Tag Archives: Vintage Design

The Last Place You Look

Well, of course it’s the last place you look, the old saw goes, as why would you keep looking once you’ve found it? One could assume, perhaps, that what the saying should be is that it’s the last place you’d think to look.  And then you did.  And there it was.

Such was the case as I was pouring over the the Wright catalogue for Italian Masterworks.  Having a weakness for dark hair, dark eyes and carbs, all things Italian tend to appeal and the contents of this catalogue were no exceptions.  It was a pleasant surprise to find this image of Mr. Ponti’s Distex lounge chair in such inspiring surroundings.

I’ve picked up some graphic, rather geometric, art lately.  I thought it might be just the thing for the family room, but it just hasn’t felt quite right.  Finding these pictures all framed in white on a neutral wall made everything clear.  More (when isn’t this the case with me?), all framed white.  Right?  Wright.  Grazie mille, Signore.

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A good friend and her mother were at the house a couple of weeks ago and they mentioned this great cane needlepoint pattern by Louis J. Gartner, Jr.  (You can see a previous post on his books here.  Either cosmically or coincidentally, this is the exact palette of my dining room, though the emphasis is different.) 

It took me almost two years to retrieve my last completed needlepoint project.  I did take a little solace knowing that as it hung on the door to the lavatory it inspired a lot of projects.  Many of us, it seems, take our inspiration where we find it.

My white bamboo desk chair came with a very nice white cushion.  I had thought that I would chose a fabric to cover it, but after the cane conversation it seemed that I need to pick up the needle again.

I enjoyed clicking through the One King’s Lane estate sale of Albert Hadley’s things.  While there was nothing that I wanted that I could also afford, I treated myself to a copy of Parish Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design.

I had seen most of the images before, but was struck by the stitching.  That crazy green and black and white and red all over pillow that pops up in both the Connecticut sunroom and Hadley’s apartment  would make a fantastic seat cover. (And that chair – the white slip with the red ric-rack?  Simple but smart, she would be the most delightful party guest.  I’m sure she would listen to the travails of your tennis game with interest and later make the most subtle reference to Dostoevsky.  I just know that she would.)

But I am enchanted by the over-sized, quilt-inspired geometrics from Mr. and Mrs. William Paley’s Kiluna Farm.  Now I just need to decide where to begin.

Image, top, from Needlepoint Design by Louis J. Gartner, Jr., the third image is from Architectural Digest: American Interiors, photography William Steele, the remaining images are from Parish Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design, the image of the Greek key-ish cushion is by Dennis Krukowski; the others are also William Steele.

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You Say “Solarium”, I Just Say “Office”

I was telling a friend yesterday that Frances Elkins and I have been having an on-going tete-a-tete about my office.  Ms. Elkins used her solarium as her home office as well, and she sat overlooking the walled garden that her brother, David Adler, designed for her.

My office is three walls of windows very similar to this, though they go nearly to the floor.  I was telling Ms. Elkins that I did not care for the style of the mullions on my windows; they are a bit arts and crafts for my taste and don’t relate to the house in any way.  She paused before pointing out that they are exactly the same as her windows, though hers had a further flourish.  This reassured me a bit as she knew it would.

In the spirit of solidarity I ordered a new white bamboo desk chair.  (She did not have white bamboo here, but I was sure that she would approve.)  It was happily in place when Bill came home from work.  “Is that comfortable?” he asked taking in the criss-crossed lattice of the back.  I stared back blankly and he nodded, “Never mind.”

He thinks it would be a fine idea, however, to buy a day bed to go underneath the windows on the long wall opposite my desk.  “You could read a book there.  Or nap.”  This made me wonder how he thinks I spend my day, but rather than take the bait I noted, “The only beings that would sleep there would be Dexter and Rosie.” “Well, that would be ok, wouldn’t it?”  It would, actually, as it would provide an excuse to hunt down two rope lamps to flank it.

I can feel my work improving already.

(By the way, if you think there is any chance that I could get the boys to say “solarium,” you are delusional.  I can’t even get them to say “sofa” though they have never heard me utter the word “couch.”  I blame the media.)

Image from Frances Elkins Interior Design, Stephen M. Salny, W.W. Norton & Co. 2005.

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Look Into My Eyes

 “I want you to use the Retin A on your forehead every day.”

I stared back at my dermatologist and tried to decipher just what she was saying.  She’s equal parts clinical and personal, and I like her not just for her flawless skin which gives me hope.

“Oh.  Yes, well, the forehead isn’t really the problem, it’s my eyes.”

She arched one perfectly drawn brow in response.

“Yes, actually I’ve seen a plastic surgeon about it.  My eyelids are so heavy that unconsciously I am raising my eyebrows in order to lift them off of my lashes.  That’s what is causing the wrinkles.”

“It’s significant enough that I think your insurance might cover it.  You should check with your optometrist.”

Cut to a clandestine meeting in a neighborhood coffee shop where a friend said, “She could be right.  I think you should make an appointment.”  Neither woman said the word, “bad” as in “bad enough to be covered by insurance as your eyelids have dropped to the point that they are impeding your peripheral vision.”  But that is the case.

It’s not a surprise, really.  If you saw my father’s eyelids you would see where this is headed.  Still, as I stood in the kitchen and explained the stitches and the bruising to Bill he said, “Please don’t do it.”  I just can’t tell what would take more courage; the scalpel and the slice or the slow slide.

Living elegantly with a little wear was Princess Claude Ruspoli in, yes, Paris.  She was quite fond of antique fabrics, the patina of which adds to the allure of her apartment overlooking the Seine.  Architectural Digest, International Interiors, 1979; photography Pascal Hinous.

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The Significance of Chintz Curtains

Last week it was all about the women; this week I plan to revisit posts featuring Blandings boys young and old.  This post originally appeared October 7, 2009.

Many years ago, when Mr. Blandings and I were first married, we went out to dinner with his father and step-mother.

Mr. Blandings the elder is old school. He mostly likes things the way they are, or rather, the way they have always been.

In a cozy restaurant on a winter evening we began to discuss a club to which the elder Mr. B belonged. I made an off-hand and stinging comment about the policy of having a separate dining room for women during the lunch hour.

As often happens, small sparks start large flames and he and I were heatedly engaged as our spouses stared quietly into their soups. In a firm voice he finally proclaimed, “When I am eating my lunch I do not want to sit next to a table of damn women talking about chintz curtains!”

As my Mr. Blandings felt my muscles flex to rise he put his hand on my knee and leaned in to say, “It’s cold and they drove.” We stayed. No one ordered dessert.

After seventeen years I better understand the roots of tradition and the minefields of dinner conversation. I am, however, still mystified that someone would not want to join in a conversation on chintz curtains as I find them irresistibly divine.
Images of Cecil Beaton’s home, Reddish House, from Architectural Digest Celebrity Homes, 1977; photography by Beaton. The Aesthete posted on Reddish yesterday. I had already written this and should probably have pitched it. Sadly, I’m too lazy.
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