Showing posts with label Hostess Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hostess Gifts. Show all posts

06 November 2009

Carolands House Visit: Part I

Forget Three Men and a Baby - it's all about Three Women and a Chateau.* The chateau in question is Carolands, a magnificent 98 room, 65,000 square foot Beaux-Arts residence commissioned by Harriett Pullman Carolan, heiress to the luxury railroad car fortune.

A bird's eye view of the atrium, said to be the largest interior space in the country

I had the enormous pleasure of a private tour of the house which is located in the tony town of Hillsborough, just outside of San Francisco, kindly given by estate manager Meg Starr.

Conceived by Harriett to be the grandest residence of San Francisco's bon ton, it was lavished with nothing but the best: from the top residential architect in France, Ernest Sanson, and the highly acclaimed landspace designer, Achille Duchêne, down to the finishing touches of firegilt hardware and parquet de Versailles floors.

The dining room and one of its Champagne fountains

Carolands cost Harriett not only most of her fortune, but her social aspirations as well. She had hoped for the chateau to be completed in time to entertain royalty attending the Pan-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, but it was not to be. Two years later, Harriett cut her losses and was back on the East Coast.

The Library

For decades the house stood empty until another fearless lady took on the chateau. Countess Lillian Remillard Dandini, whose brick company attracted the attention of a dashing Italian count "of no account," purchased a house worthy of her new title.

The Loggia - one of my favorites

The Countess was very generous with Carolands and opened it up for all manner of causes. But a house this big can swallow one up, and at the end of her life, much of her resources had been exhausted leaving her reduced to living in a small corner of the house.

The Ballroom: Meg said when the sun sets, the melon walls become infused with a rosy glow

The house went in and out of a few owners' hands, and became more and more derelict as time passed. Because of Hillsborough's town edict that all buildings must be residential, it couldn't be converted to another purpose and it was but a whisker away from the wrecking ball. Finally in 1998, the current owners, Charles and Dr. Ann Johnson, not only rescued "the last of the great homes" but restored it exquisitely AND, in a move that Harriett would have approved, engaged the BEST interior decorator, Mario Buatta.

Details from a circular room Harriett bought lock, stock and barrel and shipped over from France; the masterfully carved plasterwork depicts the four seasons

And like the Countess, the Johnsons often share the house for worthy causes. It is their intention that Carolands be preserved in perpetuity.

The extensive service rooms included a silver polishing room, a flower-cutting room, a pastry room, a fruit and vegetable room, and the laundry which houses this floor to ceiling dryer for sheets - talk about a place for everything and everything in its place!

*Three Women and a Chateau, the documentary about the house's history, is fascinating and has now gone to the top of my list as THE hostess gift to give. Click here to purchase. There is also a very thorough book on Carolands including original plans and correspondance relating to the house.

Photo credits: all photos taken by EEE except: top courtesy of Luna Films, and #2 by Eric Luse for the San Francisco Chronicle

STAY TUNED FOR PART II: Mr. Buatta's Passementerie

24 July 2009

A Perfect Match(box)

After a particularly rough and tumble day, this surprise was waiting for me in my mailbox and instantly put a much-needed smile on my face. Unbeknownst to me, Susan of Shandell's, of whom I recently wrote about here, took PVE's wonderful drawing and customized one of her delightful matchboxes. (PVE and Susan - now that's a match made in heaven!)

Thank you, Susan, for brightening up my day and many more to come!

16 July 2009

Seeing Redd

As anyone who has read Mrs. Blandings' Enduring Style series knows, I am a HUGE fan of Miles Redd's work and last night I got to experience one of his spaces firsthand. For weeks, I've been counting down the days until the unveiling of my dashing friend David's newly decorated flat and the results were *gobsmacking*.

You will have to wait for whichever lucky magazine ends up profiling this swanky and swelligant space to see more, but three words capture the vibe completely: Rue Wintherbotham Carpenter.

Chicago's exclusive Casino Club still preserves Wintherbotham Carpenter's interior decoration

Hopefully a guest blogger will shed more light soon on this virtually forgotten but tremendously chic decorator who was also one of the major power players in Chicago's art scene in the 1910s and '20s.

As I watched the big day loom closer, I grew more and more apprehensive about what would make an appropriate housewarming gift. After all, with Mr. Redd curating all surface-scaping, the bar was set vertiginously high. Then, out of the blogosphere came the answer in my inbox from a kind reader: Shandell's matchboxes, handmade by Susan Schneider.

Simple, small, and one-of-a-kind - I knew it was a home run, especially after I found this one with the bird's eggs, which just happened to be the shade of David's blue lacquered walls. Click here to visit Shandell's Etsy store and scoop up your own.

02 July 2009

William-Wayne: My Mecca for Hostess Gifts

'Tis the season for house guesting and with that comes the Hostess Gift. Whether the gift you choose is humorous, whimsical, useful or drinkable, the most important requisite is that it's stylish.

For this weekend's gift, I headed over to see Janet at my fail-safe favorite, William-Wayne & Company, where everything on offer is a must-have. If overwhelmed by all the perfect choices available, you will have no better guide to help you make your decision than Janet whose advice is so inspiring, it's like shopping with your best girlfriend, or even better, Martha Stewart.

Love the raffia roller shades...

Janet will show you a handsome wooden salad bowl complete with matching serving tongs that is impressively well-priced and walk you through the 100 other uses one could get out of it. No effort is too much for her and the William-Wayne staff, and everything (except packets of paper napkins - they do draw the line there) can be boxed and wrapped in their signature hunter green and ivory Florentine paper. Carolyne Roehm will be the first to tell you that presentation is almost as important as the gift itself.

Here are a few things on my list to give...

a bee for your hostess' honey.... or sugar, or nuts.... Janet told me the glass derriere screws off so no worries with cleaning. Why not get some honey at the Farmer's Market to go with? $40.00

Well, actually I already gave this last year. The wire mesh dome will protect your cheese plate or other sundries from pesky flies. This little beauty retails for less than $25.

This little tortoiseshell-lacquered tray may be coming home with me soon. Am I the only one whose gotten into trouble for choosing gifts one wants oneself, then not actually ever parting with the said gift? $55.00

Who can ever have enough linen napkins? The answer to not getting around to washing and ironing is to just buy more. At $16.50 for 6, you can - the splashy chartreuse and turquoise make this a must.

The winner for this trip: spreaders with novelty miniature cheese handles - camp and summer go hand in hand. $6.00 each

Janet's most excellent colleague Marianne told me these pitchers where the glass slips on top as a cover/stopper are very popular in the South where they know how to entertain. Southerners - and your favorite decorating book - will tell you a pitcher like this is perfect for a guest's night table.

If you have two minutes to decide, then you can't go wrong with this bestseller: Votivo in Red Currant. EVERYONE - including the Material Mom herself - loves this candle - not too heavy, too feminine or masculine, and it's perfect season round. $27.50

Or of course you could pick up a copy of Regency Redux, which they have a few signed copies laying about!

40 University Place
Between 9th & 10th Streets
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212-533-4711