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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Needing Some Restoration

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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.”

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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.
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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.

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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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