February 29, 2008

Swid Powell

Have you ever heard of Swid Powell? It is actually a they... Nancy Swid and Addie Powell. They had a brilliant little tabletop company in the 80's and 90's where they commissioned architects and designers to create dishware and cutlery for them. Over the years, I had found several pieces of Swid Powell, but gave it all to a friend.

Swid & Powell had both worked for Knoll International, and then opened Swid Powell as a modernist approach to tableware. Among the luminaries who designed pieces for them are Arata Isosaki, Ettore Sottsass, Zaha Hadid, George Sowden, Richard Meier, Robert Venturi, and Michael Graves who did work for them before his affiliation with Target was a twinkle in any marketer's eye.
Additionally, Calvin Klein produced several lines for Swid Powell, including the tabletop for the re-opening of the Delano Hotel in Miami. I just found three large rimmed soup bowls by Calvin Klein for Swid Powell in the Georgica line, so I started reseaching them again.
In the summer of 2007, Yale University had an exhibition of pieced donated to them by Nancy Swid. You can read a press release here. There's also a book called Swid Powell: Objects by Architects, by Annette Tapert, but it seem to be out of print. She also wrote a book with Slim Keith, Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life.

For such an interesting company, it's unfortunate that there's so little information about Swid Powell to be found.

February 27, 2008

Interior Views: Design at Its Best

I am sure you're sick to death of hearing about the treasures I find at the Book Thing, but this weekend I got a couple of great books that are interesting from a perspective of 20 to 30 years. For a while, I've been writing about whether Carleton Varney's 1970's Book of Decorating Ideas has stood the test of time. For the most part, it has.

I found an interesting book called "Interior Views: Design at Its Best" by Erica Brown, published in 1980 by Viking. This book is a series of two-page profiles of noted interior designers of the day, followed by two pages of colour photographs of a job they've done. It was interesting to see how many names are still current and working, as well as how many have vanished into the mists of time.
Sister Parish

David Hicks

Nicholas Haslem

David Hicks design

I also found the wonderful book, "Mark Hampton On Decorating" with his lovely watercolour paintings and beautifully calligraphied titles. This book has been a favourite for a long time, but I'd sold my old copy when I moved abroad. I am glad I have it again!

I had to show you this hideous picture that shows how dated some designs become. It's by someone called Antony Redmile.

February 25, 2008

BB8 Shower!

Blogging pal, Megan Samuels of Beach Bungalow 8, is getting married! If you've not visited BB8, you must. She's very clever and has a great eye for fun designs. A group of us, (Peak of Chic, Style Court & Cote de Texas) instigated by the incredible Mrs. Blandings, have decided to throw BB8 a virtual wedding shower.

A few posts ago, BB8 wrote about not wanting to smell like anyone else and having a signature scent. Our family friend, Ned Martel, an editor at Men's Vogue, wrote an article on this same thing, referencing remembered smells from his childhood (and mine) in a bespoke scent, created just for him. Tobacco, saddle soap, Old Bay, the beach, cinnamon and others came to mind.
My virtual gift to BB8 is a session with Fresh, the company that helped Ned create his scent. Maybe something like Pink Jasmine with top notes of red orange, freesia, spring lilac, middle notes of magnolia, peony, fresh jasmine, tiare flower and base notes of precious woods, velvety peach skin, marsh mallow (not the candy, the plant).
Or maybe Cannabis Rose, described as "ultra-sensual and completely intoxicating... Top notes burst with the captivating aroma of Bulgarian roses infused with pomegranate flower and Italian bergamot. An alluring blend of cannabis accord, sheer jasmine, and rich dark chocolate make the heart of this sultry scent truly intoxicating, while base notes of white musk, patchouli, and oolong tea leave a lasting sensual finish."

All of my very best wishes for a long and happy marriage, Megan!

February 23, 2008

The Mount - Almost in Foreclosure!

I read in the New York Times this morning that The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, Massachusetts, is in danger of being foreclosed upon. The restoration of the house to the period when Wharton owned it has cost more than expected. Additionally, the trustees bought Edith Wharton's 2,600 volume library from a book dealer for $2.5 million several years ago and borrowed the funds for that, as well.
If the Trust raises $3 million by March 24, a donor will match it and they will be able to restructure their current debt to a manageable amount. The house is visited by about 30,000 people a year and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As a fundraiser, I know that finding funds for operations is the hardest money to acquire. People love to fund specific projects and programs, but the day-to-day expenses are what kill you. Unfortunately, you can't donate on-line, but there is an address to send contributions.

February 20, 2008

A Little Story

In 2002, I had an exchange student from Kosova stay with me during a summer program sponsored by George Soros for students from Balkan countries. I don't have children and was worried about what I would do with a 17-year old. Luckily, I got the most charming and delightful young woman.

She told me stories about being a refugee, on the run with her family, fleeing from the Serbs, during her country's civil war. She worried that people would not like her because she was Muslim - this was less than a year after 9/11. But she was smart and funny and clearly a person who had the guts to leave her country, fly to a huge new country and stay with a stranger.

She was open to lots of new adventures, including eating crabs, going sailing, learning to dance to zydeco music, shopping at the mega-mall and lots more.

In the past week, I've been thinking a lot about her because of Kosova's independence. I had lost her e-mail address, but took a stab at it anyway and sent a brief note. I was delighted to get an e-mail from her this afternoon. She's in medical school studying to be a doctor, either OB/GYN or cardiology. She's engaged to a guy called Adonis. She sounds wonderfully happy.
What really touched me were her words about the United States: "This is a dream come true, and it would never happen without the help of the United States, never! We, Albanians, are very very grateful for what the US have done for us. It is unforgetable!"

B... if you're reading this, I am so proud to know you!

February 18, 2008

Ashes of Roses

Last year, I talked about the colours French Blue and Eau de Nil. They have great old-fashioned names that describe the shades perfectly. In the colour chart in my last post, there's a dusty pale pink called Ashes of Roses. It's a lovely evocative name for a colour, and I hadn't heard it for a long time.
I did some research and to my surprise, it came up in the Pantone Colour Forecast for Spring 2008! The sketch that is referenced is a Bill Blass cocktail dress described as Ashes of Rose and Steel Gray, although the colour that is in their forecast is Cantaloupe. I think that cantaloupe has more orange than Ashes, which has more gray or black. "Against neutrals, luscious Cantaloupe is warm and nurturing - a great addition to any wardrobe, especially when paired with chocolate browns."

When I went to look for paints called Ashes of Roses, the variance was amazing. They ranged from a pinkish brown to a pale blue.

Behr Paint

Para Paints

Coronado Paints

Richards Paints

Pittsburgh Paints

So, what is the real shade called Ashes of Roses?

February 16, 2008

The Winner...and the Book Thing Bonanza

The winner of the I Coloniali soap is Julie, aka Kitchenography! This worked out perfectly, since she and I were getting together to make a trip to the Book Thing. She really scored there, too. She found a biography of Diana Vreeland, with a photo of the famous red room on the back cover. How I managed to miss that is beyond me. I think that I've convinced her to let me read it when she's finished. I did get one very interesting book... it's called Elements of Interior Decoration, by Sherill Whiton, the first director of the New York School of Interior Design. This is the second printing of this book, originally published in 1937. There have been at three more printings and revisions of this book and the title has changed slightly. Here's some information about the fifth and current printing.

Alumni of the School include Mariette Himes Gomez; Mica Ertegun and best-selling author and designer Alexandra Stoddard among others. The school also publishes design and other books, including Albert Hadley: Drawings and the Design Process.
One of the charming features of the book is a page right at the beginning which has 16 small swatches of "typical background colours", ranging from French Gray to Cucumber. The book is illustrated by hundreds of line drawings, as well as loads of black and white photographs. I think that it will be a hugely useful reference book. Another good day at the Book Thing!

February 13, 2008

Soap's On

It's really just a miserable day here with freezing rain, black ice, trees down and low temps. But my day suddenly turned warm and happy with the call that there was a package awaiting me at reception. I ran downstairs to get it and found a package from House in London with my precious I Coloniali soap!

Hmmm... pretty big package for a bar of soap, but I was sure that he'd lovingly packed this cargo in lots of wrapping. Imagine my surprise when there was a whole carton of six soaps nestled in the packing paper!
Further, there was another overwhelming present in there, but you'll have to ask House if I can tell you what it was. Suffice to say, it was an incredible, thoughtful present which will hold a place on my table and in my heart for many decades as a testiment to the kindness of strangers and people I have not yet met. Thank you so very much, House.

Because House was so generous to me, I'd like to share the bounty. If you're interested in seeing what is so special about I Coloniali, please post a comment by midnight EST on Friday, February 15. I will do a random drawing and send you a bar of the soap. I will post the winner's name on Saturday morning. Bon Chance!

February 11, 2008

Book Thing...yet again

My dear neighbour is probably not going to get her MBA because I introduced her to the Book Thing this weekend. Of course, I also showed her where the great Italian grocery store is, with their extensive selection of cheap wine. Clearly, she's headed down a slippery slope of books and booze... lucky gal.

As usual, I headed right to the Decorating section where I found a series of five books called The Homemaker's Encyclopedia, published in the early 1950's.
I am pretty sure that their publication date gives you a good idea of what kind of books these are. I got the following titles:
  • Needlecraft for the Home
  • Food-Buying and Meal-Planning
  • Indoor and Outdoor Gardening
  • Personal Beauty and Charm
  • Decorating Handbook

I have to admit that I love old decorating books nearly as much as the current titles. As much as fashions and trends change, they also stay the same, as evidenced by my Carleton Varney series of posts. These books were edited by Miriam Reichl, who is the mother of Gourmet Magazine editor, Ruth Reichl. The photos in these books are hilarious and so is the commentary. The beauty and charm book offers sections such as "suggestions for bathing", "this is the way to clean your teeth" and "how to care for your furs". The decorating book talks about "do men need closets", "living with old pieces of furniture in a modern home" and "accessories, pictures and mirrors". The book appears to have been underwritten by the linoleum industry, since they advocate putting lino everywhere, including the bedrooms.

I haven't started on the needlecraft, gardening or cooking books yet, but I am assuming they will be equally entertaining.

February 8, 2008

A Real Treat: Philip Gorrivan

I had never heard of Philip Gorrivan until I read NYSD today! Every one of the photographs was just more beautiful than the one before. His mother is Morrocan and his father is old Maine. His choice of colours in his NYC house reflect that combination of cultures. He will be launching a line of fabrics this winter with Highland Court Fabrics. Mr. Gorrigan sounds like a lovely man, and he's someone I am going to watch.

Living Room


Dining Room

Child's Bedroom

All images: New York Social Diary

February 4, 2008

Do You Speak Ikea?

I came across this interesting article in the Guardian this morning... I never knew that there was a system to naming Ikea items. I thought that it consisted of throwing a bunch of letter tiles on the table and creating a name. But here's the system:
  • Sofas, coffee tables, bookshelves, media storage and doorknobs are named after places in Sweden (Klippan, Malmö)
  • Beds, wardrobes and hall furniture after places in Norway; carpets after places in Denmark and dining tables and chairs after places in Finland.
  • Bookcases are mainly occupations (Bonde, peasant farmer; Styrman, helmsman).
  • Bathroom stuff is named after lakes and rivers.
    Kitchens are generally grammatical terms
  • Kitchen utensils are spices, herbs, fish, fruits, berries, or functional words such as Skarpt (it means sharp, and it's a knife).
  • Chairs and desks are Swedish men's names (Roger, Joel)
  • Materials and curtains are women's names.
  • Children's items are mammals, birds and adjectives (Ekorre is a set of children's toy balls; it means squirrel)

The photo is the Ikea in Cardiff, Wales, about a mile from where I lived. Click on the link to see how the giant venetian blinds work.