Colonial Chic: Napoleon III Celadon Chairs

Monday, March 31, 2008 No comments
I've been a spoiled wedding guest. The first involved a week-long stay in Denmark, ample drinking, a 16th century castle (Rosenholm Slot, the home of the real Ronsencrantz family), pounds of caviar and a chef who cooked for the Danish queen the night before. The second included a Blue Ridge mountain top, exquisitely picked antiques, a tent that could've housed Ringling Bros. and the wonderful Hackensaw Boys

When a couple puts that kind of passion and taste into their party, it sinks deep into the soul, never to be forgotten. But in general, I find most weddings to be a tremendous waste of money and energy. I almost cried when I encountered the wedding promotion posters on the facade of the Waldorf Astoria. There, sitting under the glitz and gold leaf were chairs that looked unfit for the lowest level basement Scientologist convention. These chairs not only had a faux brocade with a gold cording lining the back, that cording was covered in plastic tubing! $400 a head for your guests to sit in the living room love child of Frank and Marie Barone and Liberace. 

When it comes to catering, if you are to take the plunge, the faux bamboo Chivari chair is always the way to go. I love these more permanent celadon versions at Source Perrier for $155 each.
Travel Yearnings: Remembering Last Spring's Scandinavian Adventure

Monday, March 31, 2008 No comments
A painting from a Copenhagen shop window around the corner from the Hotel Fox (our second hotel after one night at the famous, yet underwhelming, poorly located Arne Jacobsen-designed SAS Royal). We stayed at the surprisingly wonderful Clarion in the Södermalm during our time in Stockholm. The breakfast there was fit for Viking kings.

The Danes make excellent font choices...

...and choose excellent boat-building materials...

...and incorporate aligators into their spires...

...and know a thing or two about hearldry.
A Hovey at Sea!

Thursday, March 27, 2008 No comments

An egotistical surname search on ebay led me to this most interesting postmark! It turns out that Hovey was quite a ship. She was commissioned in October 1919 (a fellow libra!) and spent her life traveling to very fancy locales: Newport, RI; Dalmatia, Italy; Constantinople; Russia, Egypt...and that was all before she saw Pearl Harbor and a litany of other fights.
Ebay Shopping: C.B. Webber Streamline Pipe

Thursday, March 27, 2008 1 comment

The most action associated with pipe smoking is probably limited to the elbow. But this '40s streamliner pipe will make you feel as if you're relaxing at quite a clip. Woosh! Maybe it's best suited for country drives with the top down, not dark parlours. Regardless, it's a beauty. 11 hours left on the acution. Bids hover at $15.50. Bid away!
Maira Kalman: A Celebration of Color! Travel! Family! Literature! Hats! Parisian Taxidermy Shops!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 1 comment

From May 2006 to April 2007, the brilliant illustrator/author Maira Kalman (her work is like an Elizabeth Peyton/Matisse love child with a sense of humor and Master's in history and literature) offered up her visual diary for a monthly New York Times Column. In a gift, The Times has kept the entire column posted online in its entirety and the paintings are available in book form, too. 

Hemingway Chic: Vintage Royal Typewriters

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 No comments

Computers have ruined the ceremony of writer's block. I've had a few friends suffer from this creative constipation, but I've secretly assumed that they're spending more time pacing around the room with cigarettes and bourbon than performing actual nose-to-grindstone thinking. This sort of antic looks much better when you're committing these acts of drama in front of one of these, especially with the added benefit of violent paper ripping, crumbling and cartridge advancing.

Sitting down with a 1932 Royal Woody (oh, stop, I didn't mean it that way) might even help open the intellectual flood gates. Ernest pounded out "Death in the Afternoon", "Green Hills of Africa", "To Have and Have Not", "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "The Short Happy Life of Francis Mancomber", among others on his less fancy Royal Quiet Delux. (All factoids and photos courtesy Mr. Typewriter).

Hemingway's writing desk and Royal portable in his home in Key West (photo courtesy MrTypewriter)
Creations: Housewarming Party Invite, 2006

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 2 comments
Brides don't have all the fun. Men's Vogue reports that Barker Black creative director Derrick Miller decked himself in bespoke duds and velvet slippers with self-designed stag head embroidery for his big day of knot tying with interior designer Jennifer Vaughn. The couple also had the forethought to carry the stag theme further -- into their official sealing wax seal and the guestbook, which featured a stag head watercolor by the great Swede Mats Gustafson. That painting reminded me of one of my own from a few years back, designed to announce the celebration of our big move to Brooklyn.
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Monday, March 24, 2008 No comments

Speaking of travels (my previous post), Porter and I had an unfortunate domestic adventure in NOLA the summer before Katrina. We jumped on a cable car, expecting to see a few nice homes and then head to Magazine Street for antiques shopping. Well, our cable car conductor never stopped that train, nor did he make announcements. We travelled far. So far, that I think we may have nearly made it to Texas. So, six hours (yes, six) later, in the June Louisiana heat, we crawled onto Magazine Street in a state of disarray unseen since the stone age. Of course, we head directly to the grooming capital of New Orleans, Aidan Gill for Men, to pick up a bowtie for our dad and let the well-washed staff (including Mr. Gill) gawk at us animals. This video is jammed with juicy, gruesome tidbits.  I'll never look at a barber pole the same way again. 
Family Photos: St. Mark's Square, 1928 and 1937

Monday, March 24, 2008 1 comment

Porter and I spent Easter in Scandinavia last year (which, despite cheap flights is not highly recommended given that both Stockholm and Copenhagen shutter themselves almost completely), but the anniversary has me aching to return to Europe...especially to our mortifyingly uncharted territory: Italy. We've travelled decently in our lives - between the two of us, we've hit, Paris, London, Norfolk, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Arhus, Budapest, Vienna and Marrakech, but neither has set foot on or near Italian soil. Such sin. Our grandpa did a good job pre-compensating for our lack of judgement. The top shot is from Venice in '28 and the bottom, from '37.

Fincher Takes on Fitzgerald, Curious Buttons

Monday, March 24, 2008 2 comments
F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 tale of the reverse-aging Benjamin Button tracks this "Baby" Button from his early days as a bearded 70 year old exploding from the crib in antebellum Baltimore and follows him forward through history towards his youth. My favorite parts: The elder Mr. Button's Yaley nickname: "Cuff" and the following passage:

Mr. Button discovered one day that during the preceding week he had smoked more cigars than ever before - a phenomenon, which was explained a few days later when, entering the nursery unexpectedly, he found the room full of faint blue haze and Benjamin, with a guilty expression on his face, trying to conceal the butt of a dark Havana.

David Fincher has turned this little tale into a movie with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, but scooted up the timeline by a lifetime to start in 1919. Why, why do we need to make room for the modern bits? Mr. Fincher and crew do seem to know what they're doing, though, so I'll trust them to make it grand (and perhaps that will actually offer more time for the war years). I do like that Vespa. There's hope yet.

You can (and should!) read Fitzy's original story here. The movie comes out in December, just in time for Oscar nods.
An Easter Stroll Through Williamsburg...

Monday, March 24, 2008 4 comments

Porter, wearing her new touched up bob and Rugby cricket jacket, and I took the bike out for a little Easter stroll through the 'burg and found some scare beauty in this architectural wasteland (I love my hood dearly, but it's what's inside the buildings that counts. The exteriors should make an aesthete weep). This old Volvo has those wildly uncomfortable looking flat springy back seats that appear more fitting for a beach chair than an automobile (but look great). The Marlow & Sons coffee cups are the best-designed in the area, as is the celadon fence outside the Williamsbugh Savings Bank on Broadway.

Along our walk, we were extremely delighted to see that South Williamsburg will also be home to another beautiful vintage interior very soon. The owners of now shuttered The Read are opening up a bakery-coffee shop-cafe - The Rabbit Hole - in larger digs at 352 Bedford (between South 3rd and South 4th) as fast as they can finish the renovations. From what we saw, it will be decked in perfectly sourced architectural salvage-style fixtures and a beautiful garden. (Editorial note: Taavo Somer, please open a Freeman's Outpost in the portion of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank at the corner of Bedford and Broadway. You'd barely have to do a thing).
Les Objets de Printemps

Sunday, March 23, 2008 1 comment

No matter how impractical, I shed socks and switched to iced coffee (triple espresso on ice) last week. The cold winds are still blowin', but Easter is behind us and it's officially time to embrace spring. These items certainly put me in the mood:

• A papier-mâché sea gull, a gift Porter picked up for me at Mine on Grand Street.
• Exotic flowers. More great picks from Sprout Home this week include a peony tulip - which might be better than either alone, a protea (the one with the antennas) and a ranunculus.
• Wicker and chrome table accessories!
• Vintage, real feather shuttlecocks (available all over ebay)...and old rackets (yes, this is a tennis racket, not badminton. Porter found it in the trash on Driggs).
• The chickens may monopolize breakfast and Easter, but the ostriches win the tchotchke war.
• Tocca's Kyoto candle. I'm a candle obsessive. Oh, if I ever added up how much I've spent on wax, I'd realize that I could've put a few kids through Harvard. But poof, all that dough has, literally, gone up in smoke. No matter how many I try - and even love - I always come back to Tocca. Kyoto smells of the tart apricot aroma of the Kinmokusei, a plant that surrounds the Buddhist temples of the candle's eponymous city.
• My parents' Limoges wedding China. I did a terrible job of capturing this properly in the photo, but the tasteful parents struck gold with their china pattern. Little birds, bugs and butterflies crawl all over the white basket weave porcelain. It's perfect for a picnic.
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Friday, March 21, 2008 No comments

You lucky English. BFI has released Bertolucci's beautiful 1970 psychological thriller on the big screen. Paris, Rome, '30s fashion. Oh, the beauty. Oh, just another example of my great aesthetic loves dripping oppression and war.
The Ultimate Spring Break Accessory: 1967 Jag

Thursday, March 20, 2008 2 comments
Between the two of us, Porter was always the fiscally responsible one. Every Christmas, my pants would virtually incinerate from all that money burnin' in my pockets (I've obviously done a good job curbing these shopping urges as I've aged). Porter, meanwhile, would put the money aside with her eyes on bigger prizes. So, when I turned 16, I owned roughly 3,456 CDs. When Porter hit that age, she paid for half (our parents picked up the rest) of a vintage Mercedes convertible (1982 450 SL) with original hard and soft tops (which she kept up the moment it cracked the 40-degree mark). The thing is, these spectacular European autos aren't that pricey, especially in comparison to the brand new SUVs our schoolmates drove. That generality doesn't necessarily apply to this restored 1967 Jag E-Type XKE Roadster. The Ebay reserve isn't met at $65,211. But c'mon. Bid away. It's worth it just for that steering wheel. Even if you can't afford to fill up the tank! (I'm attending the auto show festivities tonight, so cars were on the brain. I'm sure I'll leave crestfallen from the lack of chrome).

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008 No comments

Starring in a Minghella film would ruin you. How could Gwyneth have gone back to minimalist black (or the odder English looks she's adopted in recent years) after months in Mediterranean Grace Kelly glory? How did Nicole pick up a hair straightener after seeing herself in the midst of a Civil War that appeared to spawn from Ralph Lauren's dreams? Perhaps they're better at separating fantasy and reality than I. For I'd take Anthony's world any day. The great Ripley, English Patient and Cold Mountain director died yesterday from complications of throat cancer surgery, just five days before the Easter Sunday debut of his most recent project - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Para Jugar: Cuban Athletic Photos from the Ramiro Fernández Collection

Monday, March 17, 2008 1 comment

Gym class may be a burden for non-athletic students the world over, but it was especially perilous at Shawnee Mission East. In order to put on that mortar board, everyone had to jump into the pool and swim like a text book-trained fish (a member of the Olympic swimming team notoriously received a C because the teacher didn't agree with her technique). Ability wasn't the major problem for most, though. It was the outfits: borrowed, blue, boiled, double knit polyester suits with a modesty flap. A very large modesty flap...that, in turn, made everyone in it look even larger. Badly timed fire drills must have single-handedly destroyed reputations with the opposite sex (precisely the goal of the modesty flap). While we desperately could've used some modern textile technology for those suits, lycra and its cousins have generally ruined the aesthetics of sport.  Even cricket has been attacked by easy breathing, plastic-looking synthetic fibers. Give me the Chariots of Fire whites any day.  

These wonderful shots come from "I was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernández Collection" and a time before King Cotton sat the bench. (Above:  Photographer unknown. Cuban-American Ramón Fonst Segundo, ironically the first athlete from Latin America to win Olympic gold after victories at the 1900 games in Paris. Havana, ca. 1910.)

José López López. Havana Polo Team, Marianao, ca. 1915.

Martinez Otero Estudio Fotográfico. Cienfuegos Yacht Club sculling team, Cienfuegos. Camagüey Province, ca. 1930.

American Photo Studios. Police Academy cadets practicing rifle drills on the Morro Castle ramparts, overlooking the Havana cityscape, ca. 1924.
Acquisitions: The New Brooks Saddle Stand!

Monday, March 17, 2008 3 comments

My new (to me) 1968 Raleigh folding bike...with my Brooks saddle installed. Bringing this baby back to Brooklyn wasn't an easy task! But he sure is cute. What was even cuter was when I parked him outside Roebling Tea Room on Saturday and someone with a perfectly matching 10-speed version sidled that puppy right up along side. Same paint, same stickers. Was like witnessing a mother-child reunion. Meanwhile, seeing me ride this one is unfortunately shaping up to be a bit like witnessing a clown act. I've gotten, "This is for YOU?" from the guy who sold it to me and "Yes, this seems too small for you" from the man who put on my seat. Oh, well. It looks just perfect sitting in the apartment!
Acquisitions: RL Rugby Stag Head Velvet Tux Shoes

Sunday, March 16, 2008 3 comments

It was love at first sight. But when I first saw them at Rugby months ago, I told myself, "Hollister, how many pairs of men's tuxedo shoes does one gal need?" Well, the answer seems to be three. I already had an old pair of Cole Haan pumps with bows from middle school and Rugby's black skull versions from last year. But when I popped into the store last week and saw these confidence boosting (Age Quod Agis loosely means "Do well whatever you do") beauties staring back at me for 40% off, I had to make good on the instruction (in a moment of shopping, how better to do it well?). They also have wool plaid versions with silver skulls and a navy and burgundy stripe with gold skull on sale, as well.  
Hometown Pride: Shatto Milk Company

Saturday, March 15, 2008 4 comments

One of my friends held a particularly negative feeling towards one of our college classmates. The recipient of the bad vibes was a sporty gal, one of those good, happy people who generally rubbed everyone the right way. "Why don't you like her?" "She's the kind of person who drinks milk with dinner." Ok. Good point. As a person who reserves her calcium consumption for coffee and cheese, I do understand. But milk, wholesome as it is, has developed a sexier reputation of late. Ronnybrook Dairy has moved into its chic new digs in Chelsea Market and the just-outside Kansas City Shatto Milk Company has some absolutely excellent packaging. Bottles like these could be why milkmen developed their dubious paternal reputation!
Military Chic: Stabo Bivvy Trousers

Friday, March 14, 2008 9 comments
As the Beatles say, you get by with a little help from your friends. So, the blog is getting by with a little help from its friends today, too (see the previous post). Urban Daddy just sent me a missive about very old British pants and I knew it belonged over here. While many styles for women in the last year have veered towards moo-moo, men now have their tent-inspired item, as well! These Stabo Bivvy Trousers are made from real World War II era Bivouac tents. (I love the label and the button fly).
Steve McQueen Chic: Ateliers Ruby Helmets

Friday, March 14, 2008 2 comments

After a heated bidding war, my honey colored Brooks Saddle now has an appropriate stand: a 1968 brown Raleigh folding bike. Given my gripping obsession with instant gratification, I insisted on picking it up the next day, so I trekked up to 142nd and Malcolm X Blvd on Wednesday wearing my work costume: cuffed pants, pinstriped sweater jacket over a blue poplin button down, Opening Ceremony trapese jacket with short sleeves, my new brown velvet tuxedo shoes with stag head crests from Rugby (sans socks) and my green Goyard clutch. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, well, after not going near a non-stationary one in over a decade, you sort of do -- especially while trying to protect a strapless purse and new velvet shoes. I could've used one of these Ateliers Ruby helmets on the seven block kamakazi ride back to the subway station. Many thanks to The Cool Hunter for pointing these French beauties out. You may have saved this blogger's life!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008 No comments

My maternal grandpa was a gandy dancer who always loved the train songs.  When Porter and I would visit him in Lincoln, Nebraska every 4th of July for the Holmes Lake fireworks, a soundtrack of Boxcar Willie, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams always seemed to stream out of the record player. We'd all sing along like tone deaf fools.  One of the last times I saw my mom before she died six years ago, Porter, my aunt and I crowded around her and played another train song, Arlo Guthrie's City of New Orleans, and belted out noises that could destroy ears.  But damn, was it fun. Even my sweet sick mom was laughing and wailing away.  The Cajun people like to engage in similar acts, but with far greater style and exponentially more talent. The Savoy Doucet Cajun Band sings in cajun patois and plays in the old '20s and '30s fais do do dance party tradition of the Breaux family and Joseph Falcon.  This clip, from the 1988 British documentary "Aly Meets the Cajuns," (Aly is Aly Bain, the famous Shetland fiddler), lets you hear the wonderful voices of Ann and Mark Savoy (he makes his own accordions) and Michael Doucet, the fiddler. If this doesn't get you excited for springtime bar-bq's, I don't know what will. (Be sure to listen to this one as well, featuring DL Menard, Dewey Balfa and Aly Bain playing "I Passed by Your Door," a tune Cleoma Breaux sang as "Mon Coeur T'appelle" (My Heart is Calling You)).
My Official Shoe for Spring: Castaner Crocodile Espadrilles

Thursday, March 13, 2008 2 comments

Straw sol-ed shoooes-us with brown gator toppings...Brown nubbly Spanish things without any strings!...These are a few of my favorite things! (Wow - that's precisely why I spend my hours shopping and decorating -- not song or poem writing (or reinterpreting)). The fabulous Vivre has these for $175 a pair (they also come in black). I cannot imagine anything more perfect with cuffed white linen pants...or jeans...or anything, really.
Maxwell Smart Chic: The Mini Minox Leica

Thursday, March 13, 2008 2 comments
Perhaps someone (Mrs. Spitzer) should've been following the Gov. with one of these. This mini Minox Leica digital camera could come in handy for those sneaking after sneakers the world over. It's only 1¾" x 1¾" x 3"! Editorial note: tall men and the large handed should err with caution before picking one of these up. There's a very real danger of looking less like 007 and exactly like King Kong. But, hey, it's still cute. On sale for $199.95 at B&H Photo.
Dispatch from San Francisco: Paxton Gate

Thursday, March 13, 2008 2 comments

When you live in an area with perfect weather, it's just not enough to see the beauty in a simple picked flower. The San Franciscans seem to like their bouquets with a healthy dose of Darwinism. Paxton Gate takes the naturalist aesthetic displayed at Floréal up a couple notches with a full selection of kingdoms, phylums, classes, orders and species. Founded as a gardening store with a "hint of the natural sciences," this spot in the The Mission soon evolved into a full on curiosity shop. I know someone who'd like to get that rug on her floor.

824 Valencia Street
San Francisco
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008 No comments

Turn away from the screen! Or close your eyes and take in the sweet, ernest, aching meloncholy of Charlie Louvin singing an homage to his brother, the wonderful mandolin-playing tenor, Ira who died in a car crash in '65. These brothers, born the Loudermilks, came to fame on the Alabama radio in the '40s and later on the Grand Ole Opry. Religious minded boys, they sang of god and their mother, but like so many of the other gospel bands of the day, cheatin', beatin' and murderin' made their way in, too. Gram Parsons covered them on the semial "Cosmic American Music" masterpiece, Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the Everly Brothers picked up their whole close harmonizing style. I'd love to compare them to anyone today, but no one's this good. Charlie issued a CD of the brothers' songs last year and it included this new one, my favorite tune of '07.

HHH Chic: Mantiques Modern

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 3 comments
Dead animal bits + wildly expensive bags + industrial steel and chrome = an HHH paradise. Well, frankly it's my apartment. One stop into Mantiques Modern in Chelsea will let you fully outfit your house in this slightly eccentric, yet utterly tasteful naturalist's aesthetic. If you're more of a bargain shopper, you can cobble it together with ebay finds like I did. (Above: Rare 19th c. Mounted Kudu Horns, $2, here for cheaper ebay alternatives).

Giant 1940s Hermes Birkin Leather Travel Bag, $7,800 (I wouldn't trust ebay for the Birkin).

146 West 22nd St.
New York, NY10011