Tag Archives: design books

Blame it on Mexico


I’m just back from picking up the oldest, who recently finished his freshman year in college.  He’s studying architecture, but from the state of his room, not overly concerned with preservation of space. We took a bit of a boondoggle to Fallingwater and Monticello on the way home, which were not on the way home in the least, but sometimes I get an idea that I can’t quite let go.

The idea of this trip had been percolating for a while, though it came together about two weeks before I picked him up.  All travel involves inconvenience. It is the measure of the joy that it brings that enables us to consider it worth it or not.  This was worth it.

More on that later, but one of the major upshots of this trip was, “Travel more.  Plan a little, then go.” Honestly, this is the upshot of nearly every trip I take, but then I get distracted by routine.

I came home to a mostly clean house with Casa Mexico waiting for me on the dining room table.  Hot climates with spicy, messy food and cool tile floors always appeal. Being captured by the incredibly talented Annie Kelly and Tim Street-Porter, made the homes of artists, designers, architects and aesthetes more appealing, if that is at all possible.

The images and stories here made me wonder, “What the heck am I doing?” Living passionately is its own reward.  We are so lucky to get a glimpse of these fifteen homes and their owners here.


Casa Mexico: At Home in Merida and the Yucatan by Annie Kelly, Rizzoli, New York, 2016.  Images by Tim Street-Porter.

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The Perfect Place

Mary Randolph Carter and I sort of met on the internet. I’d received a review copy of her book, A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life, loved it and wrote about it.  She wrote me back.

We’ve exchanged a few emails since then.  It was in an email that I asked her to pass along a compliment to Joan Osofsky for whom Carter had written the forward for You Should Love Where You Live.  I told Carter that her short piece of writing at the beginning of this very good book made me think that if circumstances were different that she and I would be friends.

She emailed me back and said, “The circumstances are right and we are friends.” So I should not have been surprised when I asked her recently if she wanted to have coffee when I was in New York and she emailed back, “Why don’t we have coffee at my apartment?”
Should not have been surprised because no one feels more than I do that there is often an immediate connection between people and sometimes things.  Should not have been surprised when she greeted me with a hug and invited me to sit at her kitchen table and have a bagel with her husband, Howard.  

Should not have been surprised as this is exactly how I would have welcomed her here given the chance.  And just as she did, I would walk her around the house and show her all the crazy things that make sense to nearly no one else that she would surely understand.

I know that she would, as that is what she has done with the homes of some very personal collectors in her new book, Never Stop to Think…Do I Have a Place for This? The best thing about Carter’s books is that they tell a rich story of people, and ultimately it is the passion of the collector that gives the collection its life.

You can find links for Never Stop to Think… Do I Have a Place for This? here.

Never Stop to Think…Do I Have a Place for This? by Mary Randolph Carter, Rizzoli New York, 2014.  Photography, Carter Berg.

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One Man’s Folly

I saw a friend Saturday, a handsome devil, and we reminisced about our first meeting.  It was at a lovely dinner for a dreary out-of-towner and he pulled up a piano bench by my chair and we were, instantly, friends.  A few months later I put him to my left at a dinner party at my house.  Late in the evening someone mentioned his birthday and I realized our age gap was greater than I had expected.
“I don’t know if I can be friends with someone ten years younger,” I told him.
“It’s too late,” came his quick reply.
Some connections are like that.  Love at first sight, even when the love is platonic.  Such was the case as I met Furlow Gatewood through the pages of his book. Mr. Gatewood lives as I aspire to live: sure of his taste, comfortable in his skin and with a steady flow of creativity.  
This connection is strengthened by Mr. Gatewood’s love of old things, worn rugs, quilts, Chinese porcelain and dogs. And, at home, he sits sideways in chairs, legs thrown over the arm as I do.  

The images in the book offer delight and inspiration, but it’s Mr. Gatewood’s devotion to his Americus, Georgia home, the tale of the moving of buildings and their restoration and decoration that is the real appeal.  That the story is told by Julia Reed is a wonderful bonus.
If you like anything here, if you ever feel we would be friends if circumstances allowed, you will surely like One Man’s Folly, The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood.  I know I’m hoping to someday have the opportunity to drag a piano bench closer to his chair and lean in.

All images from One Man’s Folly, The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood, courtesy of Rizzoli.  Photography by Rodney Collins and Paul Costello.
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George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic

George Stacey leaned casually against my front door a week or so ago, waiting patiently for me to invite him in.  We’ve spent a lot of time together since and I’m delighted to know him better.

His aesthetic, admired by stylish luminaries such as Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley and Brenda Diana Duff Frazier, looks familiar with its mix of French antiques and garden chairs, but he led the charge in this melange of high/low goodness. Indeed, the deft handling of red and green that many designers manage today was a common element of Mr. Stacey’s work.

As I read Maureen Footer’s engaging and informative text in this new book, I imagined a series of posts where I ticked off designers’ Stacey has influenced: Mario Buatta (who penned the intro), Billy Baldwin, Michael Taylor, Stephen Sills, Tom Scheerer and Nick Olsen among them. But then I reached the final chapter and Footer has done it for me and undoubtedly with more elegance.

We are lucky that authors and publishers are circling back around to explore the lives and work of influential designers who did not publish in their day.  I’m thrilled that George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic is part of my design library.  I imagine any enthusiast would feel the same.

George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic by Maureen Footer, Rizzoli, 2014.  Available here.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli, from top: Mark Hampton, courtesy of Duane Hampton, Diana Vreeland from the estate of George Platt Ynes, Stacey’s home in France from his personal papers, Nick Olsen’s apartment, Patrick Cline, Lonny.com.

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Straight Aero

Recently, three very different people have spoken to me of
passion.  A professor, a designer and a
curator each used the word and evoked the emotion though none referred to the
physical, instead to writing, to home and to art.  
Not one of the three is flamboyant.  When they speak with their hands they keep
them close to their frames; they do not spread wide and flail about.  While each of them wears color, it is usually
of cooler hues. Sometimes richer – rust, bittersweet, mocha, but I cannot
remember any of them in red.
These three remind me of my friend, Thomas O’Brien, whom I
met six years ago.  He has inspired me and
taught me, made me laugh and made me lunch. 
He, too, has spoken to me of passion and with passion about his work and
his homes and his life. 

Aero, his shop in Soho in New York is one of these passions
and its spirit and its evolution is at the core of Thomas’s latest book.  While it is the heart of the story, I fear
the title may cause someone to think, “It’s about a store.”
It is not about a store, but rather the curing of an
aesthetic.  Through the text, beautifully
rendered by Lisa Light who has translated Thomas’s philosophy into print, you can
follow him finding his way to a very thoughtful life.
If you don’t read design books, which you should as there is
always more to learn about the pictures, you will enjoy this for the
images: Thomas’s first apartment in New
York, Aero’s first location and pictures of his friend’s, Laura Resen’s, homes
which offer a perspective on his influence in more transferable environments.
Aero: Beginning to Now is a very good book in a very good book season.  You can find it here.
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