Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The full bloom of summer

Isn't it wonderful, what a little love can do?

The "before and after" pictures of my little community garden plot never cease to amaze me. It has already gone through many iterations since becoming mine last November, and I'm blown away by the amount of produce that can come out of just a 5-by-10 plot. I've grown Brussels sprouts, lettuces, potatoes, garlic, cabbages and broccolini. Currently, it's pushing up tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries. There are herbs, too... far more than I can possibly use: parsley, three kinds of basil, fennel, dill, thyme, lemon thyme (my favorite), garlic chives, rosemary, tarragon, purple sage, pineapple sage and even shiso. I've added a few flowers too, namely dahlias, foxgloves and petunias, for color and attracting the good bugs. "Guests, not pests," is my new motto.

If you live in a city and are without access to your own immediate gardening space, I really can't encourage you enough to join up with your local community garden. The reward is equal to your commitment, and I'm fortunate to be able to get there nearly every other day.

In the words of British garden writer Penelope Hobhouse, "I feel protected from the world by my plants." She's absolutely right, a garden is a place of respite, even though my attempt at videoing the bees joyously buzzing around my African blue basil implies otherwise...

Off to water now.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

My interview with the legendary Jeremiah Goodman

That moment you get to connect with someone whose work you've admired for so many years...

I recently had the absolute pleasure to interview artist Jeremiah Goodman for the May issue of Angeleno magazine (you can read it here), just ahead of his exhibition opening at Dessin Fournir in Los Angeles. We got a full page for the story, which was fabulous of course, but there were still a few little bits that I couldn’t quite squeeze into the feature, so I’m putting a few of his fuller responses here because they're so lovely.

I adore him.

MP: Has your process or technique changed at all over the years, and if so, how?
JG: Yes, until the 1960s all of my paintings were made on the spot, in the room that was being portrayed. I still work that way when I can. In some cases, though, it’s just not possible to set up a worktable for the length of time that would be necessary, so in recent years I’ve often worked from photographs, notes and sketches. If it’s a commercial job for an architect I usually have a floor plan, paint samples, etc. I then make a preliminary sketch in pencil and jump right in, usually on illustration board.

MP: I’d love to know your thoughts on the significance of documenting interiors and really illustrating contemporary history. (My mind goes to the importance of illustration for some of my favorite books, like Peter Thornton’s Authentic Décor or Mario Praz’s Illustrated History of Interior Decoration.) 
JG: I think there is an organic, visceral quality about hand renderings that cannot be captured through CAD or even photography. The mood and subjectivity of a space is given expression in an illustration. I mean, what do you want to see? It’s ten times better if Yves Saint Laurent does a sweep of a drawing than somebody else drawing all the buttons up the back. My interest is the feeling of light and again, the romantic quality of the picture. That’s the thing I’m trying to do. And, hopefully, that the person who sees them receives them in that spirit. There is a Brazilian word, saudade, meaning a mysterious longing. It is the most marvelous word! We don’t have that word in our vocabulary. It is about a feeling of having been somewhere before. It is similar to dreams and you feel that you had another life because it is so foreign to your actual life, and that the reality of your dream bewilders you. Saudade means a longing for something that you can’t quite put your finger on.

MP: Is there a “room that got away,” something you didn’t get to paint before it changed?
JG: Absolutely! Villa Trianon, Elsie de Wolfe’s retreat at Versailles. Oh how I wish I could have visited! Revered as America’s first interior designer, Elsie de Wolfe swept away Victorian hauteur and reinvigorated tired buildings with light, open spaces and soft, comfortable upholstery. Inspired by a strong French aesthetic, she introduced Parisian art to American high society. I have created many paintings of the villa from old research photographs. But would have loved to have walked through the rooms. Elsie worked constantly on both sides of the Atlantic, during a decade where it took eight days, rather than eight hours, to travel from New York to France. Those were the days!

And a few more of the images he shared with us...

President Ronald And Nancy Reagan, Living Room, Bel-Air, 1992. ©Jeremiah Goodman

Greta Garbo, Library, New York, 1990. ©Jeremiah Goodman

Edward Albee, Living Room, Montauk, Long Island, New York, 2004. ©Jeremiah Goodman

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Refectory tables, because bigger is better

I'm in love with this room. The colors, the fireplace tile, the chandeliers, the paneling, the rug, the windows... but most especially with that gorgeous, long expanse of table. Refectory tables have their roots in medieval design, a period that has suddenly reignited my interest thanks to some fun genealogical detective work. The tables usually have six to eight legs joined by stretchers just above the floor, and they're most associated with the refectory, or dining room, of monasteries. The tables were used in domestic settings too, often placed in the hall or principal room of medieval dwellings. They remained a common form into the 17th century, with a resurgence in the late-19th century as the Arts and Crafts movement looked to the medieval period for inspiration, as seen in this dining room. And while they were always intended as dining tables, I can't help but wish I had one for a desk... my laptop at one end, with the rest of the surface given over to joyful, if messy, piles of books and papers and magazines. 

The dining room above was designed by James "Ford" Huniford for a family in Northern California. I'm delighted to have just interviewed Ford for this month's edition of +RubyLUX

Click HERE to read the feature.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Queen and her corgis, as you've not seen them before

As a writer for design and lifestyle magazines, I get a lot of press releases via email. None, however, have made me giggle quite so much as one that arrived this morning...

Spoonflower is a North Carolina-based firm that lets you design and print your own textiles, wall coverings and even wrapping papers. (How cool is that?)

So with their existing archive of 300+ corgi designs and ahead of Queen Elizabeth's ninetieth birthday this Saturday, they've released a body pillow of Her Majesty and ninety different corgi pillows.

I die.

They even thoughtfully included twelve factoids about the Queen and her corgis, which I'll paste below the images.

Enjoy. And by all means, plump gently.

12 Things You Never Knew About The Queen And Her Corgis

The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis (but none, as far as we can tell, with a name longer than two syllables).

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are her favorite breed. 

She has loved corgis since she was a small child, after first encountering those owned by the children of the Marquess of Bath. 

The first corgi she ever owned was called Dookie, which her father, the future King George VI, brought home for his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret in 1933. 

Elizabeth, age 7, picked Dookie from a choice of three Corgi pups, reportedly because of his longer tail – “So that we can see whether he’s pleased or not”.  

When still young princesses, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, invented the “dorgi”, by cross breeding Elizabeth’s corgi, Tiny, with Margaret’s dachshund, Pipkin.

On her 18th birthday in 1954, the future queen was given a corgi named Susan. 

She was so fond of Susan that she took her on honeymoon after marrying Prince Philip in 1947.

Susan founded a corgi dynasty, spanning at least 10 generations of royal corgis.

Susan became one of several royal corgis to bite royal servants, when she nipped Leonard Hubbard, the Royal Clockwinder, as he was entering the Royal Lodge Windsor in 1954.

Holly and Willow, the Queen’s current corgis, are the last two remaining of a once 13-strong pack. 

Holly and Willow seem likely to be the Queen’s last corgis, after the announcement last year that she had ended her breeding programme.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Thoughts on collecting, and my latest Staffordshire figure

I recently came across this Eat Love Savor article about how young people aren't collecting anymore, and I've had to reread it several times as it's really stuck with me. At first I was sad... but then, if I'm honest, the hunter in me kicked in and I actually thought, "Wonderful, less competition!"

While, true, collecting is a hobby that requires free time and extra cash, something a lot of young people don't have, it's also a hobby (a passion) that provides an incredible source of pleasure and learning. There's such a feeling of reward when you discover something you've been looking for, or better yet, when you stumble across a completely unexpected find! My husband and I are lucky to live in an area with fantastic old homes, so estate sales have been a particularly incredible resource for discovering all the old bits and bobs I like... antique porcelain, out-of-print interior design books... you name it. (LA is also a great city for auctions and I'm still thrilled by the Ringo Starr wing chairs we got at Julien's last year! Never mind their cool history, they're insanely comfortable and let us linger long into the evening over a bottle of wine.)

I'm not sure when or how the collecting bug started but I can't quite imagine a time I'll give it up, or a time I'd at least stop looking and being interested. Maybe that's the key, really. To collect, you have to be curious, and I worry that many people today simple are not. And I'm just not sure how you teach or impart curiosity. My parents did it by taking me all over the world at a young age and by putting a huge emphasis on history and culture. My husband's parents did it by being passionate about entertaining at home. There are all sorts of ways. So what's happened?

But I'm not going to solve that now, so here's a look at the latest addition to my Staffordshire collection. Picked it up for a song at a Beverly Hills estate sale on Saturday. And I mean song! It's a late-19th century spill vase with a boy, a girl and a goat. I love their sweet expressions: his is contemplative as he gently pets the goat, and hers is one of pride, her arm draped around her love. Plus, the lead male character of my novel is a redhead, so I took it as a sign... a wonderfully encouraging little wink from the Universe.