Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Dear Ones,

I am in the throes of installing my show at the ACME Gallery. Hopefully that will be finished tomorrow as Thursday my mother and sister fly into town, Friday is the cocktail party, and Saturday is the opening.

Will you forgive me if I go on hiatus the next few days to wrap up all the details, play hostess, collect my thoughts, and prepare for the big night?

I promise to take lots of photos and report back on everything. And thank you all for your previously voiced support on my artistic venture; it means the world to me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Going Rouge

A few months ago, we spent a night at one of my favorite hotels, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. I have a secret plan to stay in each of their 110 uniquely decorated rooms before I shuffle off this mortal coil. This time we booked The Madonna Suite, one of the signature rooms of the hotel. Piero and I have stayed there before but we wanted our son Luca to experience it because it is not to be believed.

Opening the door, you are greeted by a floral carpet so brazen that even Dorothy Draper would be left speechless. Add a massive rock-hewn fireplace and vivid Pepto Bismol pink walls and ceilings and you immediately realize that this room is like no other.

I know, I know, your mind is reeling, isn't it? It's so over-the-top and, well...completely lacking in restraint of any kind. Perhaps it's hard for you to reconcile the self-professed aesthetic nature of my blog with this unbridled paean to kitschdom.

Here's the deal. What makes this place such a standout for me is its unwavering commitment to eccentricity. Designed in 1958 by owners Alex and Phyllis Madonna with the aim of creating a hotel that "was different from all others," the Madonna Inn is a true labor of love. No expenses were spared in its construction -- skilled artisans from Europe worked painstakingly alongside local craftsmen to create the couple's idiosyncratic vision of Disneyland on LSD. According to Americana expert Charles Phoenix, the handbuilt quality of the Madonna Inn makes it a unique complex that could never be duplicated today. "No one could afford to pay for all this detail today," he said.

I love that all the furnishings were hand-selected by Phyllis Madonna herself. If pressed, I'd describe her style as Tony Duquette meets "The Sopranos."

When Luca walked into the bathroom and saw the walk-in rock waterfall shower, he was done. Done. Within seconds, he was indulging in a lengthy sybaritic cleanse that did his Roman roots proud. We could barely get him out for dinner.

The sink is carved from a 200-ton boulder of native stone. Turn the knobs and you hear a tiny trickle up top. Within moments, a stream of water circles around and around the carving until it finally shoots out the gold faucet at the bottom.

Next time you're in California, do yourself a wonderful favor and stay here for a night. It's not too far from the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, so you can treat yourself to a classic double header of design decadence.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Household Saints

It was a happy day yesterday. At approximately 2pm, the postman rang my doorbell and delivered my Ancient Industries order.
I've been wanting to order some items from this website for the longest time but forced myself to wait until my samplers were all completed so I could reward myself with a little something.

Ancient Industries is run by blogger/artist extraordinaire Megan Wilson, who has painstakingly culled together a collection of household goods from the British Isles, Europe and America that meet her strict standards of classic form and function. (I've posted about Megan before. If you need a refresher, click HERE.)

I tore open the beautifully wrapped packages with such fervor that I nearly forgot to take a photograph of them for posterity. Fortunately, when my hands closed in on the last box, I remembered. Darling, isn't it?

Inside, treasures awaited. Well, if you consider a bottle brush from Germany or a linen towel made from a grainsack to be treasures, which I certainly do. I haven't been so excited since the time I found a Dries Van Noten coat on sale at Jeffrey.
(From top left: Hunslet jug, bottle cleaner, dish washing brush,
wooden scoops, all resting on rustic linen towel)

It wasn't just the saintly, iconic beauty of those items that made me breathless to own them, it was the product descriptions.

Take, for example, the dish washing brush:

Very "Cold Comfort Farm" chic, this able brush would have been discarded by Flora Poste, which would have been her loss.

Have you read "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons? No? Well, then you'd best be ordering it because it's one of the funniest books ever.
If I had to describe it, I'd say, "Imagine Edina Monsoon from "Ab Fab" caught in a Christopher Guest remake of 'Straw Dogs.'"

But don't take it from me.

In the words of the inestimable Stuck-In-A-Book:

Flora Poste, the chic London 'heroine', finds herself orphaned and decides to live with a relative. She tries several, including the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, albeit reluctantly: "because highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben, and it would be such a nuisance. And my cousin's name is Judith. That in itself is most ominous. Her husband is almost certain to be called Amos; and if he is, it will be a typical farm, and you know what they are like." She breezes into Cold Comfort Farm, and encounters every type of absurd, farcical and outlandish character imaginable.

Seriously. You will love.

And now back to my purchases. The tie for piéce de résistance was between the Cote Bastide rustic linen towel (pictured above) and the Ian Mankin red oven mitts, pictured below:
Of course they found an instant home draped on my Aga. Woven in Lancashire, they are made of heavy cotton and faced with towelling for extra thickness.

I gazed at them adoringly. All was right with the world.

And then it all went to pot.

My OCD took over and I became nervous that the male contingent in my house would drip coffee on them or touch them with greasy pizza hands or cause them in some way to become non-immaculate and so...

...I took them off the Aga...

...and hid them in the back of my linen drawer. My rationale was that if they were going to get sullied, they were going to get sullied by me so there would be no one to blame but myself.

I know, I'm absolutely terrible. I'm a recovering purist who's clearly having a relapse and needs to reread her own advice about the tragedy of perfection. But just let me live with the oven mitts being perfect for two days. And then I promise I'll return them to their perilous and risky life on the stove, come what may.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


(Eduouard Vuillard, "The Blue Inkstand on the Mantelpiece," c. 1900)

You are like me.
You love books with a fierce abandon.
You love their cracked spines, their heft, their covers, their aromatic papery scents.
You know that with a book in your hands, you are only one page away from a fantastic journey.
You know that with a book in your hands, you are connected to a convergence of thought that brings the past passionately roaring into the now.

Books have shaped you, enlightened you, consoled you and given you a rich interior life, a virtual library of memories that has become embedded in the very fibers of your being.

Am I right?
I think I am.

So does this necklace move you in the same manner in which it moves me?
(Autumnal Library necklace via Etsy)

Can you imagine wearing this? Isn't it so 18th century-Steampunk-Romantic? Paired with bare skin and the simplest of outfits, I think it's inexpressibly poetic in a Keats/Shelley/Lord Byron kind of way.

I'm partial to the entire library myself, but for those of you who prefer a single volume, there's this one (and many others).
(Small Fetters journal necklace via Etsy)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Thing Leads To Another

There he is, that wild and crazy bohemian, the one and only Augustus John (1878-1961). Painter, gypsy and virtual force of nature, he consumed wine, women and life in equal quantities. He sits here more demurely than I've ever seen him looking (probably because at 22, he was just beginning to dip his toe into the tidepool of decadence), but that rapacious gaze riveted on the viewer gives the game away.

I'm not unmoved.

In fact, I'd be more than happy to give him exactly what he needs.
(Augustus John by William Orpen, 1899)

A wall-mounted coat and hat rack, of course.
(Coat hanger by Authentic Models via here)

He must be getting overheated sitting there in that wool overcoat and the hat needs a better resting place. (What? Did your minds go into the gutter? Pull them out at once.) I love the dark blue, the vintage-inspired brass details and that unexpected bold red shelf. It feels like a piece you'd find in the back hall of a centuries-old European bistro. Or maybe bolted to the wall of a first-class carriage on the Orient Express headed to Vienna. Or in the cloak room of a very exclusive boarding school in the remotest wilds of Inverness. Or...or...or...make up your own story.

Me wanty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Best-Laid Plans

It was supposed to be a weekend of therapeutic relaxation. Piero and Luca left on Wednesday for a four-day ski trip and I was going to celebrate the completion of nine pieces (and five months of stitching) by watching movies, taking outrageously long bubble baths, seeing a friend or two and being as unproductive as humanly possible.

On Wednesday night, I poured myself a glass of tartly sweet raspberry Lambic...

...watched a PBS special called "The Buddha" narrated by Richard Gere...

...and crawled between crisp, lavender-scented sheets at 9:30pm. Absolute bliss.

My vacation was short-lived.

At 2:30am, I awoke with a start. A fully-formed poem had come to me in the middle of the night. At first I tried to ignore it, but the words became louder and more insistent. Was this some sort of sadistic joke my brain was playing on me? Why now? Each sampler takes me 60 to 75 hours to complete. My framer had given me an absolute final deadline of Monday to have all my pieces in. Four days away.

Over and over the words resounded in my head.

Finally, I got out of bed to write them down.

"On The Price of Beauty"

Fill me, plump me,
Smooth me out,
Inject me with
a girlish pout.
Keep me spotless
and unmarred,
Just put it on
my credit card.

By the time I had finished, I could envision the entire layout, motifs and all.

My decision had been made.

On Thursday, I sewed from 6am to midnight.

On Friday, I sewed from 9am to 9pm (minus 45 minutes for a supermarket run to purchase protein).

On Saturday, I sewed from 10am to 10pm (minus a fifteen minute break for the One Kings Lane sale.)

On Sunday I rose at 4:30 am, worked through sunup, took a brief mid-morning blogging break to report on the OKL sale, and plunged my needle into burlap for the very final stitch at 2:30pm. My back ached, my fingers ached and my retinas were threatening to go on strike.

But it was done.

By the time you read this, I'll be racing to the Valley to drop the final piece off at the framer's.

And then I'm going to watch a movie, take a bubble bath, see a friend or two and be as unproductive as humanly possible. Lying on the sofa and staring at the ceiling sounds pretty good too.

Back on Wednesday (maybe Thursday).

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Re: the Nathan Turner Tastemaker Tag sale at One Kings Lane on Saturday...

I went, I saw, I did a little bit of damage.

I bought the black Flores chair (loved the red one, but it was already in someone else's basket and I have two red leather chairs anyway) which will go next to the fireplace in my bedroom...
...and this huge 33" by 42" framed photograph of an English cottage circa 1900, which I love love love. I think the 1930's ghosts living in my four cracked leather photo albums are going to like it too.
And now, my lovelies, I must go sew. I'm in the home stretch and think/hope/pray that at some point today, I actually...cross fingers...might be...knock on wood...dare I say it?... D-O-N-E.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sands of Time

About a month ago, I bought a brass ship's hourglass from one of my new favorite online shops, One Kings Lane.

I've become quite addicted to their hugely discounted designer homewares over the past few months; last week, I bought a beautiful gift box of Claus Porto soaps for just $19.

Anyway, back to that hourglass. I bought it because I had a sudden revelation on where it absolutely needed to hang in my house.

It's a thirty minute timer, which is exactly the length of one episode of "Phineas and Ferb", "Johnny Test" and the regrettably-named "Kick Buttowski." I'm not wholly parsimonious with my son watching television, but I'm hoping that having those sands of time slipping, slipping away right in front of him will make him consider what else he could be doing. Plus, I just like the way it looks up there, its delicate structure offering a gentle counterpoint to that black thing anchored to the wall (living with two males, I have reluctantly come to accept that sports and cartoons are considered as essential to life as air and water.)

In other news...
My friend Andrea over at C Magazine emailed me that One Kings Lane is holding their first Tastemaker Tag Sale this Saturday, April 10th, and seriously, the only break I'm taking from sewing this weekend is to be online when the sale begins. I was fortunate enough to meet the dashing Nathan Turner...
(Nathan Turner; photo courtesy of All The Best)

...during a party in Almont Yard recently and he told me that the chair I've had my eye on for about two years now...
(Flores chair designed by Nathan Turner) going to be in the sale at a crazy reduced price. Be still, my heart.

Andrea also sent me a photo of this pair of Foo dogs which will be on sale for $109...

...and this incredible hand-painted lantern ($599) that would grace my entry foyer so nicely.

All the items were handpicked by Nathan, which is kind of cool, I think. If any of you buy anything, you'll let me know, won't you?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Speechless... what I am over Diane Dorrans Saeks' incredibly kind profile of me.
And so so grateful.
(Flower offering, Rishikesh, India, 2007)

Monday, April 5, 2010

iThink. iLike. iPad.

It arrived on Saturday. Our mailman said he was delivering 140 that day to our neighborhood alone and that people were opening their front doors before he even had time to ring the bell. We laid it on the table and looked at it. Luca said it felt like Willy Wonka's golden ticket.

We agreed that he could touch it first.

After we were able to pry it away from his hot little hands, we synced it up and started playing around with it. I set it on my new cookbook stand and the angle proved perfect for viewing. I love the juxtaposition of Black Forest carved wood cradling sleek 21st century components. It's hearth meets high-tech. Piero played an ABC news video and the image was great with no false starts or stuttering.

When I finally got my husband to let go of it, I tapped the Epicurious application. Up it came and as you can see, the colors are lush and razor-sharp.

I did a random search for "pancakes" and was instantly given pages of delicious-looking options.

Then it was Luca's turn. After he wrested it from my hands, he clicked on "Winnie the Pooh" (free with every iPad). I have always sniffed at reading books online because I so love the real thing, but I have to say that the experience was surprisingly pleasurable.

When it came around to my turn again, I hit paydirt. I discovered that with the FreeBooks application, you can download thousands of books that have been deemed "public domain." (Most books become public domain when their copyright expires, which is anywhere from 50 to 100 years or so.)

Many of the titles come courtesy of Project Gutenberg, a website I highly admire. In fact, I have downloaded dozens of out-of-print books onto my office computer...but have never gotten around to reading them because I have been reluctant to read an entire novel while sitting at a desk.

That's all changed now.

In the span of ten minutes, I downloaded 25 books, including:

Adam Bede, George Eliot
Beasts and Superbeasts, Saki
Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Camilla, Fanny Burney
Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley
Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
Fanny Hill, John Cleland
Going into Society, Charles Dickens
The Longest Journey, E. M. Forster
Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell
Mugby Junction, Charles Dickens
The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe
Shamela, Henry Fielding
South of France, Giacomo Casanova
Swann's Way, Marcel Proust
Sylvia's Lovers, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Voyage Out, Virginia Woolf

I was pinching myself.

And look, I know it's not paper, but it mimics it pretty darn nicely.

When Piero finally pried it from my grasp, he touched the Netflix icon and up came our account with all the movies listed in our queue.

We wondered how it was at streaming videos and so I asked him to take "Hideous Kinky" for a test-drive. He pressed "Play."

When Kate Winslet opened her eyes after the opening credits, I swear it was like she was in the kitchen with us.


There is room for improvement. The iPad doesn't play Flash videos (nothing onYouTube worked) -- although there's supposed to be some way around it which we haven't figured out yet. Also, you can't multitask (i.e. listen to music and browse the web).

On the plus side, I thought the keyboard was easy to use and -- gasp! -- accurate (unlike my iPhone, which usually turns "Hey Piero" into "Hwy Pwuri").

We bought an iPad 50% out of curiosity and 50% because we are diehard Apple people and 0% because we had any preconceived idea of how we were going to use it. It's only been a day, but I can tell you this: using it is a very personal experience. In a way, it feels like a true home computer because its size and portability mean it doesn't belong to any one room or person. We can pick it up, pass it around, share it and take it anywhere. Owning one doesn't change anything, but in a way it changes everything. I don't know. We'll see.

After all that excitement, we powered it down and turned our attention to breakfast.

Pancakes, of course.

(Note: The opinions expressed about this product are strictly those of the blogger and were not solicited in any way.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Color Without A Name

It's the secret agent of colors: complex, discreet and completely ambiguous. You've seen it many times but may have never quite registered it because it defies categorizing. It's not gray or blue or green, but a strange and mystifying combination of all three. It changes color depending on the light and the hues which surround it. It can appear slightly sulky, calm and relaxing, or intensely introspective.

Note: It's not greige. Greige is grey meets beige and this color is much more layered than that. And it's not eau de nil or chalk or grey threadbare velvet (although that's getting closer). But I know it when I see it. I am always searching, searching for it and when I find an example, I collect it carefully into a special folder titled "Color X."

Here it is, atmospheric and ethereal, in this ocean on a cloudy day.
(T. F. Simon, "Windy Beach on Normandy", 1924)

Here, Otto Dix painted himself in a suit of it. Understated and subtle, it nevertheless calls attention to itself in an elegant way.
("To Beauty", 1922)

It makes a beautiful counterpoint against warm, pink skin, as seen in this interior.
(Pierre Bonnard, "La Sieste", c. 1899)

At other times, it gives off an air of unapproachable sangfroid.
(George Grosz, "Remember Uncle August", 1919)

Here, Christopher Baily of Burberry covered a favorite chair in a floral pattern that incorporates bits of it. The peachy background really makes it sing.

John Singer Sargent painted circular patterns of it onto that lush rug. It sets off red beautifully -- look at how alive that screen in the corner is.
(John Singer Sargent, "Daughters of E. D. Bolt", 1882)

The Neue Galerie shop uses a chair covered in it to make some Madeline Weinrib pillows really pop.
(via here)

My eyes hunt for it constantly. Once you have it in your brain, it's remarkable how often you can find it. Can you spot it here, in this photo of the Queen meeting Sir David Bailey? (It's on the strip of flocked wallpaper between them.)
(via here)

Most paint companies have their own version of it. Here are a smattering of them:

Benjamin Moore 1635 Water's Edge

Benjamin Moore AC-17 Sea Pine

Benjamin Moore 1633 Brittany Blue

Behr 730F-4 Flint Smoke

Ace 190-C Dusty Jeans

Sears Shadow Cloud

Farrow and Ball Light Blue

California Paints Standish Blue

So what color is X?

The color of antique milk glass?
Of a Norse legend?
Of an oxidized copper roof by moonlight?
Of a 1920's silk faille tea gown?
Of a nor'easterly wind?

What would you call it?

(Editors Note: The answers in so far are lovely..."English Channel", "Being and Nothingness", "November", "Ether", "D Day Landing Sky", "Dust", "Undertow"....You're poets, all of you.)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin