Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Trip Through New England




Chaffinch Island in Guilford, Ct. 
TD and I have been sheltering-in-place since March the 12th, and desired a much-need trip out of the house so we planned a recent getaway, being careful and using precautions while we were traveling. Our first stop was in Guilford, Ct., where my parents lived for approximately 35 years. We always enjoyed taking the train to Guilford and visiting them there, and we have missed it. Also, we have not been back since my father passed away in Colorado two years ago. Chaffinch Island in Guilford was always a favorite spot for my family to visit. After my mother passed away in 2012, my father and I brought some of her ashes down to Chaffinch Island and dispersed them in the water.
TD took took this picture then of my father and I --




So when we visited Guilford recently we took some of my father's ashes down to Chaffinch (picture at the top of this post).  It was a poignant trip. I'm glad we had the chance to do it.
We visited out favorite spots in Guilford, including the town beach --



I love the quiet, serene quality of the Connecticut Shoreline. TD sketched the scene --



That night we had a delicious dinner at Quattro's in town, which was a new discovery for us.
The next day we drove from Guilford, Ct., to Little Compton, RI, to visit the beach house of my great and long-time friend Abby. We enjoyed staying in the beautiful house for a couple nights, and then she and her family arrived for the weekend. Glorious summer days.
During the week TD and I went to an ocean beach called South Shore Beach in the town of Little Compton Beach. It was a delight to be in the ocean. The waves were rough!



It was great fun to spend time with Abby and family - husband John, daughters Lila and Mary, son Stephen plus niece Sophia. It's what relaxed summer days are for.
The family belongs to the Elephant Rock Beach Club in Westport, MA, so that's where we headed on Saturday. There, Sophia, Lila and Mary sported TD's tee shirts. You can buy TD's popular tee shirts in his Etsy shop!



It was a glorious day at Elephant Rock Beach --



The water was very warm. It was so nice to be all together swimming in the ocean --



After we left the beach John and Abby gave us a car tour around. We drove along country roads to Sakonnet Point, and John and Abby bought lobsters for a delicious dinner. I loved the grey shingle Cape Cod cottages with white trim along the water --






On Sunday we said our farewells to the Carrs and drove up to Keene, NH, to visit our great friends the Healy family from Jane Street in New York City. The Healys own a unique property called Lake Falls Lodge, which consists of an Adirondack-style lodge and several other houses on a large piece of land. It can be rented for weddings and corporate retreats. We have been to two spectacular Healy family weddings at Lake Falls Lodge. It's a special place.
Many of the Healy clan have been sheltering-in-place there, including our beloved friend Peggy Healy, who hosted a book party for TD when he illustrated a children's book. It was a full house with a large group and we enjoyed a grilled steak dinner in the yard at a big table near the pond --



The next day Don took us on a tour of the properties which are impressive indeed. He is building a large structure called the Barn outfitted with every modern convenience so that weddings and corporate retreats can be hosted year 'round. We had a swim in the pond and gathered together for a lobster salad lunch. 



After lunch TD and I were off, traveling over country roads through the Berkshires in western Massachusetts to Williamstown, MA, the home of Williams College, which opened in 1791. In Williamstown, we stayed at the Williams Inn, which was lovely. We were surprised that the town seemed more closed up than the other places we had been, in Connecticut for example. The trip to Williamstown was determined by the news that The Clark Art Institute had opened -- I think the only art museum open in the Northeast. We'd always wanted to go so we thought it was a good time for a visit. It was slightly raining when we went at 10am as the doors opened. I was so happy to be back in a museum!



The Clark was founded in 1952 upon the art collection of Robert Sterling Clark, who was a Singer sewing machine heir. Other Singer sewing machine heirs were important arts and culture patrons in Cooperstown, NY, which is a beautiful town we love. The Clark has a lovely array of art and Impressionist paintings. Here is a jolly Madame Escudier by John Singer Sargent from 1883 --



and a charming self portrait of Renior from 1899 --



Outside TD enjoyed the tranquil scenery as cows roamed over the hills beyond --


At that point we got in the car to head home. We had heard a little about a storm. It turned out to be Tropical Storm Isaisas. Or Hurricane Isaisas, depending what you read. Not the day to be driving from the Berkshires to New York City. Let me just say I was driving and it was hairy. The wind was so strong that I had to hold on to the steering wheel tightly to keep control of the car. On the highway we drove around several huge trees which had crashed on to the road. Thank God they didn't land on cars. We did make it home safely to Manhattan thankfully.
It was a wonderful trip with lots of different parts and all went well. It felt like we were being looked after. I hope you are having a nice summer dear reader despite these strange times. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Flowers in the Time of Quarantine



     Dear Reader, I hope that you and yours are safe and sound during this unprecedented time. TD and I have been staying in place at home since March the 12th, going on ten weeks now. New York City has suffered tremendous loss. Thankfully TD and I are fine. The streets have been spookily quiet and empty. Things seem to be easing up a little now but still of course no one wants to run into this virus so being outside in public and in stores is anxiety-ridden.
     One thing that has helped is having flowers in the house. They offer some beauty for the eye and a small opportunity to be creative in arranging them. In the beginning, flowers were only available at the corner delis. Some delis were closed and some ran out of flowers but we found a couple that still provided. Now the farmer's market at Union Square is getting into swing and flowers are available there, though we have to wait in line to enter the market and then wait in lines at each stand to be served. 
Sign at the farmer's market --


The cheerful, fresh-looking white daisies at the top of the post were from a deli.
Tulips are entertaining because after they are placed in a vase, they continue to grow and get taller --


I loved these big, fat, pink roses. You can't feel bad when you're looking at big, fat, pink roses. They are in a radicchio vase from Tiffany's that TD and I received as a gift from our friends Margaret and Dick Holman at our commitment ceremony in 2000.  I love this vase and unfortunately Tiffany's doesn't make it any more --


A single rose went on the table next to the chair where I read at night --


A bright yellow daffodil for the bathroom --


These tulips from Durr Flowers at the farmer's market grew and arced dramatically --


In the pots on the front stoop I planted a mix of colorful pansies and impatiens. The ivy from last summer survived the winter. In the other pot on the stoop I planted basil but it died when we had a surprisingly cold night --


A pale peony bloomed in the front hall --


Another peony went into a hanging glass wall vase --



I am really missing nature and the country right now so it's nice to have flowers at home. Flowers delight the eye and offer a soothing comfort. I hope that you are finding solace too.



Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Morgan Library & Museum for New York Cottages & Gardens



For the "Divine Design" column for the March issue of New York Cottages & Gardens magazine, I was happy to write about The Morgan Library & Museum, which is a favorite spot of mine and a treasure of New York. For the story, Christine Nelson, the Library curator, took me through the building on a private tour, which was such a treat and so interesting. Check out the March issue and learn about this beautiful museum, which Mr. J. P. Morgan built at the turn of the last century to house his own personal book collection. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Winter Show for Corcoran's Online Magazine Inhabit




You might enjoy reading my article for Corcoran's online magazine about the Winter Show, which is happening now here in New York City. Previously known as The Winter Antiques Show, the fair has a new shorter name and a more electic range of offerings. Read all about it here!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Mario Buatta Auction for Corcoran's Inhabit magazine




You might enjoy my new story for Inhabit, the online magazine from Corcoran, about the upcoming exhibition and sale at Sotheby's of the collection of the late decorator Mario Buatta. As you may remember, Mario was a friend and we did a video interview with him here on the blog when the New York School of Interior Design renamed its library the Mario Buatta Materials Atelier. That was a hoot. Sadly, Mario passed away in 2018 and now his collection of more than 900 items is coming to auction next week. You can read my story here -- one last tribute to Mario.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Queen of Spades at the Metropolitan Opera




     For my birthday recently TD and I went to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to see Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. It is a less well-known opera but it happened to fall on my birthday and I love Tchaikovsky so we said, "Why not!"
     I always love to go to the Met. As we approached the opera house through the Lincoln Center Plaza enjoying the Marc Chagall paintings that glow from inside, I remembered the time I saw Jackie Onassis outside at intermission eating an ice cream cone. Inside, the Met is all red velvet. Red velvet lines the stairs and the walls, and the red velvet seats are comfortable and cushy. Even the bar in front of each seat which carries the subtitles is covered in red velvet. Some people dress up for the opera, with women in sparkly dresses, which I like to see. I find the whole experience very plush.
   I enjoyed the opera a lot although the plot is simple and grim, essentially about a man who loses everything and goes mad due to his addiction to a card game. However, the production is beautiful. Set in 18th century aristocratic Russia, it features the big wigs, big dresses and dazzling jewels of the era. I just loved the ball room scene pictured above (photo from the Met website) at the beginning of the second act. Highly stylized in dramatic black and white, it reminded me of the famous black and white Ascot scene that Cecil Beaton created for the 1964 My Fair Lady movie.
     The music is glorious. The opera premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890, after Tchaikovsky composed many of his most famous works including Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, and Symphony No. 5, though The Nutcracker came later in 1892. The composer died suddenly in 1893 supposedly of cholera but now it is said he committed suicide because he was gay. What a tragedy, how many more masterpieces could he have created?
    Fortunately the seats are comfy with plenty of leg room for a tall guy like me because the opera was more than four hours long. But it was all enjoyable and such a pleasure to be there listening to the music.
    I took this photo of the curtain call --


   And then it was back out into the night and down into the subway and home to bed with visions of eighteenth century aristocratic Russia dancing in my head.
   Happy New Year and all best wishes for 2020!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Jacqueline de Ribes in New York Cottages & Gardens



I hope you can check out the new December issue of New York Cottages & Gardens magazine to see my latest "Divine Design" column, this one on Jacqueline de Ribes, "the last queen of Paris," who is now 90 and recently auctioned much of her family's collection of antiques and art at Sotheby's in Paris. I believe I met Jacqueline de Ribes in New York in the '80s or '90s when she worked as a fashion designer because I think she was a client of Eleanor Lambert, the fashion PR powerhouse, who often had parties in her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Jacqueline de Ribes certainly was a French style icon who was always covered in the fashion press. When I saw this auction coming up on the calendar I thought it would make for a good story.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A New Museum of Modern Art



Matisse sculptures in front of the Matisse painting Dance (1) at MOMA.
     I recently had the pleasure of visiting the new Museum of Modern Art in midtown, which opened recently on West 53rd Street, and it was a very successful trip. The museum recently underwent a big renovation and expansion overseen by the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the architecture firm Gensler. The expansion vastly increased the size of the museum. At the same time it offered the museum an opportunity to reconsider how the art was presented and installed, and create an alternative to the story that modern art has been created by white men from the Western world.  "The real value of this expansion is not more space, but space that allows us to rethink the experience of art in the Museum," Director Glenn D. Lowry has said. To that end, separating galleries by artist or by media has been done away with in order to blend everything so you'll find paintings and sculptures and videos all presented together. Galleries will continually change and performances are offered throughout the day. "At any given moment there will be something new to see," said Lowry. Which is all to say there was a lot to take in! 
     I did my trick with large spaces, which is that I took the elevator up and started at the top, the 6th floor, and worked down. The floors are much larger, longer, than they used to be so there was much to see. The juxtaposition of the art was interesting, like the Matisse sculptures and paintings above, or the futuristic Umberto Boccioni sculpture in front of a Robert Delaunay painting –


I found a cherished favorite - Monet's Waterlilies and they looked good in their new home –


As I made my way down I could see a dance performance happening on a floor below –


Around every corner was something new to discover. This wild room by David Tudo called Rainforest V was constructed of sculptures and found objects out of which came eerie sounds –


     Honestly I didn't make it through the whole museum - it was so big. I want to go back soon and see more. I loved the unexpected surprises throughout. The large, spacious, elegant galleries reminded me of those at the Whitney Museum downtown. And like the Whitney, a lot of the galleries had videos playing in them so you heard the noise or the music or the talking of the videos. They were not quiet, silent galleries like at the Met. It's interesting how museums change.
    The juxtaposition of different art and media was provocative, though I was wondering if all the visitors would understand the comparisons and combinations. And of course it opens up lots of room for debate.  I heard one woman say to her companion, "Some of the choices I question."
   A unique aspect of the MOMA is that it's smack dab in the center of midtown and you can see the city through the museum's windows unlike other institutions which are insulated from the outside.  On one high floor I stopped at a window to peer out. Across the street in an old apartment building a giant tv was broadcasting colorful cartoons in the dark. Next to the apartment building was an office building where workers toiled at desks in front of bluish white computer screens. Down below, the canopy of Connolly's Irish Pub was strung with colored lights and on the sidewalk two small Christmas trees flanked the front door.

Monday, November 4, 2019

John Singer Sargent Drawings at The Morgan Library & Museum



John Singer Sargent double self-portrait from 1902 when Sargent was 46.

   The Morgan Library and Museum, originally built by financier J.P. Morgan in 1906, is one of my favorite places in New York, and now it's featuring on exhibition on one of my favorite artists – what's not to like?
    I admire the refinement of John Singer Sargent's art, and the Morgan has mounted a show of  his charcoal drawings. But this isn't just a bunch of drawings!
     Sargent is of course famous for his large portrait paintings, like the striking Madame X and the gorgeous Wyndham sisters, which both can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But by 1907, Sargent had grown tired of producing these large, elaborate paintings, which could require up to more than ten sittings with the model(s). His portraits were still in demand however, so he turned to charcoal drawings, which were quicker and more spontaneous.
    For the first time ever, this show at The Morgan focuses on Sargent's charcoal drawings and gathers together 55 examples, some of which have never been exhibited before as they are in private collections. Walking through the gallery, I enjoyed the easy, breezy nature of the drawings. They seemed so fresh and spontaneous, almost like photographs capturing the subject, instead of the studied grandeur of Sargent's oil portraits. And though of course I'm sure they weren't, they appear to be effortless. The drawings possess that combination of ease and elegance that I love.
    At the top of this post is a double self-portrait by Sargent, who rarely produced a self-portrait. Good-looking chap.
      Here we have Sybil Sassoon from 1912. Sargent said she was the most beautiful woman he ever drew –


    This is Sargent's friend artist Paul-César Helleu – I like his charcoal grey clothes and his casual, relaxed posture as he reclines in a low armchair.


    Handsome Italian model Olimpio Fusco looks like he just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue -


    I was so happy to see one of my favorite portraits of all time -- Sargent's drawing of Irish poet William Butler Yeats –


    I love everything about this portrait, including the floppy bow tie and shawl-colored jacket. Yeats is from Sligo, Ireland, which is where my great-grandfather Daniel O'Donnell hailed from before he landed in Herkimer, New York. Yeats wrote the most beautiful poem about Sligo called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." I hope to get to Sligo some day. In the meantime, I recommend a trip to The Morgan to see John Singer Sargent. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Personal Stylist at Your Service



    I've always enjoyed helping family and friends style their homes, wardrobes, clothes, and events/flowers. Having worked for years as a writer for fashion, decorating and lifestyle magazines and brands including Ralph Lauren and Architectural Digest, I've learned a lot about design and have been fascinated by personal style. Now in addition to writing and editing, I am happy to offer my services as a personal stylist!
     Above is a quote from a client whose home I styled. For Katherine and Jim, I chose new paint colors for their walls, re-arranged their furniture and bought new pieces, re-hung their art work, and did an overall edit. After I was done, Katherine said to me, "Now when we walk in, we look at everything and smile." I wrote all about the project on the blog here.



    Here we have my cousin Uma Deming who is a young ballerina with the New York City Ballet. I recently dressed Uma for the red carpet at the Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala, which was a lot of fun. Tory Burch graciously agreed to loan Uma this gorgeous, sequinned, midnight blue gown which fit her to perfection. I worked with Uma to choose her hair and makeup and accessories, and I think she looked beautiful. After Uma walked the red carpet, she danced in the first ballet of the evening in a piece choreographed by Lauren Lovette with costumes by Zac Posen.
   If you or anyone you know needs a personal stylist, please email me at bartb3@gmail.com!