Eye Travel

Eye Travel: A Palm Beach Weekend
November 5th, 2011

When we first started J. Falkner, not even a year ago, and before we’d designed a single card, we had our concept: color. And our philosophy: share color, spread happiness. The wonderful colors of Palm Beach, where we’re located, always lift our spirits. Here are some pictures we took today on a sunny stroll of just a few blocks along Worth (which runs the width of the island, hitting the Atlantic ocean, above) and Peruvian Avenues.

Any discussion of the singular beauty of this island has to start with Addison Mizner, the architect who in the teens and twenties brought a Mediterranean flourish that has become the trademark Palm Beach style. Mizner was quite literally an enormous character: well over 6 feet and nearing 300 pounds, he often stepped out with his pet monkey, Johnnie Brown, on his shoulder. (The little monkey’s tombstone can be found just off Via Mizner.)

We were touched by the monkey detail in the ironwork which celebrates Mizner’s beloved pet (above, right). And how marvelously the signage for the via (above, left) mirrors the organic flow of the bougainvillea.

Wander the alleys that link Peruvian and Worth Avenue to discover the most enchanting details. We love the syncopating colors that make us want to dance up these stairs (above left), while the curving coral staircase (right) that leads you to Sarah Gavlak’s art gallery could itself be a painting by Georgia O’Keefe.

As Northerners, we never fail to be astonished by the orchids that grow in such abundance and variety along the Avenue.

Peruvian is the sleepy sister to glittering Worth, but it’s also home to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach (above left), renowned for some of the chicest events on the island. And Peruvian Avenue features this mysterious blue door (right), our favorite. We’ve never seen anyone going in or anyone coming out, but when we do we’d like to imagine it will be a Contessa of ancient Venetian descent, swathed in Fortuny.

And, yes, certainly there is shopping to be had. Of course all the big fashion heavyweights are here, but why bother when local designers, with a genuine feel for the light and style of this place, are doing it better?

How fabulous is CJ Laing’s lovely new shop (above)? Designer Jack Laing celebrates color and terrific ikat prints in his designs, and they also feature a wonderful mix of accessories. But, be warned: it’s the kind of relaxed, sun-filled store you never want to leave.

When friends visit Palm Beach, they often ask (or want to ask), “Why is everyone walking around in their bedroom slippers?” The slipper trend just happens to be back for Fall, but Stubbs & Wootton (above) are the Palm Beach originals. With a wide range of whimsical motifs (above right), we like to think of Stubbs as stationery for the feet.

Even the dogs on Worth Avenue get their own little Mediterranean Revival flourish. The charm of this dog bar never fails to make us smile.

Four Fab Things in New York
November 3rd, 2011

With some time to spare in Manhattan last week, we took a cultural spin around midtown. Even in a single day, the jolt of shows and stores in New York gave us a fresh new perspective. Here are four things that particularly captured our attention.

1. De Kooning’s Colors. (above) The blockbuster art show in New York this Fall is unquestionably this enormous retrospective at MOMA. Frankly, for us, a little bit of carnivorous women paintings goes a long way. Instead, what impressed us about the show was how, over a very long career, de Kooning returned time and again to the color pink (often complemented by a mustard yellow). It’s this color that gave his paintings a consistent sensuality. As de Kooning himself said: “Flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented.”

2. Elie Nadelman in the MOMA Sculpture Garden. We can’t believe we never spotted this wonderful Nadelman bronze before. (One of his drawings, above right, takes pride of place in our personal collection.) The graceful stance is pure Nadelman, and how charming is the whimsy of the bowtie, sitting like a butterfly on his chest?

3. Organic shapes at Museum of Art and Design. The show itself — Flora & Fauna, MAD About Nature — was a little lackluster, but we were intrigued by Ted Muehling’s “Thorn Necklace”. (See more of his lovely pieces here.) The way the shapes interlock is striking, but then we noticed a single coral pendant, nearly hidden among the thorns. This made the whole piece that much more arresting. Perhaps the thorns had drawn a drop of blood?

4. Cheap clothing, fantastic stores. Just enough time for a retail dash along 5th Avenue. Forget about Gucci and Armani, the most sensational stores this Fall are the new Uniqlo (above left), with its Blade Runner light show, selling cashmere sweaters for $49.90, and the sleek video cube minimalism of the Hollister store (right), which features $25 sweatpants.

Eye Travel: Fantastic Floors
October 8th, 2011

Our instinct, when taking in travel sights, is to look high for new perspectives. But it can also be fascinating to look down, and find unexpected beauty in the floors on which we tread.

We’re reminded of Fay Wray’s wonderful story about Cary Grant, who was once besotted with her. “Whenever we went to a party,” she recounted, “he would always sit on the floor beside me. I thought that was kind of beautiful, like that’s where he wanted to be.” Kind of beautiful, or kind of crazy — on ne juge pas — but here are some elegant floors that might tempt Mister Grant.

The terrazzo floor (above) is from the Museo Correr in Venice. Viewed up close, the shattered colors remind us of an abstraction by Jackson Pollock or Jean-Paul Riopelle.

We love the clever whimsy of these tiles — see how exactly the same circles can act as air bubbles from a fish or eggs guarded by a gander — and the irony that they should be found in the home of one of America’s least-whimsical authors. From the bathroom floor of the Hemingway House in Key West.

These floor tiles, from a lovely little hotel outside Carcassonne in France, have a shifting perspective that evokes the art of M. C. Escher. Intellectually mischievous, Escher once asked: “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” Look again at these tiles (above), and let your eye play tricks.

When we finally arrived at the little palazzo in Marsala, Sicily, it was in the darkness of near midnight. And we confess we found the place a little forlorn. But, the next morning, when the sun had spread like a song through the house, we realized the same floors over which we had dragged our suitcases the night before were in fact these luminous beauties. And our holiday spirits lifted.

Eye Travel: Peru
September 15th, 2011

For this new series of posts, we’re inspired by Diana Vreeland, Gustave Flaubert, and Walker Evans. DV said: “The eye must travel.” Flaubert remarked: “God is in the details.” And Walker Evans told us to: “Stare. It is the easy way to educate your eye.” Travel is such a powerful inspiration for us, but it is the small details and textures — not the broad postcard vistas — that we’ll be exploring in these visual essays.

First up: our trip to PERU this time last year.

We’re smitten by this rich orange/grey combo: lichen against the Imperial Stone Wall at Machu Picchu … a silver bracelet (right) from a local jeweler in the Pisac market, and the royal alpaca scarf we wore everywhere (Peruvian silver and textile craftsmen trace their history back to Inca times) …

… isn’t the chipped marquetry of this signage from Bar Cordano in Lima so chic and evocative of art deco glamor gone by — we’re tempted inside for a Pisco Sour …

…. we love how the textures and colors of these succulents in a garden in Urubamba … complement the vivid crewel work on a table runner …

… a beautiful brass handle that seems to float on a glass door at the Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco … and how romantic is this heavy room key with a tiny hand clutching the keyring (and yes, that date does read 1692).

We hope your eye enjoyed the trip! Here’s one last image, since no picture of Peru would be complete without a llama. This little fellow, silver inlaid with turquoise, and once again the work of Pisac market craftsmen, is only 2.5″ tall: a tiny memento of a big trip.