Two things are happening in our homes these days: we are back in love with wallpaper (It seems we were afraid of it for a while) and we are taking a holistic approach to designing our houses and decorating our rooms. That is to say, we are interested in beauty and our overall well-being. Of course I couldn’t be more pleased. But honestly it is Abigail Edward’s newly published book Quiet Patterns: Gentle Designs for Interiors that really got my mind going on this matter. In it she argues (softly) that, when incorporated properly, pattern (many of which are derived from nature and childhood images reminding us of the countryside or secret garden or enchanted forest of our youth) has the power to transform a space and to soothe our weary modern souls. Continue reading “on my bookshelf: “Quiet Patterns””
This painting captures a quiet moment—a book has been left on the chair and the door left ajar, someone has arranged flowers in a vase (just clipped) and placed a chair at the edge of the garden (for whom?). When I look at it, I imagine a million stories, but most of all it invites me into a summer day that was long ago, and yet still bristles with life, that blue door, the slant of light, the hollyhocks, the rooks will alight any minute, and I feel like I’m there, a welcome guest. Stay as long as you like. Put your feet up. Tea will be along in a moment. Continue reading “view into the garden”
Barbara Westbrook’s rooms aren’t all in the country, but her way of decorating a house has roots in the countryside of Virginia, where her grandparents had a farmhouse that she loved and remembers fondly—and these memories infuse her work. I stumbled upon her book Gracious Rooms at my local library (I love when this happens, when I’m not looking for anything in particular, and something beautiful appears). I’m always on the lookout for unexpected ways that elegant country style is expressed. Continue reading “on my book shelf: “Gracious Rooms””
It was in a country setting that Edith Wharton hit her stride. True, she was in a failing marriage and not yet a famous author, but it was at her country estate, which she called The Mount, where she met the love of her life and where she became, not just a writer, but a successful novelist. Somehow during these years (1903-1908) of glory and gloom, she was essentially building two houses: one real, The Mount, and one imagined, The House of Mirth.
When she began designing, decorating, and landscaping The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, she’d already co-authored a book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), about architecture and design with architect and friend Ogden Codman, Jr., so she knew exactly what she wanted (privacy, sweeping vistas, impressive gardens, European influences, and American touches, like green exterior shutters and green and white awnings).
She would not live there long, and she would have other homes, even another country home in France. Yet, one could argue that it was here where she began her singular and abiding devotion to creating—body and soul—a beautiful house and garden and a sense of place.
While living at The Mount, Wharton wrote: “Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) focused on domestic, everyday objects and moments in many of his paintings. I love his use of patterns and fabric (his mother was a dressmaker), and here, the rough brown sack hanging against the delicate floral print, roses, lace tablecloth, and simple candlestick. With Vuillard, it’s always as if someone has just left the room.
A coat of whitewashed handwoven Irish tweed designed in 1951 by Sybil Connelly, who looked to the craftspeople of rural Ireland for inspiration and collaboration. Her book Irish Hands: The Tradition of Beautiful Crafts is a tribute and a celebration of their artisanship.
Connolly (1921-1998) built one of the first Irish fashion houses with her exquisite ballroom dresses and skirts made of pleated handkerchief linen, hand-crafted in cottages along the Irish countryside. She became well known for her romantic style that reinterpreted traditional Irish textiles into haute couture for clients like Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.