Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eccentric & Extravagant Holiday Wish List - Oh to Dream...

As the holidays quickly approach and I start to think about packing for my winter escape, I realize that all I have been doing for the last couple of months is thinking about what luxurious trifles other people might want as gifts. Not for one second did I indulge in a fantasy of what gifts I might want this Christmas. 

So I began making a list and it was sadly predictable and utilitarian, even the winning lottery ticket was too obvious. I then began to think about what really inspired me aesthetically this year and what objects I wanted to surround myself with. I think about beauty all day long, beautiful jewels, beautiful paintings, beautiful clothing and then I think about the amazing rooms that house these luxuries. That brings me to the first thing on my wish list. 

In November's issue of The World Of Interiors magazine, I read a review of the new book "A Taste For The Exotic" written by Emmanuelle Gaillard and Marc Walter, published by Thames and Hudson. This gorgeously photographed book delves into the most luxurious and obsessive public spaces of history's most eccentric and fabulous collectors/aesthetes from Portugal to St. Petersburg. This got me thinking about the objects that I might furnish my rooms with in this grand and gilded fashion. While perusing my favorite antique stores online, I came across a gorgeous Chinoiserie chest from Polly McArthur and Associates in Seattle. This beautiful set of drawers is painted a shade of robin's egg blue that I find very soothing. The chest is very finely decorated with crimson red typical Oriental scenes of pagodas and farmers, but also leisurely scenes of kite flying. The drawers are even lined with vintage Fortuny fabric!

The next piece on my wish list is in the same vein as the chest (and would, in fact, look perfect perched on top of it) is this absolutely beautiful Meissen tea caddy made in Germany in 1740 and available at the Brian Haughton Gallery in London. The porcelain is painted with harbor scenes viewed through exotic windows. 

Below is an amazing cover from a 1934 Travel magazine.

These images of sailing ships and intoxicating distant lands provoke a sensation of extreme wanderlust in me and make me wander off in my mind on a fantasy journey to Tangier, Morocco, where I dream of shopping in the Bazaar for glittering jewel toned glass lanterns for my garden and armfuls of intricate silver and brass bangles that jingle wildly as I dig for treasure. 

I long to stay for at least a week at the beautifully appointed boutique hotel Nord-Pinus Tanger.

Thoughts of the exotic persist as I am almost hypnotically drawn to the most fabulous Buccellati emerald and diamond ring from Kanners Jewelers in Bal-Harbour, Florida. Lately I have been attracted to this deep sea green shade with its mysterious depths. I love the heavy, encrusted setting - like some Spanish courtly jewel retrieved from the sea's depths. At 20cts, truly a fantasy bauble. 

I am crazy about true Art Nouveau design and regularly buy Art Nouveau jewelry. I discovered this beautiful out-of-print book simply entitled "Art Nouveau Jewelry" by Vivienne Becker that is being sold by Potterton Books in London. The book features 156 color plates of the most stunning and fantastical masterworks of Art Nouveau jewelry design.

As I am always (almost daily) in the market for a new piece of rare jewelry, I was moved to see a very beautiful and delicate French Art Nouveau dragonfly brooch. This plique-a-jour enamel dragonfly with trembling wings sparkles with rose-cut diamonds... sigh. It is available from Linda Horn on New York's Madison Avenue, (212) 772-1122.

Below is a beautifully dressed tree from 1957.

While looking for more inspiring tomes for my fantasy wish list, I came across a set of the Journal de Dames et des Modes illustrated by Georges Barbier in France in 1912. This collection is available from The Manhattan Rare Book Company (212) 326-8907. 

This first edition is a collection of 79 issues that feature 186 hand-colored plates. This is truly a rare and valuable gift for anyone with a deep love of antique and vintage fashion. Barbier's illustrations are divine!

All of these images of beautiful dresses, jewels and shoes have me wanting to dress up. For Christmas I would like an extravagant pair of teetering red shoes, not so much to walk in as to just casually stand around at, perhaps, an art opening. These amazing sculptural red Alexander McQueen shoes will do the job just fine.

Next on my list, I would like an unusual handbag to add to my unusual handbag collection. As I love all things aquatic, I fell in love with this white shrimp shaped leather clutch, sweetly named "Tonie the Shrimp" designed by Larissa Hadijo and available from Beyond the Valley.

Also in a wild vein, I adore these new Givenchy clutches designed by Riccardo Tisci. This panther one is particularly fierce!

Below is a terrific photo of a young Ann Margaret and her furry friend on Christmas morning. Don't you love her leopard print cat suit?

These strangely surreal accessories remind me of another rare book I must add to my wish list. It is Salvador Dali's "Le Diners de Gala (The Gala Cookbook)". This bizarre (to say the least) book is lavishly illustrated by the master himself and features 136 recipes spanning the gastronomical gamut, some intriguing and exotic and some downright repulsive. This book is also available from The Manhattan Rare Book Company.

On a more appetizing note, one must always remember to leave a plate of cookies out for Santa. This year, I would love to leave him my all time favorite cookies ever. Years ago, while in Siena, Italy on a trip focused on finding the most macabre reliquaries, I happened upon the most delicious cookie, the Ricciarelli, which are soft, icing sugar sprinkled almond cookies that originate in Siena. I highly recommend the ones made by Antica Drogheria Manganelli, at Via di Citta 71-73 in Siena, absolutely addictive.

Below is a charming, crafty crèche from the 1970s.

Another of the favorite things that I like to collect are vintage posters. I particularly like German and Swiss travel posters. On my list this year is a sublimely beautiful rare poster entitled "Silvaplana" from 1934, designed by Johannes Handschin. It is available from Pullman Gallery in London at 44-207-930-9595.

Inspired by the Art Deco lines and cool blues of the Handschin poster, I will add to my fantasy wish list my dream antique radio, the Walter Dorwin Teague designed Sparton Radio, produced from 1936 to 1940. This Deco streamlined radio is made of ebonized wood and cobalt blue mirror. I first saw one being auctioned in Los Angeles and I fell in love. This is a perfect example of the genius of Art Deco design. This radio is available from Modernism Gallery (305) 442-8743.

Finally, on a musical note, I recently heard a few tracks from the new jazz release "Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1". These may be some of the best performances of Miles Davis' stellar quintet that I have ever heard. This is definitely on my list and it should be on yours.

One of my most cherished memories of encountering an idol in person was while I was on holiday in France with my mother. We just happened to be staying in a hotel in Nice that was hosting musicians playing at the famous Jazz Festival. One day, on my way to the beach, the hotel's elevator opened and standing inside was Miles Davis looking like the coolest, most magnificent witch doctor, leaving me speechless.

In closing, here is a wonderful performance of "Footprints" as played by the Miles Davis Quintet in 1967.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holiday Chaos and the Soothing Sounds of Songbirds

The holidays have me in a tizzy! Fashion crazed shoppers run amok, the pursuit of all things glittering and gleaming and recipes, endless recipes flying everywhere, vying for a place at the table. 

Having had a father that was a chef and having grown up part time in a professional kitchen environment where music was played constantly as a motivator and as an instrument of calm (mainly Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk) it has become essential to have good music playing while a feast is being prepared. 

In the midst of all this chaos I have found calm and pleasure listening to some great songs by favorite songbirds of yesteryear. 

Below are a few favorite photos of the great Peggy Lee.

I absolutely adore these gloves and have been looking everywhere for a similar pair to no avail!

Next is the song "Black Coffee" performed by Peggy Lee.

The next song is one of my favorites by Peggy Lee, "You're My Thrill".

Below are a few photographs of Diana Dors, a great starlet.

Below is the very funny Diana Dors song "The Gentleman is a Dope".

Next is my favorite Diana Dors song "Roller Coaster Blues".

Below are select photos of the wonderful Julie London.

Below are two sultry videos of Julie London accompanied by the Bobby Troup Quintet performing on "The Julie London Show". 

Below is the fantastic jazz singer Nancy Wilson.

In closing, we have two upbeat songs performed by Nancy Wilson sure to get the kitchen jumping!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Treasure Hunting - Glamorous Ghosts In A Country Manor

Freak snowstorm aside, we just returned from a wonderful weekend in the country visiting Victorian mansions and digging for fabulous treasures in countless antique stores. 

We had the great pleasure of enjoying cocktails in one magnificent house in particular. Our friends have decorated their late 19th century home with such care and superb taste that we have been relishing the memories of each of the rooms since our return. 

The house is arranged around sublime vignettes, utilizing the most fantastic decorative objects and pictures from the last 200 or so years, from the Baroque to high modern without ever forgetting to honor the gorgeous architecture of the house. It was truly like walking into the pages of The World of Interiors magazine. The house was described by one of the owners as a personal Wunderkammer, a perfect description of a perfectly beautiful home. 

Moving through these many rooms, up and down staircases, resisting the urge to slide down the shiny polished banisters, treading gently over French silk carpets, careful not to let my small vintage Celine handbag knock over a frighteningly fragile Bavarian porcelain folly (a priceless accident I would never live down), I began thinking about the scenes these rooms have been witness to over the last century. I wonder what songs have been played on Victrolas to Hi-Fis with party revelers wearing clothing that one might find eccentric today...

The images that are inspiring me this week derive from this idea of imagining one great old house and the history of fashion that the privileged people have worn in these rooms, from Edwardian finery to the sleek lines of the Art Deco era. Maybe it's because of Halloween, but I could swear that I saw out of the corner of my eye fantastically dressed ghosts going about their ghostly day, moving from room to room lighting candles and then blowing them out. 

Below is a beautiful photo of an Edwardian girl. I love the way her striped fur wrap is worn so casually. The plumed hat is also quite fantastic.

Below is a great studio shot of an actress wearing an insane dress that appears to be made of silver silk velvet and chinchilla. The way she is standing, hand on hip with just the right amount of bangle bracelets is perfect. The head wrap is also great with the scarf ends hanging long with glittering beaded tips.

Below is a stunning photo of an actress wearing a magnificent pleated dress with fabulous accordion pleated wings. 

This next photograph is unusual and beautiful. I love the placement of the two jeweled bows and double heart beauty marks. 

Beneath is a great image of the beautiful actress Veronica Lake looking absolutely gorgeous.

Next is a beautiful photo of the actress Kathryn Adams. I love the vertical ruching at the shoulders. The tassel necklace is beautiful. Lately we have been collecting a variety of tassel necklaces for the Pearl Modern store from Hattie Carnegie to Etruscan revival. There is something so fun about the way they swing!

Next is a photograph of the always beautiful actress Carole Lombard in the most exquisite beaded leaf patterned dress. Amazing!

This next image is so haunting. It is of the actress Marion Davies, the lover of infamous publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Below is a photo of the silent movie actress Mary Brian, who played Wendy Darling in director Herbert Brenon's 1924 silent movie adaptation of 'Peter Pan'. I love the rhinestone buckle detail at her waist.

This next photo is a wonderful image of the actress Kay Francis from the 1920s. The all white outfit is so chic and modern that I could imagine it having been designed by Giorgio Armani.

Beneath is an image of the actress Toby Wing. This corduroy dress is quite amazing. The geometric details and the diamond shaped belt buckle are excellent design elements. 

Next is a stunningly goth image of the actress Suzanne Ridgway from 1938 taken by master photographer George Hurrell. I have a scarlet red dress just like this that needs to be exhumed from the wardrobe immediately!

Below is another amazing 1938 photograph by George Hurrell of the actress Whitney Bourne. This is just a perfect photo. I love the use of the hat and the long netting is mysterious, sexy and slightly subversive.

This next image is also mysterious. She looks like a James Bond villainess in her high heeled boots.

Below is a photo of the actress Elaine Dunne, who played Vashti on the "Wild Wild West" television series in the episode "The Night of the Infernal Machine" in 1966.

Next is a photograph that I absolutely love of the Swedish stage actress Viveca Lindfors. The styling is absolutely perfect. 

The next photo inspiring me this week is of actress Merle Oberon. Born in Bombay in 1911, she made her way to England and then to America, where she had a long career appearing on television. To me, she exudes an exotic beauty with eyes that could tell many dark stories.

On a lighter note, in closing, we have a very surreal photo of the über glamorous actress Anita Ekberg from 1955, sitting in possibly the strangest chair we have ever seen. We wish we had been at that costume party!