Sunday, January 30, 2011

90% classical 10% cool

Home again... It was a whirlwind trip to Paris and Maison et Objet, but well worth it. We met lovely people and saw really beautiful things for the table and home. For Your Tabletop, my new website, made some smart purchases, which I am very excited about, but like a child anticipating an unopened gift, we now wait for them to arrive here in the states. Waiting for me at home, however, was the March issue of Veranda! I really enjoy reading the editor's page of magazines because it informs me how the issue was put together. Was there a theme, a point of view seen in the various editorials in the issue...? This page lets the reader in on the thought process of the editor and instructs the reader not unlike an audio guide at a museum instructs a visitor.

Veranda's editor Dara Caponigro's page did just this! She even went so far as to bold in blue capital letters the magazine's thesis statement for the month: "BEING AUTHENTIC IS BEING YOUR OWN AUTHOR", which she attributed to Meg Touborg, of Rose Tarlow Melrose House. Let me run with this thought: Authors create stories, and this is how I see the concept of  'home'. It is the manifestation of a person/family's story- their history, if you will- and hopefully, as with history, it is well-told!

As authors of our own stories, we can constantly create new, more compelling story lines. Hopefully these stories will have hospitality and generosity, especially around the table, as a theme, and if your story currently doesn't - as the author, you can change this! Remember, it doesn't have to be fancy, just authentically you.

This authenticity was shown throughout the issue as each designer and architect worked their magic to help the respective homeowners tell their stories. The piece that stood out for me, however, was the editorial on a historic Tennessee home, Boxwood (need I say more?), realized by architect Gil Schafer and interior designer David Netto: classicism and irreverence perfectly combined, or as Netto said of the project, "Boxwood is about ninety percent classical and ten percent cool". And, based on the photographs, I'd say that was a winning combination!

When telling your story in your own home, it's tough to carry off "100% cool"- it can come across as gimmicky. But ten percent is doable, you just have to decide what that means for you. That ten percent is what makes a home eclectic, as opposed to eccentric, which nobody wants! Schafer's quote on his website says it all, "Creating places that enhance the enjoyment of life." So, here's to creating places that tell our history- our story- and in the process enhance our lives.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Maison et Objet: Day 2

If it's Saturday, it must be Belgium! One of the things I love when I come to this show is seeing all the great Belgian companies that are represented. There is something about how they put things together- the colors and textures are out of this world. One in particular caught my eye- they use exclusively reclaimed old teak and create great pieces and combine them with their woven rattan chairs. Restoration Hardware has aped this look, but its pure Belgian design at its best!

Another great Belgian company uses recycled glass in the most amazing colors to create glass vases candles and other containers. They are substantial and have a nice heft to them, and the range of colors is breathtaking! Will work on photos of these... Carrying on for you!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maison et Objet

We were up at the crack of dawn this morning and off to the Parc Exposition just outside Paris. The train was literally a United Nations sardine can of buyers, reps, and others coming out for the show. As usual, when we arrived, it was the model of efficiency and very well organized and we collected our badges and dropped off our coats and off we went to Hall 3!

The first booth that caught my eye was a fantastic glassware company that had the most beautiful handmade glassware made from recycled glass.  It was delicate, but not fragile, and a wonderful handmade feel . The line runs the gamut from wine and water glasses and carafes to tumblers of different sizes, bowls and hurricanes for candles and tealights. Beautiful and responsible!

It was then a long snake up and down all the aisles seeing all the new and fabulous things. Another exciting find was a company that manufactures wood handled flatware that is dishwasher safe. The line comes in stainless steel or silver plate and in a variety of woods such as olive, ebony, rose and boxwood. 
For those wanting a little more je ne sais quoi in their flatware, fear not! Also uncovered was a venerable French company that makes hand forged flatware the old fashioned way! This, however is NOT safe for the dishwasher, but amazing to feel in your hand- truly something that you will have forever! No pictures to show, but the heft in the hand is impressive, and completely customizable meaning you can have each place setting finished with different wood (and there are six: ebony, olive, snake, boxwood, cocobolo, and tulipwood).

Also found was my favorite linen manufacturer. This is the REAL deal: beautifully weighted, heavy linen completely hand embroidered. The whole line is breathtaking and the embroidery is something to behold.  Here is just a sample of their latest, a pattern called Magnolia on beautiful drab colored linen. 

The last stop was at a favorite artist remembered from our trip two years ago who creates amazing dinnerware. She calls herself a "clay embroideress" and each piece is a unique piece of art for the table. The red clay pieces, which are glazed white, had bits of lace laid into the clay before firing, and have a freeform edge. I bought a complete place setting (dinner plate, lunch plate, salad plate and bowl) which I use as serving pieces and I think they are spectacular! The lovely thing was that she had remembered my name after two years without a pause. That was incredible!  

Phew, more tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Think Pink!

Alright, I'm not the first or the most famous to quip, "Think pink!" That would go to the incomparable Kay Thompson in Funny Face, Stanley Donen's 1957 musical film starring Audrey ("I believe in pink") Hepburn and Fred Astaire. When I saw that Pantone, the color folk, announced its color of the year for 2011, Pantone 18-2120 (that would be 'Honeysuckle', for you and me), I honestly thought I heard Ms. Thompson's throaty vocals from the great beyond, "Think pink, if you want that quel-que chose..."

The Pantone people tell us: "Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing “everyday” about it." And they may be right!

My obsession with carnations has already been detailed at length but here, it's seen in a whole new way. These were so fresh, in the photograph, they are just beginning to open. The color is alive, happy, and perfect for the New Year! The technique here is the same as with the Christmas reds, but with shades of pink instead. The container, which is a beautifully etched large green candle holder, is also a happy addition. It comes from Rob Valenzuela's Phoenix gift shop, Stupid Cupid, and I thought it would be a perfect foil for the arrangement. It's beautiful with flowers and beautiful without, with a flickering candle in it to illuminate the room.

The sample is in the shop, so if you're in town, stop by. This technique will be the subject of a special class to held at Stupid Cupid in February. Please call to inquire, and "Think pink!"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Come to the table

I heard  a speaker today say that an average adult can only retain 10 to 12 memories from childhood that can easily be retrieved without the trigger of a photograph or other icon. 10 to 12.

If we take this statistic as fact, what memories are we creating for our children? Hopefully one of them will be 'family meals'. Opening up the latest (seriously, they come bi-weekly!) Williams Sonoma catalog last night, there was a quote on page 4  from Alan Tangren, the pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. He said, "I treasure the memories of family meals when I was growing up, where I learned about sharing good food, the events of the day, and caring for people I loved." The copy on the facing page says, "sharing a home-cooked meal is a celebration of food, family, and friends... it's a gift of time together. Sharing, talking, eating. Time to relax, reconnect, and nourish. Come to the table." Come to the table. It almost sounds like a religious calling.

The photos that accompany this introduction (again, this is just a shopping catalog, but it's reading like the best parenting manual available!) focus on the Bryan and Michael Voltaggio , of Top Chef fame, and their families. Included are some of their recipes and their their "best of" items from Williams Sonoma. Tucked between these items to buy and pictures of the fraternal chefs, however, is a quote from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University:

"The dining table is where the majority of teens talk to their parents about  what's  going on in their lives."

If there is no eating together at the table, then you may be losing out on this vital link into your child's life. I think I may have heard all the excuses for not eating together, but none of them sound compelling when weighed against this statistic. The ideal would be for a young family to structure family meals early on and with firm ground rules (one being "not an option"). I know, I know... "We have soccer, tennis, tutor, dance, scouts, homework..." But I honestly feel this is about priorities. These activities may be all good, but what's in the best interest of your family? Tough questions and things to think about and, again, all this coming from a catalog...

The brothers Voltaggio have the last word:
Bryan: "Parents get to be heroes for their kids every day in the kitchen."
Michael: "Dust off the dinner table and bring your family together through food."

10 to 12 memories... This could be one of them that you can give your children, and that is a powerful gift!

Come to the table.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Shelter magazines always seem to profile clean, crisp, minimalist homes (and there's nothing wrong with these... 'no judging' is a New Year's resolution!) in their January issues- maybe because of the extravaganzas featured in their holiday issues, they feel that their viewers' eyes need a rest? In the January/February 2011 issue of Veranda, there was a pleasant surprise! Writer Stephen Orr and photographer Max Kim-Bee visited with Hutton Wilkinson, Tony Duquette's business partner and protege, at Dawnridge, the famed Duquette property in Beverly Hills built lovingly by Tony and his wife, Elizabeth.

Wilkinson bought the property to save it from the wrecking ball (gone are many of Los Angeles' great homes and landmarks!) and with the home came these lush tropical gardens spread over the acre property, "dramatic spots for plein air dining". In the editorial, Wilkinson has set many different tables tucked into very secluded corners of the gardens with his trademark panache. For all his exuberance, he does follow his own set of rules, one being "No white napkins allowed!" With all the beautiful china, flatware, and dishes inherited from the Duquettes, Wilkinson mixes in his own pieces and creates one fantastically created table after another. Though eschewing white napkins, Wilkinson does combine corals, reds, greens, blues, and of course, gold- lots and lots of gold! "If it wasn't already gold, Tony had it gold plated!" Wilkinson is quoted.

But the interest comes not only in the mix of color, but in the mix of high and low. Duquette was a scavenger, and as such looked at form and shape, not just rare and expensive. Another entertaining credo of the Duquette/Wilkinson brand is that floral centerpieces are rarely used. Instead, figurines, shells, obelisks, and decorative objects take center stage.

Besides the beautiful visuals and the rare glimpse into the private world and mind of a "visionary", the take away is last quote at the end of the article, "I live in old movies. They teach us how to sit and act at the table, and they do so in those beautifully decorated rooms! People don't entertain like they used to, but everyone should remember that it doesn't have to be complicated. Just order wonderful takeout, dress up a little and set a marvelous table..." Touche, Hutton, and Happy New Year! Here's to a year of entertaining! Enjoy the photographs...