Monday, November 09, 2015

The Rolling Stones, historic architecture and a good night's rest

I've long been a fan of the incredibly smart restoration work done by the Landmark Trust and I've long wanted to stay at Swarkestone Pavilion, so imagine my delight when I was assigned this Rock Star Rentals feature for RubyLUX.

I knew Swarkestone would have to be one of the places highlighted and had such a great time reading about Michael Joseph's infamous Beggars Banquet shoot. Along the way, I found some great outtakes here, and a short film on the shoot created by Mick Jagger's brother Chris, which you can watch here. For those of you who are Stones fans, architecture buffs or both (like me) enjoy!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Branham Rendlen: A different view of Big Sur

Rancho Rico, Big Sur
I spent a lot of my youth on the Monterey Bay, which exposed me to what one contemporary art history professor, Charles Gaines, not so lovingly referred to collectively as "Carmel Art." And he was right to do so. What began as an artists' community in the early part of the 20th century had become a destination for really awful painting, spearhead by the likes of Thomas Kincaid and gobbled up not only by tourists but, gasp, by locals! When I lived there (and worked at Photography West Gallery -- Carmel does still knock it out of the park when it comes to photography) art galleries were filled with cottage scenes, whales breaching in the moonlight and hotel art, huge pretty pictures devoid of any real meaning. And while the town does still have a few frightful places managing the rent on Ocean Avenue, I was ecstatic to learn about artist Branham Rendlen at the Ventana Inn art gallery during a visiting last month. Her paintings document the coastline in a way that's different from what I've seen for the last twenty-five years. They almost feel like an extension of the Bay Area Figurative movement. They're abstract, complex and intimate, yet they capture the vastness of the wilderness, even on canvases as small as 8-inches square. I'm smitten.

Castro Canyon, Big Sur
Oak and Golden Hills
South Coast, Big Sur
From Bixby Bridge
Foggy Morning, Big Sur
Little Sur During the Road Closure 2011

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My favorite new book: Parish-Hadley Tree of Life

Just reviewed the forthcoming Parish-Hadley book by Brian McCarthy and Bunny Williams for a brand-new, antiques-focused magazine. I'm pretty much in love with it. Color me happy. Really, really happy.

(And, more on the new mag later!)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

It's time to bring back baskets

Mention baskets and someone will make an audible groan. The 1980s kind of did a number on the craft and left us with cringe-worthy memories of country cottages cram packed with baskets of every size and shape, and lots and lots of dried flowers. Case in point: the image below from an early '80s issue of Architectural Digest. Yes, agreed, it looks terribly dated now but it was fashionable. Just like neon, shoulder pads and George Michael's short shorts.

But the past is the past and there's no reason not to revive something that's so worthwhile, and which can look so fresh. There are beautiful examples made all around the globe, available in a range of colors and natural materials like wicker, rush, straw and willow. They're sustainable and surprisingly durable. And they're popping up in magazines like Lonny and House & Garden, where a single basket, a clean and simple statement piece, now adds a very contemporary touch. 

A well-made, handsome basket is like a grounding cord for a room; it's a little reminder of the natural world that seems to somehow dispel negativity with its sensible charm.

Elle Decor


House & Garden

Below, a few of my favorite designs found online. Traditional or modern... I love them all. And do I have them in my own house? Yes, two: one a planter and the other a Fortnum & Mason picnic hamper that serves as storage for many of the antiques for sale in my webshop. See, practical! 

Straight-sided log baskets made by Irish artist Kathleen McCormick, who grows and harvests her own willow.

Fair trade African knitting basket from Connected Goods

Two-tone straw baskets from the French Connection

Soft rattan basket from Neptune

A selection of designs from the Norfolk Basket Company that were shown at the annual basket festival in Provence (where the English basket-making owners also have a gite).

The Balloon Log Basket made by the Somerset Willow Company (which I was lucky enough to visit many years ago -- a truly amazing place!) features leather trim and a linen lining.

Garden Trading's tapered rattan log basket which, even though it's the height of summer, has me daydreaming about fall, my favorite season.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday supper with the Duchess of Devonshire (sort of)

While marinating chicken to roast tonight, I suddenly remembered that just a few days ago the Lucian Freud painting Four Eggs on a Plate, a gift to his longtime friend the late Duchess of Devonshire, went up for auction at Sotheby's in London. So, after cleaning up, I had to google the sale. The painting, it turns out (not particularly surprisingly), went for nearly 10 times its auction estimate of 100,000 to 150,000 GBP... seven bidders clamoring until the bidding stopped at a whopping 989,000 GBP. (Nearly $380k per egg... or 4.5 million for a dozen!)

The Duchess famously adored her chickens, which lived on the Chatsworth estate and even joined her on the cover of one of her books, so I couldn't help but let myself tumble down the rabbit hole of images of her with the little creatures. Here, a few of my favorites. There's just something inexplicably charming about the photographs, about the Duchess herself. Clearly something Freud, who painted her several times, felt too.