Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Trip Out West to Colorado

Recently TD and I went to visit my sister Cynthia and her partner Barb at their home in Monument, Colorado, which is near Colorado Springs. We have visited there before, and maybe it was because of the harsh dark winter we had here in New York this year, but I did not remember how big and spectacular the sky is in Colorado. It stretches from horizon to horizon, as far as the eye can see. And though this top picture is cloudy, it was mostly blue sunny skies for the duration of our visit. I'm telling you, it was a relief to take it in!
One day we headed into Colorado Springs to a cool spot called The Wild Goose Meeting House for lunch. I felt like I was in Brooklyn - exposed wooden beams, industrial lighting, hipsters on laptops wearing baseball caps and New Balance sneakers –

The food was great, and many locally crafted beers were proffered. Colorado is renowned for its craft breweries, with more than 140 craft breweries located in the state. Colorado is number one in the nation for volume of beer brewed nationally, and number two in volume of craft beer brewed annually. Lucky for me, because I love delicious beer –

After lunch we walked along the main street of Colorado Springs. Where ever you are, you can see mountains, like Pikes Peak in the distance – 

Pikes Peak happens to be the name of the girls' neighborhood brewery, where we stopped that night to enjoy some freshly brewed beer and meet some of their friends.
Ted, Cynthia, me, Barb - a little fuzzy but you get an idea of the ensuing merriment –

The brewery has a great selection of beers to choose from –

The next morning we went out for a run. The sky was blue and bright.

Sometimes visitors suffer from the high elevation in Colorado, but we felt fine. Thankfully the running path was flat.
TD running ahead and Cynthia with her dogs –

It was such a joy to be outside running in the sunshine.
Cynthia and I on the running path with her doggies –

In the afternoon we headed in the car for lunch to a school which has been converted into...wait for it...a brewery. The Bristol Brewing Co. is located in the former Ivywild School –

The interior has been lovingly retained, complete with the gymnasium and Principal's office -

We met with more friends and had a fun lunch. On the way home, we stopped at Garden of the Gods, a public park which features dramatic red rock formations which were shaped millions of years ago –

Garden of the Gods was a favorite place of my mother, who visited it many times, so it has sentimental meaning for us. It's a beautiful spot.

Echoing the dramatic shapes of the Garden of the Gods is the Denver Art Museum, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, which we toured on Sunday –

It's a big museum with lots to offer for families and children. For instance, inside the museum, we happened upon an amusing opera performance for children. In the collection of Western art, I liked "Long Jakes, the Mountain Man" wearing a vivid red coat in this painting by Charles Deas from 1844.

For lunch in Denver, we went to the Vine Street Pub and Brewery, which had many more beers on tap!

After lunch we drove to visit our cousin Diane Noonan Obernesser and her husband Matt and three daughters Madison, Cheyenne and Corrina.
Family photo, Colorado branch – 

We had such a good time on our visit out west with Cynthia and Barb - lots of good things to eat and drink and fun outings and great company. Cynthia and Barb are coming to New York City this summer to get married! So proud of them. So proud of all my sibs. I'm lucky.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Wonderful World of Dries Van Noten

Runway photos from Style.com
I love to watch the work of Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten, and I think he presented a great collection for fall 2014 recently in Paris. To me, his clothes look artistic and creative, but also relaxed and easy to wear, and that pairing of sophistication and simplicity is my favorite combination. For this collection, he combined optic curving stripes and big floral prints in a range of clashing colors that some how go together. Nothing matches but it all mixes. These very unique pieces seem to combine effortlessly. The clothes evoke the 20s and 30s to me, and the eccentric style of the Bloomsbury group. I picture a madcap heiress like Daisy Fellowes, whose grandfather amassed the Singer sewing machine fortune, tossing on these clothes for some fun in Paris.

A big floral print over orange stripes –

A giant red lily on a dark winter coat –

Geometric diamonds and florals. Plus sunglasses –

Throw a fur over it –

I also like the t-strap shoes, very classic.
Here is the man himself taking a bow after the show –

Not long ago I was up at Bergdorf Goodman and passed through the Dries Van Noten shop on the third floor. The colors and decorating are reminiscent of his store in Paris – 

The spring collection was in full bloom on the racks – 

including a beautiful floral scarf –

Vogue presented a wonderful story on Dries' house and garden outside of Antwerp in the March 2014 issue – 

Check it out if you can (It's much more interesting than Kim Kardashian).
And Dries was recently in town at a party with his friend actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was wearing the spring collection while Dries was in his floral pants –

This photo from WWD
They were celebrating a new exhibit which has opened in Paris at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Called Dries Van Noten - Inspirations, it is a presentation of the artwork, photography, movies, accessories and clothes that have influenced the designer's artistry. This show is up until August 31st, and the reviews have been great. As I do not have plans to go to Paris by then I hope this exhibit travels to the U.S. of A.!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gilded New York In Print and In Person

Gilded New York book on the left, and a corner of the Gilded New York gallery, on the right. 

New York City first rose to the stature of a world capital, on a par with London and Paris, during the Gilded Years - 1885 to 1905 - when new industries like steel manufacturing and railroads produced vast fortunes after the Civil War. New wealth led families like the Vanderbilts, Goulds and Astors to live with glamorous style which emulated European aristocratic luxury. These personal fortunes also bankrolled many buildings which still shape New York City today including the Frick Museum, the Morgan Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. This fascinating era in New York City is explored in a new book from The Monacelli Press and in an exhibition now up at the Museum of the City of New York.

Recently I went up to the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue and 104th Street to see Donald Albrecht, the Curator of Architecture and Design at the museum, and a co-curator of the Gilded New York show along with Jeannine Falino, an independent curator, and Phyllis Magidson, the museum's Curator of Costumes and Textiles. I had met Donald before, when I worked on my Cecil Beaton story for Elle Decor magazine, and attended the seminar on Gay New York and the Arts in the 20th Century.

Donald met me at the new Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery where the Gilded New York exhibit is on display. He reported that the Tiffany & Co. Foundation supports this permanent gallery with a grant devoted to fashion, jewelry, and the decorative arts of any period. This Gilded New York show is up until Nov. 30, 2014.

The small elegant gallery is a jewel box of a room designed by William T. Georgis Architects. Windows offer pleasant views across Fifth Avenue to Central Park.

On display are paintings, fashions, accessories, and jewelry from the turn of the last century. 

This large canvas on one wall portrays Cornelia Ward Hall and her children, painted by Michele Gordigiani in 1880. It captures a wealth of satin, lace, pearls, velvet and glossy Asian decor –

At the opposite end of the gallery are two evening dresses by the first brand-name fashion designer ever, Charles Frederick Worth, who was born in England and worked in Paris. The one on the left, called Electric Light, was worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II to the Vanderbilt Ball in 1883. Its metallic electric bolts in the fabric and shooting out from the shoulder celebrated the power of electricity which Thomas Edison had just invented in 1880 –

The accompanying book investigates the era further, with interesting essays and photographs about jewelry, architecture, fashion, and the famous balls. 

The chateauesque Astor home at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street had a double-height ballroom with paintings hung salon-style from floor to ceiling  –

The George Vanderbilt house was at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, where Bergdorf Goodman now stands today –

Interestingly, as has been observed by fashion historian Caroline Reynolds Milbank, when the United States was born, its founders like George and Martha Washington did not want to dress in an ostentatious way which copied the European aristocracy, but rather desired a style which was simple and independent of Europe and reflected the values of their young democracy. And so the simplicity of American style was born. However in the nineteenth-century, with their new wealth based on new industries, Donald Albrecht said, the Vanderbilts and the Astors began to look to imitate European aristocracy with their castles, crown jewels and couture. "Americans in the Gilded Age were looking to the past and looking to the future at the same time," he noted.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The New York Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner

Hanging with Martha at the Orchid Dinner. (click on photos to enlarge)
I had the pleasure last week of attending the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner which was held at the Mandarin Oriental ballroom at Columbus Circle high above Central Park. Proceeds from this dinner fund the Garden's important research collection. The dinner was sponsored in part by Veranda magazine which assembled a roster of illustrious designers who created wondrous orchid centerpieces for the dinner tables. The theme of the centerpieces was "Key West Contemporary" which is also the theme of the annual orchid show at the Botanical Garden, which just opened on March 1. Orchids are such spectacular flowers – the haute couture of the floral world, though I myself do not have much luck growing them at home. The centerpieces were a joy to behold.

Alison Spear for Arquitectonica Interiors created an explosion of tropical colors –

I ran into Veranda editor-in-chief Clinton Smith who has been adjusting to this very harsh northern winter, having moved to New York from Georgia where he was the editorial director of Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles. "I'm amazed by these arrangements," he said to me. "I like that they are so happy."
A vertical design by Sherrill Canet – 

Martha Stewart (pictured above) was looking very chic in a simple, luxurious top combined with an ornate, sculptural necklace. Martha is passionate about orchids and the Botanical Garden as well. "I have two giant benches of orchids in my greenhouse at home," she told me, noting that she is particularly partial to Phalaenopsis orchids, lady slipper orchids, and Christmas orchids. "The Botanical Garden is very important to us," she said to me. "We've done a lot of stories there, and Gregory Long, the Garden's president, is doing an amazing job."
An arch of orchids by David M. Handy Events –
David Scott Interiors & Mark Rose Events placed bright yellow orchids underneath a big patio umbrella –

One of my favorite arrangements was this spray of white orchids by David Easton, the great American decorator.

I had a chance to say hello to David Easton –

who told me that the beginning of this floral design was the geometric metal base which guests at the table can see through, so they can talk and converse around the table.  Smart!
A lush profusion of orchids and palm leaves by FlowerSchool New York.

After dinner, there was dancing to a fun, lively band on the dance floor –

It was indeed a happy, colorful celebration on a cold, winter night. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Trip to Broadway for The Glass Menagerie

Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bloger and Brian J. Smith make up the cast of the memory play The Glass Menagerie on Broadway. Photos from The Glass Menagerie website.

Last Saturday morning was snowy and grey, and I said to TD, "I would love to go see The Glass Menagerie." I had never before seen Tennessee Williams' masterpiece. The play first came to Broadway in 1945 when Williams was only 34 years old, and established him as a great new American playwright. The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, as the main character, Tom Wingfield, remembers life with his mother and sister and a visit by a gentleman caller in the family's St. Louis apartment long ago. The current production on Broadway at the Booth Theater had garnered great reviews and was soon to close so it had been on my mind as something that I did not want to miss.

At home, we went online to the TKTS website and saw that the play was listed that very day for half price tickets. We quickly got dressed and rushed out the door and took the subway up to Times Square, hoping the tickets would not be sold out. After an anxious wait in the line we reached the ticket window and scored two half price tickets for the matinee performance. So excited!

We had a little time to kill so we walked to Angus on West 44th Street, a favorite restaurant in Times Square, for lunch and sat in the bar area where we had a Croque Mademoiselle and a glass of white wine. Suffiently fortified, we headed around the corner to the Booth Theater, which is a great old Broadway Theater, and settled into our cozy, plush seats.

It was indeed a beautiful memory play. The minimal set depicting the family apartment was arranged in pools of black shadows, and the lightening would dim when a character was remembering a story and going back in time. The cast was amazing – including strong, brilliant Cherry Jones as the bossy mother Amanda Wingfield, and Zachary Quinto, previously known to movie goers as Doctor Spock in the Star Trek movies, who was a revelation as the tortured Tom. He delivered a powerful performance in elegant, reserved moves. Of course the real star was the Tennesse Williams language and writing and storytelling – so poetic and lyrical and elegiac. The set and the performances and the writing fused together to create one of those memorable productions that stays with you long after. I was so grateful to see it with my Valentine. 

The play ended, there was a standing ovation, the lights came up, and they opened up the doors at the back of the theater. It was snowing so we bundled up in our big coats and left that dark cocoon of art and memory and went out into the white snow on Broadway.