I think I left my heart in Cincinnati.
From the moment I walked up the steps of the Cincinnati Hilton (née the Netherland Plaza Hotel), I knew this would be no ordinary adventure.
Would you feast your eyes on this lobby?
A quick Google search revealed that the 1931 building is among the finest surviving examples of French Art Deco -- Brazilian rosewood panelling, silver-nickel light fixtures, soaring murals -- and was used as a model for the Empire State Building.
It was very "The Hudsucker Proxy." All that was missing was Tim Robbins and a hula hoop.
I had a double capuccino in the restaurant the next morning and basked in the glow of all that flattering lighting. For a few brief moments, I was un-jet-lagged and bags-under-the-eyes-free.
Suitably caffeine-laden, I walked two short blocks to the Mercantile Library to meet up with the ever-so-charming Albert Pyle, the library's Executive Director and his Literary Programs Manager, Mary Gruber.
Stepping off the 1oth floor elevator, I was greeted by this lovely vignette.
Light meets dark.
Curved meets straight.
Strong meets delicate.
Blogger meets smitten.
Then, on the other side of the heavy oak entrance doors, this.
To say The Mercantile Library is merely a readers' refuge is to grossly understate the emotional effect it has on a visitor. There's a palpable beauty to the interior that's inexpressibly poetic.
Honestly, the heart soars.
Mary beckoned me over to a table artfully propped with books. "I put a few things together I thought you'd like," she said.
I was so touched. In front of me was a collection of first editions by English writer Beverley Nichols. (And you know how I love my Beverley Nichols.)
Will you promise not to laugh if I tell you that I caressed their covers and spines and inhaled their papery scent with an ardent abandon?
In addition to Mr. Nichols, Mary had also chosen a selection of rare design books for me to pore over, including this uber-cult one by Edith Wharton. Leafing through it was so heart-poundingly exciting I was in need of a beta blocker.
Everywhere, everywhere, there were cozy reading areas just begging for you to sink into them.
I love the brass reclining rails on these vintage armchairs. Why can't La-Z-Boys be like this?
And can we discuss the color palette of these books for a minute? I want to design a room around all those muted jewel tones and gold accents. There's an incandescence to them that makes them almost seem lit from within.
Up at the far end of the room was a raised platform where Mary told me I would be speaking that night. So crazy chic. My heart did a quick Riverdance (72.2% excitement/26.4% trepidation/1.6% all-out fear), but I'm pretty sure she didn't notice.
The library recently went a multi-million dollar makeover and I love that they kept the original steel stacks from 1902. How great is the chalk writing on the ends of those shelves?
Membership to the Mercantile Library is just $55/year and you get to take home fascinating books like these and pore over them from the comfort of your bed. If I lived in Cincinnati, I would so have "Europe in Zig Zags" on my nightstand right now.
And "Footloose in India." And "Cannibal Quest." Duh.
After I had run my eyes over every book in the place, Mary led me up a soaring spiral staircase...
...and down a hallway...
...to this gorgeous room which holds the library's rarest books (incredibly enough, you can still read them, you just can't take them home)...
...and which is painted with the names of some of the past speakers there.
Just everyday folks like George and William F.
And Tom and John.
And William Makepeace.
Once again, my heart did a Michael Flatley.
* * * * *
After this introduction to the library, I met up with the glamorous Deborah Ginocchio, President of the Mercantile Board.
I liked her immediately, but when we got in her car and she drove me straight to her favorite auction house our friendship was cemented. She was One Of Us. It was exactly the kind of shop I love -- crammed full of unheralded treasures. (I've gone blank on the name; will get back to you.)
I couldn't help myself from bidding on these two fabulous old Venetian paintings done in verre eglomisé. (In a stroke of luck, I won them.)
After a whirlwind architectural tour of the city (including a trip to her house which I will detail at a later date), it was back to the hotel to relax for a few hours before the big speech.
ADVENTURES IN LECTUREDOM, PART TWO,
A NIGHT IN CINCINNATI,
THE TRAVAILS AND THRILLS
A NEWBIE SPEAKER
COMMUNICATING HER DESIGN JOURNEY THROUGH BOOKS,
INTERSPERSED WITH PERSONAL ANECDOTES
THAT STRIVE TO BE,
INSPIRING, COMPELLING AND (FINGERS CROSSED) COMICAL