Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfectly Imperfect Home

"The point of decorating, as far as I can tell, is to
create the background for the best life you can have."

~From "The Perfectly Imperfect Home"

Deborah Needleman gets it.

(Available Tuesday, November 1st. HERE.)

Last Friday I received an advance copy of her brand-new book and honestly, it made my weekend.

Her practical advice and reassuring words on how to create a loved-up and lived-in home are exactly the reminder we need in these budget-tight times that what matters isn't provenance but personality. As Deborah puts it, decorating is about "elevating a room into an experience."

And illustrator Virginia Johnson's watercolors are so enchantingly alive they make you want to leap directly into them.

"The Perfectly Imperfect Home" teaches you how to design and arrange your house so that when people walk into it, they feel something.

(Rita Konig tapes Polaroid photos above the mantel in her living room.)

(Caroline Irving doesn't mind if you put your feet on the "coffee table.")

(Kate and Andy Spade's entry foyer has the Big Four: light, storage, a mirror and a place to sit.)

(Miles Redd makes his guests feel at home by letting them help themselves.)

(Peter Dunham makes sure everyone has a place to set their drink.)

Each chapter focuses on a specific style element ("A Bit of Quirk", "A Personal Narrative", "Cozification", "A Sense of History" and more) and gives you all the principles, tips and ideas to make it feel that way.

How do you arrange furniture so everybody feels included? (p. 58)

How do you use lighting to give a sense of depth to a room? (p.20)

Why are "mollifiers" (the stuff you allow into your home because it makes someone else happy) sometimes the secret ingredient to chic? (p. 68)

(Here, Miles Redd uses "the law of threes" to match the pillows to the rest of the room.)

Malcolm Gladwell and Martha Stewart offer words of praise for Deborah's achievement, but it's this last little blurb on the dust jacket that really touched me:

"This book is about moving stuff around in your house so it looks better."

~Nathaniel Weisberg, age 10, author's son

Doesn't that say it all?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ten Enchanting Things I Don't Need But Totally Want Anyway

1. My husband cannot for the life of him figure out why I continue to hang on to old issues of certain magazines -- World of Interiors, Domino, Dominique Browning's House and Garden, etc. Now I can tell him, "Because I knew someday this would be invented" (with a note of triumph in my voice).

(The Adjustable Storage Stool by NJU Studio, $200. HERE.)

2. I love making soups and stews but the fumes from the onions make my eyes water and my lids swell in the most alarming manner. I've been using my son's swim goggles as makeshift protectors, but this pair is sooo much more stylish. Very "I'm a 1920's heroine with a racy past and a yellow Hispano-Suiza motorcar", no?
(Retro goggles, $24. HERE.)

3. I have a downstairs powder room that's a study in black and white and needs a shot of color. This guest towel would brighten things up marvelously and has the added benefit of being densely colored enough to hide all the schmutz from a nine-year-old's hands.
(Pink carpet hand towel, £40. HERE.)

4. This ingenius bookrest lamp will save your page when you're done reading and turn itself into a symbol of warmth and domesticity at the same time. Is there a more poetic way to say there's no place like home? The lump in my throat makes me think no.
(Bookrest Lamp by Suck UK, $80.00. HERE.)

5. Because it's beautiful to look at. Because it's a great hostess gift. Because it's fun -- you brew yourself a pot of it and then pour it directly into the bath. Because it has lavender and all sorts of lovely therapeutic herbs in it to make a long, tiring day go away.
(Organic Lavender Bath Tea, $12. HERE.)

6. It's no secret that I am besotted with the 18th and 19th centuries, and this reproduction English coat rack brings all my fantasies of being a Victorian lady explorer into sharp reality. It's just the thing for hanging up my family's collection of cloaks, capes, shawls, heavy woolens and Ulster coats.

(English Tavern Wall Coat Rack, $68.99. HERE.)

7. I don't know what it is about this scarf, but I'm smitten. Is it the enchanting color palette? The arresting photograph? The fact that it so effortlessly embraces modern and vintage at the same time? The fact that it's by one of my favorite designers?
(Paul Smith Silk Rabbit Scarf, $160.07. HERE.)

8. Years ago, the World of Interiors did a feature on moquette, the upholstery fabric used by the British Transport System and I fell in love with its colorful eccentricity. It's almost impossible to find, though (I've looked).
(vintage London tube train)

This wash bag from the London Transport Museum uses a pattern developed for double decker buses between 1939 and 1942 -- I find it very "Don't you know there's a war on?" And those jewel tones -- it's like tumbling into a Farrow and Ball fan deck.

(RT Moquette Wash Bag, £59.99. HERE.)

9. I have long coveted the "Heathcliff" pillow designed by Sam Taylor-Wood for The Rug Company, but at $895, it's not looking likely.
(Rug Company "Heathcliff" pillow. HERE.)

This cushion, on the other hand, is smaller but strikingly similar (if you don't mind the riders) and is a euphoria-inducing $82.00.
("Over The Hedge" needlepoint pillow. HERE.)

10. No explanation necessary. Husbands and boyfriends, you have been warned.
("Forgotten" man bag. HERE.)

("Wrong" man shopper. HERE.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sew Occupied

Yesterday I dropped off Luca at school, went to Barry's Bootcamp (Chest and Abs), ate lunch, showered, and spent the rest of the day and night making this.
(Study for "Occupy Soho House", 2011.
Thread on canvas, machine-sewn, approx. 8" by 13".)

A few weeks ago, I bought a Bernina sewing machine in order to teach myself free machine embroidery. I want to explore elements like size and scale which are impossible if you are restricted to only sewing by hand.

It would have taken me weeks to hand-sew what I did by machine yesterday.
(detail, "Occupy Soho House")

(detail, "Occupy Soho House")

(detail, "Occupy Soho House")

I feel the stirrings of a major love affair with my machine growing within me.
More to come.

*A big shout-out to my friend Matti Leshem whose funny photo on Facebook became the title of this piece.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Absence Accounted For

First things first.

I owe you a blog post and so there will be two this week.

The past seven days were a real doozy.

It all began last Sunday morning when I unexpectedly caught sight of myself in a mirror.

What in God's name was happening?

It felt as though in no more than a mere... corporeal shell had fallen victim to the inevitable passing of these.

Okay, maybe that was denial on my part.

An abundance of foodstuffs, an increase in sedentary pursuits like reading and needlework, and a stubborn case of exercise amnesia had led unquestionably to the fact that...

I had clearly reached...

What to do?

I did not want to become one of these.

I was not ready to succumb to this.

And I was not about to feel sorry for myself. No sirree.

Sure, like everyone else there was a time when I didn't have to worry about working out religiously.

But that was then.

And this was now.

Which left me with only one option.
I knew it wasn't going to be easy. (Rumors were rife.)
I knew it would require bravery and endurance -- the likes of which made me slightly nervous to contemplate.

But my friends who took classes there were practically speechless about the results.

So I signed up.

* * * * *

After bootcamp last Monday (Arms and Abs), I was wiped out. There was a 30 minute treadmill portion -- where we climbed hills and did sprints -- that nearly killed me. That evening, movement was nigh impossible. I may have passed out with the lights on.

After bootcamp last Tuesday (Butt and Legs), it took every ounce of strength I had to keep my eyes open past 6pm. I felt a horrible pang of guilt about neglecting the blog, but it couldn't be helped. My body was in shutdown mode.

After bootcamp last Wednesday (Chest and Abs), something amazing happened. As I was lifting my right arm, I caught a glimpse of something moving beneath my bicep (this could be subject to interpretation). It flickered and was gone, like a shooting star, but I'm pretty sure saw it.

After bootcamp last Thursday (Back and Shoulders), I managed to stay awake until almost -- gasp! -- 9:15pm. I was even starting to feel a flicker of fondness for the treadmill.

After bootcamp last Friday (Full Body), I looked like a wet dish rag, but I felt as though maybe just maybe the worst was over. I felt sore but stronger. Weary but proud. That night, I fell asleep dreaming of reacquainting myself with myself.

Today is the start of a new week and a new attitude.

Thanks for hanging in there. A fitter me makes for a fitter blog.

(All photos by LBG)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are You a 21st Century Romantic?

Take my quiz and find out. If you find yourself nodding to five or more of the following statements, then red rover, red rover, gallop right over.

* * * * *

You have definite romantic tendencies if:

1. You have ever craved a rainy day over sunshine.
(via Flickr)

2. You think a candlelit table overcrowded with the remnants of a meal is a work of art in itself.
(via Flickr)

3. You don't see anything wrong with watering flowers in this outfit.
(Cecily "Parsley" Mure. Photo by Valerie Finnis)

4. You believe that in a kitchen, books should be allowed as much shelf space as food.
(Photo by Chris Tubbs)

5. A dark morning, a quiet house, a bubbling pot of coffee and some reading material are enough to send your heart into spasms of delight.
(via Flickr)

(The only thing that could possibly improve it would be enjoying the above in a dressing gown like this.)
(Painting by T.F. Simon)

6. You understand exactly what Daphne Guinness meant when she said:

"What's great is tying a bit of net around your face, and everything looks like it's in Super 8. It gives a bit of grain to the world."

(Daphne Guinness/Pelican Inn by LBG)

7. You prefer a path that's slightly unkempt and dishevelled to one that's manicured within an inch of its life.
(Brussels, Belgium, 2009. Photo by LBG)

8. You have ever wondered what it would have been like to be a Victorian explorer.

(Jane Digby)

(Isabella Bird. Photos via Flickr)

9. You find cloakrooms kind of sexy.
(Photograph by Chris Tubbs)

10. Sartorially speaking, you think a sweet disorder in the dress...
(via the Sartorialist)

...and a wild civility...
(via the Sartorialist) perfection any day. (Thank you, Robert Herrick.)
(William Hogarth, "The Rake's Progress")

11. A long-simmering stew in a battered old Creuset is your idea of Sunday heaven.
(Nigel Slater's chickpea and harissa stew. HERE. Photo by Joanna @ZebBakes.)

12. You derive great pleasure from all the elements of a house's patina: creaky wooden floors, tattered rugs and surfaces worn smooth by generations of feet and hands.
(via Light Locations)

(Detail from my solo show at ACME, 2010.)

13. Roses. Enough said.
(Maharam's new wallpaper line. Here.)

BUT. You have no beef with hydrangeas. Unlike Madonna, you are an equal opportunity flower-lover.
(via Flickr)

14. You are partial to jewelry that resonates with history.
(Via Flickr)

15. Gazing at this photo for 30 seconds involuntarily causes your blood pressure to drop in a most enjoyable manner.
(Via Flickr)

* * * * * did you do?


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