Tag Archives: Designers

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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Kindred Spirit

People who love houses – and the filling-up of them – often recognize that they like and admire wildly different styles.  The leanness of Liagre and the exuberance of Buatta can be equally appealing.

This sort of dichotomy often leads to fantasies of multiple homes in varying climates.  I am this type of enthusiast.

But in addition to an appreciation of different aesthetics, I have a very personal connection to the decorators who make me say not only, “Oh, I want to live there,” but also, “Oh, I do wish I knew him.”

Tom Scheerer has long been one such decorator for me.  He is comfortable with color, easy mixing rattan and Saarinen, block print fabric and black and white photography, deft with decoupage, chintz and wicker.  Oh, yes, I do wish I knew him.

Sadly, we have not met. I feel, however, as if I know him a little better through his new book, Tom Scheerer Decorates.  You will, too, if you take the time read the charming text written by Mimi Read that accompanies the inspiring images.  Read tells us Mr. Scheerer is, “capable of falling in love with a person, but also a coffee pot.”  She notes his motto is, “Don’t make too much trouble for yourself.  Live life now rather than after a torturous renovation.”

These insights – and his suggestions of where to go in Paris that a friend passed along for me before my last trip – convince me that we would have quite a lot in common.

You can find Tom Scheerer Decorates here.

Do ask him to take his jacket off; he’s equally appealing underneath.

All images courtesy of The Vendome Press; photography Francesco Lagnese.

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Gold Smith

I was curious when I heard about Michael Smith’s new book, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design.  Close on the heels of Kitchens and Baths and focused on the renovation of just one house, I wondered if it would seem rushed.  Worse, that it would be filler.

As it turns out, it is pure gold.  I read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting and it is the most remarkable tale of the most remarkable project.

A talented designer, trusting and generous clients, a team of exacting craftsmen and a beautiful Malibu setting combine to deliver something incredibly special.

Christine Pittel tells the tale in an intimate and conversational tone; I felt as if I were looking out over that bluff, tip-toeing behind Smith in Will Fisher’s antique shop and overseeing the placement of the pietra serena stone alongside Jim Sangster.

I can with much certainty predict that I will never be involved in a project of any kind that will be executed with the same level of care and precision.  Rather than instilling envy, the story of this process filled me with awe.  Without pretense, it is a story of passion and commitment to that unnamable thing that goes “click” when something is right.

You can find Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design here.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli; photography from top, Fernando & Gerardo Montiel Klint, Francois Halard, Klints, Halard.

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Book Week – Nicky Haslam’s Folly de Grandeur

I have a friend who says that you find your clothing style in college and never really change it.  I’m glad to say that while I was once a fan of jean jackets and stirrup pants they have not reappeared in my wardrobe since graduation.  Oh, also no denim mini-skirts, though I did have a doozy back in the day.

But I did love chintz, need chintz, surround myself with chintz and that has never changed.  In or out, thumbs up or down, I always seem to have a little (or a lot) hanging around.
You won’t be surprised to know that I adore Nicky Haslam’s new book Folly de Grandeur.  It lived in my car for weeks at the ready for any brief or extended idle.
Painted walls, chipped furniture, hand-dotted brackets and needlepoint, needlepoint, needlepoint.  I love every page.  Haslam’s own words make it a treasure.

You can find Folly de Grandeur here.

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