Friday, September 28, 2007

Farrow and Ball and Emma Jane

There is a rash of new design books coming out this fall in time for the Christmas shopping season. My pre-released order with Amazon is obscene: I owe them a king's ransom for all these soon to be released books. But that's ok, this is my only hobby, so I indulge it. These new books are just starting to trickle in. Alex Vervoordt's came the other day and it's a winner, totally gorgeous. Another one that's arrived is the new Farrow and Ball: The Art of Color. For those who aren't familiar with Farrow and Ball: F & B is an English company specializing in paints. Not paints as in Sherwin Williams, but paints like those made centuries ago. With names like Cooking Apple Green and Book Room Red, part of the appeal is in the romance of times gone by. Their palette is extremely limited, only 132 colors as opposed to the thousands of colors made by other paint companies. Their paint is made the old fashioned way without "modern" cost cutting measures taken. Besides paint, they also manufacturer wallpaper of the highest quality. Their designs are traditional stripes and damasks, but recently they came out with a few hipper colorways.

A company that produces such high quality goods deserves to be written about and now, they have been, twice. I wasn't taken with the first F & B book, Paint, but the new one The Art of Color is a completely different story. The photography is luscious at times and moody at others, the lens' subjects are breathtaking. One chapter that really stands out is Emma Jane Pilkington's apartment. I'm not sure if it's ever been published before, I googled for awhile and couldn't find any hint of it anywhere. So, forgive me if you've seen her apartment before.

Emma Jane, an Australian by birth, but raised in Greenwich, is a young, hot decorator who has received volumes of national press. Her apartment for Ivanka Trump is a work of art, done in bright shades of blues and reds. In fact, most of Emma Jane's published work is bright and happy. Her apartment, though, is anything but. Mainly painted in three shades of Farrow and Ball paints, the apartment is neutral in color. With a combination of modern art pieces and antique furniture, it shows Pilkington's sophisticated knowledge of classical design and refined taste for art instead of the more trendy look we've come to expect of her. Take a look at these pictures to see a side of Emma Jane that might suprise you.

Pilkington's apartment for Ivanka Trump, young and dynamic, exactly like it's owner. The colors are bright, the prints are bold.

Another design by Pilkington, here she uses Raoul Textiles in bright pinks and yellows.

And now, for something completely different, Pilkington's apartment. Modern sculpture by Mauro Corda plays against antiques such as the gold mirror. An obvious book lover, she displays them on a center table, an antique from a Rajastani palace.

Here, she mixes antique furniture, a pair of crystal chandeliers, and a stunning modern art piece just reflected in the antique mirror.

A close up of the sculpture by Verner Panton.

A contemporary sculpture by C. Jere sits atop an antique settee. Nearby is a spoon back Regency chair.

A corner of the living room with an antique zograscope and Buccellati silver atop an antique Tric Trac table, from 1760.

The study, with an antique directoire daybed juxtaposed with a leopard print contempory chair.

Close up of the daybed and another gorgeous antique mirror.

The classic kitchen with a wall of antique mushroom prints.

This bathroom is so atmospheric with the moody candlelight and marble tub. The hanging basket under the antique prints with just a touch of color from the purple flowers.

A close up of a Venetian mirror from the 1840's.

The master bedroom, with a gorgeous wall of mirrored closet doors.

Another view of the bedroom and it's unusual antique lighting fixture.

If you enjoyed these pictures, I would suggest you pick up Farrow and Ball: The Art of Color. These are just a small sample of the wonderful images from the book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Calabria and Travelling Back in Time

My MIL's cousin's wife wrote the second part of her story (see part I). It is about how she felt in love with Calabria. And I realised that we are both fascinated about something in Calabria that has to do with travelling back in time and with learning how to enjoy the simple life. Please read her travel experience:

In 1997 me, my son and L. (my MIL) took the sleeper from Mestre to Pizzo. Don't think of it in terms of "Orient Express" cause we are really miles and miles away from that. In Italy, modern and updated things stop in Rome, than, everything becomes Far West or Bronx as you said...

But, we arrived safe and N. (MIL's friend) was waiting for us at the station. That was the first time I met her and suddenly for me it was like paying a visit to a nice aunt. She gave us a delicious tomato sauce for our first pasta at home.

I have not been back in Calabria since '92 and was prepared to find things unchanged. But, little by little things in the house were improving due to many small renovations L. did during our stay. Lack of water was sometimes a problem but I sensed it in a bohemian way. Thanks to L. again I was figuring out better my approach to Southern way of living which is totally different for a person coming from the ultra operative North. From that year on I met and knew lots of friendly people always available to help and share with you what they have. Every year I can't miss the 'pantagruelian' (enormous) dinners of N. - each summer she cooks for around 10-15 persons in the typical southern way - I mean frying, baking, stuffing.... It's very difficult to stay in shape until the end of the vacations.

Through the years I've had the time to realize how wonderful the sea was, crystal waters and nice beaches that have nothing to envy to the Caribbeans.

Besides, I like how the natives are so bound to popular traditions, how they decorate and adorn the streets, the churches and the pure simple fun they have during the days dedicated to celebrate the Saint of the village.

It seems as they're still living in the 50ies. In the North we've almost totally lost this kind of genuine attitude.

You see now how positive I've become and I would go on telling you how many beautiful aspects I find in every situation.

I really like her narration. I experience the same every summer. And after I realised that I especially enjoy our stays in Calabria due to that feeling of travelling back in time, I know better than before how to decorate our palazzo. I definitely do not want to see too much (or any at all) modern furniture in our house. I really enjoy the simple decoration of my family's vacation apartment. It is still decorated like back in the 60ies, 70ies when my husband was born. This orange lamp in the kitchen, the chairs, the tiles ... It is like coming home after travelling the world. And I want to have a similar feeling in the palazzo.

Check the writing and pictures of sognatrice at bleeding espresso... She moved from the US to the little village of her ancestors in Calabria. A real travel back in time.

Photos 1 - 7:
Fiat 500 in Pizzo; one of N.'s famous pasta dishes, near Capo Vaticano via flickr; Pizzo Marina; fiesta della Madonna del Carmine; fishermen at La Seggiola; il trenino a Vibo Marina - the little train that my husband took as a little boy more than 30 years ago - and it still travels from 7pm until midnight all summer long.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Calabria in the 90ies

I got a very interesting email from one of my favorite Italian family members in Venice, my mother-in-law's cousin's wife.

In her mail she told me her first impressions about her first holiday in Calabria back in the early 90ies. Read what she wrote:

(...) I'm so fond of all Calabria that coming there on vacation for me now it's like coming back home. I feel so comfortable and enjoy all the aspects of the surroundings. But, it hasn't been so since the very beginning. Let me tell you my first terrible impressions of the first time I arrived there.

It happened in 1992, after a never ending journey by car. The house had been closed for many years and we arrived in July. It was hot of course and no air conditioning nor ventilation in it. Many times I slept in the beach-chair on the terrace. Along with the bad impression I had of the constructions which always seems so uncompleted and ruined, most of the time we hadn't water for showers or cooking. We had to spend part of the day stocking bottles and bottles of water for the main necessities.

I was desperate and wanted to go home. Much probably I wasn't in the mood to accept those things cause we mostly spent our holidays in the mountains in Suedtirol where everything is so accurate, clean, tidy, you know what I mean.
Anyway I couldn't help it and we finished our vacation.
Next time I'll tell you how I changed my mind.

The 'house' she is talking about is the appartment of my in-laws in Vibo Marina, 4km from Pizzo. Here, my husband spent the first 6 years of his live. When his parents, originally from Northern Italy moved on, they kept this home as the family's holiday residence.

I really appreciate this story as it is so true. I had the same experience back in 1996! I spent the first summer in Calabria with my husband (boyfriend at that time). It was an adventure for both of us! He hasn't been back there for years.

Of course meanwhile many things have improved, we got aircondition and water is secured. Even the construction ruine of 30 years in front of the house is finished and painted since last year.

I am curious to read the prosecution about how she felt in love with Calabria. Thank you for sharing!

picture 1: taken 2006 at restaurant Go, view of Vibo Marina, picture 2: taken 2005 at my family's house, view of Vibo Marina's port

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paris in Houston, Part Deux

My favorite landscaping company in Houston, pictured above, is Thompson + Hanson. Yes, you read that correctly, I said landscaping! The best part about shopping for plants at T+H is their antiques. OK, that sounds strange, I know, but believe me, their antiques are more gorgeous than their plants. Culled from trips overseas to France, their assortment of goods includes: armoires, chandeliers, settees, chairs, mirrors, bath goods, candles, and books, among other things. New or old, there is something here for every part of your home and body. The building, an old, restored stone-clad structure - is a delight in itself. If I were to start over and build a house today, I would base it on this design. It is a gorgeous space, the ceiling is raised to the rafters, the windows are all steel french doors that open onto an outdoor pergola-covered patio. The floor is stripped to its bare concrete foundation - cool on a typical hot Houston day. I want to live here, I say every time I come.

Outside, the walkways are paved in small crushed stone, just as is done in France - the basis of their design sensibility. Because the landscaping is French in feel, you won't find a lot of bright, blooming plants here. The focus is more on grasses and succulents than on azaleas and crepe myrtles, the typical mainstays of Houston landscaping. Large pots made of stone or tin are filled with grasses that quietly sway in the breeze. A large fountain is pouring water into what appears to be a huge animal bath, made of iron, not the usual stone. Nothing is typical here, nothing is expected. And no one does this better than Thompson + Hanson. Located on Saint Street in the hot, new upcoming design area of town. Neighbors include Indulge, Design District, Pile, Chateau Domingue, Krispin, and the soon to relocate, M. Naeve, featured yesterday.

The gorgeous interiors - hard to believe their main business is landscaping!

French antiques are everywhere - I love this daybed.

My reason for coming back time and time again: the up to date collection of Betaplus books, the only place in town you can buy them.

This gorgeous screen would look so good over a sofa.

Swedish antiques peek out amongst the French ones.

Typical elements of Thompson + Hanson design: stones, succulents, and perennials.

Their plants take on a contemporary feel, as do their landscapes.

No bright colors or new gauche pots, the simple - the better.

Modern pedestals contrast with antique urns.

Massed for effect.

The wildly inventive fountain.

Entry to the nursery is through a pergola holding up a water tower.

Evergreen wisteria climbs up the patio's pergola.

The best part: picnic table and wicker chairs set under a gorgeous antique chandelier. Takers, anyone?

Paris in Houston, Part I

I've been shopping in Houston this week, just making the rounds of some of my favorite places. First stop is the romantic antique store M. Naeve, eponym for Margaret Naeve, a darling, twenty-something who actually looks more like a teenager. What's most astounding about Margaret being the owner is how does someone so young acquire such excellent taste? M. Naeve isn't the place for those who go for KWID fabrics or trendy colors. Her shop is cool khaki all the way, though Margaret giddily confesses her own apartment is bathed in shades of lilac. Margaret purchased the storefront and it's contents from the older, previous owner, but the store under Margaret's watch never looked this good before. Her impeccable eye helps when she's in France on buying trips. The carefully edited inventory is limited to peeling, painted finishes and pale wood pieces, huge, ancient fireplace mantels, crystal and wood chandeliers, and oversized accessories. What she's bought for M. Naeve is exactly what Houstonians of means, taste, and desire are buying these days. If you lucky enough to hire one of Houston's top designer's - you'll probably be the owner of something from this store.

Margaret's a doll with a bright future ahead of her. It's a pleasure shopping here among such beautiful and exquisite things and not be treated snobbishly or rudely, a rarity in the upper echelons of antique stores these days. She delights in the beauty of her hand picked pieces and her attitude is infectious.

Chandeliers, wood and crystal, pots, and lamps from M. Naeve.

Pale woods are the norm here. Large accessories like this clock face are favored.

Gray painted corner piece, unusual garden chaise, oversized mirror all add to the romance of M. Naeve.

I'll take two of each: sconces and botanicals.

There's a match to this chaise, with the arm on the right side, perfect with a table between them.

Pale woods and lilies, chairs with interesting backs

The mood at the store is so serene, calm, almost hushed, until Margaret's giggles pierce the quiet.

Interesting displays of furniture piled to the ceiling, gorgeous mirror.

Margaret has all her lampshades custom made in Paris, of course!

Besides French furniture, Swedish pieces abound - like this day bed piled high with linens.

Stunning candelabra, table surrounded with chairs with a 'lone star' motif.

The only color - gorgeous green!

Even her flower arrangements are to die for, creamy roses surrounded by lavender colored roses.