Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chinese Figurines Made in Japan

Every antique lover has a story of "the one that got away." My first such was the blue velvet corner chair I found at age 16 and "visited" all summer long, daydreaming of saving the money to buy it. But at $250, it was out of reach; I only made $2.25 an hour working at a cafe. It went to some other lucky soul. 
Much more recently, this charming duo escaped my clutches. I photographed them for a job, then went about my business. When I returned to the store a week later, they were long gone. 
However, I am the proud owner of these salt and pepper shakers, which I bought after letting those lamps slip away. I have an affinity for a specific kind of Chinese "look." I am not a fan of the literal. Rather, I adore the splashy figurines of the '30s, '40s and '50s, particularly those made in occupied Japan. Clearly, they are not representational. But that is what makes me love them. It's kind of like when Jennifer Jones, in "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" in 1955, was supposed to be Dr. Han Suyin, a Eurasian woman. Did anyone ever look less Chinese -- or more beautiful -- in a cheongsam than her?  
 I rest my case.
In fact, this chalkware piece that I got years ago kind of reminds me of the inimitable Mizz Jones. It even has blue eyes.  (I love Asian-themed chalkware, natch). 
I still hanker for a kitschy Asian lamp. This one may just fit the bill (only $32 on Etsy). These pseudo-Chinese figurines are so ridiculous, I am fully aware. But it's like Diana Vreeland said, "A little bad taste is like a splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste. It's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical."
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fabulously Quirky Illustrator Maira Kalman

At the Anthropologie “library” recently, I found Maira Kalman’s “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” a quirky tome that chronicles America’s history in a diary-like fashion. I love Kalman's work, particularly when she takes inspiration from the French. 
This is the beautiful Marie-Thérèse-Louise de Savoie-Carignan, Princesse de Lamballe. When Marie Antoinette became Queen of France, she was appointed "Superintendent of the Queen's Household", the highest rank possible for a lady-in-waiting at Versailles. She was killed in the massacres of September 1792 during the French Revolution. J'adore her coiffure. 
Here is Kalman's take on bouchées à la reine, small flaky pastries filled with savories. This recipe dates back to Leszczynska Marie, wife of Louis XV, and literally means "queen's mouthfuls."
Here we have Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, nicknamed "Nannerl," who was the oldest sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. She played harpsichord and fortepiano, and inspired her brother in music. 
This is the "Bombe Comtesse Marie," a version of the French dessert called the bombe glacée. I don't know to which "Comtesse Marie" this one refers. It suspect it is Marie Joséphine of Savoy, Comtesse de Provence, wife of Louis XVIII of France. The earliest English recipe for this spectacular dessert is in Borella's "The Court and Country Confectioner" (London, 1770).
Here is a charming portrait of a children's party on the Siene, inspired by the photo of the same name by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Pure whimsy, Kalman style! 
For more Kalman, she has a fabulous blog at She also has an art show currently running (through July 31, 20110) at The Jewish Museum of New York City called "Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World). 
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Fresh Look at Bentwood Chairs

I an not a huge fan of Thonet's hairpin bentwood chairs (though I do own some bentwood chairs I'm hoping are long-lost Eames creations). However, I have found some fabulous up-cycled ones lately. 
This one is painted in Benjamin Moore semi-gloss white and reupholstered in a yellow jute. I shot this at GasLamp Antique Mall in Nashville. Doesn't it look so light and modern? The woman who owns the booth has a website,, and she specializes in Hollywood Regency furniture. 
This one was  done by the blogger for She used the Florence Broadhurst "Japanese Floral" fabric (love it), and stained the wood. It looks so rich and elegant. It's amazing to see the contrast between this chair and the one above, how one can create two completely different styles from the same silhouette.
I might try my hand at upholstering some bentwood chairs in Thomas Paul for Duralee's fabric Plume. I found eight such chairs for $300 at a rummage store nearby recently. 
I also think Kravet's Teablossom fabric would be stylish.
Friday, March 25, 2011

A Garden We Will Grow

It's Friday. Which means in one more day, I'll be gardening. There are so many flowers I'm trying this year ...
Ranunculus. I love anything that is a "poor man's" version of something else. For me, the ranunculus is the poor man's rose. (And then there's alstromeria, which is the poor man's lily). I actually love ranunculus as much, or more, than roses. The petals wrap in such a graceful, round pattern, so billowy and neat at the same time, somehow.

I'm going for some gladiolus this year. I am thinking these will be dramatic when mixed in with layers of other plants and flowers, of varying heights, by the front porch. I'm going to stagger my planting to a few bulbs every two weeks so I'll have a summer of color. 

 This is Burpees "snowball" marigold. I tried them when they first came out, with seedlings for myself and for my mother. They grew famously. They don't smell all stinky, like regular marigolds, which is a definite plus. I'm not such a fan of marigolds, honestly. 

Trying my hand with some foxglove this year. We'll see how that goes. 

I'm going to mix in some wild and crazy cosmos for fun. I figure if they grow by the roadside all down the Blue Ridge Parkway, certainly they will grow in my little old yard. 
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hats Off! Mamie Eisenhower, Kate Middleton, and Others

With spring begun, hats are on my mind. Gardening and sun protection are mere excuses ... 

Do you even know what this is? Why it's Mamie Eisenhower’s pink petal hat, perched on her hatstand! Those were the days. 

Wouldn't it be fabulous to rock this pill box on Easter? Appropriately named Melbury Court, this little number was designed by British designer Gina Foster. At 

Look who knows how to wow them in a "fascinator." Worn at society events, this traditional headpiece normally includes feathers, flowers, and beads. Mizz Middleton -- wait for it -- always fascinates in hers. 

I think I would get the most mileage from straw fedora, like this one from Eugenia Kim at Neiman Marcus (Victor Osborne also has a chic, pink-ish one at Barneys).  I actually met Kim when she was just starting out. I was an accessories editor at Women's Wear Daily. She was a recent college graduate. She came to our office, unannounced, with two hats in a box, and wanted to meet an accessories editor. That was me. I put her in touch with the stylists for WWD and also for W magazine. It was obvious, even then, that she had talent. 

Okay, I love me some Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy, but honestly, I just love a good old-fashioned head kerchief (babushka). I used to sport a pink cashmere babushka by Tracy Watts when I worked for Women's Wear Daily in NYC. They sold them for $70 at Barneys, in various colors, and they were just the answer for a bad hair day. (This photo is from Heather Evans Smith Photography on Esty. Love her). 

I mean, who doesn't look cute in a babushka? (Photo from 
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

C’est Très Chic: Bébé!

My good friend Julia is having "un bébé" this May. When I lived in New York City, and friends had babies, I would hit the Barneys Warehouse Sale and scour the baby racks for the most French-ified outfits I could find. My best find was a sailor shirt with a little orange fish attached by a string that could be tucked into a tiny pocket. Those French. Always thinking of the darndest things. Here, j'adore....
That French humor. I love how the broccoli is saying "Allez mange moi, Je suis sympa! ("Come eat me, I'm nice!"). The little boy doesn't look happy about this at all. 
Evidently, in France, "Eat your soup" is a common refrain. This darling bib is available at

This is a classic French book by Virginia Miller about a naughty baby bear who refuses to eat his soup, but is tempted by the promise of honey cake, should he do so. At

Yet another French book about children eating their soup. Soup is a big deal in France. At

As one gift to my friend Julia, I ordered this Sophie the Giraffe teether from French company Vulli. Originally made in 1961 of natural rubber and food-grade dyes, this little squeaky teether has been all the rage among French babies for decades. In America, this It Girl is now the i-Pod of rubber toys, a total hipster. At
These little guy looks happy about chewing on some Sophie. From
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Co-workers Are Cats

I'm not a big proponent of cats in the workplace, being something of a a fan of industry. However, today I'm working from my front porch and guess who decided to clock in? 
Meet Flynn Parr-Moody. She's not much of a typist, but she does a great job of masquerading as a potted plant.
Meet Bunny Parr-Moody. She usually hangs around the water cooler, but for some reason she chose to sit in a flower box today. Definitely the office diva, this one. 
Monday, March 21, 2011

Papier-Mâché Easter Eggs

What should pop into my email this cheery spring morning but an ad for this darling papier-mâché Easter egg treat from Williams-Sonoma?
Yes, a gorgeous papier-mâché egg, made in Germany, 
filled with treats. But for a whopping $26? I think not. So I went on an Easter egg hunt...
At, one can find these nostalgic boxes for $6. They are made in Germany and the Czech Republic in the manner of Victorian candy boxes. 
What great table decor for an Easter brunch. They also sell the plain egg boxes for making your own. Just add ribbons, vintage millinery stock, and pictures. Darling!
D. Blumchen & Co. also sells this sitting Osterhase candy container. Wearing a golden passementerie collar and silky ribbon bow, he was handcrafted in Germany by a small, family-run workshop. This was how candy container rabbits looked during the the early 1900s; just life his head off and fill the hollow body with candies.
Yet another Easter egg treat from Blumchen are these panorama sugar eggs. When I was a child, we got these decadent truffle eggs for Easter that looked similar. I don't see them now, but oh, how delicious they were.
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Costume Jewelry Designer Kenneth Jay Lane

Octogenarian costume-jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane has long held court with all kinds of ladies … including those who lunch. Mae West inspired him. He danced among society “swans” at Truman Capote's Black and White Ball in 1966 (wearing a mask of black feathers, natch). Fans included everyone from Diana Vreeland to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (whose iconic 3-strand pearl necklace he made). And he continues to make “faux bijoux” look like the real thing in a whimsical way, as with these spring looks. 
With this "Light Pink Cocktail Ring," a cluster of nude resin oval stones embraces a square pink crystal on an 18 karat gold plated base. At
This ring’s gold plated base is decorated with a gold scarab, which is adorned with small Swarovski crystals and a big turquoise stone. At
This stunner is a 22-karat gold-plated bib necklace with faceted blush resin embellishment. At

This coral-topped coral top ring has a base of gunmetal encrusted with black and clear crystals. At
Made with 18K electroplated gold, this cocktail ring is decorated with coral stones and small crystals. In the center sits a cabochon turquoise. At

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Palm Beach Style Handbags by Kate Spade, etc.

Palm Beach style simply enchants me. The colors, the splashy flowers, the easy breezy look of it all. Recently I was visiting a client, GasLamp Antiques in Nashville, and found this fabulous Enid Collins of Texas vintage handbag. This style of bag makes me pine away for Tybee Island, near Savannah, because, really, I don't necessarily have to wear my Palm Beach style in Palm Beach, now do I?
Vintage Enid Collins bag.

I have owned one of these Lauren Scherr "Sparkle Tote" bags for about 7 years now, and, oh my, how beat up it is. This speaks volumes of its versatility. I'm never shy about prints. They really can work. Trust me. Available at 

Now that I am a "woman of a certain age," my focus is more on home and garden goods than on fashion accoutrements. But I do adore this Paley Paisley Sequins Amanda bag from Kate Spade. 

This little pineapple coin purse from Kate Spade just says it all, doesn't it? 

To round out the look, I'm feeling this Tucker "panel dress" at 
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

William "Billy" Haines, Decorator Extraordinaire

Fans of the Hollywood Regency style of interior decor adore pioneer William "Billy" Haines. He was a glamorous Hollywood actor during the early 20th century, then left to do interior design. His career paralleled that of Dorothy Draper, the other star pioneer of the Hollywood Regency style. Recently, I found these velvet chairs at a local thrift store; they remind me of William Haines' style. I've also included some photos of actual Haines chairs. 
This pair cost $100 at a local thrift store. Haines didn't do cabriole legs, to my knowledge, but I think the overall style is "in the manner of" Haines. 

In 1925, MGM's leading male actor was the debonaire Haines; he remained a top star from 1928 to 1932. 

Even though he had both, Haines advocated taste over money. 

Haines chairs featured on the blog Design Cracker See.

More Haines chairs, featured on Apartment Therapy.