June 28, 2008

M21, Don't Look: It's the Book Thing

A few weeks ago, the ever brilliant Maison 21 did a hilarious post about listening to your inner Junque Whisperer. As I said in the comments, I fully endorse this philosophy and it's lead me to some wonderful finds. Of course, since he's not reading this, he won't be able to hear what that voice told me: Go. Book. Thing. Now. Of course, that voice said this last week, and I was going to do it anyway, but I am sure glad I listened.

As my partner in crime, Kitchenography sailed out of there with about three small cookbooks and one little periodical, I was dragging my classic LLBean bag full of books out the door and across the driveway. But, damn it was worth the pulled back muscles and strained arms.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, BT's been a little light on the good decorating books recently, so after I zipped through that section, I headed back to the biography section and struck gold! First up, a biography of Vivienne Westwood, purveyor of 60's punk design in London. I can't wait to read this book, I am sure it will be every bit as interesting as her clothes!

Speaking of clothes, I also got a book by Barney's window dresser, Simon Doonan. I have his Wacky Chicks book, which is great and very funny. This new one is called "Nasty" and is about his family and other varmints.

In a look back to the roaring 20's, I found a book called "Them" by Francine du Plessix Gray. Her name rang a bell with me, and I thought this book about her parents looked like it would be a very interesting read.

Another great find was DV, a new edition of the classic book by design doyenne, Diana Vreeland. I might have an earlier version of this, but this book has a new foreward.

As I ventured back to the design section, I saw it had been restocked. I found a really funny book by Sir Osbert Lancaster, no relation to Nancy. The book, Homes, Sweet Homes, is written by Sir Osbert and illustrated with his cartoons. He's one of the only cartoonists ever to be knighted.

One of the most interesting things I found was a series of four books called Courtiers and Favourites of Royalty. These books look to have been published in the late 1800's and are full of facsimiles of old letters, as well as loads of illustrations. I am really looking forward to spending some time exploring these books.

My wee house is getting very crowded!

June 26, 2008

The Finale!

As I mentioned, I took more than 200 photographs when I was visiting M last week. There are some shots that really didn't go with any of the sections I wrote, but I like them anyway, so here they are.
This was outside the county historical society's consignment store. Lots of treasures there.

Seeing an artichoke plant is Maryland is very unusual.

A butterfly in the kitchen garden, which we chased away so it wouldn't lay eggs.

A is a very talented needlewoman and her works are scattered through the house. Another cane from the collection. I love the look on this guy's face.

M&A bought a load of orchids for a big party they had a few weeks ago, so there are stunning orchids all around the house.

We were sitting here having coffee the first morning I was there when a bald eagle flew right over us. I've seen them before on the Bay and it's great to know that they're coming back from the brink of extinction.

As I am packing to leave, Connor's hiding out from Mitzee and grabbing a quick snooze.

Thanks again, M & A!

June 25, 2008

Part III: The Dining Room

I think that I have saved the best for (next to) last! It’s the dining room of the house. It’s so easy to imagine having a beautiful dinner there… we meant to do that, but it was just easier to sit in the kitchen, talking and cooking and watching the dogs alternately ignore and then play with each other. The table in the kitchen is a perfect size and the chairs are comfortable, so the kitchen it was! Like the library, the dining room has a beautiful set of French doors, shuttered on the outside to keep the sun out, and a long window facing what’s now the dog run. It was a cool and serene room, highlighted by a stunning chandelier that has not been electrified over the years, several family portraits and a fireplace.
As with the other rooms in the house, it’s the details that make it so incredible. There is a pair of sconces, matching those in the hallway, with hand-etched globes that have survived the years. The French-polished dining table has stunning sterling candelabras and a silver tray holds some porcelain items. The green fire-screens on the side of the fireplace compliment the claret-coloured curtains. The 1930’s portrait on one end of the room perfectly balances the large ormolu mirror at the other end. My favourite item isn’t front and center, it’s tucked next to the fireplace, being very unassuming, but holding its own against the larger portraits. It’s a small oil painting of one of A’s great aunts, painted by Cecil Beaton. It is one of only seven known oils by Beaton and exudes an air of mystery from its sitter.
I think that this is one of the most gracious and serene rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time in. As I look back over my pictures, and I took more than 200, it will be my memories of this room and this weekend that are the most precious to me.
Last post: some of my favourite shots, and little details.

June 24, 2008

Part II: The Hall and Library

The first time I visited M&A in this house, they'd only lived there for a year or so, and it was just after I'd moved back to the States. We had a flying visit and there was a lot of work being done on both the house and gardens. While there is still work being done, it's much more settled and lived in, and you can see both M's and A's personalities shining through.
A little history: the house was built in the 1820's and was passed through the family for the next 80 years or so. The house was abandoned for many years and at one point was used to store grain. In fact, you can see pitchfork marks in some of the heart pine doors. In the early 1960's, it was purchased and the new owners set about a serious renovation. They sold it to their daughter in the 1970's and M&A bought it about five years ago.

In the image below, you can see the center portion of the house, with a section of ivy running down the middle. The family uses the shutters to conserve energy during the summer heat.
The house has a hall along the front with a staircase along the front wall, and a library and dining room are on the back side. A kitchen and bedroom wing was added on one side and a sunroom was added on the other. There are only two bedrooms in the main portion of the house and two more in the wing.

M and I are both the middle children and both have the collecting gene. It's so interesting to see how he's arranged his collections, whether of paintings, etchings or canes. All of the rooms have brass rods running along the top of the walls and the artwork is hung with brass chains, so they don't tilt.

M found four of these sconces, with the globes intact! The other two are in the dining room. You can see how the staircase bisects the front window.

In the image above, the library's on the left and the dining room's on the right.
Clearly, this is a family that loves dogs. These are part of M's collection of canes and shooting sticks.

The library is obviously a well-loved and well-used room. It opens onto the dining room to one side and the gardens on another side.
The huge book case, which I spent lots of time checking out!
A detail of the book case.

The library fireplace, which gets used a lot in winter. It's a perfect place for a sit and a chat. The chandelier is out being worked on, but you can see where it should be!

Tomorrow, I will show the dining room and some other views.

June 23, 2008

Our Correspondent on Royal Ascot

My friend David, Esq. graciously acted as my correspondent at Royal Ascot last week, and I wanted to give you his report and photos in a timely manner. I will finish up with Part II: The Inside, tomorrow. Here's David:

Royal Ascot is one of the most important race meetings of the year. But it’s much more than that. It’s also a highlight of the “Season”, that whirl of horse racing, tennis, opera, regattas, strawberries and Pimm’s that makes up the English summer.
Ascot week takes place in mid-June every year, with five races each day from Tuesday to Saturday. I was fortunate to attend this year on Thursday, Ladies’ Day, which traditionally brings out the most splendid costumes and hats.
Each day’s racing begins with The Queen and other senior royals arriving in a carriage procession. It’s the first chance to see The Queen, and there is always plenty of betting on what colour hat she will wear that day. A couple of years ago, there was a scandal when it turned out that someone with inside information from the Palace was placing large bets.

There’s a rigid hierarchy of different types of admission, entitling the holders to access different areas within the racecourse grounds and requiring different levels of dress code. The Silver Ring is the least formal, with no official dress code, although the Ascot website helpfully advises “bare chests are not permitted at any time”.
A General Admission ticket gets the holder into parts of the grandstand and trackside lawns. Ladies are required to dress “in a manner appropriate for a smart occasion”. Many wear hats, but they are not required. Men must wear a jacket and tie. Anyone can buy tickets for General Admission or the Silver Ring.
The Royal Enclosure is the most exclusive area. The application process for the Enclosure is a bit like joining a private club. You cannot simply buy tickets, but instead must apply in advance to Her Majesty’s Representative (the Duke of Devonshire, owner of Chatsworth). As part of this application, you must be sponsored by an existing member of the Royal Enclosure who has attended for at least four years. The dress code for the Enclosure is daytime formal dress, with a hat or “substantial fascinator” (whatever that might be). Men must wear a black or grey morning coat with waistcoat, and a top hat. After a few years with some racegoers pushing the dress code to its limits, Ascot has been cracking down this season. No strapless or off-the-shoulder dresses, no spaghetti straps, and definitely no miniskirts.

Even with the strict rules, there’s plenty of scope for creativity.

This gentleman is a London milliner, and is wearing a top hat that he made himself from a length of antique silk that he bought at auction.
Here are a few more pictures from around the Royal Enclosure.
Some girls getting racing tips from a particularly well-dressed bookie.
Sometimes it all gets a bit too much.

All of this excitement, and by the way, there’s lots of first class racing too.
Thanks for sharing your fun afternoon, David!