Thursday, 1 September 2011

COUNTRY by Judith Miller - An Appreciation.

What a smart cookie that Judith Miller is. Any topic that she tackles comes out the better for it. Take her "take" on the country, specifically owning a rural home just for the pleasure of it. Frequently, it is true that most pleasurable rural homes are in close proximity to a river, lake, ocean or some other natural wonder like mountains to climb or ski down. 

This 2006 book is a gem.  Judith has defined what a rural property should look like - now! And, it turns out a rural property should look as though it is situated rurally!
I know!
A no-brainer.
But Judith properly defines how pleasurable rural homes should look, through her many examples - in full colour.

And let me be clear about this, Judith's pleasurable rural home look is not what one typically sees in most 'rural' second homes. The one that I grew up with, our cottage, situated within a fishing village, was furnished in hand-me-downs from an earlier generation who did not want to live with the stuff anymore, but, since the 'downs' were still too "good" to get rid of, they found their way into our semi-rural cottage.

Judith's pleasurable rural homes have been pulled together with an eye to what is both really needed and what is really wanted. The outcome is wonderful. I hope that you will agree.

Please get this book - library, book store, or borrow it from a friend - you won't regret it! And, no, this is not a paid commercial announcement. I just really like the book.

Here are a few examples...enjoy.

And just one more - from a different book: a Canadian book called: Summer Cottages.
This is a picture that I will state is something that none of us should do again. Muskoka is NOT the Caribean. 

And a designer did this! She must have really wanted to be in some completely different place entirely!

The books used were: Country by Judith Miller, photographed by Simon Upton; Summer Cottages by Judy Ross, photographed by John de Visser.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Considering the Chandelier.

Chandeliers. Chandeliers are just one of the best types of overhead lighting that exists.
Most are pretty grand affairs. And like four poster beds they need one of two existing features to be really effective: either the chandeliers themselves are large in size and are therefore hung from high ceilings, or if a chandelier is hung from the 8ft. ceilings that most of us live with and, in fact call normal, then the chandelier needs to be smaller in scale and hung 4 to 5 feet above a biggish table or what is more normal, a real dining room table. It is over a dining room table, of course, that most chandeliers are hung. But, as you will see here, they are not always hung over any special table.

The examples that I have here (and I looked at dozens before culling it down to just these) are what most of us have seen in homes, hotels and the occasional grand office or two.


These first three pictures are all from French homes. The French seem to have a knack for taking seriously formal rooms and infusing them with some humanity and vulnerability that makes them very attractive to behold when they are photographed.

This is described as slightly rustic and you can see that the upholstery/slipcovers are made with a slubbed linen or maybe it is a slubbed silk. Even the lampshade has a slubbed fabric on it. The screens are definitely covered by that same slubbed fabric. And don't forget to notice the duck decoy on the mantle. Instead of a formal flower arrangement on the coffee table there is a Boston fern! Sacre Bleu!
This is supposed to be a chandelier which is modern - but, it reminds me of a 1920's evening dress. All that is missing are some Satin spagetti shoulder straps. I see it being most effective in an interior that is devoted to an update of flapper era in Hollywood.

Last but, by no means least, is this very charming white painted, wire double-tray chandelier. It is whimsical yet does the job just as well as its more refined sisters.
Love it!
I hope that you do too.

The French Touch with photographs by Pascal Chevallier and Jacques Bachmann; Architectural Digest: Traditional Interiors with Pascal Hinous; The World of Interiors magazine, June 2011 advertisement; House Beautiful's 750 Decorating & Design Ideas with Tim Street-Porter.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

What is it about RED? I'm beginning to think that my interest, no fascination, with Red is really a fetish. Hmmmm.

Anyway, I hope that you like these pictures from Jenny Gibbs' book entitled: The Country House. Yes, it is another English country house book, except that some of the pictures are no doubt from city apartments and townhouses.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Four Poster Bed.

Do you want one? Do you drool at the very thought of how utterly wonderful one of these big beds would look in your master bedroom? Lots of people love the very idea of sleeping in one of these.

Me? I'm not sure that I do. My one experience of trying to sleep under the fabric ceiling of the four poster bed that belonged to my second cousin, made me feel claustrophobic! And, for most of the night I had my eyes closed!
I now realize, that the fabric ceiling was only about four feet above me - lying down -and the four poster was situated in a regular height (8 foot) room.

Four poster beds need, in my opinion, ceiling heights of at least 12 feet.  That's when a four poster comes in handy (if you have attached bed curtains which close right round the bed) for keeping out those pesky draughts from less than perfectly insulated bedroom walls or are cursed with leaky windows.

Here are a few four poster beds that I find beautiful to behold, I'm just not sure that I would want to try to sleep in one.

This four poster is situated in a rarefied room - but just imagine how high that inner fabric ceiling is - it must be at least 8 feet high! Love it! Plenty of room to get my bearings should I half wake up in the middle of the night: I won't mistaken the fabric ceiling for the bed clothes and become so thoroughly confused as to which way is up and which down that I fall out of bed or something. Can't have that.

Lots of space in the room and under that fabric ceiling. The room's ceiling is the centre of interest here, therefore everything, including the bed which is the usual centre of attention, has been kept neutral in colour.

This four poster has the best remedy: no fabric ceiling at all. This is a remedy that  works for me. Now all I need is to find myself an apartment that has a ceiling height of at least 12 feet and then go shopping.

The House & Garden Book of Bedrooms and Bathrooms, 1995. by Leonie Highton. Photography by The Interior Archive, Mark Fiennes, and Simon Upton.

Friday, 12 August 2011

How I Miss the Grandeur that was Gourmet Magazine.

The late and still lamented Gourmet magazine was known not only for its recipes, opinionated columnists and travel articles but also as one of the best places to see exquisite table settings with breathtaking ingredients. I'm not talking food here, I'm talking about the equipment, if you will, that people have learned to use over the centuries and which has been further refined into distinct catagories such as stainless steel or sterling flatware; table cloths/place mats/napkins made of every conceivable type of fabric from the finest double linen to 100% polyester; water and wine glassware that can be the finest crystal or Libby glass from Home Hardware; and then we can get into the relative merits of tableware such as Porcelain or China or ironstone services. That's what I'm talking about - the ingredients that seduce us into being glad that we were invited for dinner and which elicit that first dazzled expression of "ooh! ah!"

Floral arrangements are always part of the equation: they should always be kept as low as possible for people to see each other, and placing more that just the expected twin candle holders (with their candles) is unbelievably important too; candlesticks help by their shape, what they are made of - metal or plastic or glass - to define the overall style of the table scape. Other accessories can add a dressiness to a table scape: silver birds, for instance (much smaller than life size) marks the owner of the table scape as being sophisticated in a country-house sort of way, or as seen in one of Gourmet magazine's table setting pictures - a miniature birch bark canoe or two -  placed at random - suggests youthful exuberance.

Many of the glittering ingredients of the Gourmet table settings in these pictures were borrowed from both fashionable antique stores and private collections in New York to greatly enhance the Luxe look of a Gourmet table top.

One of the ingredients that I discovered I consistently felt drawn to was the use of lace tablecloths!
I used to dismiss lace tablecloths as meagre stopgaps until a table was put to a better use. But, the pictures below show lace tablecloths underpinning sumptuous table settings. I understand now that they are definitely not just hanging around waiting to be whisked out of sight.

Here are some of my (surprising) favourites:

I love the lace tablecloth underneath those matching chargers and what look like shallow rim soups - exquisite!

Impressive Imari, the pattern which suggests oriental porcelain; in this case it is patterned and coloured Mason's Ironstone Imari dinner plates. They are exceptional. I wish that they were still being made. Sigh. The other interesting thing about this picture are the Gothic-style chairs. I am a big fan of Gothic style of furnishings with its slightly ecclesiastical, cathedral look.

In the above photograph of the place setting, the lace table cloth is paired with a lavender coloured under cloth which beautifully compliments the lovely lavender on white Spode/Royal Worcester china plates. This pattern is from their "Wild Flower" series. Two of the other amazing-to-me items include several examples of handmade sterling flatware, called "Quirinale"; and the "Paris" pattern of crystal water goblets and wineglasses from Baccarat, Inc. I had never seen the "Paris" pattern of crystal before Gourmet used it in this part product advertisement, part educational experience for fans of table scapes. Stunning!  

It may be time for me to expend some energy and find myself a lace tablecloth to go with my own Mason's Ironstone pattern - which is Vista Pink. I love it and wish that I had more - much more of it.

Just one more lace tablecloth: above. This is a fantasy picnic for sure, but a formal fantasy.
Great photograph too.

Best of Gourmet; 1989 and 1992. Canadian Guide to Home Entertaining, 1975. Photography by Fred Bird.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different!

As I have stated in one past posting, I am not above wanting to buy PLASTIC REPLICAS of 18th century French decorative products, such as the Syroco rendition of an overmantle complete with mirror, plastic molded "carving" and "golden gilding" in the French manner, seen and coveted at a local auction house. If I had had the wall space at home, it would be here now! I know that I would love living with it: not because it looked like the real thing - because it sort-of did - but because I got such a kick out of knowing that it was NOT the real thing. It was just a plastic pastiche and I loved it because of that very thing.

I have plenty of company when it comes to cherishing and wanting to give a home to furnishings that lack polished pedigree. One fellow traveller is Mary Randolph "Carter" Berg.

I know that her latest book: A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life, has been praised by every design groupie since it came out in 2010. I want to add my name to the list of design groupies who love this book.

Here are some of the pictures that really stand out for me - from "Carter's" own living situation:

So there you have it. Get the book and study it. You will see in those pictures, the results of people who really understand the power of design.  

A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life. Pictures and text by Mary Randolph Carter.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Colour of Gold

When I still lived at home with my father and step-mother (she was NOT the wicked kind) we had golden gold walls in our livingroom: it is long gone; sorry no pictures, but it was the most glorious, everyday livable colour that I have ever had surround me on the four walls. This type of gold colour goes with everything: every colour of wood goes with it, from ebony black to shabby chic white. It's a great colour to use as backup for pictures whether black and white photos or serious, major paintings. It goes with both Modern furniture and accessories and with the more Traditional.

Give luminous Gold serious thought when you next decide that your walls need just a little pick-me-up of Colour!