All posts by Mrs. Blandings

Changing the Subject


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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


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.


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.)


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.


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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Needing Some Restoration


A few weeks ago Restoration Hardware invited me to the opening of their new design gallery in Leawood, Kansas, which is an established, flourishing and still growing suburb of Kansas City.  Like most metropolitan areas, locals would distinguish the location to one another, but in the broad picture it’s “Kansas City.”


I was a little surprised I was invited. I assumed it was because I write for Spaces – Kansas City and am part of the design community here, but I received a follow-up email mentioning Mrs. Blandings and offering images if I wanted them.

I was surprised, because while I haven’t been horrific, I made clear in previous posts that I am not exactly a fan of the brand or its direction.

I attended the opening.  It was everything I expected.  I went back last weekend to take it in again.
rh-modern-bedroomIt’s quite large.  The gallery is 55,000 square feet.  It is three floors of entirely neutral interiors, divided into “rooms” that redundantly showcase the brand’s furniture, linens and lighting.  I mean, it’s 55,000 square feet.  There’s bound to be some reruns.

After seeing the space the first time I asked if I could talk to someone at the company regarding their choice of Kansas City for one of these flagship locations. Currently, similar showrooms are in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Tampa.  I also noted that it seemed more showroom than store and wanted to visit with someone about that.


This was the response:

RH Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman is the only spokesperson on behalf of the company.

You are welcome to reference any of his direct quotes in the press release to address the focus of the new RH galleries versus the previous store concept. Here are a few that might be of interest to this specific question:

· “Our goal is to blur the lines between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, physical and digital, creating spaces that are more home than store – spaces that inspire both ourselves and our clients to conceptualize a new and more contemporary way of living.” – Gary Friedman, RH Chairman & CEO.

· “With the introduction of RH Design Services, we have now moved the brand beyond creating and selling product to conceptualizing and selling spaces.” – Gary Friedman, RH Chairman & CEO

I don’t know exactly what this means.  But, I do need cabinet hardware.  When I visited the store the second time, I combed every inch. The cabinet hardware wasn’t on display.  The bathroom and curtain hardware is, so I was able to see the finishes.  There’s a nice display of their linens as well, which I like.

While there were four customers in the store on a Saturday afternoon, not one of the sales people asked if I needed help.  When I inquired if I could see – or buy – cabinet hardware, a very nice woman explained to me that they are a showroom. I could pay for fabric or rug samples, but nothing else was “cash and carry.” (The last are my words.)

I have something to say about this, but I think it’s all implied here.  What I can’t stop wondering is, what in the world are we going to do with that building when it’s over?

Images courtesy of Restoration Hardware.

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It’s Late


I walk my dogs, Rosie and Dexter, nearly every day. It’s rarely too hot, it’s sometimes too cold and none of us can stand to get wet, but besides that, we go. If we walk in the morning for our hearts and our waistlines, we travel faster and farther. If we walk at night, for our sanity alone, we stroll and stay closer to home.

For the first two years in this house I looped around and headed south on our walks. I don’t know why I started walking north about a year ago, but now we do. Over weeks and months, as I stretched the route a little further, a little further, I stumbled upon a short stretch of street I hadn’t been on before. There, tucked back from the road on a slight incline under very old trees are two large brick Georgian houses side by side. They are each other’s only neighbor.

Their structures are nearly identical. Symmetrical and brick, one is its original red while the other is painted white. They are like identical twins who always have different haircuts. Each thinks her choice is best and I cannot decide who’s right. Rosie and Dex are divided on the issue. I keep walking by these houses because I am not used to them yet. I like them, but they are still strange to me. I want to know their stories. They are indifferent to my needs.

Along the way of this pilgrimage is a house with a patio tucked in its belly. In the spring, just as we began to take the new route, a vine, thick and full, sprouted a canopy of leaves providing a cool, dense shade for the patio. We envied it, the dogs and I, and waited for the blooms. I expected the conical lavender cascade of wisteria, but it did not come.

As the weeks passed, I worried that the vine was ill. Though lush and green, it didn’t flower. Then, one early evening as we headed down the gentle slope of the hill, we could see the orange cones of the trumpet vine hanging thick, their ruffled edges folded back to make way for the slender bills of the hummingbirds. It was not what I had expected, but lovelier in its surprise. I thought I should have expected it, the hue of the blooms so right with the colors of the house. Each time I pass it, I marvel at the thickness of the trunk and wonder how long she has been there, spreading her branches to shade diners and readers and those who showed up only to loaf. Many years, surely. Good things take time.

For the last few weeks as we walk at dusk, we are serenaded by the cicadas. I am so used to their song by this time of year that sometimes I stop hearing their chirp. But in the evening as we go slow under the canopy of the oldest trees, it is as if we are walking through a church tower the ring of them is so loud.

If we are ambitious, or the dogs have been cooped up, or I am restless, we walk around a nearby park. The dogs want to be out and when we are walking they always want to go further. When we go through the park, I usually follow the path, a ribbon that winds round the edge. But last night we cut through the heart of it.

The dogs are creatures of habit. They are used to sidewalks and paths. As I steered them across the expanse of lawn, they both looked back over their shoulders, the whites of their eyes showing, to see if I was sure. The lawn rose and fell in gentle movements and eventually their gazes were steady and straight, unalarmed by the lack of direction. They trusted me and in this case they should have. I was sure of what I was doing. We needed to go our own way and once they found the ripeness of new smells, they agreed.

When we got home, they were as anxious to get in as they were to get out, which is always the case. As soon as their leashes were off, they collapsed on their sides, their tongues lopped flat on the cool of the floor. I know they were not thinking, as I imagine they do, of where we go and why. But I like to believe that they appreciate that our direction changes and trust my confidence as we go a different way.

I have a dozen reasons why I haven’t posted lately, though they are really just excuses.  Still, Mrs. Blandings turned nine last week and I didn’t want it to pass unrecognized.  Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

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As a friend dropped me at the house Saturday and looked over at the field of clover, he said, “Well, I know you don’t like yard work.” He knew it before the blooms began to pop a month ago and his observation carried no malice.  The advice that followed revealed he wanted to help.

There are other things that need attention. Three large ferns hang on my front porch. It’s remarkable how they change the space, creating a sense of privacy though they block the view neither in nor out. From the street they look lush and full, happy and healthy.  Closer, you can see that there are sickly, brown, dead fronds beneath the cascade of green. I’ve been watering, but it runs through, creating a waterfall that splashes onto the stone ledge.

I worry about them.  They are in my care, after all, though I know I am not a good caregiver for anything that does not have a heart.  For the last few days, I’ve taken advantage of the rain and left the ferns in the yard for a good long drink.

I remember my mother caring for ferns in the ’70s.  She had a copper sprayer that was about five inches tall.  Its body was low and wide, curving up to a round handle for her index finger and a pump at the top that she pressed with her thumb to deliver a quick but gentle mist to the fronds of the plants.  She had small shears, the red handles longer than the blades, that she used to clip the dead limbs before she returned them to her macrame holders. When I have the opportunity to take inspiration on nurturing from my mother, I do.

Today, I brought my kitchen shears out to the porch and gently lifted the healthy fronds and began to trim the mess underneath. It was worse than I thought. The green leaves had hidden more dried, spindly stalks than I realized.  The whole plant was soaked and as I parted the curtain of green to get to the worst of it, dead leaves stuck to my hands.  Once clipped, the dried fronds refused to loosen their grip and I had to untangle them as they clung to their cousins.

It was the sort of task that was tiresome long before it was finished.  Beyond that, now there is a mess on the front step that I still need to clean, though I’m hoping another shower will wash away the debris.  It was heartening, however, that as I hung the ferns back on their hooks, I could see the thin, spring green stalks with gentle curls on the ends beneath the mature leaves.  I’m hopeful that at some point they will unfurl.


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