Monday, 31 December 2007

What will 2008 bring?

Black-Eyed Peas

Two things I know for certain. One, it will begin with black-eyed peas, cornbread, and collard greens. This little family tradition began, one can only guess, with my mother's college days in Georgia. And two, if it all goes awry one gets a second chance at a fresh beginning with the Chinese New Year. Everything else is a complete mystery.
As with everything I have done, there has been no great master plan; only hopes and wishes. I have allowed my heart to set the course and used my head to navigate the journey. The inverse would have been undoubtedly much simpler, but far less colourful.
When I started HOBAC it was out of a fit of pique and as a way to rail against what I see as the gross homogenisation of culture and intellect. It was never meant to be a decorating blog per say, but rather an insight into the different inspirations that form the basis of my work. At the very least, I hoped it would provide a slightly different perspective. As with myself, I hope it too will be more organised and focused (and, perhaps, even a little less guarded) in the coming year.

Here's wishing all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Now playing: Dolly Parton - Travelin' Thru
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 24 December 2007

Even the bloody dogs aren't cooperating

Neither of them will pose for a picture in the hall. They just sit there looking crestfallen. Bastards.
Seriously, I think I must have been possessed by Martha Stewart. What was I thinking? I have made things I had no business making. I don't bake; too heavy handed and too creative with the receipt (they never look right). Yet, I decided to make all the things (the things I normally pay someone else to make) I associate with Christmas. Admittedly, I did realise my folly mid last week; but unfortunately the girl I normally use went home for Christmas. Never again.

Now playing: Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
via FoxyTunes

Mahalia Jackson - Silent Night

Friday, 21 December 2007

Am I blue?

Yves Klein
Table, 1961

Yves Klein
The Earth is Blue, 1959

Yves Klein
Victoire de Samothrace, 1962

Evidently, according to The New York Times, the next big colour trend for 2008 will be blue. I wish someone had told me before I had ordered those eighteen meters of indigo linen for the dining room curtains (plaster pink walls, you see).

Now playing: Chris Isaak - Blue Hotel (Remastered Version)
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Speaking of Voltaire...

The Complete Works of Voltaire
France, early 19th century.
Eighty leather bound volumes representing the complete works of Voltaire. Price, $4,500.

This is the perfect gift for that enlightened, erudite someone who has everything.
From San Francisco's Lebreton-Laurence.

Now playing: R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Among the angels

It is not known precisely where angels dwell whether in the air, the void, or the planets. It has not been God's pleasure that we should be informed of their abode - Voltaire

Just found the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry's catalogue of the Our Lady Queen of the Angels installation by Tony Duquette from 1981. It includes an original "Saeta" in verse by Ray Bradbury and introduction by Clare Boothe Luce (author of The Women, amongst others).
While searching for images to post I came across the accompanying soundtrack of the exhibition. How fabulous is that?

Now playing: Dead Can Dance - The Host of Seraphim
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 14 December 2007

THE WOMEN: The Fashion Show

I just want to curl up and watch this movie over and over again.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


This is an apartment a friend is about to purchase. To his credit (and my surprise, I often think he is missing some of the more significant gay genes) he could see beyond the hideous decor and saw the potential.

Now playing: Nick Gilder And Time Machine - Hot Child in the City
via FoxyTunes

Those aren't Christmas lights, are they ?

Image from the Telegraph's The taxing issue of congestion

No, they are tail lights. Traffic is twice as heavy as normal. Not only because of the added holiday shoppers, but also because there are road works everywhere. That means in order to get anywhere in a timely fashion it is advisable to take the underground. I have lived in New York and Paris, two cities renowned for their public transport. I have never been on either the subway or the metro. Ah, but the underground, that I have been on. Who ever said death is a great leveler never took the underground.
This evening I was treated to the sight of a young man with doughy hands eating a sandwich all the while wearing gym shorts and a grey anorak. It was about 50 degrees outside today. But, that was not what I found disconcerting. He could freeze for all I care. We were in the middle of the City (London's financial district). The City. All I could think was, what a lucky girl she is, who ever she may be. Poor cow.

Now playing: Linda Clifford - Don't Give It Up
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 10 December 2007

Portraits, portraits, portraits

The Mirror & The Mask - Portraiture in the age of Picasso

"Life is merely a fraction of a second.
An infinitely small amount of time to fulfill
our desires, our dreams, our passions." - Paul Gauguin

It is not vain; just very European. One should have them done to mark rites of passage by an artist in an unexpected style; an impression is as valid as a clear depiction.
Holiday snaps do not count. Holiday snaps or studio photographs printed onto canvas are not portraits, they are an abomination.

I would have liked to have been painted by Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Francis Bacon.
Now playing: Heather Small - Proud
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 9 December 2007

When one's own taste is enough

The apartment of the late Henri Samuel (d.1993) as featured in Nest Issue 6, Fall 1999. Article by Mitchell Owens, photographs by Christoph Kicherer. This is a must read issue not only for this article, but also for the one on Pauline de Rothschild.

The salon.

M. Samuel, cheekily described as a sturdier version of M. Hubert de Givenchy.

The fireplace wall of the salon.

Bronze console by Cesar, painting is Balthus' La Jeune Fille Endormie.

The diningroom.

A parchment desk by Duboisson (left), a Guy de Rougemont coffee table (right)

As I had mentioned in And the winner is... Monsieur Henri Samuel would have been my choice to do our house, had I not grown up in a house he had helped with. I say helped with, rather than done by, as my Grandmother was not the type of woman to be dictated to. Her tastes were very specific. And, I dare say, she was supremely confident in that knowledge. Her house in Paris was very much like her. Not pretty (she looked more like the Graham Sutherland portrait of Helena Rubenstein, than Mme Rubenstein did), but handsome and striking with an underlying sense of warmth and comfort. Much like these rooms pictured.

Peak of Chic asked if growing up in a house like this had influenced me? Initially, I would have said no. Looking at these images and thinking about all the houses I have lived in and done, my answer would have to be yes. Subconsciously, but definitely yes. I think this is where I learned how to mix different periods and cultures, and learned about balance. Though, my take is much more American, and it took living in Europe for me to realise just how really American I am.

Where there was a penchant for the 1970s and more contemporary pieces in M. Samuel's salon, my Grandmother embraced the modernism of the 30s and 40s. That was her heyday, after all. Among the Louis Quinze and Seize furniture sat pieces in chrome, steel, and hammered bronze either covered in parchment coloured leather, or topped in glass, or stone. For every luxurious element there was an earthier foil. Vermilion linen velvet covered sofas played against simple tobacco coloured bark cloth curtains. A Louis Seize commode with its ormolu mounts and marble top, was balanced with a pair of simple Chinese altar tables. There was also that love of the exotic, be it Venetian Blackamoor or Chinese Buddha. Anything that imparted a spirit of adventure was dragged back and was found a place. Her solution to a dull room was " oh, it just needs a little vermilion and a couple of blackamoors...and it will be fine, darling"
If anything did influence me it was her unwavering sense of self, her warmth, and her humor. Even now what I remember most about that house are the times we spent together. I was indeed a very lucky and privileged child.

Now playing: Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 7 December 2007

Agnes Poitevin-Navarre

Filters [Louise]

My latest art obsession is the work of Agnes Poitevin-Navarre. I first came across her work at the RCA Secret 2006. Unable to get any of her pieces either this year or last, I decided to contact her. Always an idea that fills me with trepidation. Just because one is drawn to an artist's work it does not necessarily mean one will be drawn to the artist. We met at the 198 Gallery, where three of her pieces are in the current group exhibition, Blind Memories. I was bowled over. Agnes (French pronunciation) was thoroughly charming and passionate about her work, which is fascinating, thought provoking, and beautifully executed.

Now playing: Neneh Cherry - 7 Seconds
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

And the winner is...

Now, as for the decorator...hmm. Tricky.
Trickier than I thought it would be.
The choices were endless. Mr Albert Hadley would be my first choice. And ultimately, I would hope to grow into the type of person who should hire him. However, at this point in our lives, I have neither the desire nor the inclination to edit out all that is superfluous. So, I shall have to wait until I am that person.

Well, here are my choices and why.

My first choice would have been Monsieur Henri Samuel, but as I grew up in a house that he had helped with, I felt that would be cheating. So I finally decided on the legendary Mr George Stacey, "who was not meant to be an employee in someone else's decorating firm", to quote Mark Hampton.

Mrs Ertegun of Mica Ertegun

Year-round Porch Room in Chessy Rayner's Southampton House (MAC II)

Although she eschews trends, believing “that the basic taste never changes,” Mrs Ertegün keeps an eye on innovations in the field. She finds that new products can shape her vision on projects — “a million things in a million different ways”— and she suggests that technological advances “have made it possible to create almost anything imaginable.” Other sources of inspiration are the projects that take her abroad. “It’s nice to go to another country and adapt a client’s tastes to yours and yours to theirs.”
I don't think it would be smooth sailing, but the combination would be dynamic and we certainly would respect each another.

My other choice would be Miss Rose Tarlow

Miss Tarlow is driven not only by her sharp eye but also by her sense that homes are deeply personal. Rooms “may be perfectly designed,” she writes in , The Private House, “yet if they fail to reflect the personalities of the people who live in them, the very essence of intimacy is missing, and this absence is disturbingly visible.” Tarlow, guided first and foremost by her own keen sensibility, is wary of trends. “Everything goes in cycles,” she says, “and so it is with interiors.” What haven’t we seen yet in design? “Something new.”

The only area I can for see us clashing on is a lack of bold pattern. Other than that, I think living in a house done by her would be bliss.

Now playing: M People - Colour My Life
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

550 Park Avenue

Jeremiah Goodman, Diana Vreeland, Living Room

Last week Peak of Chic highlighted the Jerimiah Goodman exhibition held in Atlanta. His beautifully atmospheric paintings are evocative of a time and an elegance that have passed into the realms of myth and legend. Few remain who can recount the reality. Even with the aid of photography the views of these legendary rooms can be myopic. Mr Goodman's Diana Vreeland, Living Room suggests that Mrs Vreeland's famous "Garden in Hell", executed by Billy Baldwin, was an inferno of reds. In fact, as one of the visitors to the comments section correctly pointed out, only a small proportion of the apartment was done in the Persian flowered red chintz (purchased from John Fowler). Luckily, the Vreeland's apartment, unchanged for thirty (30) years, was preserved in Nest (Issue 7) with the help of their son, Mr Tim Vreeland.

A Polaroid of the hall looking into the vestibule taken by Mrs Vreeland. (left)
A corner of the living room. (right)

A partial shot of the living room looking through into the dining room.

Mrs Vreeland and her maid, Yvonne Duval Brown, in the dinig room. Photograph by Nicholas Vreeland.
Now playing: Peter Gabriel - Red Rain
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 3 December 2007

Dear Santa,

I know I have been more often naughty than nice, but I haven't been as naughty as I could have been. Surely that must count for something. If you could see your way clear to sending me this, I promise to try not to be so naughty.

Nan Goldin , John Edward Heys as Diana Vreeland
The Actor John Edward Heys as Diana Vreeland, New York. 1990.
Digital color print from original negative. 39 x 59 cm (50,7 x 61 cm).
Signed and dated by John Heys in black marker on the verso.

The actor John Edward Heys was often a subject for photographers such as Peter Hujar, Allen Frame and Philip-Lorca Dicorcia. His unique physical appearance, style and androgyny were in tune with the East Village art scene of the late 1960s to early 1990s.
In 1990 Heys staged a one-man show as an homage to Diana Vreeland at La Mama E.T.C., N.Y.C., which the playwright Sebastian Stuart called "a unique theatrical experience, as fabulous and fascinating as Diana herself".
The intriguing portrait here captures Heys' talent of embodying the personae of Vreeland. Today the actor lives and works in Berlin.

Now playing: Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Starting to feel a little like Christmas

Here is one I snapped strolling through the park.

(not really, image from freefoto)

Saw this on Pigtown*Design and thought it would be fun. The initial temptation to be wicked and outrageous has passed.

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?


2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

He wraps, if he knows what's good for him.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

Tree only, and white.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Yes, and also use it in the flower arrangements.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

About the third week of December. The tree goes up on Christmas Eve.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Christmas breakfast: scrambled eggs, ham with chow-chow, and bake.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Hmm...the first time I saw the Nutcracker at Lincoln Centre.

Pales in comparison,though, to the one where a friend insisted I meet her on Christmas Eve. As I approached, I could see her chatting (she has this awful habit of chatting to strangers) to this urchin. So I rushed up to her and broke the terrible news that Santa had just been shot down over Bagdad and Christmas had been cancelled. Wicked, I know, but it still tickles me now. And, yes she did manage to assuage the child's horror, as I knew she would.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

When I was about eight and Santa got caught leaving presents at the foot of the bed.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Are you kidding? Open them? I haven't even wrapped them!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

With everything but the kitchen sink.

11. Snow: love it or hate it?

Love, love, love it.

12. Can you ice skate?

No, but not for the lack of trying.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

A signed Karsh photograph of Audrey Hepburn.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?

Making it lovely.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Home made fruitcake, or zabaglione, or creme caramel with berries in a light orange syrup, or....

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

It used to be midnight mass, now we watch it on TV instead.

17. What tops your tree?

An angel.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?

Giving...people are scared of giving me presents...I'm equally scared of getting them.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?

Little Drummer Boy

20. Candy canes:

Red and white, is there another kind?

21. Favorite Christmas movie?

Frosty the Snowman with Burl Ives

22. What do you leave for Santa?

A beware of the dog sign - that way he can't sue.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

La Wally aria from Diva - Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez

This movie marked the beginning of the end of the life that my parents had planned for me, and the beginning of a life that I had not yet envisioned. For the first time I saw that culture could exist outside of a haute bourgeois setting. A pivotal and liberating moment.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Physician, heal thyself ?

Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room

I too have a house in my head, as I believe do all of you. I might even have several. That is probably why I often get sidetracked and distracted when making choices for our own house. I loose sight of the house we are in and chose things that would be better suited to somewhere else. Should we, as decorators, decorate our own houses? After all, doctors don't treat themselves.
I would be very interested to know who you would choose to do your house and why? Or, is the thought of someone else doing your house unthinkable?

I know the architect I would want and be completely happy giving carte blanche to, Bobby McAlpine, founding principal of McAlpine Tankersley.
Past architect would have to be Luis Barragan.
Now, as for the decorator...hmm. Tricky. You show me yours first, then I'll show you mine.

Now playing: Soul II Soul - A Dream's a Dream
via FoxyTunes

The House in My Head

An interesting and detailed look at the process of building one's dream house. Though the end result may seem a tad dated today, the process, which has not changed much, is very well documented. Unfortunately, I think Mrs Rodgers was more suited to the role of designer, rather than decorator. Had Mrs Rodgers left the decorating to another, I think the end result would have been very different.

Somehow, all the textiles and wallpapers chosen for this house do not work as well as they could have. Rather than being the smart modern country manor it could have been, the house merely has the feel of an executive's suburban home. The fashions of the day also seemed to play too large a role in the decision making. There was no sense of the long and celebrated traditions of the decorative arts being employed (as one would expect from a decorator) in creating this house. Design wise, it is nothing less than a triumph.
Had the decorating been done by say the likes of George Stacey or William Haines the house could have been a masterpiece and a worthy foil for the Rodgers' stellar art collection. An excellent example of this would be the house William Haines did for Ambassador and Mrs Anneberg at Sunnylands. To use her own words of her epilogue, " If only..."

All that said, this is still a wonderful book if only for the menus and recipes and the fact Mrs Rodgers was delighted with what she had created.

Thanks to Fairfax for letting me know about the article, The Lady is a Champ, about Dorothy Rodgers. This article hits the nail on the head on why I found her decorating lacking, "the wifely homilies". This quality translates into her choices and her view of the world. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just part of who she was.

Now playing: Bette Midler - In My Life
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 26 November 2007

Well kiddies...

Marie Laveau - Voodoo Queen of
New Orleans

None of the lovely things I wanted to post about seem to be springing forth. Instead, all I can think about are the things that are annoying me. So here we go.
Someone I have a great deal of regard for (this woman works like a Trojan) took the time to call and email me about a prospective client. She was just too busy to take on any new projects. So rather than let them spin in the wind, she suggested I should help them. Against my better judgement (these people bought Ligne Roset for their bedroom thinking it to be the epitome of modern), I dutifully followed up with a phone call and an email.
Guess what? Nothing. Not even a thanks, but no thanks. What a couple of ignorant @*%^s ! Who behaves like this? Mr and Mrs Ray Harriot of Bexley, Kent that's who. Mr and Mrs Ray Harriot of Bexley, Kent I hate you. Not, I might add, in a passionate Latin way, but rather in a disgusted French way.
Irrespective of the fact I know you won't read this.
A pox on your house, and on all who dwell in it.

A full moon, some chalk, a few black candles, a couple of live chickens, and we are all set... one pox and a little calamity coming up.

Now playing: Cher - Dark Lady
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thanks: the giving of

Benjamin's Emblem, 2000 by Walton Ford
A very Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Now playing: Ella Fitzgerald - Anything Goes
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Jansen Furniture

A fantastic catalogue of the furniture favoured by the decorators of Maison Jansen. This is a decorator's dream come true. Though, one can not help but feel that archival records must be lacking as there are noticeable gaps. That said, this is still a vital record. Not only of the legendary firm, but also of the components necessary to a type of decorating that is virtually nonexistent today.

As an added bonus Acanthus Press is offering a 10% percent holiday discount on their titles with a further 10% percent being donated to selected charitable organisations.

Now playing: Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands
via FoxyTunes

1st is paper, 10th is tin

Tin plates featuring 18th Century designs inspired by the Sèvres soft-paste porcelain in the Wallace Collection. The plates are very lightweight, they are 10 inches (26cm) in diameter and ideal for picnics or summer garden parties.

Now playing: Men At Work - Down By the Sea
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Standards, don't let them slip

Recently I helped a client with a kitchen refit. The only thing I hate doing more than kitchens, is doing bathrooms. Not because I hate bathrooms or kitchens. What I hate is the client's expectations. These are the two areas where background, or rather the lack of it, can really show itself. I prefer not to have my suspicions so blatantly confirmed. But, that is a whole different story. While selecting the appliances, I commented on the fact that the oven did not have a plate warmer. The salesman, who was extending a very generous discount in the hope I would change suppliers, said "that is very old fashioned". I telegraphed my disapproval with a look. Ah, the look, both a blessing and a curse. Yet again, that is a different story. Needless to say that kitchen has an oven with a plate warmer.
Why I bring this up is because a friend was recounting a luncheon he attended at the House of Lords. Now this is probably old fashioned, but one would imagine the standard there to be nothing less than exacting . Everything was wonderful, except for the fact the main course of hot roast beef was served on an ice cold plate. This is what happens when one gets rid of the hereditary Peerage; standards slip. The centre of the plate should be hot while the edge should still be able to be handled. This is not old fashioned, it is just plain common sense. Just as one would not expect a cold dish to be served on a warm plate.

Electric plate warmer
, in the event your oven does not have one.

Now playing: Communards, The - Breadline Britain
via FoxyTunes