Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Virtual First Nite for New Years!

Are you going to an outdoor First Nite celebration? We have an exceptional one here in Boston which is a lot of fun. But, I think tomorrow, I'm going to spend the evening with friends, eating Chinese and watching Mamma Mia. Here's a little virtual First Nite celebration that I hope you'll enjoy.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year! And stay tuned for a New Years Resolution contest that I'm putting together!

Titian's pale and fleshy beauties on the market

Diana and Actaeon (1556 - 1559) by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Diana and Callisto (1556 - 1559) by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, these paintings are part of a group of six that Titian produced for Philip II of Spain between 1556 and 1559. Revered for their dramatic energy and Titian's striking palette, they are considered a pinnacle in Italian Renaissance art. (source)

And, they are for sale! So, get out your debit card ... Actually, the owner, the Duke of Sutherland, has had them on loan to the National Galleries of Scotland since 1945. The Duke is now in need of funds (isn't everyone?) and has offered Diana and Actaeon for a price of £50M - which is a bargain as the estimated value is £145M. The trick is, though, that the Galleries has to come up with the cash by today - December 31st. The second painting - Diana and Callisto - is part two of the process, assuming the successful acquisition of Actaeon, the Galleries will have four years to come up with the cash for the second purchase.

There was a story on NPR on Monday that goes into the details, which you may want to listen to. Or, you can click here to read the story.

So, my question is... in a culture where slim is in, how is it that these gorgeous - and definitely not slim - creatures are so lust worthy that they are worth, together, nearly $420,000,000 US? And - how can we bring back their look?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A little touch of Hollywood glamour on old Cape Cod

I've been meaning to do a post on my parent's dining room for quite a while and was finally really inspired to do it when my Mom commented last week a Christmas dinner how much she loves the room. While my parent's taste isn't totally the same as my own - I do credit them with being my inspirations when it comes to a well appointed room that isn't overdone and for the quality and timeless style they achieved.

There are a lot of great design lessons to learn in this fairly small space and I wanted to share them. When they first moved into this house in 1984 (single story, planning for retirement years), the dining room had brown woodwork and the walls were gray paint - lighter gray above the dark stained wood chair rail and darker gray paint below. It was dark and nasty. What a difference a little paint, and good taste, will bring!

Their furniture is classic American style, complete with bullseye mirror with crested eagle, Hepplewhite style dining table and chairs, and a Duncan Phyfe inspired bow front buffet. This was furniture that they purchased when they got married in 1954. Somehow, hard to imagine a couple in their 20's today buying all this classic furniture (plus their still-in-use bedroom set)!

A little view down the hallway to the bedrooms.

The star of my parents' dining room is clearly the chinoiserie wallpaper. The note on the back of my Dad's file sample (yes, he has a file and notes for everything!) is that this is a Hobe Erwin design and we believe it was by Schumacher.

(This is where the Hollywood glamour comes in...) Hobart "Hobe" Erwin was a New York socialite designer who also worked as a set decorator and art director on such notable films as "Little Women" (1933), "Gone With the Wind" (1939) and most notably "Dinner at Eight" (1933) where he and Frederic Hope created the look dubbed the "white telephone" look for gold digger Jean Harlow.

The wallpaper is a skosch more subtle. Back to Cape Cod, my parents selected this paper in the early 1980's for the front hall and stairs of a house we had prior to their move to the Cape. A piece was tacked up on the wall for quite a while, but they never got around to installing it. So, when the move happened, the wallpaper selection came too!

The color palette is so pretty with it's blues, greens and terracotta's on a cream ground. With the newly painted white woodwork, it just pops and yet doesn't overwhelm the fairly small room.

The other star of the room is the beautiful window treatment. Classic and elegant - my parent's knew exactly what they wanted - both in style and color. They spent a couple of years searching fabrics stores across Cape Cod and most of Southeastern Massachusetts looking for a store that could provide the perfect shade of blue silk. Not ones to hire a decorator, they took the time to get exactly what they wanted. My Mom tells of many a sales clerk who tried to convince her that off white would blend better with the wallpaper, or perhaps they should go with the terracotta/peachy color. But, since their oriental carpet (inherited from Grandparents) was predominently terracotta, that color was out. Finally, they found their fabric and this beautiful treatment has been hanging in the window for 20+ years. Amazingly, it really looks brand new in person.

And, a little bonus image - this is their living room. The sofa is a Hickory Chair camel back with it's original cut velvet fabric. The colors have faded significantly since they purchased it in the 1970's, but the piece is otherwise in perfect condition and still quite comfortable (yes, I spent some quality time napping there on Christmas day!). My Dad refinished the antique desk many, many years ago. I think, actually, that his parent's owned it. I think the desk was purchased at a flea market or something similar and had been painted in layers of nasty green paint. Loving care and some new brasses brought this beautiful, delicate, piece back to life. The verre églomisé banjo clock has been vexing my Dad for years - getting it to keep time correctly! Also, you can see their tiny table top Christmas tree.

So, for me, the lessons in these spaces are:

  • Buy the best quality you can - it will last longer and save money over the long run
  • Have the patience to wait for what you want. Don't settle!
  • Basic levels of care will help maintain furnishings for long periods of time
  • Classic style is never really dated looking
  • Don't be afraid of pattern - but do be careful not to overwhelm the space with it.
  • If you love it now, you will most likely always love it!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Podcast Interview: Design Star: Jennifer Bertrand

Jennifer Bertrand, the very sweet (and very pregnant!) winner of HGTV's Design Star Season 3 phoned me today to fill us in on what has been going on with her since winning the show last August. We had a lovely chat - which you can listen to by clicking the podcast player above. Please note - in my introduction, I mistakenly said Jen was winner of Season 2 of Design Star - that was Kim Myles (David Bromstad was Season 1 winner). Also, please forgive my coughing and hoarse voice - am recovering from a cold! I also interviewed Jen last summer, which you can read here.

A teaser single episode version of Jennifer's new show Paint Over! will air at 4:00PM on Thursday, January 1st. A chance to take a break from football! Click on over to HGTV for some of Jennifer's makeover and paint tips. Oh, and on January 8th - Jen squares off against S2 winner Kim Myles on "Design Showdown".

Jen - thanks so much for stopping by and the best of luck with everything!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Gift to you

Here's a little Christmas slide show I put together - mostly of photos I've shot over the last couple of years of images that felt festive or meaningful to the season. Some are images I've shown on the blog and I've credited elsewhere.

The accompanying music is a flute piece I played in a First Nite recital I performed in my town a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it! Peace, and thanks, to all!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Chez Moi

Welcome to Christmas at my house! I was slow to get decorated this year and am very late to Julia's Hooked on Houses Holiday House Tour, but at last, just in the nick of time, I finally decked my halls.

We had a big storm in here New England this weekend (so, lot's of time to decorate!) The view from my front door before the plows made it through...

Here is a little vignette in my powder room. The arrangement is a vase filled with gilded walnuts (which I've been using for years in many different ways) and the top of the vase is filled with dried flowers and various decorations kept from floral arrangements.

This light fixture isn't so much a Christmas decoration as a DIY chandelier. I filled a hanging wrought iron basket with a string of white lights and silk ivy, creating a very inexpensive chandi!

I didn't do a Christmas tree this year - actually, I haven't had one in a few years. I love them and love sitting in a room with just the tree glowing. But, I'm not actually here on Christmas and it seems like a lot of work and mess. Instead, I've been doing large wreaths on my two picture windows, with ornaments and ribbons. This year, I decided on a color palette of pink and gold in my big room (living room/dining room).

While I don't have an actual tree, I did manage to decorate a vintage garden topiary form with lights, faux greens with red berries and filled with red cardinal ornaments. This is in the landing of my stairwell in the front foyer. You will see my partially completed garden mural on the walls. (one day I'll get it done!)A little cardinal nestled in the greenery.

Here is an arrangement I made from some gold items. I was stuck alone in the house for48 hours - I started sticking anything sparkly in all available containers!

Lest we forget the meaning of Christmas in our fever to get our houses decorated, here is one of my important possessions - my Nativity set. This was painted by my aunt - Bette Merrill Wasserboehr - when she was working for a ceramicist at the beginning of her career.

Aren't the faces just incredibly precious? I used to say my prayers in front of this set as a little girl. Click on the images to enlarge - the detail in the faces is amazing! Somewhere, I have a rustic wooden manger, but I haven't been able to find it.

Here is my dining area. I kept adding things to my chandelier. Too much? I had a lovely ladies brunch this morning with my two best friends, Beth and Laurel. We do this every year to exchange our gifts.

Aren't these flowers beautiful? I have Flora2000 to thank for generously offering me a gift certificate to try out their service. I ordered these flowers last Wednesday night at about 10:00PM and the next afternoon, they arrived on my door step from a local florist - looking exactly (or better really) as they had on the website.

I made these Victorian ribbon ball ornament (11" dia) for a Christmas showhouse I did a few years ago. I think they look quite festive on my chandelier! It's actually quite easy - use a large styrofoam ball, wrapping various ribbons around and fastening with small pins and then decorative pearl pins. A tassel hangs off the bottom and the ball is hung with matching ribbons.

We had a lovely brunch of mimosa's and quiche and cookies!

Three friends celebrate!
A lovely ham and swiss quiche (with a little touch of nutmeg) was quite tasty!

And, as always, we've got cookies! The trees and bells are mine - the only cookie I make is Martha Stewarts sugar cookies (made with Martha's copper cutters) and decorated with royal icing. I highly recommend the chocolate stars from Trader Joe's. Shortbread covered in dark chocolate - totally yum!
And here are my bffff's - Laurel (l) and Beth (r) both of whom I've known since the 8th grade. They've known each other since kindergarten! Laurel is opening a "Wizard of Oz" pop up book by Robert Sabuda. It's amazing!! Laurel, now a P.R. professional, was Dorothy in our h.s. production of "W of O". Beth, now a professional opera singer, was someone from Emerald City who sang a solo (I remember her wearing a very tight green dress.) I was audience member. Let's just say, my grades weren't where my parents expected them to be and I was banned from doing extra-cirriculars like drama for most of my junior year! Ahh... good times...

Anyway - I wish you a holiday of riches - those of life long friends, family who loves you and a home to be yourself in.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza and good Solstice. No matter what you celebrate - may you have loved ones to celebrate with!