24 February 2010

Mirror, Chrome and Gin Fizz: EEE March 3 NYC Lecture

The mirrored entrance of the Strand Palace Hotel - doesn't it make you want to tap dance?

This Wednesday I am thrilled and honored to lecture for the Royal Oak Foundation, the American branch of Britain's National Trust. I personally couldn't think of a better cure for the winter doldrums than to revel in all things British Deco.

The sumptuous dining room of Eltham Palace

The American Bar, 1931

and of course the American Bar at the Savoy where you might order a White Lady, invented by the celebrated bartender Harry Craddock who "wrote" the first edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

Obviously not Harry, but who cares as he's ready for action

Harry's original White Lady recipe:
  • 1/2 Dry Gin.
  • 1/4 Cointreau
  • 1/4 Lemon juice.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Wednesday, March 3, 6pm
Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street
$30 member/co-sponsor members
$40 general public
RSVP ONLINE: lectures@royal-oak.org or call Robert Dennis, Program Assistant, at 212-480-2889, ext. 201.

15 February 2010

Cuff Love*

Poet and Wild Child Nancy Cunard captured here by Cecil Beaton

If, as Accessorator Judi Roaman says, it's not the first $1000 that make a room, it's the last $100, perhaps the same follows for what one wears. The sartorial style of the ladies pictured here have all made my heart beat faster....

Iris having a Western moment - perhaps it's all those layers which keep her so lithe?

...but it wasn't until my trip to see the Iris Apfel exhibition at PEM that it struck me what they all had in common - one and all had embraced a More is More philosophy - to life AND to their bangles.

Learning to stack: my bejeweled Iris bangle on top with a studded Alexis Bittar one below

On a trip to Santa Fe a few years ago, I became smitten with Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers ...

who became so enamored with silver and turquoise old pawn, she learned how to make her own.

Old Pawn - not old paw, Gus!

I won't be taking metalsmithing classes any time soon - but I did pick up this cuff in homage.

Chanel and her Verdura cuffs photographed by Man Ray

Verdura may be out of reach for awhile, but Kenneth Jay Lane works in a pinch....

But the more I think about it, my penchant for a well-shielded wrist perhaps stretches as far back to this fearless lady....

I'll take cuffs over an invisible plane any day!

* Yes, "Cuff Love" is indeed in tribute to Real OC Housewife Lynne Curtin's line - click here to get matching his and hers

11 February 2010

Gardner-Pingree House Visit

The glazing bars of the entrance to the house were recently regilt

Last weekend, trailing in the Down East Dilettante's footsteps, my friend Nan and I hopped on the train up to Salem, Massachusetts to see the Iris Apfel exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum. Full disclosure: I was enticed as much by the exhibition - which was fantastic - as the knowledge that selections from Iris' own collection of jewelry were on sale in the gift shop.

Nan posing next to the ice sculpture of a tiger wearing Iris' signature oversized round spectacles

After being inspired by Mrs. Apfel's infectious exuberance (and one of her dramatic bangles to call my own) , we crossed the street to tour the Gardner-Pingree House, an 1804 neoclassical gem designed by Salem's golden boy Samuel McIntire.

The entrance hall floor was covered in a practical floorcloth painted in jazzy emerald and black octagons

The riot of pattern and brilliant colors found inside snapped me to attention and reminded me that some of the most adventurous and dynamic decorating happened hundreds of years ago.

Goldenrod walls, oyster trim, and a carpet of moss green, purples and magentas in the rear parlor easily make one forget the grey skies outside.

McIntire was known as much for his exquisite carving as for his architecture - the three-dimensional treatment of the basket of flowers, with its bottom fully realized, is classic McIntire

You might think the pattern of this wallpaper in the dining room was enough to add drama, but more is more...
when paired with this wall to wall floor cloth.

Clearly, this wasn't a family who was interested in white walls. Even the kitchen is a standout in its rosy hue.

The upstairs master bedroom - the docent who suggested that the carpeting downstairs might have been a little OTT...

found this carpeting restful. As an aside: a friend of mine rightfully once said that - in general - the most interesting and high style historic houses that have survived were generally owned by Donald Trump nouveau riche types who wanted to make a splash. That said, I don't think the McMansions of today will be oohed and aahed over in 100 years - or will they?

The small-scale repeat found in this blue bedroom inevitably made me think of Laura Ashley

In the study, this wallpaper cleverly incorporated marbling from the endpapers of a book in the house's collection:

Would you believe me if I said that the house has even more jaw-dropping delights for the eye? You'll have to see for yourself.

05 February 2010

NYC Lecture: Living Laura Ashley

An early '80s Laura Ashley design

I thought of Home Before Dark's remark on the memories and connection to generations past imbued in her treasured handed-down sets of china when I came across a picture of "Priory" in Martin Wood's compelling tome on English lifestyle icon Laura Ashley.


Ashley's Priory sheets saw me through high school, college and - dare I admit it? - beyond. Seeing its distinct scattered blooms was like running into an old favorite friend.

Designer and author Martin Wood, who is cornering the market on English country house style with his other monographs on Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler, all published by Frances Lincoln, reveals that Priory was based on a document fabric found at Chatsworth.

swatches from Chatsworth

Apparently, Mrs. Ashley showed up for her appointment at the Duke of Devonshire's palatial manse, donned a smock, and got down to business rummaging through cupboards and piles of old chintz covers. No grand lady here.

Many of Ashley's prints were inspired by archival sources,

like this sprig from a soup tureen.

In fact, the firm of Laura Ashley, founded by Laura and her husband Bernard ("Laura Ashley" deemed by Bernard as more euphonious than "Bernard Ashley") started as a print manufacturer. As both maker and retailer of its stuffs, it prided itself on its low prices as a result of being able to sell direct to customers without a middleman.

Well, if you were living on my side of the pond in the 1980s, bargain prices aren't what immediately spring to mind when you think of Laura Ashley. And you would be right. Wood writes that the Ashleys found greater success in the U.S. by presenting their wares in a more upscale and aspirational way to the American market. Interesting, no?

The Laura Ashley Look: in full flower and ruffle

Laura and Sir Bernard's own Yellow Drawing Room in Brussels

This Wednesday, February 10, Mr. Wood will lecture on "Patterning Nostalgia: The Designs of Laura and Sir Bernard Ashley" in NYC at Scandinavia House, presented by the Royal Oak Foundation. I for one (along with my friend Beth who even worked at the Laura Ashley store in Kansas City while a design student) will be front row for what will most certainly be an insightful AND entertaining lecture on late 20th century traditional taste.

Click here for the details or call 212.480.2889. Mention this post and receive $5 off.