give and receive is one that takes the pressure off: A commitment to spend time together after the holidays. I do this with one of my dearest friends — usually spa and lunch. It gives us time to catch up and unwind. What better present for a Bestie?

Decking

If you don’t have time to mess with assembling your own greenery and the like, White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) does a bang up job with pre-assembled boughs and wreaths. L.L. Bean is also an able contender in this category. (www.llbean.com) I try to keep things simple, so I just fill the place with paperwhites, amaryllis, and the usual greenery. And this year I am trying something new: battery powered lights from Restoration Hardware. You can use them for covered outdoor areas and I am hoping they will eliminate the need for the troublesome cord that always hangs down the table where we keep our little tree** in the city. Fingers crossed and full report TK.

Making Merry

I don’t host every holiday, but for the ones that I am responsible for I do try my best to follow The Ina (Garten) Principle: Keep it simple and delicious. Honestly, there is not one cookbook of hers that I do not love — the recipes always work and are not hard at all. That said, I have evolved into a pretty good Just Cook What Looks Good kind of person, so that is generally what I do. This year we are hosting Thanksgiving, so the menu will consist of whatever arrives my CSA box (yes, it includes a turkey), fresh cranberry sauce and Classic Joy of Cooking Stuffing. Oh, and Ginger Cake from Zingerman’s (I really hate baking) and some good wine of Mr. H’s selection. Pinot and Turkey? Maybe a Zin? We shall see…

For pre- and post-holiday visitors, I like to do cozy things like fresh pasta with bolognese, braised short rib and roasted vegetables and maybe a baked fruit of some kind. Easy but not Everyday. And do not forget the power of the Cheese and Charcuterie Plate!! Or the festive feeling that sparkling wine and a little canapé tray can lend to any occasion.

Savoring

This is a major Development Area for me. Work is nuts, there is the added pressure of the above AND the need to feel like This Is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, even though you are exhausted, possible cold, and probably (if you are me) cranky.

All that said, I am going to make a real effort to appreciate the decking, make time to Make Merry and to take care of myself (early to bed when I can, keeping up with cardio and pilates, and eating a cookie now and again) as a gift to myself. Care to join me?

xx

* We’ve been over this, right? Forget The Godfather, almost all the answers to life’s questions are answered in All About Eve.

** I cannot extol the virtues of the Table Tree enough. I used to do giant trees, which always resulted in a foul mood on my part.  But with the Table Tree, in under an hour I get the same effect and no dogs snooping around the presents or drinking tree water. Like!

(Photo of a bit of 2011’s Wrap-Mania: Some Cozy Night)

Moses Supposes

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did you know that “Singing in the Rain” is now 60?? Aside from it being fantastically uplifting, stylish and fun, after seeing it for the first time as an adult, it put me on the hunt for a very specific look for the curtains in a bedroom at the beach. Sure, sourcing such curtains was a little bit of an odyssey, but inspiration can come from anywhere. And you should run with it when you can. And in the meantime, do catch this classic — I think you will be glad that you did.

xx

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.)

Really…I mean it…

March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not only is it impossible to open things like medication and snack foods, it is also now near impossible to open larger-sized packages without tools and quite a number of f-bombs…

 

 

At this point, I have already removed about a crate’s worth of plastic wrap and opened at least two other boxes. And then there is this, which I thought I knew how to open but no such luck.

 

Hacking away at it seems to help, and I did eventually get it open, only to find this alarming (visually, at least) warning about child safety…

 

Seriously, are they warning me not to stick a hanger into the head of any creepy babies I see in this box? And for the record, I am covered in styrofoam pebbles.

 

Ack!!

 

xx

 

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

 

Pot Head

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

So, this weekend I was passing by Neo Studio, which is one of my favorite shops by the beach. I wasn’t in need of a stick of furniture or even a lamp, which Jean-Yves, the store’s knowledgeable and warm proprietor, always has in more-than-ample supply. Still, I popped in because you never know.

There I was, running around the store, decorating my imaginary house in L.A. — a habit I’ve developed that Mr. H just adores. But how could I not with four amazing orange metal chairs for the sun room, a super-cool David Hicks* lacquer parsons desk for the bedroom and about five very sexy lamps for everywhere else? Never mind the rosewood, almost-deco but definitely mid-century desk for the study, the splendid seventies Milo Baughman dining room chairs and…ok, I’ll stop. For now.

When I finally came back to earth, I spied a lovely little piece of pottery. It was ribbed in ocher and chocolate brown on the outside and had that same deep brown, but all glossy, on the inside. It was made in Germany, in spite of looking so Danish. And before I knew it Jean-Yves and I were laughing and wishing each other a wonderful Saturday while I was putting it in the car to take home.

Hello. My name is Mrs. H and I am a Pot Head. I also do various dishes and other vessels. And honestly, I am not sure that it is even a problem. Still there appears to be a pattern…

There is more. Lots more. But I will spare you and get on with the Point of the Post, which is this:

I probably started collecting pottery when I was in my twenties. It was affordable, space efficient and most importantly, it brought a little beauty into my living space.

Today I am kind of amazed that I still find more reasons (excuses?) to add another piece to my collection. But in all fairness, many of the items above are not only pretty, but useful. These pieces keep jewelry and keys from scratching furniture and serve as off-handed coasters so that guests don’t feel awkward about where to put down a drink. They store rather ugly things in a humorous and chic way. And very often, they beg to be filled with flowers, adding an extra dose of cheer to a room.

I also love to rest my eyes on a cluster of them, or just one all by itself, to enjoy the lines and shapes they create. Those are moments that take my mind off of Things, which is reason enough, I think, to be a Pot Head.

xx

* You must know about David Hicks, and then we can discuss Jonathan Adler and others of his ilk. You can begin here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Nightingale_Hicks

(Photos, which for some reason are always off center when I upload them: Some Cozy Night)

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