Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from NYC

At the Jane Street Tavern where we had a drink, TD drew a Christmas tree on the paper table cloth.

Dear reader, I hope you are having a joyful holiday season. I have been a little sad this time around. My mother loved Christmas, and I have many wonderful memories of family Christmases growing up. Even last year when she was declining, we had a jolly Christmastime in Connecticut. But TD and I have been having some fun adventures in NYC this holiday season. New York City is cheering me –

At ABC Carpet & Home, a beautiful Victorian Santa was poised to talk to children on a long velvet bench. (click on photos to enlarge)

I love the retail displays at ABC – they sprinkle flower petals and glitter nonchalantly over everything.

I went up to Grand Central Station one Saturday afternoon to meet my high school friend Suzy Ferenczy MacEnroe, and discovered there the newish Apple store which has been ingeniously integrated into the hallowed halls of the great train station. The elves, I mean "geniuses", wore festive red tee shirts.

Up at Rockefeller Center, skaters circled on the rink under glittering golden flags and the renowned  Rockefeller Center tree –

We were invited to celebrate the 50th birthday of our friend Toby Usnik at a lunch at the University Club on Fifth Avenue. Toby is the head of corporate communications and chief sustainability officer at Christie's auction house and his partner Harlan who I have been pals with forever is the president and chief executive of Armani Exchange. The Saturday night before the party we read in The New York Times that Harlan and Toby had been married! So the party was both a birthday and wedding celebration. Read their story here.
This wonderful and inspiring event at the University Club was held in one of the great rooms in New York –

There was a birthday/wedding cake on every table.

Up Fifth Avenue at Bergdorf Goodman, the gorgeous windows were inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies from the 1920's and 30's.

Downtown, the unfinished tower rising at 1 World Trade Center was lit for the holidays. Electricians working on the construction had installed colored wrappers on the building's lights. The top of the tower disappeared into a foggy night.

Our friends PR impresario James Laforce and his husband Stephen Henderson along with Fernando Santangelo hosted the best holiday party ever. It was held at 5 Beekman Street, downtown near City Hall. The building, constructed in the late nineteenth century and featuring one of the first elevators in the city, is now completely deserted, and so the party had a spooky theme. When we walked into the lobby we saw an upside-down Christmas tree hung over a piano where a ghoulish looking musician played.

Overhead rose the open nine-story atrium with a glass roof above.

The old elevator lifted us up to the eighth and ninth floors which were jammed with revelers for one of those parties where you run into everybody you have ever known. All of the bartenders and waiters wore grey makeup which made them look ghost-like. It was just a blast.

One brisk day I took a walk around picturesque Brooklyn Heights. The sidewalk of an old apartment building was lined with big pots stuffed with cabbage roses and cyclamen – cheerful plantings for the winter season.

At home, we always love our colorful, warm Christmas tree decorated with personal ornaments and mementos.

We have happy plans with family and friends for the holidays, and I'm grateful for the present moment and the gifts of the day. I wish you and yours the best for this holiday season and the new year to come.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Video Trip to the Flower Market with Carolyne Roehm

The cover of Carolyne Roehm's new book. 

Carolyne Roehm, a wonderful friend of this blog, has just published a sumptuous new book called "Flowers". You may remember that TD and I visited Carolyne in her amazing apartment for a video interview when she published her last book two years ago called "A Passion for Interiors". That post is the third most popular post ever on the blog. Then we attended her swell book party at the Carlton Hobbs gallery which is one if the most beautiful places in the city. Recently, we stopped by Carolyne's to celebrate the publication of Nathan Turner's  book "American Style".

With her new book, her eleventh, Carolyne has outdone herself. It's over sized, it's heavy, it's gorgeous. Carolyne has a wonderfully elegant style which is all her own, and this book features flowers right out of her own lush gardens which she has arranged and photographed herself. The result is an objet d'art which you want to leave open and view continually. 
I recently met Carolyne in the New York City Flower District on West 28th Street for a video interview which you will find at the end of this post. But first, last week there was a book party at Carlton Hobbs! 

Again the former Vanderbilt mansion provided the perfect setting, and Carolyne enlisted the help of some friends for the party. Sculptor Vladimir Kanevsky crafts delicate flowers out of fine porcelain, and Carolyne asked him to reproduce her flowers in porcelain. Some of the results can be seen on the fireplace mantle and table here. The tulips on the table replicate the book's cover. These pale, poetic creations truly did look real. (click on photos to enlarge)

Doors in the landing at the top of the stairs were lined with watercolors by artist Page Lee Hufty. Here, Carolyne's red and white tulips were interpreted in graceful paint.

Downstairs in a side gallery, stacks of "Flowers" were at home with antiques and art.

Bright flowers decorated the loo, too.

I leafed through the book and later scanned some of my favorite photos. This book is one big meditation on the beauty of flowers.
A colorful bouquet of lilacs, viburnum and tulips captures the joy of spring -

A profusion of luscious peonies -

Carolyne arranged summer flowers in a Majorca vase -

A celebration of autumn dahlias -

Happily, Carolyne agreed to talk one morning in the Flower District about her love of flowers. She met me, with my good friend Scott Brasher who made this video, at 8 a.m. when the area is bustling with business and noise. I hope you enjoy this visit with Carolyne –

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Birth of Beatrix Potter at the Morgan Library & Musuem

The old-fashioned house and garden at Hill Top Farm, Beatrix Potter's home in the English Lake District where she wrote many of her books, is open to the public.

I recently attended a preview of a new exhibition about Beatrix Potter at the Morgan Library & Museum on Madison Avenue. The Morgan is a favorite spot of mine in NYC and I have been interested in the life and work of Beatrix Potter, the Edwardian self-educated artist who turned her personal passion into a publishing empire which has sold more than more 150 million books in 36 languages. As a girl, Beatrix was creative and loved nature and the English countryside, which became the subject of her artwork.
Here is Beatrix walking her pet rabbit Benjamin Bunny. I like her strictly tailored velvet jacket, long woolen skirt and flourishing hat.
At the press preview, curator John Birdwell came into the small gallery on the second floor where the exhibit "Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters" is housed. The origins of the publishing jaggernaut, he said, was an eight page illustrated letter which Beatrix sent to a young friend. Mounted on the wall of the gallery, it began, "My dear Noel, I don't know what to write to you today so I will tell you a story..." Over the eight pages, she wrote out the narrative and drew illustrations of a tale about the disobedient Peter Rabbit. Later, Beatrix turned the idea into a book which six publishers rejected. So she published a version herself. Finally, a publisher came forward. And the rest is Peter Rabbit history.

The exhibition celebrates the "casual elegance of her literary style, her storytelling sensibilities, and mastery of illustration." Most of the drawings are black and white, but I especially liked this inviting watercolor which captures the charm of a secret English garden. (click to enlarge photo)
Beatrix Potter went on to write more books about numerous country creatures and became the bestselling 20th century children's book author. Throughout her work, she retained that writing quality of narrating a private letter to an individual child, which was the secret to her success. 
Check out this charming, small show at the Morgan which is up until January 27, 2013. And while you're there, don't miss Mr. Morgan's library and office.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

I recently toddled over to the Angelika Theater on Houston Street to see Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, the wonderful documentary made about the style icon by her granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who published a book by the same name last year and is married to Vreeland's grand son Alexander. This movie is a terrifically entertaining closeup look at one of the great fashion figures of the twentieth century.

Readers of this blog surely know about Diana Vreeland who was the legendary fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, then the editor-in-chief at Vogue during the Sixties, and when she was fired from Vogue, created at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the Costume Institute as we know it today with her blockbuster exhibits.

What stands out in the documentary is her great drive and work ethic coupled with her imagination and creativity. Growing up, her mother told her she was ugly. In New York City, she lasted at the Brearley School for three months. She was not a great beauty nor was she formerly educated, but she created great beauty and educated herself and thus encouraged her readers and viewers to dream and live more beautiful lives.
She met her handsome husband Reed Vreeland in 1929. Here they are pictured at a cocktail party with the always chic Slim Keith on the left.
Vreeland's great curiosity made her passionate for a wide range of subjects – from the French eighteenth century, Russia, and horses to Diaghilev, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Angelica Huston in the movie notes that before Vreeland, women's magazines were focused on "how to fit in with your husband and how to make a pie. But who cares about pies...when you have Russia!"

The editor began her job at the Met when she was 70 ("What was I going to do? Retire?") As a boy visiting New York City from upstate I remember a couple of her Costume Exhibit shows, including the Hollywood one, which were astounding displays of fantasy and beauty. Vreeland was a storyteller, this movie says, and she was presenting her version of the way the world could be. "I believe in the dream," she says. "There is only one really good life and that is the life you know you want and you make it yourself." At the end she states, "I shall die very young. Whether I am 70 or 80 or 90, I shall die very young."

What a great inspiration she is. See this movie if you can. Here is the trailer:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carolyne Roehm's Party for Nathan Turner

The scene inside Carolyne Roehm's stunning apartment with the city lights beyond.
Decorator Nathan Turner has a new book out called Nathan Turner's American Style, and TD and I were recently invited to a party at Carolyne Roehm's beautiful apartment to celebrate its publication. You remember Carolyne Roehm's beautiful apartment; TD and I spend an afternoon there when Carolyne herself was publishing a book, and made a video (or two). That post about Carolyne is the third most popular post of all time on the blog, followed only by Coco Chanel and Marella Agnelli. And we have a new treat featuring Carolyne coming up soon on the blog.

I admired Nathan Turner's work from what I had seen on the tv reality show Million Dollar Decorator; it looked enticing and inviting and not over the top. On the way into the party, we passed Kyle Maclachlan and his wife Desiree Gruber who were leaving. Our hostess Carolyne looked glamorous and gave a warm toast to the author. The soaring two-story living room was illuminated with candles. We chatted with people and turned around to see Sarah Jessica Parker who was talking excitedly with friends. It was fun to see her there. Not tall, messy pony tail, dark smokey eye makeup. It looked like she was wearing a white Oscar de la Renta dress with gun metal grey sequins, with black bra straps showing underneath, and towering tall black what-looked-like Manolo Blahnik pumps. She was a wonderful combination of high and low style, elegance and ease.

Which brings us to Nathan Turner. I found the author in a corner, wearing a tweed suit and an affable smile. I asked him about his American style. "I feel like I am very American," he said. "I grew up in northern California and my mother's family had a ranch. I drive a Ford pick-up truck. We Americans are a bit laid back. It's a barefoot, fuss-free style." 
Nathan's book celebrates his decorating projects in the city, in the country, and at the beach. His work is colorful and casual, and he has a good eye for mixing different elements together to create rooms that are sophisticated yet comfortable, which is the hallmark of American design. His interiors have an ease and a natural quality which make them friendly and appealing. In his book he writes,"My approach to decorating and entertaining is all about finding new ways to live and celebrate with low effort and high style." I like his thinking.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Candles on the mantle shed some light in the dark.
We were sitting in front of the tv eating pasta and watching Fashion Police on the dvr (guilty pleasure that makes us laugh) and the lights started to seriously flicker. Superstorm Sandy was roaring into town. "Please don't go out, lights!" we said, and boom. Total darkness and quiet. Blackout in NYC.

In all my years in New York, I have lived through only one other blackout which was in 2003, I think, in the summertime. At first everyone thought it was another terrorist attack, but the electric grid had gone down on the east coast due to the heat and high electric usage. My brother Thom was in town then, and my mother was in New York that day at a museum, and we all converged safely on Jane Street where TD and I were living. It was a warm and summery night, and we hung out on the stoops with our neighbors, and then crowds of people walked over to the Hudson River Park and sat on the green grass lawn and laughed because we could see the lights on across the river in New Jersey. The power went on the next day.

This time, we were not so lucky. At first, we hoped that Con Edison had turned off the power preemptively, and that they would be able to turn it back on. But we learned that a big explosion at a Con Ed station on 14th Street had taken out the power on lower Manhattan, and that it would take three of four days to restore. Besides power, we had no heat, but we were lucky because we had water, and the hot water worked.

Below 25th Street, everything was dark and cold. Above 25th Street, life went on as normal. It did remind me of 9/11 when downtown was completely locked down but midtown bustled as usual. Fortunately, my office on 36th Street was open so I could go to work, but TD's graphic design studio on 14th Street was out of commission. Every day, he walked up to my office to plug in his phone.

At nights, we would leave the apartment for a walk, because, honestly, there is nothing to do in a dark and cold apartment. The streets were pitch black dark. People carried flash lights. I did feel unsafe on the dark side streets, so we stuck to the wide avenues which headed north. As we walked uptown, we could see the red traffic lights and Times Square lights blazing brightly ahead. It was like walking toward Emerald City. Heading back home, we entered the complete black darkness again. It was the strangest experience.

At home after dinner we would sit in bed with the cats and read, holding flashlights aloft. I had the good fortune to have at hand Patti Smith's book Just Kids, about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. 

Patti Smith is a wonderful writer, a poet. Her story is really about two young artists, she and Mapplethorpe, and how they worked and struggled and tried all the angles before they became successful and fufilled. And it really makes the reader nostalgic for the New York City of their era, which is long gone. I haven't finished it yet, and gotten to the end when Mapplethorpe dies... But I highly recommend the book.

After four nights, going on five, the power came back on Friday night. Glad tidings! And we were lucky because so many people suffered so much loss from the storm. It made me grateful though, most chiefly for TD, who is a joy and great jolly company through all of life's adventures no matter what comes. And it made me grateful to walk into the bathroom and turn on a light.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The 1stdibs Antiques Dealer Block Party

The street scene at Il Cantinori on East 10th Street
Over the transom came an invitation from 1stdibs, the online antiques and art emporium, to attend "Between the Squares," an extended block party where eighteen antiques dealers located between Union, Washington, and Cooper Squares would open their doors for some festive browsing accompanied by passed hors d'oeuvres and cold Champagne.
What's not to like?
I enlisted by young nephew Aaron to join me – Aaron is living in New York City now (yay!) and is an intern at the très chic decorating firm Carrier and Company which has done work for Anna Wintour, Bob Pittman, Catie Marron and Jason Wu. We met on East 10th Street where most of the antiques dealers are clustered, and stopped first at Bernard Goeckler, the Swiss antiques dealer who specializes in twentieth century pieces from the 30s and 40s. While Aaron was looking overhead at the vast range of chandeliers , I was eyeing this chair. I liked its glossy black leather and stylish frame which looks like painted bamboo but actually is metal with brass trim. This chair to me is a great combination of elegance and comfort.
Its tag said it was made by Jacques Adnet in France around 1950, price $22,000. 
We passed the renowned Italian restaurant Il Cantinori (pictured above) and crossed the street to Eskander. The London-based fashion designer Eskandar Nabavi was born in Teheran to a English mother and a Persian father. His rustic, airy store on East 10th Street offers his simple, loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics and pretty colors. They share that same feeling of elegance and comfort.
As Eskander, wood and metal furniture is piled with art books. You know I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.
In the back at the antiques dealer Maison Gerard was mounted a special exhibition of coquillage by Thomas Boog. Coquillage, if you are not up on your French, means ornamental seashells, and the exhibition included sconces and mirror frames made of fantastic seashells by Boog who was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, and roamed the Italian Riviera as a child looking for shells.
The elaborate white sconces held dark black candles and were hung on matte black walls for a very sophisticated, dramatic effect. Likewise, the iridescent shell mirror frames floated on a wall of smokey black.
Aaron and I circled around East 11th Street and visited some more antiques dealers, and stopped in front of Fleurs Bella, the well known florist shop of Bella Meyer who is the granddaughter of...wait for it...Marc Chagall, one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. Bella uses not only flowers but also fruit, seeds, twigs and greenery in her arrangements for stellar clients like the Brooklyn Academy of Music. We will have more treats up coming from Bella here on the blog!
In need of sustenance after all of our browsing, Aaron and I soon found a table at a corner cafe in the Village where we had some dinner and some wine. It was wonderful to be wandering around New York City on warm autumn night. Beautiful things worked their magic.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Mother

My Dear Reader, in my last post I shared that mother was coming to the end of her long illness, and I am sad to say that she passed away at home in Connecticut around 9 am on Labor Day. I was with her for her last breath for which I am grateful, though it is not an easy thing to experience. A friend of mine said, "You accompanied her to the other side. You did some heavy lifting." Which is an accurate statement as I have been exhausted since then. Several years ago my mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a incurable disease of the lungs. For the last sixteen months, she has been pretty much confined to her bed where she was beautifully and lovingly cared for by my father. It was my wish to go with mother and my father too through this experience and help them as I could.

We had a memorial service, or Life Celebration as she wanted it to be called, this past Saturday at the Guilford Funeral Home. My mother was a spiritual person and talked a lot about what she wanted at the event which included a profusion of lush flowers in pink, purple and red, her ashes in an urn with fairies coming out the top of it, and overhead a festive chuppa, the kind of structure found at a Jewish wedding. We - my father, three siblings and in-laws - pulled it all off, and it was standing-room-only for my mother at the Guilford Funeral Home for her moving and beautiful service.
TD designed the wonderful program filled with my mother's favorite quotes and photos –

Working on that service and going through with it was the hardest thing I have done in my life so far. Every action felt like a Herculean task - every action, another good-bye. If you have lost a loved one perhaps you know how I felt. My family was so very grateful for everyone who was there with us in person and in spirit. I spoke at the service and talked about how much my mother influenced me growing up as she shared all of her interests with me – fashion, decorating, style and art. And speaking of that, she loved this blog. She was its biggest fan, sending me a quick email and telling how she liked practically every single post, which now number over 400. How I will miss my fan.

My mother holding me when I was six months old –

My mother and father at a wedding before they were married –

Later, in the 60s, at a cocktail party –

More recently –

Through her long illness, my mother had a wonderfully positive attitude. I never heard her once complain or whine about her condition. She had no regrets or resentments, and she was not afraid of death. She was an inspiration to all who visited her, and a fantastic role model for the final phase of life. When I visited, she kept me busy. She wanted everything to be in order when she left and so we went through a lot of possessions and papers, discarding things as we went. "I can't take that with me to fairyland," she would say with a shrug.

On summer vacation in the Adirondacks –

A wee child in the woods –

 A fairy in fairyland –

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Weekend on Fire Island

A view of the harbor in Fire Island Pines from the Top of the Bay shop. (click on photos to enlarge)
TD and I had a wonderful summer weekend on Fire Island, courtesy of our friends David and Gary who invited us to their handsome and comfortable home. It was lovely to spend time with them and also to be on Fire Island again. Fire Island Pines is a beautiful spot where we have had many great times over the years. Four years ago, this blog was born in the Pines. And, most importantly, TD and I met there over Labor Day weekend...wait for it...27 years ago. Our anniversary is coming up. And so Fire Island Pines has a special place in our hearts.
On the ferry boat ride from Sayville to the Pines, this traveler was carrying a chic purple J. Anthony weekend bag which is instantly recognizable by its simple lines, timeless design, and leather placket for monogramming.

Note to self: look into a T. Anthony bag.
At David and Gary's house, we enjoyed their gracious and easy-going hospitality which included some fantastic meals prepared on the grill. David had the butcher butterfly an organic chicken, which he then marinaded and grilled – I think it was the best chicken I ever had.
The pool at their house is long and wide and encircled by a deck – perfect for hanging out in the water or at its edge.

Wispy clouds floated by overhead

while a butterfly enjoyed the nectar of the latana in the nearby flower box – do you see him in the center?

There are little shops to visit in the Pines like Top of the Bay where I took this picture overlooking the harbor below.

Down at the beach, the sound of the waves and the ever-changing ocean are so soothing.

The weather was spectacular – we lucked out with sunny, hot, crystal clear days.
On the beach there is a never-ending parade of strollers


and volley ball players.

The light at the end of August takes on a silvery hue so everything shimmers late in the day. It really is heaven on earth where one tries to linger a little longer.

At the end of the weekend we were back on the ferry headed to the main land and "the real world" as fashion designer Peter Som said to me en route.

Many thanks to our hosts David and Gary for a beautiful, relaxing weekend. It was a relief for me from a sadness – my mother was diagnosed a few years ago with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of the lungs which has no cure, and which is getting progressively worse for her. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, dear reader – my mother was been the biggest supporter of this blog and was the first to instill in me a love for beautiful things.