This Blogger's Choice from the New York Intl. Gift Fair

Saturday, January 31, 2009 2 comments
The kind folks from the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) invited me and a few other bloggers to judge the Accent on Design portion of last week's show for the first "Bloggers' Choice Awards." It's truly wild seeing all the do-dads you find in all your favorite stores housed under one roof.  Too bad one-off shopping wasn't really an option.  My pick comes from the excellent group Areaware - the Strida MOOF bike. What a beauty. What a sturdy, classically-designed gift it would make. I'll post some of my other favorite things throughout the week!
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Thursday, January 29, 2009 6 comments

 On Tuesday night, a woman in an office 25 floors above mine learned that someone she knew back in her hometown had died. She went out to the balcony, lit a cigarette and then jumped to her own death. 

The grizzly, sad details only emerged yesterday as I was on the train to Boston ironically listening to this song on repeat (Justin Townes Earle's Yuma: it's sad, but beautiful and I can't stop playing it)...while reading Hemingway's short stories including "The Indian Camp" about a man who couldn't stand to see someone he loved in pain.  Let's hope this counts as "things happening in threes."
Acquisitions: A Trip to Bobby from Boston

Thursday, January 29, 2009 3 comments
On my way back to South Station after a meeting in Boston yesterday, I flew by the highly, highly recommended Bobby from Boston and stepped into a living dream in the process.  The place is vintage preppy perfection.  I picked up an incredible Gieves & Hawkes pith helmet, a college scarf and a blazer badge from Brooks, the boarding school my dad attended (dad, I got you a gift, btw). If you're ever in Boston, you must go.

Bobby from Boston
19 Thayer Street

(The Pendleton blanket is a recent buy, too, but from the Pendleton outlet store in Nebraska City). 
Norton's Reborn Son: E. Tautz

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 8 comments
Say you're on Savile Row, dying for an utterly English suit, but you don't have the patience to wait four months. E. Tautz might be your answer. Norton & Sons' Patrick Grant has revived the old sporting and military tailor that dressed the Duke of Windsor, Churchill and America's pre-war elite with a new line of highly traditional, high-quality ready-to-wear menswear - all sourced from tiny traditional artisans around the U.K. Knitwear from Shetland, Hawick and southern Wales; a belt maker who usually only takes orders from the British military and then goes back to his day job; a South End leather goods company that turns out about six pieces a year for Asprey.  The collection isn't too tweedy - more a hybrid of the kind of clothes men like the Duke of Windsor or Anthony Drexel Biddle would wear.  They'll offer six suits (heavy flannels, pinstripes and twist worsted), sport coats, pleated pants, knitwear, leather goods, belts... 

...and a different kind of "overall."  Back in the day the British military boys all wore britches that cut off below the knee. But then the Russians who tangled with Napoleon marched around in full-on pants and the Brits decided they, too, wanted something that would mean fabric "over all" of their legs and boots.  A 21-year old Winston Churchill picked up a few pairs of the E. Tautz overalls and other kit before heading off to join the Queen's Fourth Hussars. The new E. Tautz line will include three versions in thick 14-15 oz cavalry twill - dark navy, the putty-like color worn by the British cavalry and a barathea wool that almost looks like denim.  Patrick says they're practically bulletproof - and hold their crease for ages.

Some of the leather goods and accessories will be available at the Norton & Sons shop (16 Savile Row), but the clothes will be sold through high end department stores (TBD).

The famous Tautz lapel.

Photos of the collection to come! Stay tuned.
A Few Cool Coats from the Men's Collections

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 4 comments
Men's fashion shows generally scare me, but I flew through them quickly and found a few classic-ish coats that I'd only be partially terrified to see on a suitor. Above: Dries Van Noten (yes, it looks like the collar is ready to wring this guy's swan neck, but I like the concept).


Hermès (could be beautiful, or bastardized into that new money Aspen look with blonde highlights and jeans).

Louis Vuitton

(All images from
Dispatch from London: Tweed + Bikes + Booze

Monday, January 26, 2009 6 comments
Last weekend every Brit who ever purchased a Brooks Saddle came together with bikes, booze and tweed for the first annual London Fixed Gear and Single Speed Winter Dress Club Run. They pedaled from H Huntsman & Sons (11 Savile Row) past a spot for tea and onto the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club for additional sustenance post-ride.  Check out the great, unfortunately un-stealable pics here.

(Thanks to Nicholas for the heads up!)
Crimson Whiskey

Monday, January 26, 2009 9 comments
Meat by the pound, beer by the gallon and top shelf bourbon. That, and the largely bearded crowd, are why we love Fette Sau. While we're very, very familiar with the meat and the beer, we've only made a mere dent into those dark spirited shelves. But we went for Porter's birthday a couple weeks back, and a few of us splurged and made our mark at the very top with a taste from this baby, a 25th reunion gift for Harvard's class of '38 and a mighty delicious one at that. The smoothest I've ever tried - no burn in the least. And just look at that label.

It comes from the S.S. Pierce Company. According to the Ephermera Society of America: S.S. Pierce & Co. was known throughout the United States for its gourmet foods and liquors that were shipped with great éclat by its founder, Samuel Stillman Pierce. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Pierce (pronounced “purse”) established a corner grocery store in Boston’s West End in 1831 that evolved into a leading purveyor of such specialty items as pâté de fois gras, terrapin stew, Hawaiian pineapples, and pickled reindeer tongue—all of which makes us aware of how cosmopolitan our ancestors’ palates had become.

Photo by Andrew Harris
What Happens When You Buy Men's Sweaters

Friday, January 23, 2009 27 comments
An unfortunate coincidence: the only thick sweater I brought back to the Midwest; the only one my dad found warm enough for 9° below zero.  We went to dinner like this.  I was planning to say we were part of a Wooden Ski Revivalist Society if anyone raised an eyebrow. No one batted an eyelash - probably worse.

Wooden Ski Revivalist Society Sweaters by Rugby (2007 collection).

Polaroid by Porter Hovey
Gallery Dispatch: Lalanne at Paul Kasmin in May

Friday, January 23, 2009 7 comments
Yesterday, I received the most exciting dispatch from Rebecca Siegel at Paul Kasmin Gallery regarding the wonderful, brilliant French couple François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne:

Paul just returned from Paris where he was visiting our artist, Claude Lalanne. The Lalanne show that we have planned at the gallery this May is going to be rather incredible. As always, the show will be half François and half Claude. Claude is making a wall of mirrors slightly a la the YSL apartment, as well as this huge choupatte. As for Francois, who unfortunately died in December, we will be showing some of his last major works...

(Above: Claude's Alligator bench, my favorite bench of all time)

She went on to report that Claude and Francois are "the only contemporary artists in the whole Christie's YSL sale in February. They are recreating the "Lalanne room" at the Grand Palais for the sale -- it will be outstanding."

pour Claude...

pour François-Xavier...

pour Claude...

pour François-Xavier...

and the monkey tables, a joint project, next to the gator bench by Claude. Cannot wait!
Calling All Readers!!: Windy City Advice

Thursday, January 22, 2009 16 comments
Huge favor for the day job, everyone.  I'm helping plan a party for 50+ people in Chicago this June, but have only visited once.  Any ideas for a great venue?  Any help would be so welcome!  Thank you so much in advance!!!  
The Mansion of Curiosities

Thursday, January 22, 2009 11 comments
The home of two guys who may have popped into that Bonham's Gentleman's Library Auction the other day. Tim Knox, director of Sir John Soane's Museum and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan moved into Malplaquet Mansion in London's East End and filled it to the brim with beauty.  Read more at The Architecturalist, the great blog from which I stole these pics.

A Sale Fit for a Gent!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6 comments
Oh, what a terrible tragedy to have not been in London today.  Bonhams managed to auction off my entire repertoire of taste in one fell swoop: taxidermy, militaria, Victorian library do-dads, chesterfield couches.  A Gentleman's (er, in my case, Gentlewoman's) Library Sale of the finest!  Almost everything sold, but the catalog should spawn a thousand new ebay searches.  

(The sale included a collection of animal skeletons, fossils, human skulls, butterflies, tusks and other curiosities amassed by Southwold archaeologist and anthropologist, Hubert Dennis Colllings).

A few of my favorite things (all sold!).

(Exhibition photo courtesy The Telegraph. Item images courtesy Bonhams).

Thank you, Toad, for sending me to this brilliant collection!
Extreme Bargain Hunting

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 12 comments
The best bargains in NY: The Trash (caveat: one must always beware of how fresh it is and whether animals big or small (rats or dogs) have gotten to it, but in general, there are often treasures to be had).  After a long night of drinking about five years ago, I came across a shoddy, broken-down deco cabinet down the street from my apartment on 14th Street.  Missing a front door! C'est la vie! It's mahogany-colored and curvy.  It will be mine!  Beer muscles and greed allowed me to haul that puppy a full block on my back, but it was perilously short in length.  When I tried to set it down so I could get into my door, the bottom seemed to be ready to slice clean through my Achilles tendons.  Confused and a bit trapped, I tried the splits, but that wasn't much good in my tight jeans, so I went the only way I could without losing my teeth - backwards - right on top of my new prize (not a way to treat any kind of furniture).  I struggled like a turtle flipped onto its shell, but in the end, I and the cabinet survived.  It held my big fat TV in the corner of my bedroom until two weeks ago when I came home with two very affordable, but non-trash accessories: a cheapy flat screen TV and CB2's wonderful Pharm Desk Lamp (pictured, available for $79.95).  Now I have an office in the corner - and a room I actually enjoy spending time in.  Meanwhile, one of my neighbors has a new old TV and a very old deco cabinet.  Pay it forward, all, pay it forward (or be smart and sell things on ebay).
The Lincoln Tour: Regional Sustenance

Monday, January 19, 2009 11 comments
In this era of mass marketing, Nebraska, in many ways, has taken an isolationist stance when it comes to food and drink.  It may not be artisanal/Alice Waters local, but at least it's something to call their own (and to share slightly with Iowa and a couple other midwestern states).  As mentioned previously, there's the love of Red Beers (cheap American beer and tomato juice).  We loved ours at Lee's Chicken, this great old road house featuring live organ music every night (we requested "Home on the Range" as an homage to Gramps).

And then there's Runza, the fast food chain that serves up these German-Russian beef pockets.  In a move of great local pride, they've added the classic Miller & Paine cinnamon roll to the menu. Miller & Paine was one of Lincoln's main family owned department stores that served these sugary confections (they taste like cinnamon toast due to the heavy quantity of white sugar) at its lunch counter.  Dillards bought them out years ago and that '50s legacy sort of died out, though the cinnamon rolls lived on through Braeda bakery.  (Interestingly, my mom craved the Runza cheeseburgers when she was pregnant with me, so I gravitate to those, while Port loves the old standard - with cheese). 

Other stops on the path to Type II Diabetes: The Tastee In and Out and Valentino's.
The Lincoln Tour: Elephant Hall

Monday, January 19, 2009 6 comments
As a kid, I just died for dinosaurs and paleontology, a passion greatly fueled by my many visits to University of Nebraska's Morrill Hall ("Elephant Hall"), a veritable Wes Anderson fantasy land. The collection of mammoth skeletons there is simply incredible, made even neater by the fact that many were dug up from Nebraska soil. There was even a species of mammoth native to the area - one with four tusks and and a bit of a sinister trunk. Sadly most of these guys died out centuries ago.

A perfect font...
A group of chickens discovered this guy in 1922 on a Nebraska farm. They pecked and pecked at the fossils until the knowledgeable rancher and his wife noticed. This, the world's largest exhibited elephant skeleton at 14 feet, dates from the Pleistocene Era.

The KC Tour: Architectural Salvage

Monday, January 19, 2009 6 comments
If ever in need of an old claw foot tub, elevator cage (for a bed or a breakfast nook?), art deco fixtures or a carousel rooster, head to Antiques and Oddities Architectural Salvage at 2045 Broadway in KC.  Owned by a couple of our schoolmates' parents, it's always packed to the brim with treasures.  This is the first time we've been in and come out empty handed.  (BTW, that elevator below from an old building in St. Louis is $4,500 - and absolutely incredible).

Photos by Porter Hovey
The KC Tour: Stompin' at the Savoy

Sunday, January 18, 2009 9 comments
As extremely hard and sad as it is to say goodbye to a beloved relative, it often also means bidding farewell to the places and traditions you always associated with them. With my grandpa gone, my reasons to return to Lincoln have withered.  So, in order to remember our midwestern traditions, Porter and I spent a few hours flying through and photographing the places we loved as children and will always associate with Grandpa Pete.  We made a similar whirlwind tour through Kansas City - more as a means to show off this beautiful town where we grew up.  First stop in KC: The Savoy.   
The hotel went up in the late 19th c. and the accompanying Savoy Grill opened in 1903 as a men'-only watering hole and eatery (the bartender told me that the term "grill" actually denoted spots where women weren't allowed) for downtown KC's business set.  Almost everything is original to the space, including the leather bar; the only additions over the last century being air conditioning, electricity (a gas lamp used to light each booth), refrigeration - and women.  As for the things that fell by the wayside: the booth-side spittoons and one mirror, shot out during a gambling fight. 

Paul Newman's character in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge ate at the Savoy, as did Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan (many of whom liked to sit at booth #4, a quiet, cozy one, not this grand one, guarded by stained glass).

Artist Edward Holslag painted a series of murals covering the Grill's upper walls depicting the pioneers' departure from Westport Landing in Kansas City and their journey along the Santa Fe Trail.

While the Grill is still grand, the hotel has seen better days. The rooms look like scenes from a 1980s nursing home - quite sad, because you can see the beauty underneath.  

Thankfully, the old sinks and clawfoot tubs remain, yet cry out for subway and chicken wire tile surroundings.  Instead the bathrooms are covered in vinyl floral wallpaper and bad large square tiles that seem more fitting for a decaying office complex than a luxury hotel.

Frank Anderson designed the Art Nouveau stained glass dome for the hotel lobby.

Photos by Porter Hovey