March 7th, 2011
Last month, our local Borders book store shut its doors forever. I know….bummer!! The only bright spot for me is that I was able to pick up a fantastic, recently published book, The Finest Rooms in America, for 40% off.
This compilation of 50 gorgeous rooms, selected by interior decorator Thomas Jayne, celebrates the most elegantly designed rooms in America, dating back 200 years, beginning with George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. I highly recommend adding this book to your shelf, even at full price! Here are some of my favorites, though I could have easily share dozens more….
Winter Garden Room: New York City
This room, which overlooks Central Park, was designed by Henri Samuel around 18th century painted Chinoiserie panels taken from a Belgium chateau. Notice how the lovely raised trellis pattern on the shutters is echoed in the plant stand and gold chair trim. The other photo in the book shows that the room is filled with an abundance of potted plants and flowers, as well as being bathed in natural light.
Sitting Room: New York City
I simply adore this blue color accented with gold and “framed” in the black and white mini-print wallpaper. Simply stunning and stunningly simple-by the legendary Albert Hadley.
Living Room: San Francisco
This Nob Hill living room, owned and designed by Jeffry Weisman, features many elements that were gifts from the great Tony Duquette, as well as amazing and expansive mirrored walls. Mirror and more mirror. My kind of place!
Dining Room: Palm Beach
Designer Thad Hayes had commissioned Gracie to replicate the original Chinoiserie hand-painted wallpaper for this 1938 home designed by Marion Sims Wyeth. Lynne Rutter has written a fab article on Chinoiserie for the new Artisphere Online magazine, BTW!
Reception Room: Portland, Maine
What is now the Victoria Mansion began as a stately brownstone villa decorated in the mid 1850′s by Gustave Herter (of the Herter Brothers firm) and saved from demolition (thankfully!) in the 1940′s. The extensive and inspiring decorative painting was done by a leading decorative painter of Herter’s time, Guisseppe Guidicini.
Bedroom: New York City
Designed by the late Mark Hampton, this bedroom in his family apartment’s prominent feature is the Chinese wallpaper hand painted on a silver ground. Hampton took the risk to roll the paper into tight balls to crease it before installation to give it some “age” and surface texture to reflect the light inevenly. Way to roll! It’s super lovely.
Dressing Room: Vizcaya
If you ever, EVER find yourself in South Florida don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of this country’s great historical houses, Vizcaya. I’ve been there twice now, and would easily go back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they do not allow you to photograph in the house, so seeing this dressing in this book was a special thrill. The fully restored linen canopy is completely hand-embroidered. I did a post several years ago on my now abandoned blog, The Art of Living, if you’d like to see more of Vizcaya.
This book is full of many beautiful examples on Chinoiserie, antique mirrors, tasteful interiors, and tasty design ideas. I hope you enjoyed a little peek!
April 29th, 2010
When most Americans think of traveling to Southern Europe the countries that first come to mind seem to be France, Italy, and Spain. I had bought some quidebooks and done some web research, of course, but we were not really sure what to expect from tiny Portugal when we went there. What a wonderful surprise to find that it is an amazingly beautiful and diverse country, easily traveled and totally “tourist friendly”! The weather and topography are very similar to our own Southern California, it is very easy to travel around by car, an amazing value (your Euros will go much farther in Portugal than elsewhere), and the people are incredibly friendly and helpful; most speak English very well. This last item is important as Portuguese is a VERY difficult language to master, even for the Portuguese according to my new friend Ana in Lisboa! I HIGHLY recommend that anyone add Portugal to their wish list for their next trip abroad. Here is a quick overview of this warm country from a color perspective.
Looking from the hilltop Castello over the red roofs of Lisbon
Confection colored facades in Belem.
Orange life preservers on boat ride on the Douro in Porto.
Blue sky over Porto.
Shiny silver fishat the old market in Porto. (Oh, they DO love their fish!)
Green doors in Pinhao.
Blue azulejos tile mural at the train station in Pinhao.
Lush green woods on a hike in Sintra.
Looking back at one of the fairy tale palaces in Sintra. Those two large cones are actually the chimenies for the wood burning stoves in the massive kitchen!
More to come! Still wading through 100′s of photos and lovely memories…..
November 17th, 2008
When I first moved into my new studio I had the very cheapest, in-the-box, oak cabinets from Lowe’s installed for our “kitchen” (basically where we make coffee and occasionally microwave). The reasons for going el cheapo were twofold: lack of money (the main reason) and knowledge that I could also turn the ugly ducklings into a swans when time and desire came together. They finally did! I forgot to take a “before” shot, but just imagine plain, nondescript oak cabinets over which I stria’d 2 layers of Van Dyke Brown Stain and Seal .I wanted to do something more decorative on them with mirrors-my new favorite medium.
I had 1/4″ mirrors with beveled edges made to the exact size of the raised panels in the centers of the upper cabinets. The silvering on these was distressed using the Antique Mirror Patina Solution.
On the front, I decided to use Metallic Foils (another new fav!), and subtly applied 4 different colors, followed by a layer of antiquing stain. I love how the design reflects off the back of the mirror, adding a lot more depth and dimension.
The mirrors were attached using a combo of double-sided foam tape and lots of mastic. So far it seems to be holding…..Notice how the blue Metallic Foil around the edge picks up the wall color!
Another view (these are HARD to photograph well). The handles were a Home Depot score at $1.06 each!
The lower cabinet doors were treated to the same Metallic Foil colors as the mirror finish and stained as well. I transferred the foil colors using a scrub brush with varying horizontal and vertical strokes to get the woven fabric look.
You can’t see the countertop from this view, but it is beautiful reverse gilded glass with a Moroccan zelij pattenr and I showed it in this post. If you are interested, there are lots more mirror posts here. For my next magic mirror trick I’ll be attempting to conjure up an amazing look for a 54″ round mirror table top on a rustic iron base. Keep your fingers crossed! I don’t NEED any bad luck.
June 2nd, 2008
After a week in Marrakech, it was time to hit the beach and dip our toes in the chilly Atlantic Ocean, North Africa style. It’s a 2.5 hour drive of questionable auto safety on a busy two lane road to Essaouira and the coast, but well worth it once you arrive! We missed seeing GOATS IN TREES on this drive (Alas, I think goats in trees are currently out of season) but trust me, they do exist. Google proves it.
Essaouira was once a fortified town, has fabulous shopping in a walled Medina area, and is all decked out in the most refreshing shades of blue painted wood set off by whitewashed walls.
I’ve already posted about the blue doors of Essaouira after my March trip but I must do so again as there are so gosh darn many gorgeous ones and they are SOOO photogenic.
Even their propane tanks are color coordinated!
Some more cool blueness
and a shot of my new favorite adult beverage, Campari and fresh-squeezed orange juice over ice. Is that our handsome horseman in the background?
March 24th, 2008
While it is mandatory in Marrakech to have your building be one of a few slightly varying shades of a peachy terra cotta color, it must be mandatory in the pretty little seaside town of Essaouira (2.5 hrs drive west to the Atlantic Ocean) to paint your ancient wooden door a fabulous shade of peeling blue paint. Me to my son: Look! There’s another great blue door, I have to get a picture. Him to me: (in the dry way only a child can say) Mom, they’re ALL blue! I guess I’ll have to go back to photograph the other 1,429.
Even the boats….
Maryam just recently posted about doors as well. Even better than what you see is what you can’t see behind them. Ahh, the mysteries of Morocco.