Friday, December 22, 2017

At Home for the Holidays

TD and I recently put up our Christmas tree, which we always enjoy during the holiday season. My sister Cynthia and sister-in-law Barb are coming from Colorado and we'll be together with my two brothers and their families, which will be great. This will be our first Christmas without our parents; my father passed away in April and my mother passed away five and a half years ago so this will be a first for us.
Getting the tree is a project! The calm before the Christmas tree storm:

We used to live on Jane Street, and we have been getting our trees for thirty (!!) years from Billy Romp and his family who come down from Vermont and set up shop in the month of December at the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue.

We love to see Billy each year. We pick out a tree and he straps it onto a cart that is attached to a bike and he walks with us to our apartment. We set up the tree and have a glass of red wine and catch up on the year.
Soon Billy is on his way and we get to work -- the lights, the ornaments, the star on the top, the cloth  below.
And voila –

I like how the tree adds a colorful glow to the room. Everything on the tree is personal to us. We have collected a lot of antique ornaments –

And a lot are handmade. The ornament in the middle that says "Greetings" was one of the last things that my mother made and sent us. She liked to create cards. TD cut out the paper angel on the left. 

In the front hall I put some evergreens in a glass vase and hung a few ornaments on the sprigs –

Our Christmas decorations include this reindeer on the living room fireplace mantle who has a pretty wreath around his neck. I found the reindeer at ABC Carpet and Home –

The fireplace doesn't work so we put a big candle in it for a warm glow –

I'm so grateful to be seeing my siblings and extended family this holiday season. I hope that your holidays have a warm glow too dear reader and I wish you all the very best for the new year ahead.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Elegant World of Louis Vuitton and the Invention of Travel

A big, beautiful exhibition created by Louis Vuitton is now open downtown inside the American Stock Exchange Building at 86 Trinity Place until January 7th. Called "Volez, Voguez, Voyagez" ("to fly, to sail, to travel"), the exhibition celebrates the history of the French luxury heritage brand and the invention of travel at the turn of the last century. Louis Vuitton has built inside the Stock Exchange a two floor museum with 16 rooms. It's quite a dazzling feat and I highly recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in luxury brands and beautiful things and the history of fashion. I am helping out at Louis Vuitton as a docent giving tours through this show. Admission is free and you can find out how to reserve tickets and sign up for a tour here.

Mr. Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in a small village in eastern France. Both of his parents died, and when he was 14, he decided to walk to Paris. Ambitious boy. The 300 mile journey took him two years, and when he arrived in Paris, he got a job in a wood shop learning how to craft packing boxes and crates. In 1854, at the age of 33, he opened his own house, creating modern trunks for the elite. Indeed, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napolean III was a client. After Louis Vuitton died, his son George and then his grandson Gaston increased the business and the success of the house. Today, 163 years after it was founded, Louis Vuitton is the number one ranked luxury brand in the world.
Curated by Olivier Saillard, each room of the exhibition has a theme. This one below features travel on the high seas –

In the aviation room, a life size airplane soars overhead –

One room with a giant Murano glass chandelier and tented ceiling celebrates the stars of Hollywood who traveled with Louis Vuitton luggage –

A Lartigue photograph captures the chic style of the time –

The trunk of French couturier Paul Poiret, who was the subject of a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is laid carefully with his painter's jacket –

Perhaps my favorite piece is tucked in a corner - it is the trunk of General Douglas MacArthur with his monogram on the top and a handsome stripe down the side –

There is a lot to see here and the show is very popular. I recommend visiting on a weekday, or if you come on a weekend day, come early before the line gets long. And enjoy this elegant journey.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Meet Miguel Flores-Vianna and the Haute Bohemians

With photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna at his jam-packed book signing party at Creel and Gow.
The fall season has brought the most wonderful new book from Vendome Press by my friend photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna called Haute Bohemians

In the book, which begins with a foreward by Architectural Digest Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley, Miguel presents 23 of his favorite homes from around the world that he has photographed. The theme that runs through them all is their very eclectic and personal decorating style, which the homeowners have uniquely created. The book is peopled with artists and writers and collectors who have produced their interiors to perfectly reflect themselves with a profusion of flowers, art, books, and antiques. All of that speaks to me.

Miguel was an early supporter of this blog, which I really appreciated. The Argentine-born journalist was a magazine editor at Town & Country, House Beautiful and Veranda before he became a photographer ten years ago. His partner is European so Miguel now lives in London, but he returned to New York City for a book signing last week, which was hosted by Amy Astley at the chic Upper East Side shop Creel and Gow where proprietor Jamie Creel greeted guests. On a hot, steamy September night last week, a crush of editors and decorators crowded in to congratulate the author.

Later, Miguel told me that his favorite things to do are travel and read. "Now I like to see nature more and more rather than historical monuments. I like experiencing other cultures, that is my idea of luxury - to be in a country where I don't understand a word they are saying and to somehow find my way."  He hopes his book inspires readers. "We live in a world that changes all the time, too fast for my taste, and I love that all these characters stick to what moves them, what touches them, and that is why they are able to live in such soulful places."

The walls and headboard of Nathalie Farman-Farma's London bedroom are covered with the same romantic fabric –

Marion McEvoy's dining room is perched above the banks of the Hudson River –

Carolina Irving's dining room in Paris doubles as a library –

Perhaps my favorite is the Canary Islands home of Min Hogg, the renowned founding editor of The World of Interiors. Its graceful simplicity is so serene –

"All the houses in these pages are poetry," Miguel observes in his evocative book. And he is right. English interior designer Robert Kime once said, “A room should represent the absent owner, its arrangement is the owner's memory.” With his book, Miguel captures those memories.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

October Architectural Digest

I'm delighted to have written a piece for the beautiful October issue of Architectural Digest, and you might enjoy picking up a copy! For this assignment, the magazine asked me to write about the talented artist Marc Hundley who had designed a furniture collection inspired by an important beach house owned by his friend Justinian Kfoury in the community of Water Island on Fire Island. The beach house was originally owned by Morris Golde, who hosted an array of writer and artist friends at his island home including Edward Albee, W. H. Auden, Ned Rorem and Frank O'Hara. One day in June I took the train out to Sayville, Long Island, and then a bus to the ferry dock where Marc Hundley picked me up in a motor boat and we sped across the Great South Bay to Water Island where I visited the house and viewed Marc's beautiful handmade furniture. It was a lovely day. The October issue is filled with stylish stories including a feature on the gorgeous Southampton home of fashion designer Tory Burch who is pictured on the cover looking super-glamorous atop a ladder trimming her hedgerow. Check out the October issue!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Summer Trip to Cape May, New Jersey

Last week TD and I had a delightful trip to Cape May, New Jersey, which is at the southern end of the state and definitely worth a visit. First we stopped in Ocean City, New Jersey, which we always enjoy, and then drove further on down to Cape May, which we had not been to before. The town was a very popular seaside resort in the nineteenth century, but in 1878 a devastating fire that lasted five days destroyed 30 blocks at its center. When the homes were rebuilt, they were designed in the style of the day - Victorian. In 1976 the entire city of Cape May was declared an historic district and so today visitors stroll along block after block of beautiful Victorian houses painted and trimmed in a range of charming colors. Picket fences run along the sidewalks, and the streets are draped with tall shade trees. "I feel like I'm in Meet Me in St. Louis," said TD.

Luckily he had found a room in a charming B and B called Twin Gables where we unloaded our bags. The house is owned by the friendly and warm innkeeper Regina, who reminded me a little of my mother. Coincidentally, the B and B turned out to be around the corner from the home of TD's distant cousin Mary Ellen, who arrived at cocktail hour on the porch with her husband Joe. After a glass of wine, they took us on a quick walking tour of Cape May. Street after street of the prettiest houses and inns stretched out before us. The town reminded me of Cooperstown, New York, which is also an historic district, and of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
Red, white and blue –

A cool porch under shade trees –

I liked this handsome chocolate brown Cape Cod house with turquoise blue trim –

A great spot in Cape May is the Congress Hall hotel. The large resort hotel was rebuilt in brick after the big fire in the nineteenth century. It was fully restored in 2002, and now it's a beautiful destination with enticing restaurants and bars. The striking main thoroughfare at Congress Hall features American flags and Victorian light fixtures – 

The hotel lobby was decorated dramatically with green walls plus red and black accents. Someone who knew what they were doing did a good job designing this hotel –

One night we ate outdoors at an excellent Mexican restaurant called La Dona. Many of the restaurants are BYOB so we picked up a small bottle of tequila and the restaurant made the most delicious orange, lemon and lime margaritas. The best I have had! The food was also excellent. Later, we walked to the big, old Chalfonte Hotel, which was built in 1876.

Simple and authentic, the rambling place has an old-school charm. There's a little bar on the side, and we sat and enjoyed a night cap on the long, wide porch, like that at the Sharon Spring Hotel in upstate New York. Families and friends who seemed to be there on an extended holiday pulled up rocking chairs and talked in intimate groups.
One day it rained, not a beach day alas, but afterwards a rainbow shone bright.

A fitting end to a fun adventure in Cape May –

Monday, July 31, 2017

Henry James and Friends at the Morgan Library

An Interior in Venice (The Curtis Family) by John Singer Sargent, 1898
The Morgan Library and Museum is one of my favorite places in New York, and the arts at the turn of the last century is an era I love so I has very happy to visit a new exhibit at the Morgan called Henry James and American Painting. The great American writer Henry James, who lived mostly in London and Venice, was fascinated by artists and sculptors; in fact earlier in his career he had dabbled in painting and went to law school before he became a writer.
While he worked as a writer, he remained influenced by artists, and painted his scenes with words instead of brushstrokes. The exhibition at the Morgan explores James' friendships with artists and how they affected him. The show is co-curated by Irish author Colm Toibin, who wrote one of my very favorite books, the novel The Master, which is based on Henry James. Displayed in one room at the Morgan, the exhibit includes approximately fifty objects including paintings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures and manuscripts by artists John La Farge, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and more.

Sargent painted this 1913 portrait of James upon the occasion of the writer's 70th birthday –

I also liked this portrait of James in a snappy polka dot bow tie by Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand from 1900 –

Delightfully, James and Sargent were close friends. The writer and the artist shared much in common too; both were born in the United States and lived in Europe, captured the wealthy society of the day elegantly and deliciously in their respective media, and hid their homosexuality.

The connection between James and Sargent is evident in the gorgeous painting pictured at the top of this post. Sargent painted his cousin Daniel Sargent Curtis and his wife at home in Venice in the Palazzo Barbero where James was a guest. In fact, James wrote some of The Aspern Papers at a desk that is still housed in the palazzo today. James was a big fan of the palazzo's stunning Baroque interior and included a description of the salon in his novel The Wings of the Dove. The writer loved Sargent's romantic portrait of the Curtises, and wrote that he "absolutely and without reserve adored it." Alas, this gorgeous painting was not successful at the time. Mrs. Curtis felt it made her look too old and that her son was posed too casually so she did not accept the gift of the painting from the Sargent.
Can you imagine?
This and more stories abound in this entertaining exhibition. For a gentle trip back in time, visit the James exhibit at the Morgan Library, through September 10th.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Design Plus Art at the Decoration & Design Building

Artist Cy Twombly's apartment in Rome photograhed by Horst in 1966 – 
Art and design – two of my favorite subjects! A couple of weeks ago I attended Spring Market Day at the Decorating & Design Building here in New York City. The handsome D & D Building on Third Avenue houses over 130 manufacturers' showrooms, which are open to-the-trade and welcome design industry professionals from around the world. The day was called Art X Design, and was dedicated to exploring how art and design work together in interiors. Showrooms were open to visitors, plus there were three keynote speaker panels, 14 in-showroom programs, three cocktail receptions, and more.

I started the morning with a panel on "How Art of the 20th Century Shapes Design" which was moderated by Town & Country Editor in Chief Stellene Volandes and included artist Sophie Matisse, who is the great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse; interior designer Stephen Sills (pictured below); and Molly Ott-Amber, Senior Vice President at Sotheby's. In discussing how to decorate with art, Sills warned, "Don't do color schemes or rooms around art, ever." The designer said he is inspired by old photographs of artists' studios. "Great artists were great decorators and very conscious of their environment," he noted, citing Matisse, Picasso and Cy Twombly (pictured above) as favorite examples.
With the American interior designer Stephen Sills at the D & D Building –

Next I headed to "Art Smart: A Primer for Designers" with moderator Galerie magazine editor-at-large Margaret Russell and designers Jamie Drake and Robert Stilin and art advisor Lorinda Ash. The panel discussed favorite art galleries to visit in New York which include Gagosian, Marianne Boesky, Chiem Read, Pace and 11 Rivington. Later I hit "The Curatorial Designer: Interiors for Contemporary Art Collectors" moderated by NYC&G Editor in Chief Kendell Cronstrom with author Alisa Carroll, designers Gary Hutton and Amy Lau, and art advisor Blair Clarke. "A job is not finished until there is art on the walls," observed Amy Lau.

The art world can be intimidating place for buyers but throughout the day, discussions offered advice on navigating that world and how to best incorporate art into interior design. "The purpose was to provide a service to the design community and give them access to a variety of vetted experts including art advisors, art galleries, and auction houses," said Liz Nightingale, Vice President, Director of Marketing at the D & D Building, who organized the chockful event. After a glass of wine at one of the cocktail parties, my head was swimming with all of the conversations of the day and the power of art to enhance and inspire. As Margaret Russell said during her panel, "Art elevates everything."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rei Kawakubo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

I am a little behind since my father passed away but earlier last month I did attend a preview for the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçon: Art of the In-Between." Rei Kawakubo is of course the diminutive, avant-garde Japanese fashion designer who has been creating her artistic collections for her Comme des Garçon label since 1969. Kawakubo has been very influential in the world of fashion; you can see her effect on the work of designers like John Galliano and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. This is only the second retrospective at the Met for a living fashion designer; the first was for Yves Saint Laurent, which Diana Vreeland presented in 1983.

In the opening remarks at the preview, the curator Andrew Bolton noted that Kawakubo "blurs the distinction between art and fashion with designs that look like sculpture." Indeed, many of the garments on display defy the traditional norms of clothing with shapes and volumes that don't follow the lines of the body at all but create their own unique silhouette. I tended to like the more classic shapes like the red garments above and these dresses with a lace bodice –

The installation itself was very interesting too. I've never seen anything like it at the Met. Displaying about 150 garments, it's a white maze of different shaped modules that was designed by Kawakubo and Bolton together. Costume shows typically focus spotlights on individual pieces but this exhibition features 150 fluorescent lights overhead so it feels like you're in a very bright modern art gallery –

An additional treat was hearing Caroline Kennedy speak at the preview as she does not often appear in public in New York. Caroline Kennedy was the United States Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration and so she talked about her friend Rei Kawakubo – 

For an exploration of clothing as abstract modern art, go see the new Costume Institute show at the Met, through September 5th. Up now also at the museum, which I plan to see, is an exhibition of photographs by the great master Irving Penn.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Musical Week in New York in Three Acts

Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater. This photo from The New York Times.
Before the sad event described in my previous post, TD and I had a wonderful week in New York when we attended three delightful musical events within seven days.
One: First up was the Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater, which was a joy. This musical by genius Stephen Sondheim is about Impressionist painter George Seurat and how he produced his pointillist masterpiece painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which can now be found at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a pleasure it would be to see this painting in person –

When I met TD...that would be 32 years ago...he took me promptly to see Sunday in the Park on Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. This new production (which has now completed its run) featured movie star Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford.
Here is the charming cast collecting money for Equity Fights AIDS after the show –

Jake Gyllenhaal is a wonderful actor, and he brought the rough personality of Seurat alive. And I was particularly taken with Annaleigh Ashford who I thought was sexier and more lively than Bernadette Peters. The show is really about the commitment to creating art and the price it can take on one's personal life. It's breathtaking visually and the music is gorgeous. This is not a new notion, but in creating a show about making art, Stephen Sondheim himself produced a masterpiece.

Two: Later that weekend, we headed up to East 128th Street in Harlem to a gala at the Music and Mentoring House hosted by acclaimed opera soprano Laura Flanigan. Laura lives in the oldest nineteenth-century wood frame house in Harlem and it's a beauty –

In the house, Laura offers educational programs for singers, mentoring for artists, professional introductions, and a place for artists to train for auditions. At the fundraising gala on a bright spring day, guests sat in the living room as student artists performed to a piano accompanist while sun streamed in through the tall windows of the old house. Laura also offers Saturday Soirees in her garden where guests can meet and hear the students.
Afterwards we all walked to a nearby Italian restaurant in Harlem called Barawine for food, wine and more music. On the way, our friend Philip pointed out the gigantic home where actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband and children live. As if on cue, Neil Patrick Harris passed us on the sidewalk with a big smile.
At the restaurant, as we ate pasta and salad and sipped red wine, Laura Flanigan herself sang some songs by Rufus Wainwright –

Outside, the sun cast its last rays on Harlem's beautiful brownstone row houses. It really was a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Three: The following week we were invited to a gala for the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown which is one of our favorite destinations upstate. This annual gala in New York City raises money for the Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists and Summer Internship Programs. Like Lauren Flanigan's Music and Mentoring House, this program helps young artists in opera get to the next stage in their careers. This summer, the 110 Glimmerglass apprenticeships will offer emerging artists, craftspeople, production and artistic personnel valuable working experience and guidance.
The event, which we have attended before, is held at the gorgeous Edwardian-style Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue, which was completed in 1894. After cocktails in the Grand Hall –

guests progressed into the red and gold gilded salon room to hear performances by some of the young talents who will be singing in Cooperstown this summer
The Festival's dynamic Artistic and General Director Francesca  Zambello welcomed the crowd –

(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
Charismatic director and choreographer Paige Hernandez performed a bit of her Stomping Ground, a Glimmerglass-commissioned hip-hopera that will have its world premier at this summer's Festival –

(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
Youth Opera Artists Richard Pittsinger and the Sparklers - that is Emma Hullar, Catie LeCours and Aria Maholchic - sang some of Wilde Tales, which weaves together fairy tales by Oscar Wilde and will have its debut in the barn theater at Glimmerglass this summer – 

(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
It's a great treat to sit in the intimate salon and listen to the artists sing. Several more performances promised an exciting season ahead. If you are near Cooperstown this summer, check out Glimmerglass!