Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adler's Orders

Jonathan Adler's little book "On Happy Chic - Colours" took me about 20 minutes to get through but what a 20 minutes. In that time, I was ordered to do the following things:

-Dress up as a leprechaun next Halloween
-Tie a yellow ribbon around my neck to a picnic
-Fill blue enamel bowls with cobalt M&Ms
-Buy vintage Courrèges scarves on eBay and make them into pillows
-Take a macramé class
-Leave metal flea-market finds on the roof for six months and then spray them with Krylon
-Gold-leaf the entryway
-Frame the Andy Warhol Velvet Underground album cover (the one with the banana) and hang it above the toilet

It's the decorating book for a generation with the attention span of about half a second, but I LOVED it.
And there was a whole page dedicated to Capri, my Island.

This was a well-timed, much-needed reminder that design is about making people happy after all, and it shouldn't ever get too stuffy and serious.  Thank you Dr. Adler.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Cheer

Post-holiday cheer includes:

Using up leftover wine with this absolutely fool-proof recipe.

Pour red wine into a large saucepan with brown sugar, slices of lemon, a whole clove (or 4 if you're using a whole bottle of wine) and a cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes.  Then add some brandy.  Serve with a slice of lemon in a pretty teacup.
Instant good cheer, especially if you're adding a lot of brandy.

Next, Indigo's annual 30% off all hardcover books sale, where I purchased this (among other things):

Which I am sitting here reading, while enjoying the festive greenery of my much-loved boxwood topiary from Restoration Hardware (hooray for the staff discount and 20% off everything sale):

While listening to Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky

And enjoying some much-appreciated time off.

PS. Michael S. Smith's books are really very good, some of the best decorating books out there, I think.  If only he would hire me as his Paris attaché.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Gift Ever.

My one true love gave me the most beautiful present.  This:

Which is a fragrance I've coveted for years without buying because it is a) prohibitively expensive and b) extremely madame, chic and sophisticated, so sophisticated that I've always thought I must buy a bottle now before it's reformulated and save it for when I'm 50 and very very chic and dignified.  It is unbelievably wonderful and the nicest gift I've ever gotten.

Luca Turin on Cuir de Russie:

"Leather notes in perfumery are due chiefly to two raw materials, smoky rectified birch tar and inky isoquinolines, the first natural and the second synthetic.  They are not necessarily used together, and Cuir de Russie includes only the former.  Rectified is a polite word for "cooked", and to this day in places such as Russia and Canada where birch is abundant, the sap is cooked in large pans until it turns black and fragrant.  The results are pretty variable, but always deliciously complex: a lot of chemistry happens in a few minutes when things roast.  Sadly, the use of birch tar is now restricted by the European Union, and I was afraid of what this would do to Cuir de Russie.  The answer is not much.  This superb fragrance still smells exactly as it should: to me, just like the inside of my stepfather's 1954 Bentley Type R, in the back of which I sat alone as a child, toying with the mahogany fold-out table on the seat backs.  What is remarkable is that this rich leather effect is achieved by mixing things that have nothing to do with tanned animal skins: ylang, jasmine, iris, all of which can be perceived in the top notes.  There have been many other fragrances called Cuir de Russie, every one either too sweet or too smoky.  This one is the real deal, an undamaged monument of classical perfumery, and the purest emanation of luxury ever captured in a bottle."

From Perfumes the Guide
It's wonderful while wearing this to think about the actual relationship of Coco Chanel (and Ernest Beaux, Russian-born perfumer, creator of both No.5 and Cuir de Russie) to Russia, to Russian emigrés, to leather trunks, and it gives the fragrance another dimension.  It gives it layers and layers of story and meaning and beauty all piled up on top of this magnificent scent.  Because fragrance is never just molecules entering your nose.  It's also narrative, memory, imagination, dreams.

There's a fabulous article on Cuir de Russie written by Denyse Beaulieu for her blog "Grain de Musc" here.


I'm a huge fan of this corner of a room from MarieClaire Italy. I think here is a perfect tension between glamour and earthiness, good contrast in values and texture, mastery of scale and proportion.  Relationships exist between all the elements (for example the shape of the pendant echoes the shape of the stand for the bust etc), the hanging panels are amazing.  Very handsome. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fashion Illustration

Being somewhat early for work the other day, I stepped into the bookstore next door and made the acquantaince of this book:

which opened to me the magical world of fashion illustration.  This discovery isn't of the same magnitude as say my accidental discovery of Perfumes The Guide, but comes close.

Eric for Mainbocher, 1939

 My favourite illustrator hands down is René Gruau who started illustrating in the 1930s and published work into the 1980s.  That is an incredible amount of fashion to have witnessed.

For Worth, 1945

For Dior, 1950

For Balenciaga, 1946

For Dior fragrance, 1972


It's a sunny winter morning, the coffee is steaming and with end-of-term giddiness in my heart, I skip over to 1st Dibs to see what treasures I can find... Delicious morning...

First up is this stunner:

Anglo-Indian miniature ivory cabinet, c.1800

Swedish ceramic vases by Stalhane and Nylund



Baloon light fixture, Holland, 1930s

Indian Agora

Carl Malmsten burled veneer sofa with ivory inlay, Sweden, 20thc.

Anglo-Indian carved mahogany palace bed

English Regency rosewood jewelry box with brass banding

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ont., Maritimes hit by wild weather

According to the CBC, "Military helicopters are being used to help rescue about 300 drivers stranded by blowing snow in southwestern Ontario, while wind and rain pound parts of Atlantic Canada."
I wish military helicopters had come swooping down on Hwy 7 this afternoon and rescued me from the evils of the 191 "Rocket" highway bus.  Besides, it sounds kind of like a good time: dashing (I'm extrapolating) military personnel airlifting you to safety in helicopters while puffs of snow swirl around, turning the city into a giant, magical snowglobe...

Monday, December 13, 2010


It's so cold out.  So very, very cold.  And all I can think of is having a long soak in a hot tub. Which makes me look forward to having a real bathroom and not the rental-in-the-attic-temporary-horrid-drywall-without-tape-even-hovel, but something more along these lines:

Living Etc

Yes, especially like this. I don't know where I got this image.  If anyone knows...

Photo: Gentl & Hyers

Castle Gibson Locations

Photo: Gentl & Hyers

Sarah Maingot Photography

Come to think of it, all you need is to light a few candles, turn out the lights, drop in the fancy bath salts, and voila! Instant luxurious retreat.  Because then you can't even SEE the cracks in the drywall can you?
Or the el-cheapo crooked tiles...  Luxury doesn't have to cost very much, or involve pristine tilework.

Brent Comber

Brent Comber is a Canadian designer from "Out West" and his wood furniture and art/objects are so lovely!  Very Canadian.

China Grove: "I wanted to create objects that had the look of precious porcelain figurines and present them in an outdoor space that would serve as a natural display cabinet. With this in mind, I treated nine cedar flares—stumps that have been pulled from the ground—with a substance that gave them a china-like appearance."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lumière Brothers, the beginnings of film and so much else

These early films by Auguste and Louis Lumière are so beautiful. But I can't help feeling like "eeep, they were on the brink, on the very edge of something; they embraced modernity with so much hope, and look what has happened. Look how the countryside was emptied. Look what the factories did, what they became, how they changed the course of human interaction and of human interaction with the earth."  Eeep. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Art Nouveau = stretching

Art Nouveau is so inspiring to me - I do think it really was NEW.  The shapes and lines are stretched and pulled and there is a great sense of play & optimism......  Optimism in design makes me giddy.  Victor Horta's whiplashes make me giddy.  Henry Van de Velde, Alphonse Mucha .... words fail.

Emile Gallé


Emile Gallé

Hector Guimard



Otto Eckmann

THE GREAT MASTER: Henry Van de Velde
This desk looks as though someone heated it up til it was melty like taffy and then pulled on it.
C'est merveilleux!

Van de Velde

Van de Velde

Van de Velde

Van de Velde

Van de Velde

Victor Horta

Victor Horta

Victor Horta

Otto Eckmann
Eugène Gaillard

Eugène Gaillard cabinet details

Alphonse Mucha


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