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.