Thursday, January 26, 2012

A walk in the park, and through the shop

Last Sunday I decided to take advantage of LA's gorgeous January weather and signed up for a morning garden tour of my neighborhood. It was organized by horticulturalist and landscape designer Mike Brown, though Urban Landscape and Garden Walks of Greater Los Angeles.

I'm not usually a joiner, but I'm so happy that I did this. We all met at Shaky Alibi (a new Belgian waffle shop) and from there headed out through the neighborhood and Pan Pacific Park. It had rained the night before, so everything was particularly fresh and pretty. Mike focused his talk mainly on trees, but touched on broader landscaping issues, too. (Admittedly, trees aren't much on my radar since I don't have a yard, but it was interesting information to learn—the architecture of pruning, so to speak.) 

The hour-long walk ended at Rolling Greens, my favorite spot for houseplants and fun gifts. The shop is just starting to bud with new spring items, so I couldn't resist taking a few snaps after the tour. It's a gorgeous place, and allows even apartment dwellers like me the chance to feel like full-fledged gardeners.

A triumvirate of blooms, books, and candles. The blossoms may be faux but they could fool a bee.

Vintage furnishings sourced from... wait, it was whispered to me... maybe I'll just tell you that they make several trips a year to the state that was 28th to join the union.

That pink-and-green throw almost came home with me.

While landscaping plants are kept to the outdoor area of the shop, the interior is filled with houseplants of all types. I found the perfect bird's nest fern for my office in the back room just a few months ago. 

And a special note for pet-owners: the staff at Rolling Greens is terrific about looking up information on whether or not plants are toxic. I learned the hard way a few years ago with a hydrangea from a grocery store. Kitty ended up OK—after a frightening and expensive trip to the vetbut it's a risk I'll never take again. It pays to shop where people know and care.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something old, something new...

While doing a little historical research for my friend Jo Lauria's upcoming lecture on the jewelry designs of Tony Duquette and Hutton Wilkinson, I came across the intriguing set pictured above and had to know more.

The necklace, bracelet, and earrings belonged to Lady Enid Layard, whose husband, Henry Layard, excavated ancient Mesopotamian palaces between 1845 and 1851. To mark the couple's marriage in 1869, Henry had his collection of Assyrian and Babylonian chalcedony cylinder and stamp seals mounted into gold settings. Archaeological digs had ignited a fashion for jewelry "in the antique style" but most of the contemporary Victorian pieces were made of new (or at least more readily available) materials, like the pendant below. Lady Layard's nearly 4,000-year-old pieces were quite a thing to behold, even catching the eye of Queen Victoria, who admired them at a dinner party in July of 1873.
A modern interpretation: a gold, agate, and enamel pendant brooch designed by the London firm of Phillips Brothers, circa 1863-70.

At first glance, Lady Layard's jewelry seems quite delicate, even small perhaps, but a portrait of her wearing the set clearly shows their heft, and even implies their weight. Upon her death in 1912, the set, and its original box, were donated to the British Museum.

An 1870 portrait of Lady Layard wearing the ancient artifacts, painted by Vincente Gonzalez Y Palmaroli in Madrid, Spain, where her husband had just been appointed British ambassador.

The original case, lined with black silk and purple velvet.

For more information on the Layard pieces, click here. All images are taken from the British Museum.

A selection of jewelry designed by Tony Duquette will be coming up for action at Bonhams in Los Angeles this April. For more information on the sale, Talismans of Power, click here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An intimate view of Lyme Park

Lyme Park, in Cheshire

Lyme Park is one of England's most famous country houses, a popularity no doubt enhanced by the 1995 television production of Pride and Prejudice. That above is, after all, the very pond that co-starred with a half-naked Colin Firth. Don't pretend you don't remember. 

Over the years I've read a fair amount about the history of the house (even visited the grounds long ago) but I've only just learned of Dulcibella Jane Legh, a daughter of the family who owned the house for some 400 years, until it was given to the National Trust in the 1940s. There's not much written of Dulcibella (who went by Sybil), but she was born in 1859 and died in 1960. Quite an accomplishment, yet one outdone by her sister Mabel Maud, who lived to an extraordinary 102.

It seems Sybil never married, but she lived at Lyme for much of her life, and took quite an interest in the arts. She even helped organize several painting exhibitions in London. Her watercolors of Lyme's interiors date to 1898—the year her father died—and are a tender, impressionistic study of the rooms. One can't help but wonder if, at that difficult time, she somehow anticipated the changes ahead and saw a very different future for her family home.

View from the Drawing Room to the Bright Gallery North
The Grand Staircase
Window Bay in the Library
Plant Stand in the Entrance Hall

The Yellow Bedroom

Reproductions of Sybil's watercolors are available through the National Trust's site (click here) and can be ordered as prints, or even note cards. Now if we could just have more of her story, and perhaps a portrait, too. My curiosity is absolutely piqued.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Preserving the moment

Travel is my greatest source of inspiration, so I particularly love looking at the travel journals and sketchbooks of designers and architects. Their drawings are a quick capture of what spoke to them in that moment, and offer an intimate glimpse into their interests. Perhaps even more importantly, it seems that sometimes a single pencil study can inspire an entirely new direction or experimentation with a particular style. While doing some research on my alma mater, the University of Glasgow, I discovered that the university's museum, The Hunterian, has digitized the sketchbooks of local hero Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I couldn't resist posting a few of the drawings I found particularly charming.

Buckland Manor, Gloucestershire, 1894

Iron gate, Abbey House, Merstow Green, Evesham, Worcestershire, 1894

Swan Hotel sign, The Green, Broadway, Worcestershire, and an unidentified doorway architrave, 1894

East end, St. James, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, 1894

Pollies Hall, Groombridge, Kent, 1909

Chiddingstone Cobham Manor House, High Street, Chiddingstone, Kent, May 1910

To see more of the university's collection, click here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

January's clarity

Danish artist Sia Mai's Less carafe (€75) and nesting glasses (€30 each)

When the Christmas tree has come down and the decorations and stockings have all been put away, I find myself drawn to super simple and unadorned forms in clean, easy colors. One of my most favorite online galleries, Craft 2 Eu, offers a beautiful range of glassware by Copenhagen-based artist Sia Mai that perfectly suits my January aesthetic.

Mai, who graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1994, first works up her designs in clay or plaster and then creates molds into which the glass is blown. Her drinking vessels are deceptively delicate and strong enough to stack, a key component of her designs. 

Structure glasses, €32 each

No matter the form, Mai's pieces are imbued with a sense of humor and offer a fun experience for the user. Lunchbox, which comes in two styles and a variety of sizes, was inspired by camping gear and is perhaps her most recognizable creation (it caught the eye of MoMA curators a few years ago). When released from its rubber band, the top and bottom become two bowls, ideal for sharing or serving.

Lunchboxes range from €85 to about €250.

Lunchboxes, shown with their elastics, and Mia's Picnic bottle and glass (€85 and €30, respectively), which secures in a similar fashion. It may be meant for al fresco dining, but I'd gleefully use it on my nightstand.

 To visit Sia Mai's Web site, click here.