Archive for September, 2011

In Defense of the Desk
September 27th, 2011

We’ve had a terrific response to this past weekend’s article (read it here) in the Palm Beach Daily News, and one thing that intrigued us is how many people wanted to know more about our design space. So we’re happy to take ourselves out of the picture — quite literally, see above top — and look at our desk.

Let it be said that sitting at your desk generally gets a bad rap. Anais Nin proudly declared, “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living”, while John LeCarré warned, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”

Which is all well and good if you can gallivant around 30’s Paris, or need to stalk the Cold War stage, but if like the rest of us you have to earn a living, you tend to be hunkered down at a desk. So we counter Ms Nin and Mr LeCarré with our favorite French proverb: Appetite comes with eating.

Day after day we sit ourselves down and design, and it’s only then that the ideas start to flow. Fortunately, our desk is a place we love to be. It at once reminds us of where we are, and where we’ve been.

Our desk itself, with its raffia and bamboo effect, anchors us here in Palm Beach’s golden light. The cane chair and lamp also speak to the good luck of our tropical locale. In front of us we often range a collection of mementos. Here we have our white porcelain dachshund, a small Fornasetti dish and a brass puppy — each one sourced from a different trip, these memories keep us happy company.

Perhaps this is our guide to a good work space. If you need to be at your desk anyway, populate it with fine things that you truly love — why not dump that old plastic pencil pot for a silver beaker? — and maybe you won’t always feel the need to escape it.

Do as Eleanor Does: Perk Yourself Up with Red
September 24th, 2011

Eleanor Lambert — the founder of the International Best Dressed List, and the subject of fab new book “Eleanor Lambert: Still Here,” by John Tiffany — was the type of formidably chic woman that seems to have passed away as the last century closed. Diana Vreeland, Millicent Rogers, Doris Duke, Helene Rochas, Babe, Slim … it’s not very modern to indulge in nostalgia, but we’re hard pressed to find anyone to match them today. Or anyone quite so quotable.

Eleanor Lambert once said of her favorite color: “I perk myself up after a hard day by wearing red.” Now, in her case, that might be a Charles James gown (now in the Met Museum’s collection), but even something as simple as a bouquet of red roses — like the ones (above) a friend brought for Sunday lunch — can achieve a similar effect. Here are some other red stories that inspire us.

One day we are going to get a grown-up closet, and when we do, we are going to paint it scarlet like Richard Lambertson and John Truex have done in their Sutton Place apartment (above).

Vibrant tomato is our favorite shade of red. (We’re not at all fans of berry red.) This luscious tomato and ball of buffalo mozzarella came from a market in Taormina, Sicily — and made for a salad we can still taste.

During a trip to Italy last Autumn, we were riveted by the luminous reds of the Venetian Renaissance painters. These details are both from paintings that hang in the Accademia: Giovannie Bellini (above, top), and Giovanni Mansueti.

This door off the main square in Cusco, the old Inca capital of Peru, captured our imagination with its marvelous gloss, especially against the old stonework.

So perhaps it’s no accident that some of our bestselling cards favor red. And not just for Valentine’s Day. As Eleanor said, it is a color that always thrills. And now it couldn’t be easier — shameless self-promotion ahead — to buy any card you like from our new online shop. Give it a try, and let us know what you think!

* Our preferred red is Pantone’s “Warm Red”.

September Moodboard: Camel & Lilac
September 21st, 2011

When a newspaper stopped by our studio recently to do a profile on us (yes! we were thrilled), it was a great excuse to re-imagine our moodboard for Fall. And since ‘Fall’ is a very relative term here in Florida — we’re expecting 92’c this weekend — there is all the more reason to signal it with a new color story.

Generally we start with one or two key images on our moodboard, then mix in a few more to complement the whole. Then we take a step back. And then we normally start all over again, because the right mood isn’t quite there yet.

But this time, from the moment we found this picture of a camel skirt set off by purple suede pumps, we knew we had it. The collection of paint cans soon followed (don’t you love that one confident punch of red among the soft lilac), and then a tearsheet from the Prada men’s Fall campaign — this time it’s a jolt of blue against brown— clicked into place.

We discovered we could assemble a similar palette from our own cards: lilac elephants, a brown rabbit, fuschia high heels, and balloons against an electric blue sky. We’re like children that way: we like matching things up.

Of course we love color in all its forms, but after a while all those acid colors of summer start to give us indigestion. So we nominate camel and lilac — muted, luxe and slightly unexpected — as our color combo for Fall.

Sources: House Beautiful (right now far and away the best interior mag for color ideas), J.Crew catalogue (always an inspired use of color): and the Ruben Toledo illustration (lower right) is from the Nordstrom Fall ad campaign.

Our colors: We favor pantone 2635 for the perfect lilac.

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.

Black, White and Red: Belle Epoque Beauties
September 13th, 2011

Black, white and red are our signature colors, so when we came upon these two marvelous portraits by John Singer Sargent, we were inspired to look closer.

John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of society coquette Virginie Gautreau — “Portrait of Madame X” (1884) — is now viewed as his greatest painting. But at the time the simplicity and color of the dress was considered so scandalously sensual, especially against Gautreau’s famously white skin, it effectively finished his career in Paris (he fled to London two years later).

To the modern eye, a black dress like this evokes restraint and elegance. Yet place it in the context of Belle Epoque fashions with their florid details and pastel colors (think of Barbara Streisand in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and you get the picture) and see how incendiary simple black can be.

In “Dr Samuel Jean Pozzi at Home” (1881), Sargent uses a rich scarlet red to portray another Belle Epoque charmer. Renowned as one of the most handsome men of the era, Dr. Pozzi was immortalized by Proust, and was rumoured to be the lover of both Sarah Bernhardt — and Virginie Gautreau.

This is why we find it illuminating to consider the pictures side by side. The spare color palette complements each subject so intimately — consider the black of her dress and his black hair, the white of his cuffs and her porcelain skin, and, most tellingly, his red robe and Virginie’s celebrated henna hair — we can’t help but imagine Sargent was making a connection about their affair.

(Neither sitter had a happy ending: the scandal of Virginie’s portrait evicted her from the Paris society she cared so deeply about, and, in a bizarre episode much later in his life, Dr Pozzi was fatally shot by a patient he was unable to cure.)

* “Madame X” can be found at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and “Dr Samuel Pozzi” at the Hammer Museum at UCLA. And there is a marvelous book about Virginie: “I Am Madame X”, by Gioia Diliberto.

Stand-Out Shop: Canvas, New York
September 10th, 2011

With Autumn now upon us, our first instinct is to look to clothing to mark a new mood. But it’s just as much fun to shop the new season at home stores. Canvas, a dreamy destination we visited in New York, is a great place to start.

Nestled on the corner of Lafayette and Broome St, Canvas is exactly the kind of Soho shop you always want to find, but rarely do: high ceilinged, light-filled and curated with lovely, affordable pieces that call out to be touched.

In much the same way a new bag can renew an outfit, a couple of new pillows can transform a sofa. Canvas has a range of velvet ones to tempt us for Fall. We were also seduced by the idea of trading in our old cutlery and getting glam with their gold brushed set (lower right).

And good thing we were travelling, otherwise we would have seriously overindulged in their ceramics. We have a bit of a bowl fixation — and theirs, with lush organic lines, are a pleasure to hold.

What inspires us: the delicate color palette, celadon fading to beige then bursting into vivid blue. The sinuous shapes of the ceramics. The wonderful textures: richly grained chopping boards, Ethiopian cotton textiles, and linen upholstery.

And we love how they feature boxes of our stationery to create pops of color (lower left).

If you can’t make it to the shop, they have an online store which is a gorgeous experience in itself — we’re often screen-grabbing their beautifully art-directed photographs for our mood boards.

* Canvas, 199 Lafayette St, New York, NY. (212) 461 1496.

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.

Bespoke House Stationery Gifts
September 2nd, 2011

One of our favorite things about the Labour Day weekend that begins today is the chance it gives us to visit city friends at their country homes. The last long weekend of the summer is often the sweetest, when everyone is in the mood to stretch that season’s happiness as long as they can.

Our host/hostess gift was usually a lovely big fashion or photographic book, just frivolous enough that no one would buy it for themselves. But these days, being in the stationery biz, we love bringing bespoke house cards that we personalize with a simple logo of the address. Wrap ’em up with a silk ribbon, and you’re go to go. Friends enjoy them so much, we thought you all might enjoy seeing some of them as well.

(We’re hoping to offer this kind of bespoke service soon, but for a similar effect now: get a box of our “Little Notes” and run them through your own printer with your friend’s address. Presto! Martha Stewart would approve of your craftiness.)