Monday, March 28, 2011

The Way We Live Now

The April issue of World of Interiors arrived in the mail on Saturday. And as much as I'm enjoying the love troubles of Lily Dale in "The Small House at Allington"...

...I'm afraid that WOI trumps Trollope.

What is it about this particular magazine that arouses such heart palpitations in me? It's not just the glimpses into castles in Tuscany, flower-bedecked dower cottages in Sussex or F. Scott Fitzgerald-ish villas in Cap d'Antibes that make my palms clammy -- it's the life and soul that seep out from every photograph. Rarely does WOI feature people in their interiors, but one is still filled with the sense that the Aga cooker is heating up something fragrant, the sofa cushions are warm to the touch, and just around the corner there's an Alsatian snoring away on a kilim. It's high style that's inviting and embraceable.

This ethos of embracing unfussy comfort seems to be gaining ground lately. On Saturday, the "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article called "The Rise of the Personal" which documents the current passion for creative imperfection. "The [new] fantasy of the undecorated house is Tuesday morning as it is actually lived," as writer Katie Roiphe so brilliantly puts it.

Now don't get me wrong. I have massive reverence for interior designers -- Peter Dunham, David Netto, Nicky Haslam and Jacques Grange among them. To me, these decorators possess the innate knowledge that people want to live in homes that mirror their own passions and idiosyncrasies and not someone elses. They use their immense talents to create glorious possibilities for their clients, ones in which comfort, wit and sincerity are always in plentiful supply.

Continuing this same theme, I went to a party last Tuesday:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bad-Tempered Weather, Good Tempered Homes

Apologies for the delay in yesterday's post. A "Wuthering Heights" like storm deluged Hollywood on Sunday and left our house in the Victorian age, technologically speaking. I usually don't mind when that happens as it turns the day into one filled with nineteenth century pursuits, but I felt badly that I was incommunicado. As it so happens, I'm now sitting down the street at my neighbor Princess Olga's house typing on her Macbook in order to get this week's webisode out to you.

And now, fingers crossed, "The Domestic Explorer"...

(Oh, and for those who asked, the music is "Prelude" by Alexandre Desplat from the "Birth" soundtrack.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Of Hearts and Hearths

First things first.
(photo via here)

Like all of you, I am heartbroken by the violence and devastation caused by the Japanese earthquake and the catastrophes that continue to unfold.

For those of you wishing to help, here are a few organizations mobilizing immediate relief efforts:

You can donate $10 to the Red Cross instantly by simply texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 from your mobile phone. (More legal info HERE).

To donate $10 to International Medical Corps, text "MED" to 80888.

To donate $10 to Global Giving, text "JAPAN" to 50555.

To donate $10 to the Salvation Army, text "QUAKE" to 80888.

If you would like to recommend another worthy organization, please let us all know in the comments section.

* * * * *

Next things next.

This book is wonderful. I read it during my blogging break and was so entranced that I almost cut my hiatus short to tell you about it.
(Available HERE)

Bill Bryson had the brilliant idea of using his own 1851 rectory in Norfolk as a template to unravel the saga of domestic life. In each chapter, he "journeys" to a different room in his house to write a history of the world without leaving home.

"Whatever happens in the world -- whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over -- eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. Wars, famines, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment -- they are all there in your sofas and chests of drawers, tucked into the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes. So the history of household life isn't just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened.

Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up."

~ Bill Bryson

It's part detective novel, part biography, part whodunit and wholly entertaining.

* * * * *

Last but certainly not least, I have been waiting forever to finally be able to tell you that my house is featured in the just-released book "Undecorate" by Christiane Lemieux, founder of Dwell Studio.
(Available HERE)

What does "undecorate" mean exactly? I'll let Christiane tell you:

Undecorate is about putting your philosophy first, putting your personality first, and letting your signature style blossom naturally from the decisions you make.

~Christiane Lemieux

I was extremely honored to be a part of the book because, design rules aside, my home is definitely a visual kaleidoscope of my family's heart and soul. From the wallpaper, fabrics and mix-and-match furnishings to the art, books and daily clutter, we surround ourselves with things that add meaning to our lives.

The night before the actual photo shoot I couldn't sleep a wink -- not because I was nervous but because I couldn't believe I was actually going to meet all these fabulously talented people!

There was uber-chic Christiane who came in and infused the house with her warmth, her effusive spirit and limitless energy. Within minutes, I felt like I had known her for years. It was a privilege to spend the day with her and pepper her with questions about her fascinating life and adventures (there was a trip to Cambodia that sounded very "Year of Living Dangerously").

There was globetrotter/photographer Melanie Acevedo whose iconic images you would recognize from every design magazine out there (Vanity Fair, World of Interiors, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Domino and countless others.) Her photographs exude a warmth and quiet intimacy that can make a even rumpled bed seem like the most elegant destination in the world.
(photo via Melanie's website)

And then there was the friendly crew led by Christiane's chief dynamo Molly Peterson (the one who found my blog in the first place). The day flew by and when they finally packed up their cameras and computers and drove away, Luca and I felt a bit bereft.

All in all, there are twenty different homes in the book, each featuring their owners' idiosyncratic take on personal style. I've been taking it to bed with me the last two nights, so inspired am I by everyone else's way of looking at the world.

(My office. Photo by Melanie Acevedo from "Undecorate.")

Monday, March 7, 2011

Look Everywhere

If every person were required to adopt a motto that encapsulated their view of the world, mine would have to be this:

(Available HERE)

Whether it's the crimson red of a Royal Air Maroc boarding pass that leads to buying a new bedroom lampshade....

Or the kitchen scenes in "Downton Abbey" (can we pause to drool over that series for a moment?) that suddenly make you reconsider a flagstone floor....

Or the reckless spread of flowering potato vines at a local restaurant that spark an idea for adding style to a front door....

"Aha" moments are everywhere if you just look for them.

When it comes to travelling, I am most enticed by destinations in which there exists a precarious balance between unruliness and order. The souks in Marrakech were not only a kaleidoscope of culture, they were a barrage of colors, textures and ideas. Yes, it was hodge-podge; yes, colors clashed; yes, there was more pattern-on-pattern that seemed possible for the human retina to absorb, but everywhere you looked there was something that seemed to jumpstart a dazzling flash in your brain.

And don't even get me started on Scotland.

Or click HERE.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hello Again

Come over here and sit down. Take the chair next to the fire. Put your feet up. I'll grab a big pillow and sit on the floor.

I have something to tell you.

First of all, thank you so much for all your lovely comments over the past two months.

I missed you.

The truth is, I fell into a blogging wormhole.

* * * * *

Toward the end of 2010, I woke up one morning and realized that I was living a life antithetical to everything that "A Bloomsbury Life" champions. In September, I was happy-happy and full of energy and positivity but then as the months collapsed and the days became darker, so did my spirits. It happened slowly, for no discernible reason, by infinitely small degrees. Around mid-November, I became aware that my fierce love for the interior charms of winter months had vanished. I realized I wasn't really entertaining or having dinner parties. I no longer noticed the beauty of small moments. I wasn't exercising. I didn't see my friends that much. I certainly wasn't an optimal wife or mother.

My existence had been reduced to one of four phases:

1. Worrying about what I was going to write next.
2. Researching what I was going to write next.
3. Writing it.
4. Pressing the "Publish Post" button, at which time I would immediately start worrying about what I was going to write next.

Let me say right now that I get down on my hands and knees in abject admiration for all the amazing bloggers out there who tirelessly commit themselves to writing multiple posts a week. I don't know how they do it. I think they must be made of stronger stuff.

* * * * *

Long story short, I'm feeling much better now. What changed? For one thing, I gave myself back the gift of time. I recommitted myself to living in the moment. (And when you're not spending 50 hours a week blogging, a lot of moments pop up.) When my son asked if I would sit outside and watch him shoot hoops, I said yes. When my neighbor rang the doorbell and invited me to go on an impromptu hike in the Hollywood Hills with her two dogs, I said yes. When my husband opened a bottle of wine after dinner and called up, "Are you going to come downstairs and watch Top Chef with me?", I said yes. I had stupidly forgotten that these little things matter a great deal.

In other words, I've been trying to do what I always tell everybody else to do: Live with passion and purpose and be happy while you can.

* * * * *

During my hiatus, I spent a great deal of time thinking about this blog and how I wanted to wake up as excited to contribute as I was when I first started it. I want to give you my best self but, to be frank, the idea of doing three posts a week again scares me. I don't want to fall into another wormhole. Also, it's a new year. I want to try new things. Mix it up a little. So...(drumroll, please).... From now on, every week will feature a written post OR a short webisode (yes, webisode!) made by yours truly.

The series will officially begin next week, but here's a little preview:

Or click HERE.

I hope you like watching it as much as I loved making it.

More to come,



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