Palm Print Crush

Palm Print Wingback
“Inspired by the historic Martinique Palm Print of The Beverly Hills Hotel (and perhaps even Blanche’s Boudoir on The Golden Girls) I freshened up our small screened sitting porch at The Richmond.”

Coffee Shop at The Beverly Hills HotelI have always been a huge fan of the iconic 1940s palm print. The version most lauded is the one developed for The Beverly Hills HotelThe iconic Martinique Wallpaper Pattern was specified by the property’s  interior designer Don Loper in 1942 for use down the long corridors and in the iconic hotel coffee shop (pictured left). In the 1980s the print made an appearance on TV’s The Golden Girls – used as wallcovering and bedding in Blanche’s bedroom (see image below – anytime Hollywood Regency and 80’s Miami intersect – one has to take note.) And in the early 90s it swathed the walls of the A-list Greenwich Village hot spot Indochine to a super-chic effect.

Indochine Warhol BasquiatThe small screened in porch off of our living room has become a favorite summer gathering spot at The Richmond. Many a cocktail and tête–à–tête have occurred on the striped wrought iron sofa. This spring I noticed that the furnishings were beginning to look a bit ragged – so I decided to give the porch a little TLC. First up was finding a print to reupholster the Vintage 1950s Wingback (my chair). This is when the iconic stylings of the Beverly Hills hotel came to mind. I looked at the licensed Martinique Fabric used at the property – available through Designer Wallcoverings and Fabrics (they also sell the wallpaper). Sadly, they don’t make an outdoor version. So after a bit more hunting I found a virtual twin – “Swaying Palms” from Tommy Bahama (I know).Swaying Palm MontageI wanted the space to feel old school, preppy, and comfortable (channeling two of my favorite muses – Albert Hadley and Brooke Astor).  For that reason I decided to make it tightly coordinated and use only two fabrics – the Swaying Palm Print and Black and White Awning Stripe Sunbrella. The custom cushion for the existing round rattan chair, and coordinating throw pillows, were all made in the Palm Print. And to convey a retro cabana feel, everything, including the wingback, was piped in Canvas White Sunbrella.

I ordered a few great accents pieces from Wisteria – a favorite on-line resource. The Indian Rings Ceramic Stool in white (pictured above) as a side table for the wingback, and a pair of Nautical Rope Lanterns for the Vintage Bamboo Coffee Table (which was found at a local thirft store).

To add just a bit of contrast, but stay on plan, I added Wide Awning Stripe Accent Pillows from Pottery Barn to the rattan chair and sofa. The stripe is just a bit broader than that used for the Sofa – but they are still made from Black and White Sunbrella.

The end result is just as I hoped it would be. Cluby and cozy. A favorite spot for everyone. Especially our brand new puppy Loretta.

Leopards, Cheetahs & Birds

Zara Home Leopard Cheetah Rug“I first discovered Zara Home in Italy last summer – but now their US website is my latest obsession for well priced “wow” home decor pieces.”

imageLast summer when we were on vacation in Rome Jimmy and I spotted a huge Zara Home store in the Prati shopping district. The mega international retailer does not have homes stores stateside, so I was intrigued and wanted to see what the store was all about. I was expecting a lot of monochromatic uber-modern basics – much like what I see in their fashion collections.  But instead I found tons of color and pattern – much of it reminiscent of the glory days of Ralph Lauren Home. In fact I think I instagrammed their leopard pillowcases within a few minutes of setting foot in the store (they reminded me of an old RL pattern from the 1990s which I adore).  And while they may look like Ralph they certainly are not priced like him; yet the quality is there. Nothing looked or felt like it was from Ikea.  The design and construction was strong across many categories – from dishes to flatware, from small accent furniture to rugs.  I was overwhelmed and impressed – but at that point our suitcases were jammed – so I left with only a Palm Print Tablecloth (pictured below).

imageI had honestly somewhat forgotten about Zara Home until I was prowling the net last November for an animal print rug to finish out a spot in our living room. And then Eureka – I saw the insane leopard stenciled cow hide rug pictured in the opening photo above. It was fantastic. I loved that the colors were muted and the print sophisticated (there is such a fine line between cha cha and chic when it come to a leopard print). And the best part was that the rug was almost 30% less expensive than a similar designer version I had been eyeing. Even after my experience in Rome I was skeptical about quality – but upon arrival the product exceeded all expectations. It looks like a million bucks in my living room and got LOTS of attention at our annual holiday gathering.

Zara Home Bird Leg Side Table Interiors Gold Mirrior FootNow I was hooked. In December I began eyeing the whimsical bird’s leg side table.  This time I found the price somewhat frightening. Not for the typical reasons -it seemed too low. For under $200 I was worried it would look completely plasticky and cheap. But again upon arrival the product completely delivered. The mirrored top, the brass trim, and metallic resin work on the table were all extremely well done. I loved it. At the time of posting the piece is currently sold out. But do not fret – I see it is featured prominently in a promo shot for their spring collection so I bet it will be back online soon.  This illustrates a key point about the site – buy it when you see it. I have missed the boat on several items because I waited too long to pull the trigger.  And with the current free shipping and free return shipping offer – what is there to lose?

So while we are waiting for the table and rug to come back into stock – here are six items I am obsessing about from their spring collections.

Zara Home Plaid Throw Blue Dishes Leopard Napkin Ring Floral Table Cloth Gold Basket Picture Frames(clockwise from top – Tiles Dinnerware,  Plant Print Napkins, Round Gold Basket, Metal Bamboo Picture Frame,  Leopard Napkin Ring, & Plaid Throw )

So happy hunting. I purposely left the prices off so you too can be pleasantly surprised. Certainly not everything on Zara Home is my cup of tea, but there are lots of great items at prices that make sampling super angst free. Please keep me posted on your finds.

Christmas at The Richmond

Christmas Table 2012“My Christmas Table Set with Treasured Family Heirlooms”

To me Christmas is all about tradition. Traditions I grew up with. New traditions created with family and friends. And it all begins with the decor. For as long as I can remember, this has been my favorite part of the holiday. As a child, the excitement of bringing the boxes of decorations out of their basement hibernation was almost magical. As an adult I honor this memory. Decorating our house is something we plan in advance and enjoy, not something I anxiously check off a to do list.  I look forward to the annual rituals of Christmas all year long; many honor family members who are not with us and all celebrate the spirit of the season. Here are some of my favorites

Holiday 2012 MontageChristmas Rituals at the Richmond (clockwise from top):

(1) The Buffet at our Annual Holiday Open House held the Saturday before Christmas each year. Highlights included Crab Dip Au Gratin (see recipe in previous post), Shrimp Cocktail with Mississippi Comeback Dressing and my mom’s legendary Pimento Cheese. (2) Outdoor lights have always been a huge part of my holiday. As a boy I decorated the exterior of our house using old-fashioned bulbs and lots of greenery. This tradition continues with a 48″ Pine Wreath wrapped in old school Giant Bulb and Globe Lights from Target. (3) MP’s homemade Eggnog, served from Jimmy’s grandmother’s Optic Glass Punch Set, while opening presents. (4) Our Christmas dinner table set with Vintage Italian Christmas Dishes (circa 1970s) from my cousin Nancy – a favorite memory from my childhood. A Ceramic Christmas Tree made by Jim’s Grandmother Matilda serves at the centerpiece. The Pine Cone Salt and Pepper set is from West Elm. (5) Christmas Present Stacks – a fun tradition started by Jimmy. His modern metallic Chevron Wrap for me is on the left, my 1950s vintage inspired styling for him is on the right. (6) Detail of the Christmas Tablecloth hand-stitched by my Grandmother Wanda. A gift to my mother in the 1980s.

Big props to Amanda Puck, my surrogate sister, and beloved Christmas guest, for contributing many of her amazing photographs to this post.

Thanksgiving Mise-en-Scène

Thanksgiving 2012 Montage“think like Coppola or Demille when planning your table” 

Mise-en-scène, as taught in my college film studies course, is a cinematic term which refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement – the composition of sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. When I’m planning a party, an event, or even a simple dinner party, I always keep this concept front of mind. I think that entertaining is very much a production (either large or small scale).

Framed in this light, Thanksgiving at the Richmond is for sure an epic.  Filled with tradition, a little excess, and a few novel touches each year. It has become a must attend ritual for the 18 or so folks who gather around our table. And for me it is my very favorite day of the year (thanks in part to lots of help from guests, bloody marys and lorazepam).

For sure the holiday is all about the food (I go the traditional route); but to me it is even more about the table.  Nothing makes guests feel more festive, or welcome, than walking in to a dining room and seeing a thoughtfully planned and attractively executed table-scape with a place set just for them.

Here is a round-up of the “props” I used to create last year’s Enchanted Forest motif:

1 – The centerpieces were made with Burnt Orange Calla Lilies, Purple Artichokes and Light Pink Peonies to add fall color and a natural feel.
2Festive Quail Friends from Wisteria added some still life to the table.
3 – The place settings were on Customized Cranes Cards (a thoughtful host gift from a friend).
4Faux Bois dishes: a discontinued pattern from Marta Stewart & Burliegh
5 – Rather than spend a fortune on a table cloth, I used 12 yards of Mineral Linen from a close out bin.

6 – I love My Drap tear off cotton napkins – here I used  Brown Gingham in the luncheon size.

7Indian Corn painted with Metallic Paint and then sprinkled with extra fine Gold Glitter added some sparkle to the arrangement
8Hermes “Les Maisons Enchantées” salad/dessert plates – a slow building personal collection of mine.
9 – And finally, lots and lots of of Reidel for Target wine glasses to catch light and inspire toasting.


Channeling Mrs. Astor

stair photo montage

Brooke Astor StaircaseTwo summers ago I was fully engrossed in Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon.  The book chronicles the life and times of the legendary socialite Brooke Astor.  Mrs. Astor was a fan of Albert Hadley – perhaps my favorite of the legendary interior designers working within New York society during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Accordingly, although I fully enjoyed the gossipy tidbits within the book’s pages, what really stuck with me was Mrs. Astor’s over-the-top personal style and her flair for living well. She was an avid collector of things and people.  One such collection consisted of oil paintings of dogs – each prominently displayed in the circular stairway of her Westchester home, Holly Hill (pictured left).

I had struggled for a long time with the right design approach for the dramatic front stairway of my own home.  Gaining inspiration from her story, I loved the idea of hunting for a collection. In fact Albert Hadley once famously said “Nothing comes cheap, though an educated eye will always spot very nice things for the least money.”  As I am not an Astor this was my philosophy. However, I broadened Mrs. Astor’s concept a bit and began to collect any piece of art with an animal as the subject matter.  The pieces in my collection came from dusty antique stalls, trips to other cities, and low-ball auctions bids. In many cases I spent more on the frmaing than the pieces themselves.  And I took great care framing all in a pallet of black and gold.

Stairway The Remains of the DayWhen the time came to hang the collection I was a bit apprehensive. My mind raced with imagery of the Salon Approch (something I saw first depicted in the film The Age of Innocence). I gravitated the idea of clustering many different items together in the salon style – mixing varied shapes and subject matters. I have always been obsessed with the dramtic stairway in the English Country Estate depcited in the classic Merchant Ivory Film The Remains of the Day (filmed in England’s Powderham Castle – pictured right).  I loved the texture of the walls at Powderhorn and the richness of the three dimensional reliefs. Without a clear vision I wasn’t really ready to put hammer to nail until I had it all sorted out in my mind.

Then last fall, while on a buying trip in New York, I had dinner at a really chic West Village restaurant called The Lion.  Within their huge two story atrium dining room the designer had hung a vast array of art salon style on all the walls. Like my collection, their’s was a mix of style and subject, of photography and painting. But what really spoke to me was how the pictures were hung so that they were overlapping in some areas – like a collage.  I loved it. It created the three dimensional effect I was looking for. I wasn’t sure how the logistics would work, but I decided I would give it a go in my own stairway.

frame over-lapI know many people measure and sketch any wall grouping before actually hammering anything. Personally I prefer a more spontaneous approach – provided I have a wide array of pieces to choose from.  In this case I started with the piece which I designated as the central focus – the retriever profile.  From there I worked clockwise building pieces around each other and then finally worked up. I tried thinking of the grouping as a collage – allowing sight overlap in a few spots.  The secret to executing this effect was the use of self adhesive felt discs. I used them to add stability behind corners which need to rest away from the walls.  I also used a strong double stick tape to secure the areas where the pieces overlapped.  The end result turned out just as I had hoped. The photos really don’t do justice to the dimensional quality created by the overlap.

chair on stairwayAnd for me the poetic grace note for this project came from the fact that the wallpaper I choose for this area a year before I ever envisioned this project was “fireworks in black” for Hinson and Company by Albert Hadley.