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.