All posts by Mrs. Blandings

A Clear Sight Line

One of the projects on my list for the house is a mild-modify of the kitchen. In the interim, I had an outlet installed in the pantry so that I could move my appliances off the counter. In order to do this, I had to do a little tidying.

I’m horribly messy, which no one believes because all my mess, domestic and emotional, happens behind closed doors. Jumbles of bowls, piles of knives, tipped over water bottles. Consistently, the more space there is in a hidden nook, the more mess.  This was the case the with the pantry.

In order to move the appliances I had to remove a shelf, which demanded some shifting. Few tasks have provided as much insight into my psyche. There was a box of crackers that had been down to the last four for months, but there they were still nestled tightly in the waxed sleeve. A shelf down and to the right, laying on its side was a box of the “wrong” Goldfish (whole wheat, good heavens) that has been there, opened, since last summer. And on the bottom shelf lived a pile of small cans of wet dog food samples that were a promotion in Rosie and Dexter’s dry food for well over a year.

These tins, smaller than any can of tuna, would not provide my Boxers a nibble. Rosie is sweet and feminine, but even she would be insulted by this amuse bouche. But each week as I opened a 20 lb. bag of kibble, I would carefully place another tiny tin on the bottom shelf of the pantry.

There is a spring of anxiety that goes along with starting these house projects  – the third floor, the kitchen, the baths – that comes from a deep and hidden well. After her divorce, through both her actions and her words, my mother began tattooing a phrase on my brain. “There’s not enough.”

How can I throw away three crackers, when I may need them later? How can I donate the simple, short-sleeved sheath that has never fit quite right when there may be a day that I will need it and have nothing? How can I discard these tiny cans of dog food when they may someday be all I have to offer my forty pound beasts?

But I am beginning to remind myself that not only does this mantra of lack not serve me, but it is not true. I have always had enough and in most cases much more than enough. So with some guilt I threw away the crackers and bagged up the dog food for the next person I saw standing on a street corner with a sign and a pup and moved on.

The toaster oven and the coffee maker agree that the pantry is cozy, and the countertops are blissfully clean.

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It is Spring

I must admit, November knocked me for a loop. As my world and my perspective shifted it didn’t feel right to talk about paint and fabric. I pulled in. I note how often things get larger and smaller at the same time. As I grasped my lapels a little tighter and ducked my head into the wind, I did what I often do in times of worry. I invited friends to the house.

The downstairs and my bedroom and the two younger boys’ rooms feel settled. Nothing is ever finished as anyone who would stop here would know. But three years in I finally bought the headboard that I wanted and, in nothing less than design gods smiling, found a pair to the vintage bedside light for which I’d been searching for ages.

The middle’s room hasn’t changed much since we moved, though he is bigger and so his desk is bigger. (He knows himself in all things and refuses most of my overtures to “improve” his space.) The youngest, whose ankles showed as he put on khaki pants that fit two weeks ago, finally – finally – has a double bed. We twin no more.

So all the space that must work, does work. But the rooms that function less well need attention. Even though my oldest is only here a few months each year, having his room off of the dining room has never been ideal and not only because he is the messiest and sleeps the latest, but because for all creatures privacy is as important as society.

The bathrooms function, but elements of both still make me flinch a little as I snap on the light. And the unfinished attic, which may be the most charming space in the house, has gone unused for the last one hundred years. All that is about to change. Probably not quickly and certainly not easily. (What project ever is?) But in the end I hope to leave this space a little better than I found it.

I am less and less often on Facebook (so noisy) but am obsessed with Instagram. You can find pictures of this on-going project (and other nonsense) @patricia_mrsblandings

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Porter Teleo To Go

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If you’re a design enthusiast you’re probably familiar with Porter Teleo, the custom hand-painted wallpaper and fabric created by Kelly Porter and Bridgett Cochran.

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I’ve been aware of the firm since I first saw their work splashed across magazine spreads years ago. So many years ago I can’t count. I was talking with a local designer a few weeks ago and she said, “It’s weird how you don’t see their product here very often.”

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“Here” being Kansas City, because that is where the the pair is based. What is really weird is that we’ve never met. So I rang them up and dropped by their workshop to see where the magic happens.

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Splattered paint, clippings of color, drying samples, what’s not to love? Besides, both women are that crazy combination of passionate about what they do and not at all manic. If fact, they’re both lovely.

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We talked about work and kids and Kansas City and how their business has grown – not always as they expected, but grown nonetheless.

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The line, which was originally wallpaper, now includes fabrics and table linens. Some of the linens are “stock” and you can order straight from the site. But Porter Teleo has started a new concept. Pick your favorite Benjamin Moore paint color and they will whip up your napkins, placemats, runner or tablecloth in four weeks. Seems that’s just enough time to make your holiday table a total knock-out or finally please the hardest-to-please person on your list.

All you have to do is click here for custom and you’re on your way.

All images mine except Kintsugi Gold, top, which I swiped from the site.

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Changing the Subject

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A few months ago one of my dearest friends told me that a trip that she’d spent a lot of time planning, and was very much looking forward to, might not happen.  Her original travel companion was suddenly, and reasonably, unable to go.

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She’d planned to hike in three national parks and a few other areas of interest in Utah and Arizona.  She didn’t want to cancel, but was tentative about going alone.

“I could go with you,” I told her.  “If you want me.”

She paused.  “It’s not a matter of wanting to travel with you, but you weren’t exactly my go-to for hiking in Utah.”

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It’s understandable.  I say, now and again, that I look like a cupcake, but in reality I’m a badass.  Even some people who know this sometimes forget.  The thing is, I love to hike and I love Utah with an unreasonable devotion. Utah and I are like star-crossed lovers who fate keeps apart.  We have an undeniable connection, though it will never be permanent.

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So I went on my friend’s beautifully and amazingly well-planned trip and fell further in love with this part of the country and the souls it attracts.  We hiked Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Bryce was the hardest hiking, not entirely because we were ambitious and hiked too far late in the day.  We came to a point where we had to decide to go forward or turn around.  I was for forward.  Turning around required such steep climbs and I did not know if I could do it.  I knew that I did not want to.  But my friend evenly and wisely reasoned that it was getting dark.  In the desert.  And that turning around was harder, but faster.

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She was right, of course.

A couple of days later as we were on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, she led on a narrow trail.  “Do you want to be in front?” she asked.

“No.  You’re better on the up than I am.”

“Take shorter steps,” she replied without turning around.

“What?”

“Shorter steps.  It’s like being in low gear.”

On the next climb I shortened my stride.  It was the same incline, but easier.

There were remarkable discoveries on this trip. I am in awe of the National Park System, of which I will forever be a fan and cheerleader. I will go again and again to see this part of the country that left me saying over and over, “It’s just so beautiful,” because there were not words strong enough to convey my emotion. I will, hopefully, recognize when I’ve gone too far and be willing to go back rather than go on. And I will see the value of a shorter stride, no sign of weakness, but rather of knowledge and design.

Images, from top: Antelope Canyon, Arizona; Horseshoe Bend, Arizona; Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; next two, Zion National Park, where I would gladly spend a week;  the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which was remarkable and has 10% of the visitors that the South Rim has.  We hiked ten miles and saw, perhaps 20 people.  We stopped and ate at the Grand Canyon Lodge, which was amazing – and, now I see, reasonable. We stayed in Kanab, Utah, which was a complete and utter delight and I would recommend it without reservation.

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Catroux Out of the Bag

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A few years ago (five, it turns out – where does the time go?) there was a house in the Wall Street Journal. There was a house in the Wall Street Journal that made me lay the magazine in my lap and lean my head back, close my eyes and take a deep breath.

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It was so good and so purely personal and all I could think was, “I want to live exactly like that.” The distilled beauty and the unbelievable – so unbelievable that I can’t believe I’m using the design world’s most over-used word – chic was stunning. (Plus, I will never get over the floors.)

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I ripped the pages from their staples and put them in my files, because the best things from the rooms that live there sometimes happen in real life.

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In a way, happen they have. This house in France is the home of Betty Catroux and her husband and designer, Francois and I was lucky enough to have their book land on my doorstep. I was not surprised to find that there were many other homes in my files by Catroux that I’d collected long before I knew designers’ names and signatures.

The images in the book are remarkable and author, David Netto, narrates an engaging tale. Indeed, he’s written the text on the very stories in my files.  He knows things.

I am older, wiser and perhaps a bit less prone to gush, but do buy this book.  It will show you a thing or two about style and courage and balance.  And, really, who couldn’t use a little more of all three?

You can find Francois Catroux, with text by David Netto here.

All images copyright and courtesy of Rizzoli International Publications, New York.  

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