just because

A Summer Garden Party in Palm Beach
May 17th, 2012

With its balmy evenings, and lush tropical gardens, Palm Beach often feels staged like a Hollywood set for a party. And, truth be told, there are a few Norma Desmonds here, who enter as if from stage left.

The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach is renowned for throwing some of the best parties on the island, and their summer party has a hard-to-match venue: the lovely secret that is Pan’s Garden, right in the centre of town. So imagine our delight when they approached us to design a suitably chic invitation.

The theme was Modern, which naturally can mean any number of things, but the modern we like best is the one with the “e” on it: moderne, which was an evolution of art deco. Crisp white and ice-mint green emerged as a compelling color pairing (see our mood board, above).

Sometimes all you need is type, pleasantly arranged — especially if it’s Guggenheim, a font derived from the original Frank Lloyd Wright lettering from the museum’s facade. But we’re not beyond a bit of whimsy, so we created a little martini glass out of the “y”, a motif that is reversed out on the other side of the invitation (above).

Fortunately for us, the dilemma of what to wear was immediately answered when we spotted this splendidly sybaritic blazer at CJ Laing. Palm Beach-based, they create pieces you really can’t find anywhere else, and we’re always suckers for a fabulous ikat print.

Striking blue lighting enchanted the garden, especially here at the lily pond with the charming statue of Pan himself (above).

And speaking of parties … this week, at the National Stationery Show in New York, we’ll be launching a new range of party “imprintables”. These are 6 x 9″ cards with playful, colorful borders that can be easily run through a printer to provide a personalized invitation. Here are a couple (above): a martini with a border of tipsy olives, and palm trees in vivid pink and green.

Next you hear from us, it will be with news from the Stationery Show and our very own booth!

4 New Years Resolutions from the Ever-Optimistic
January 2nd, 2012

No, we didn’t step up our visits to the gym last year nor did we arrive at much Italian beyond “grazie”, but we’re still suckers for a good New Year’s resolution. And here are four we will try to honor in 2012.

1. Instate i-free days. iPad, iPhone, iPod — iNough! One day a week we’re going to close our laptop, throw our cell in a drawer and set out with pen and paper to see what ideas might come to us if we give them more space to breathe.

(Resolutions are always better sweetened with a bit of retail: the little leather notebook pictured above is from cwonder.com.)

2. Walk in wonder. Perhaps it’s our Manhattan training, but when we walk we tend to stride from A to B as quickly as we can. This year we’re going to step to a different rhythm, and not take the palm trees and grazing ibis (like these we saw last week, above) for granted.

3. More poetry, less reality. As a modern design company, it’s incumbent on us to keep up with pop culture. But after we found ourselves repeating Real Housewive quotes — “If you can’t be my friend, please don’t be my enemy!” was curiously hard to resist — we were prepared to agree we might have drunk a bit too heavily from the reality-TV cup. In 2012, we’re going to find our way back to poetry and words we won’t be embarrassed to quote. First up, the new translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations (admittedly, a poet who might have out-partied Snooki back in 1871).

4. Send a Sunday card. Sunday night is a time for us to take stock of the week and make sure our pencils are sharpened for Monday morning. We’ll add just a few minutes to the ritual and write someone a card, for no particular reason other than to deliver a bit of mailbox love.

(We often dip into our stock of Little Notes for this (above), the perfect size for just a few words.)

Adventures in Gift Wrapping
December 21st, 2011

When we were growing up, the standard in over-the-top excess was generally held to be the Beverly Hills mansion of TV producer Aaron Spelling (above, right). And, for some reason, the symbol of this let-them-eat-cake profligacy became Mrs. Candy Spelling’s gift wrapping room (above, left).

Imagine, went the cries of disbelief, a whole room devoted to packing up gifts. Well, we figure if you happen to have 123 rooms at your disposal what’s so wrong about devoting one to giftwrap? Frankly, after yet another Christmas lead-up spent on the dining room floor wrestling unspooling ribbons and disobedient tissue, the thought of a well-ordered wrapping station is rather seductive to us.

Not that wrapping needs to be complicated, Candy-style confections. Here are three recent giftwrap ideas we spotted that we found particularly charming.

Go monochrome, with one striking accessory (above). The effect wouldn’t have been nearly as striking if the bow didn’t match the paper, and how lovely the teal color draws you to the “eye” of the peacock feather.

Follow fashion’s colors. Neon pink was a big story on the catwalks, often paired with a neutral, and look how modern the same combo looks on a present (from the windows of Bonpoint, above). The reason this works so well is that the paired ribbons are of different widths, so you get a nice play of textures as well as colors.

It really is the thought that counts. This gift (above) was for a celebration in New York, and not only is the paper a map of Manhattan, some of the destinations for the visit are marked with a red dot. You have to admit this is a pretty genius idea — and one we’re definitely filing away for future use.

As this is our last post for the merry season, we send you the happiest of holiday wishes, and let them be wrapped in good cheer!

Just Because: Four Fiendishly Funny Letters
November 15th, 2011

One conversation that is beginning to tire us is the one where everyone has a good moan about how new technology has coarsened our lives and ruined our manners. I’m sure the same was said of the telephone back in the day. Truth is, if Dorothy Parker was with us today she’d definitely be tweeting, and what’s wrong with the occasional text that makes us LOL?

But, and here’s the but, if these words were not put down on a sheet of actual paper, it’s unlikely we’d be able to celebrate them today. (So keep buying your stationery, please.)

1. Letter to Marilyn Monroe (below). An exasperated New York Times journalist tries, without avail, to reach the increasingly elusive star in 1960.

2. Letter from Proust to Princesse Clermont-Tonnerre. This one was so delightfully dotty that Maira Kalman couldn’t resist turning it into an illustration, reproduced below.

3. Publisher’s rejection letter to Gertrude Stein (below). Clearly this publisher saw no charms in now-famous lines like, “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

4. Diana Vreeland memos from Vogue. We’ve saved the best for last. DV was the incandescently brilliant editor of Vogue in the late 60s. Each morning her routine would be to dictate, from her bathroom, a memo to her secretary for immediate circulation to an inner circle of staff. These missives were to become legendary in fashion circles, and they still make for great reading today. (Visionaire published 150 of them in a now very collectable edition.)

(Scratchy quality so transcript follows each one.)

“December 9, 1966. Re: Pearls. I am extremely disappointed to see that we have practically no pearls at all in the past few issues. In fact, many necklines could have been helped by pearls worn inside the dress that show inside the cutaway sides and back of most ordinary dresses on top…

“I speak of this very often — and as soon as I stop speaking the pearls disappear.

“Nothing gives the luxury of pearls. Please keep them in mind.”

And here’s one more memo we couldn’t resist:

“December 6, 1966. Re: Cover situation. Our cover situation is drastic…

“I do not hear from anyone an idea or a suggestion of either a face or something that would be sutiable…

“We are on the verge of a drastic emergency.”

* Sources: We found the Marilyn letter and Vreeland memos at Letters of Note. We’d recommend subscribing, as we did, to this wonderful blog, so each morning you get a new letter in your inbox. They are marvelous way to start the day.

Just Because: A Longing for Falling Leaves
October 1st, 2011

We confess it’s hard to have many regrets in all the Florida sunshine of Palm Beach, but one thing we do miss — especially as October starts today — are the leaves that begin to fall up North. Even a slightly moody existentialist like Albert Camus had to admit: “Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.”

So while the palm trees sway outside, we look back with a little bit of longing to our memories of their deciduous brothers, and the clouds of color in Central Park that used to hover outside our balcony (above).

How many perfect shades of orange you can find in one simple tumble of maple leaves (above, at the New York Botanical Gardens).

The gingko trees (above, top), with their yellow helicopter leaves, were always our favorites. It’s no surprise to us that Irving Penn seized on their graphic shape for the cover of his 1991 book, “Passage” — one of the landmark photography books of the 20th century. If you ever happen upon an edition lonely at a garage sale, pounce.

In Lenox, MA, we were struck by the golden yellow of this maple tree against the white clapboard siding. And understood why the 19th century Massachusetts poet William Cullen Bryant once wrote: “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

We marveled how a single perfect oak leaf, blushing red, stood out in a pile — and it inspired us to create a similar cluster of leaves for this sympathy card (above).

Just Because: Paperweights
September 6th, 2011

Like a lot of other people, today is the day we find ourselves back at our desks, sorting through piles of paper, creating (overly ambitious) to-do lists, and gathering up tearsheets. And when those piles grow taller, and lists grow longer, there’s nothing better than punctuate them with a paperweight. There! That makes us feel organised. (Try it, and you’ll see.)

Here are some of our personal favorites, which have sat happily at our desks in London, New York and now here in Palm Beach. (We discovered a few are still available online, and have provided these links.)

The solid brass puppy is a garage sale find, the decoupage glass pair from John Derian, the question mark from Assouline, the glass frosted globe from the Conran Shop, the lucky scarab from Oscar de la Renta for Lund — and our most prized: the super-chic sea urchin from Verdura that doubles as a pencil sharpener, a gift from a dear friend (no longer available, but their new site is marvelous to behold).

Sometimes all these desk charms mean we do get a little distracted from the to-do lists. But they definitely make us a lot happier to sit down with our paperwork in the morning.

Just Because: Roses, Pink & Orange
August 22nd, 2011

We normally like to give snippets of useful information in our posts. But sometimes we run across an image or two so delightful or visually intriguing, we need to share. Just because.

Like these roses we bought yesterday. Not fancy — they’re the $10 grocery store find — but just so pretty because of the color combination. (Here we’ve cut the stems down to around 6″; this allows even less expensive blooms to open more fully, and last longer.) Pink and orange. It’s fascinating how this pairing works regardless of the intensity. A lush orange and soft pink here, but equally a hot pink and bright orange are fab together.

A picture of roses also allows us to trot out one of our favorite quotes. From J. M. Barrie (who wrote ‘Peter Pan’): “God gaves us memory so that we might have roses in December.” (Now if that doesn’t call out to be featured on a card, we don’t know what does.)