Monday, September 28, 2015

Branching Out

Last year, I noticed a trend that seems to have caught on with interior designers: That of using simple twigs, branches and greenery in place of elaborate floral decorations. While I certainly enjoy a beautiful bouquet of flowers, the idea of using nature in all its simplicity appeals to my personal aesthetic...and to my practical nature, as well!
What could be easier? Take a simple glass bottle or vase, add branches from a tree and et voila! 

Even though inexpensive fresh flowers are available year-round in local supermarkets, they seem to be the same chrysanthemums, baby's breath, alstroemeria, stock roses, etc. season in and season out. Good in a pinch, but not very exciting.

The vignette above is in the entry of West Hollywood designer Mark Egerstrom. The brilliant painting is by two artists....Brian Grosdidier and Jay Shinn. No amount of flowers in a vase could stand up to it, but a few simple Philodendrun leaves hold their own! (House Beautiful)

In the entry of designer Lindsey Bond's home, a strong painting by Meredith Pardue is framed by a glass vase holding a few branches. A good example of nature working with art and not distracting the eye from it.

The above example is from the Washington, D.C. home of one of my favorite designers, Darryl Carter. Mr. Carter is known for his restrained use of color and furnishings, preferring to use only the best items - but less of them - in a room. An exquisite19th century grand piano is back-dropped with a wall relief by Margaret Boozer. In keeping with Mr. Carter's aesthetic, he invariably chooses simple branches of greenery.

Here is another example of simplicity. Just a small branch....a twig, really....from a tree introduces an aspect of nature into a vignette featuring prints of ancient ruins.

In her Florida home, fashion designer Adrienne Vittadini used a classic white pitcher filled with tropical leaves to augment a bold print and leaf-green throw pillows .

Here L.A. interior designer Barbara Wisely used a pot of wild grasses in a corner of her guest room. Plant nurseries feature grasses almost year 'round, and they can bring an interesting feature to a room before being planted outside.

In the photograph above, taken from Bonnie Trust Dahan's wonderful book, "Living with the Seasons", a dried gourd is juxtaposed with a graphic print and a wood vase holding fern fronds.

In this photo (also from Ms. Dahan's book), grasses in a glass vase make a simple statement.


And, finally....a San Francisco designer decided to skip the twigs, grasses and branches and feature a limb from a River Birch!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Zen: A New/Old Way to Live

18th century Chinese household Buddha in niche above our fireplaceA 19th century bronze incense bowl  holds candles.
A great many books have been written throughout the centuries about living the Zen Way. While it's appeal has been greatest for those who also embrace Zen philosophy and spirituality, most Americans find that living a 'minimalist' life in a 'maximalist' society is difficult. Some would find it impossible!

Iris Apfel, the Style Icon and Advocate of More, in her New York living room.

However, that may be changing. The #1 book on the New York Times Non-Fiction list in 2014 was Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing". 

Having been an antiques dealer for more than 25 years, learning to 'let go' was a struggle. After all, there were all those wonderful old things that needed to be rescued, restored, loved, lived with. The moment of 'enlightenment' came when I retired from the trade last year. Slowly, all those lovely old things found a place in someone else's home. And - wonder of wonders! - I found I didn't miss them.

In fact, quite the opposite. I liked the empty spaces that those furnishings had once filled. There was a certain freedom in letting go of things and just keeping items that held  real meaning for us.

I suppose many people would find our house rather boring and empty. No color. No pattern. Too few accessories. And way too much beige! But, it's how we want to live now...with calmness and serenity.

 Living Room in Summer.
Front of living room with 18th century Chinese persimmon wood tea table used to hold lamp. We've had the table (one of a pair) for over 15 yrs. Found them in a corner of a small shop in Asheville, NC. A small collection of Song porcelain bowls rests on a 19th century Korean offering table.   
Living Room in Fall
The dreadful sofa will be replaced when Sweetie the Cat departs the earth. The end table is 19th century country French from Georgian Antiques in Atlanta. Lamp is a converted 19th century French pot.

My favorite chair in which to read. The large television is an absolute necessity. My husband and I are film freaks. And yes, it looms like the Elephant in the Room, but we no longer care about that.

Dining Room in Summer
A Brazilian fishing basket, one of three, hangs on wall. The long table is 19th century Chinese Elmwood bought almost 20 years ago. The large white vase is new and filled with twigs and branches that fell from a tree out front. White orchids from Trader Joe's are a constant during the summer.
The dining table is new but was custom made from reclaimed 19th century cherry wood from France, bought for our first house years ago. The chandelier is Italian and was a wedding gift.
 Dining Room in Early Fall
The bamboo runner has been replaced with a dark-apricot silk runner from Pottery Barn. The only decoration needed: A big pot of Mums from Home Depot.

Dining Room in Fall

 We've had the slipper chairs for almost 20 years, bought at Storehouse. Curtains are inexpensive silk panels. I fill the round basket with plants or vegetables depending on what's on hand.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Food Blanc et Noir

One of my favourite blog sites to visit periodically is that of  fashion designer, gardener, photographer and 'hostess extraordinaire', Carolyne Roehm. Because my husband and I were planning to spend a week at Kiawah Island, I checked Ms. Roehm's blog for the latest happenings in Charleston.

As her readers know, Carolyne took on a major renovation project in 2012 - that of restoring "Chisholm House" a circa 1860s house in Charleston's Historic District. To the delight of old house lovers everywhere, she photographed each step of the renovation. The transformation of this house from 'ugly duckling to beautiful swan' is a fascinating piece of history, as well as a lesson in determination overcoming dry rot, crumbling foundations, and unpleasant surprises lurking behind plaster walls!

The house after restoration.

Since Carolyne had decorated the house in a classical black and white scheme, she hosted a dinner party designed around a black and white theme with the main course featuring black and white bow-tie pasta. Perfect to feature on my own little blog! What's more, Ms. Roehm also included the source: Southern Seasons in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.


The second day of our vacation on Kiawah, we headed back onto the mainland to Mt. Pleasant. It was worth the 45 minute drive! As it turns out, Southern Seasons is a gourmet foodies paradise, filled with familiar names, along with many I had never heard of. To my husband's delight, they also offer a wide array of imported chocolates from small companies not found at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc. (To his added delight, they had lots of samples!)

Black and white bow-tie pasta from Southern Seasons

With Carolyne's color theme as an inspiration for my own little supper party planned for mid-September, I searched the Internet for more ideas and discovered several food gurus (Ina Garten, among them) had also used the black and white theme. Here are a few of my favorite designs:




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