Monday, August 27, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Afternoon

He did not want to learn about medieval history.
So I did what any good parent does and tricked him into it.
(Available at the T of L gift shop. Or HERE.)

Two years ago, I bought a slightly gory moving model at the Tower of London and I've been waiting for the right moment to build it ever since. 

Sneaky Rationale:
Summer camp is over. He's all mine until fifth grade starts next week. It's now or never.

So I took out the kit and opened it up and started slicing out figures with an Exacto knife and eventually he wandered back into the kitchen.

Luca: What are you doing?
Me: I'm going to chop someone's head off.
Luca: Can I help?

For almost two hours, we cut and folded and glued the pieces together. And I told him about castles and dungeons and chamber pots and rats and every other grisly detail I remember being fascinated by at his age.

I told him about King Henry VIII and all of his six wives (in order) -- Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. 

Me: You know an easy way of remembering what happened to each of them?
Luca: What?
Me: Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. It rhymes. 

When the time came, I accorded him the responsibility of letting the axe fall.

And then came the sentence it would have been impossible to imagine him uttering a few short hours before:

Luca: Where's that book you were talking about earlier?
(HERE and HERE.)

Moral of the story:

1. Don't whisper if you can shout
An opening hook can be a huge draw. What can you do to immediately grab someone's attention?

2. Don't be general if you can be specific
Know your audience.  (A ten-year-old boy is a very particular animal.) Make your story relevant to their world view (i.e. dungeons and rats and chamber pots).

3. Don't recite a list of facts if you can spin a tale instead. 
Make it real. Make it relevant. Make it riveting.

4. Don't talk if you can listen. 
Leave lots of space for questions. The more they ask, the more interested you know they are. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shhh...A Super Special House Tour

What if the style progeny of Sir John Soane and Tony Duquette were alive and living in Hollywood? 
Left, Sir John Soane (1753-1837).     Right, Tony Duquette (1914-1999).

Well, such a person exists and I am incredibly fortunate to count him as an acquaintance. He possesses Tony Duquette's passion for fantasy-baroque interiors and John Soane's devotion to art and antiquities...and I'm not even joking.
(Left, a John Soames room. Right, one by Tony Duquette.)

You will never meet him (no names, he values his privacy), but he is allowing me to take you on a very private tour of his magnificent abode. The most I can tell you about him is that he is exceedingly elegant, erudite and in his eighties. And oh, the places he has been. (Think Morocco in the 1950's with Truman Capote and Paul Bowles, among a dizzying number of other glamorous destinations.) Oh, one other thing: he is not a professional designer which makes the whole thing all the more jaw-droppingly remarkable.

Here's a sneak peek of one of his conversation salons:
(All photos by LBG, 2012.)

When I visited him recently, I was so overwhelmed that I almost couldn't contain myself. You just don't expect to walk into a house like this on an otherwise normal day. Thank God for the internet because I immediately knew you would get it. (Lots of people won't --and that's fine. Minimalists, run now.) But I'm betting that you will be as moved as I was by my friend's journey to make his home a kaleidoscope of his soul and a visual history of his well-travelled life. 

Consider this the one and only world premiere...

Entering through the front gate, we pass through this walled garden of pastoral bliss. See the concrete sheep grazing next to you? And the cherubim on pedestals surveying the circular maze of boxwood? It's all slightly overgrown and if you ask me, way-more-than-slightly romantic. I love me a shaded garden. There's always a place to read or talk -- and the decreased risk of sunburn doesn't hurt either.

Look. Over in the corner, tangles of ivy and Spanish moss give tree branches a Southern Gothic air. It's like we've wandered into an Eudora Welty story. (My gardener keeps telling me I can't do this to my trees as it will eventually strangle them, and I keep telling him that if I keep a vigilant eye out, I really do think I can. Ahem. Point proven.)

Let's go inside. Okay, stop here. Tight shot, I know, but you can see how grand the entry foyer is, made all the more so by hanging paintings salon-style up the circular staircase.

Over on this wall is an assemblage of landscape paintings my friend has collected over the years. The mirror turns the room into an endless reflection of itself. And don't you love the marble maiden? She has such a pursed moué.

This next room is one of my favorites. If only Oscar (Wilde) were alive to see it -- he would get it too. Note how the Chinese lacquered screen sets the stage for the rich red sofa in front of it. And how genius is that ceiling? When I rhapsodized over it, my friend chuckled. "It's just inexpensive molding," he said. "And then I put wallpaper between the squares." Of course he did.  

I die for a little wit. This fierce bust in the kitchen is made less imposing bedecked with beads and ribbons.

Same goes for this carved head. That exquisitely needlepointed hat from Central Asia gives him an (almost) friendly air.

Doesn't the dining room have such a Michael S. Smith elegance to it? I think the President could definitely eat here.

(available here)

The dining chairs are upholstered in tribal textiles (or "huipiles") from Guatemalan villages that my friend has visited. Each pattern is unique and specific to a certain group of people.

Here's the master bedroom. Isn't it fantastic? The drama of that gilt canopy? The startling tension of those white pillows? It's a Baroque fantasy steeped in elegance and humor. 

This guest bedroom is such a lovely example of how to mix colors and fabrics. Every element is deep in conversation with each other: the vaguely Liberty-ish wallpaper and matching curtains, the Indian kantha quilt, those two long silk pillows and that fabulous painting of the upstairs of a London double decker bus. If I was young enough to run away, this is where I would come and hide.

This tiny powder room is upholstered in a luxurious woven fabric which has the effect of making the room seem much bigger -- the pattern diverts your eye and renders the corners invisible. And the gorgeous Old Master paintings on the wall make you feel as though there should be a docent hovering around somewhere.

Upstairs, this enormous map hanging above the bathtub is pinned with all the places my friend has traveled in his lifetime. What a life, right?

Here's a close-up of the wallpaper surrounding the map.  It's a cheerful Indian printed cotton -- would you expect anything less chic? (Probably best confined to those who practice controlled splashing.)

Lastly, the back garden is as much a revelation as the home itself. It's so chic and welcoming. Everywhere you look there is a cozy upholstered seat or a café table or a statue or even a lampshade (can you spot it?). When you stand here, you inhabit a private world. The surrounding houses disappear completely. You can be anywhere you imagine: on a rooftop garden in Ravello, a secluded island hideaway, a tropical fantasy in London's Cheyne Walk. Or even Hollywood, California.

I want you to know how warm and wise and witty my friend is. He is so self-effacingly kind and such a wonderful force of positivity to all those who know him. He's having some health problems right now and I wonder if you wouldn't just send a positive little ray of light to him? I'm going to make sure he reads this and I know it would lift his spirits to think that there are kindred souls out there.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vedi, Veni, Venice

Do you fancy going to an exclusive art opening in Venice with me? Right now? (The only possible answer to that question, by the way, is "Y-E-S.") And I know it's Monday morning and you have a million things to do but I'll have you back before you know it. :)
(Salon No. 9, July 21st, Venice, California. Photo by Jack Simon.)

Here's what you need to know before we get there:

1. Gallery owner Claressinka Anderson and independent art expert Yasmine Mohseni are co-curating a group show of eight California artists: Tanya Aguiniga, Blake Collins, Alika Cooper, Stephanie Dotson, Nathan Hayden, Ana Kras and Ry Rocklen. And me. (I am very honored.)

Here's Claressinka. Stop it, right?
(Claressinka Anderson. Photo by Jack Simon. )

And here's Yasmine. Stop it times two.
(Yasmine Mohseni)

Jack Simon and Laura Ford from the übercool blog Style Station are here snapping lots of pictures, thank goodness, because this is one crazy fabulous gallery opening. In their words, "People looked at the art and we looked at the people." You're telling me.

(Photo by Jack Simon.)

(Photo by Jack Simon.)

(Photo by Jack Simon.)
(Photo by Jack Simon.)

I think we can officially call this a scene. Do you need a top-up of champagne? No? Then let's follow the girl in the hat upstairs.
(Photo by Jack Simon.)

I just have to take one picture on the couch with Claressinka holding two of the pillows I made. That's Piero in the foreground taking an awfully long time to find a camera angle. (Thank God for my friend Jeanne who is standing behind him.)

Here's one of the embroidered pieces I did called "The Journey From Love to Hate."
(Thread on canvas, 2012, by LBG. 14" by 11". SOLD.)

And this one is my interpretation of the HBO show "Girls" mashed up with Jane Austen's Emma.
("West End Girls" by LBG. Thread on canvas. 14.5" by 12". Available.)

And here's the guy version. Think "The Hangover" meets Thackeray's Vanity Fair.
("London Calling" by LBG, 2012. Thread on canvas. 13" by 10.5". Available.)

And here's another look at those pillows. (The back sides are upholstered in a very Kings Road-ish wool tartan.) Bonus points if you can identify the song lyric.
("Sweetness" pillow. 12" by 18". Limited edition of three. Two available.)

(detail of "Sweetness" pillow.)

("Anarchy" pillow, limited edition of three. SOLD.)

(detail of "Anarchy" pillow. 12" by 18".)

Let's just listen to a few songs by White Fence (HERE) and then I'll take you back home.

Thank you so much for coming!


P.S. For further information about Marine Contemporary, call 310-399-0294 or email them at

Monday, August 6, 2012

Et In Arcadio Ego

I went to Michigan last week. Although, as it turned out, I'm pretty sure I wound up in England.
(All photos of Cranbrook House and grounds by LBG.)

Every evening when the clouds turned lavender and the sun began its slow heavy descent, my brother, his wife and I would gather up our children and cross an invisible border into a magical 19th century world. No sooner would we turn the corner from my mother's mid-century home than we would enter another that goes by the name of Cranbrook.

First we would pass by this well-kept stone cottage with a blue slate roof and tapered chimney tucked into a thick glade of trees. (I'm pretty sure if I knocked on the door Trollope would answer.)
(Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. July, 2012.)

Then we would wander over to this Arcadian pond situated on a gentle rise that spilled over into a hillside waterfall...

...and walk through this village of buildings of higher learning with charmingly painted casement windows and ivy-clad walls.

A Tudor-style manor house (it dates from 1904) lay at the bottom of the garden. As we approached, we couldn't help but feel a palpable warmth emanating from it -- if walls could talk, I'm sure we would be able to hear the ghostly clinking of glasses and strains of laughter floating out onto the lawn. 

Up this staircase...

...and past this fountain...

..were the walled gardens. This little one had ancient branches trained up its walls, a darling blue painted door and a slightly shaggy appearance...

...while this one was nothing less than a well-coiffed feast for the eyes.

I never tired of seeing this little building. Those enormous windows make me want to set up an art studio. Design-wise, it has a little bit of everything going on -- red bricks, variegated stone wall, Greek columns, metal casement windows, green copper gutters --  but all the materials work together perfectly. (As Lady Crawley says in Vanity Fair, "I adore imprudent matches!")

Like all magical destinations, it was time to go home all too soon. 


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