Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

9.30.2008

Chapman Radcliff Closing; More Doors Opening

If you've had your eye on something special at Chapman Radcliff -- Ruthie Sommers' chic shop located at 517 North LaCienega Blvd. in West Hollywood -- now is the time to visit. Through October 17 Ruthie is having a huge closing sale. She will continue to sell limited custom pieces through 1st Dibs.

You can inquire about furnishings and accessories at 310-659-8062.

But the good news is that when Ruthie's long-awaited book is finally released, it should be a refreshing departure from the usual decorating tome. It's going to be about living, doing, and even making mistakes.

"Do the work, make fun of yourself, do not take it too seriously and you will be successful!" she says.

"We are never really 'there.' We never design a room, a house and say, 'that is it!' Because we travel to exotic places and buy a trinket that can change a room, our tastes change, we grow, we age. There is amazing design to be learned and seen out there."

"My store was a challenge. A notch on my belt along with living in Paris and learning to surf. I feel I mastered the challenge of creating a profit in a retail store. Interior design was just a small percentage of it. What is next? This is no dress rehearsal. I want to paint, I want to volunteer in a hospital. I want to understand the history of the Middle East better. I want to see what it is like to just live! What else can I do to learn, grow, and be interesting?

I am painting again and still designing. I am obsessed with a different artist a week. I can not believe I get home at 7 p.m. and see my daughter and actually read -- not just look at -- World of Interiors. All of these things are 'doing.' So this is what the new book is about!"

Second image courtesy Domino.

9.29.2008

Second Ingredient: Sincerity

To illustrate Vogue's second essential ingredient found in a well-mannered, harmonious home -- sincerity -- I've chosen some preview images from Michael S. Smith Houses. For years the designer has been on my short list of most admired, and when I briefly met Smith in person he seemed relaxed with a great sense of humor.

This humor, and Smith's true voice, really come through in his latest book. I treasure my signed copy of his first title, but the second edition has a soulful edge. He spends more time exploring his passion for cross-cultural design and the style to which he has always been true -- a sexy, laid-back take on English country.

And although Smith is known for using high-end fabrics and fine antiques, his interiors are enduring, flexible, and never need to be "updated." So, in a way, there is something frugal and very real about them.

In a few weeks when I put together my list of book picks for holiday giving, I'll share more on Smith Houses. (You will flip for the bedrooms and textiles.) For now here are some guidelines for sincerity as described in Vogue's Book of Etiquette, 1969. To me they echo Smith's approach.

"Sincerity in a house is simply the look of belonging so completely to its occupants that they are familiar and at home with everything in it. It is a true sense of values and a lack of serious pretense in any form."

Specific examples:

The most beautiful antique is made to be used as well as admired.

Ornaments are collected because of genuine interest and delight rather than current popularity.

Vogue says avoid displaying photographs of famous people you barely know; no decorative name-dropping; nothing solely for impressing others.

Choose everyday china that is "as pretty as your purse permits..."

Have fresh flowers even when guests are not expected.

Reproductions are fine when they are honest and not trying too hard; avoid the grandiose.

In the right hands a little obvious pretense can be light-hearted and fun: the frankly fake fur rug, enormous paper flowers. But in the wrong hands these things can "cheapen a whole room."

A sincere interior comes in all styles -- modern, minimal, layered. The point is that it feels real for the occupant.

"A wise client will never allow a decorator to tempt her into choosing any object, color, or pattern that has no meaning for her, or into discarding any possession she loves."

Image three is from Elle Decor

All others are ©Michael S. Smith Houses by Michael Smith and Christine Pittel, Rizzoli New York, 2008.

The top two images, again from the book, are renderings by Mark Matusak.

9.28.2008

First Ingredient: Personal Warmth

It will probably be a week or so before my Cecil Beaton book arrives. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some more enduring advice from Vogue's Book of Etiquette, 1969. The tips are universal and relate mainly to the concept of home, rather than to decorating. And they apply whether you have endless resources or a tiny budget, so I think the guidance is timely.

Vogue says houses that are well-mannered and harmonious tend to put people at ease and evoke attractive behavior. Four essential ingredients contribute to this type of home: personal warmth, sincerity, understatement, and consideration. "None of these has to do with formality or lack of it. And none is a matter or money."

According to the book, "Personal warmth is the most appealing element in any room and nothing -- elegance, drama, enormous expenditure -- can take its place...it is the sum total of many things, all of which indicate that people really live in a room, and do not merely pass through it."

Vogue stresses the presence of truly meaningful objects over a contrived arrangement. The wildly different homes of Aerin Lauder and artist Konstantin Kakanias contain layers of meaning, and both exude warmth. Kakanias' bohemian digs are in the hills of Hollywood, carved out of part of actress Barbara Stanwyck's former playground. Lauder's inherited weekend home, in contrast, is stately. But each house is filled with mementos, not trendy accessories.

Signs of the artist's fascinating globe-trotting life are clear throughout his home, and Lauder keeps her grandmother's spirit completely alive rather than worry about being hip.

"Warmth is an inviting, disarming quality that must originate in a person's or family's sentiments and way of life." Examples include:

A collection of mediocre drawings by a long-dead relative grouped without apology over a pedigreed antique.

A worn Oriental rug that children and dogs cannot really harm.

Paperbacks on the shelves alongside the better-bound books.

Lamps in the best spot for reading as well as for decoration.

A pile-up of magazines rather than a careful arrangement of this month's issues.

A lovingly arranged vase of inexpensive flowers.

"Warmth can begin with sunny colors or big hospitable sofas and chairs, but in themselves these are not enough. A warm room suggests in all its parts that comfort, affection -- even personal whim -- are more important than effect." It makes people feel contented, "just as they do in the presence of a warm individual, and they tend to be their best selves because of it. "

Images two through seven show Kakanias' home, as seen in House & Garden
Images eight and nine show the Lauder residence, also House & Garden
The exterior of the Lauder home is from Vogue Living

9.25.2008

Beaton's Far East

I used to be the girl with many handbags, now I'm the woman with many first edition books. Brace yourselves for a possible flurry of posts related to Cecil Beaton's Far East because I just ordered a copy from Paris Hotel Boutique. Isn't the cover striking? I'm anxious to learn more about the pattern.

Most people are familiar with Beaton as the fashion photographer for Vogue, and as the costume and set designer for films such as My Fair Lady. But during World War II he was assigned by the British Ministry of Information to cover the war in the Middle and Far East. Apparently the assignment was a good idea; not only are Beaton's pictures of India, Burma, and China widely respected, his writing about the historic turning point is said to be superb. I'm also looking forward to seeing his sketches.

Mallory's Concept Board


This room will make household chores a treat rather than a drag. It's Mallory Mathison's chic take on a laundry room. We shouldn't be surprised, the Atlanta-based designer-to-watch and Domino 10 member has always been inspired by that other Southerner known for cozy glamour, Miles Redd.

If you plan to be in Atlanta in November, you will be able to see the room finished and decked out for the holidays. Mallory is currently hard at work on the laundry area, plus home office, to be unveiled as part of the 2008 Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Christmas House. The showhouse is a grand tradition here. It benefits the Alliance Children's Theatre and has been an annual happening for 34 years.

For now, Mallory is generously sharing a sneak peek. I've tried to post these images so that you can enlarge them and read the fun notes. But I will point out a few highlights: The color scheme is composed of soft yellows and charcoal with clear red accents. A small hit of animal-print adds drama (Scalamandre's "Tigre" silk- velvet, one of their oldest and most classic fabrics). Couture details come in with luxe trim for the window shades and red-monogrammed custom-made garment bags. And don't miss the red chinoiserie chandelier.

I think for a laundry room on a more modest scale, some elements to steal and reinterpret would be a Roman shade with grosgrain trim, some sort of great red light fixture, and pretty garment bags. But of course the whole point of a showhouse is to stretch the imagination. Everyone will take away her own ideas.

Closer to the event, I'll post reminders about Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Christmas House. Details about the other designers involved (big names) are on the magazine's site. If you want to mark your calendar the dates are Saturday, November 15 through Sunday, December 7. Location, 1620 Mt. Paran Road.

9.24.2008

The Hospitable Guest Room: Vogue's Guide Circa 1969


According to Vogue's Book of Etiquette and Good Manners, 1969, "A guest room should, above all, look welcoming. It should have that indefinable quality of aliveness, rather than emptiness. It should somehow suggest that it is accustomed to making visitors happy and is not a seldom-used 'spare' room. A hospitable guest room is essentially gay, and completely comfortable."

"A tall order, you may say, but you can have a lot of fun filling it." Like many decorators today, the book says go with the mad wallpaper or print fabric you love but could not abide for more than a month. Your temporary guests will enjoy the change of pace and sense of adventure.



Vogue prefers two twin beds in a guest room with a generously scaled night table between the two. Each bed should have one very soft pillow and one firm.

The lamp should be very easy to reach, and easy to read by without strain. If the floor is not carpeted, provide plush bedside rugs.

Don't forget the filled cigarette box, ashtrays and matches.

A clock with a quiet tick, a pin cushion and sewing kit, a well-lighted mirror for makeup and a full length mirror too.

A good, "brisk" book of fairly new short stories, a carafe of ice water with two glasses, and always fresh flowers.


Also include:

A chest of drawers with at least the top two largest drawers left empty.
Half a closet pole
A closet shelf
A pretty luggage rack -- not Hotel-ish
A couple of chairs, "Guests should not have to sit on the bed to read or file their nails."
A variety of wooden hangers
Shades, shutters or lined curtains that block out light
Biscuits or fruit "can be appreciated."
Facial tissues

And, Vogue says, if you live near the water or have a pool, tuck some whimsical straw hats or Japanese paper parasols in the closet.

I think I have a lot of work a head of me.

Credits:
Bedroom one, Chloe Warner
Bedroom two, Kate Spade
Bedroom three, Kate Spade's guest room courtesy M. A. Belle, via Town & Country

Bedroom four, (images four through six) Peter Dunham

Bedroom five via Domino

Clock is from High Street Market
Carafe and glasses are from Park Avenue Gifts

The Well-Mannered House

What do Asian-style parasols have to do with a well-mannered home? While I was without Internet access and unable to get much real work done, I tackled the domestic section in Vogue's Book of Etiquette and Good Manners, 1969. Most of the advice is incredibly timeless; some a bit dated. I'll be back shortly to explain.

Shown at top, a summer display in the windows of Mitzi & Romano on North Highland Avenue in Atlanta.

Textiles of the Week

This West African tie-dyed, chevron-patterned, zebra-striped cotton is believed to be from the Ivory Coast and was described by Hali, April 2006, as the most optically dramatic piece displayed several years ago at the San Francisco Tribal and Textile Art Show It reminds me of popular zebra-striped fabrics made today by so many fashionable fabric houses.

Louisiana-based textile collector, Rebecca Vizard, recently posted her 2008 assortment of small Christmas stockings. These are my go-to presents because they are the perfect size for holding gift certificates, large chocolate bars, secret messages for kids, and tiny gifts. Some people hang them on the tree. The stockings are about six to seven inches long and made from fragments of lush antique textiles in both brilliant hues and soft shades. Prices range from $35-$50.

Definition of the Day: Khotan Rugs

Without meaning to sound hoaky, I have to say some of the most beautiful things occur when different cultures come together. Khotan rugs are an example of this.

With a mix of Far Eastern and Central Asian design details, the rugs traditionally have been handwoven in Chinese Turkistan, in or near the old city of Khotan. Scholars may have different views on the fine points, but some core characteristics of these rugs often include: triple-medallion patterns with stylized vases; borders with a Chinese wave motif; and in some cases stylized chrysanthemums that almost "read" as a geometric.

Historically the dyes were quite vibrant; softer pastel shades -- so pleasing to some decorators -- are the result of fading.

Image at top is from a Dan Carithers-designed library courtesy Southern Accents;
Image two is a 1930s example courtesy Allan Arthur;
Image three is from Hali, May-June 2006
.

9.22.2008

Wall-to-Wall II

Wall-to-wall carpeting seems to elicit strong reactions. Especially when it is a deep, solid color. (Yes, there are certainly more pressing issues in the world today, but among some of my friends and relatives a minor debate has been launched by the wall-to-wall "Augusta National green" seen in the October Domino -- the Sommers nursery.)

Whether you think it is bold and graphic, or you just are not a fan, wall-to-wall was used in some of the most celebrated mid-century American homes. Above is a fun image I stumbled across: Babe Paley at Kiluna Farm as seen in The World in Vogue.

If the carpet here is not literally wall-to-wall, the impact of an almost completely covered floor is similar. What strikes me about the interior -- apart from masterpieces by Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne and Rousseau -- is the mix of colors. Softer versions of the primary hues red, blue and yellow are coexisting. And that tufted yellow sofa is a real standout. Paley's dress is by Charles James.

9.21.2008

Classic Godparent Presents


Today these little twins had their first official social engagement: a baptism followed by a special luncheon. This reminded me of my own godmother and the countless presents she's sent me over the years following that first christening gift, which was a porringer.

In the image above, it looks like Ruthie Sommers' daughter Eloise has a porringer in her nursery (Domino, October 2008). These modest shallow dishes with flat handles were originally used centuries ago by adults and children to hold porridge. (Pewter and silver versions were often saved and passed down in families.) In the modern era they continued to be used as practical bowls for babies, and in Vogue's Book of Etiquette from 1969, porringers are mentioned as a useful, enduring, and elegant baby present for godparents to give a godchild.

The idea is that the dishes are easily washable, can be engraved, and can be used throughout one's life to hold jewelry or odds and ends. Tiffany's sells the sleek style also shown above, and the 18th-century piece below is from the Brooklyn Museum.


Sippy cups are far more practical than traditional sterling baby cups, but I still think the silver versions are nice keepsakes that make pretty holders for Q-tips or flowers. Other timeless christening gift suggestions from my old Vogue book include forks and spoons, and combs and brushes. Lasting value is the key, so clothes are not traditional presents in this instance -- although fun for godmothers to give later. Piggy banks and classic picture frames can be more affordable, yet wonderful, options.


Anything that the recipient will hopefully save and use one day on a desk or shelf, or for her own children, is nice. The banks shown at the top of this post and below happen to be from Tiffany's. But consider browsing estate sales and antique shops for other similar items. The vintage and antique silver cups are from Beverly Bremer and start at around $100.


BTW: If you are a goddaughter and wondering what to give your godmother, Vogue 1969 recommended the following. I think they've stood the test of time.


Classic, good-looking stationery (G. Lalo.)
Books with general appeal
White guest towels
"Go-with-anything" home accessories such as a letter opener, simple highball glasses, a clear glass vase or a stamp box.


And finally, while we are vaguely on the subject of nurseries, look at this pretty turtle hardware from Anthropologie. I'm not usually the biggest fan of novelty knobs but these might be perfect on a simple two-door cabinet. Wonder if they could be made into magnets for an inspiration board?