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We Are Our Own Heroes

The usual resolutions and goals set for the start of a new year are falling a bit flat for me this time around. Each year I make them -- some are met, others forgotten and a few adjusted -- and the following year I make them again. I had reasonable hopes for 2009, but the year ended with a loud, crashing thud. This New Year's Eve, I'm tip-toeing cautiously into 2010 carrying with me no resolutions, no goals, and no expectations.

I think many of us are hesitantly optimistic as we peer into a new decade still treading in thick, murky waters of economic uncertainty and personal wonder. Some of us, perhaps, are feeling a little rundown and tattered. One thing, as a few fellow bloggers have addressed, is we have a blogging community. An amazing thing, really. A platform where we can exchange ideas and knowledge, it gives us a place to grow and get to know one another. People who we otherwise would never have known. This, I believe, is quite a boon. It can shake us from the feelings of isolation when we've encountered an upset or disappointment sitting quietly behind our computer screens. While we mull over when that pendulum will begin to swing the other way bracing ourselves for yet another hard knock, we have this blogging community to believe in and nurture. As hokey as it sounds, our blogging community -- in many ways -- is like the racehorse, Seabiscuit.

A hopeless long shot, Seabiscuit was small with awkward crooked legs and a sad tail. He wasn't an aristocrat. He was a proletarian, a plain regular working horse. He came along in a time when America was desperate for hope. So many people cast doubts about Seabiscuit, but one person believed in him. And that is all it took. Seabiscuit became a hero. A hero that looked like America. He was once nobody and became something to many people.

So many millions of people have talent and beauty, but have not drifted into an area to be appreciated. Blogging allows talent to be read and beauty to be felt. No one really knows when all this economic hullabaloo will calm down. We are an angst ridden, somewhat depressed nation, with many of us grinding our teeth wondering when that next big project will come in, and how far that last pay check will stretch. But one thing for sure is when I read many posts and comments from other readers; I see that we again can believe in triumph over hardship. Many of us are simply true honest voices who believe in the power of beauty -- and that is the dream this country was built upon.

Paint It White

I opened the doors and windows of America and let the air and sunshine in,” Elsie de Wolf exclaimed. The early twentieth-century interior decorator is often credited for being the first to toss out the dark and heavy gloomy Victorian palette to make way for a lighter and brighter scheme.

But was she really the first to brighten the Victorian interior?

Philip Connard (1875-1958), May Morning, late 19th century, Musee d'Orsay

The mid-nineteenth century saw an increase in concern about health and hygiene. Most middle class homes included a ‘sick room’ for use when members of the household were ill. The decoration of these rooms, suggested by household manuals, was for the wall paper to be subdued (preferably the walls to be white washed), the textiles simple and the crockery bland. Air and circulation were mandatory. Nothing in the room was to excite or disturb a feverish patient.

Félix Vallotton, The Sick Girl, 1892 (Private collection)

Dust retaining surfaces and heavy draperies were being eased out towards the end of the century, while beds made of polished oak, brass or cast iron were being brought in. They did not harbor dust or mites and could easily be cleaned. After all, de Wolfe suggested the use of white painted brass beds in one’s home, as hospitals did. All this, she argued, helped to allow for more air, light and space.

Catherine Beecher, an important advocate of the systematization of housework and the education of women, suggested the need for light and bright kitchens, and whenever possible to wash the walls with white paint.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the attraction and influence of the Arts and Crafts movement was powerful. The British influence reached almost every Western nation, especially in America. The Arts and Crafts movement wasn’t all about handiwork, the use of oak wood with exposed mortise and tenon joints, and a dusky color palette. There were architects and designers who, long before de Wolfe began to practice, believed in her value of “light, air and comfort” as they opened up space and painted walls white.

William Morris’ summer home in Kelmscott Manor.

Though Elsie de Wolfe detested her dark childhood bedroom with walls clad in a William Morris design, I wonder if she would have disapproved of the Kelmscott Manor drawing room Morris redecorated with his wife, Jane, in 1871. They painted the walls white and chose simple white wool drapes. They also upholstered the furniture with a pattern on a calm blue ground he created for Morris & Company.

First floor drawing room, Red House

Prior to designing the interiors of their country get-a-way, Morris commissioned friend and architect Philip Webb to design their first home when he was newly married. Red House was completed in 1860. Although the style of Red House was based on a medieval theme and wrought with subtle medieval details, it is comparatively light and airy with an open floor plan and many white painted walls.

Drawing room in Standen. (image from The National Trust.)

Billiard room in Standen. (image from The National Trust.)

Philip Webb designed a number of English country houses. Many of his interiors had simple white-painted paneling -- much in contrast to the Victorian obsession of dark color palettes and rooms filled with clutter. A Wilshire house, Clouds (1881-1891), also designed by Webb included white walls and white painted plaster and woodwork with just a simple fireplace.

English architect CFA Voysey designed his own living room in The Orchard (1900) completely clutter-free. The interior space is very simple: he covered the walls with a violet fabric just to eye level then painted everything above white. The tiles around the fireplace hearth are a pale green. Though he did not align himself with modernists of his time, to our eyes this room is fresh, light and very modern.

Arguably, two designers who really let the air and sunshine in are Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.

The Mackintoshes married in 1900 and moved into a flat in Glasgow decorating it in their own very unique language. Above is their studio drawing room – clear, calm and bright – this room is certainly the opposite of most dark, cluttered interiors so prevalent of the time.

The Mackintosh’s bedroom: walls, ceiling and furniture were all painted white with white drapes surrounding the white bed – designs stenciled on the frieze of the bed were repeated in embroidery on the bedcover and the valance (not shown). This all-white room was a radical departure of the time not only in color, but form and style.

The bedroom of The Hill House.

Designed in 1902 and completed in 1904, The Hill House was designed for the family of Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie in Helensburgh, Scotland.

The Mackintoshes understanding of spatial relationships, ability to deliver a clearly defined program, as well as create a unique repertoire of forms, colors, and exquisite details were truly a groundbreaking vision of the time. Their rooms were bright, airy and spacious and their furniture creations light and finely crafted. Their spaces weren’t simply decorated, they were designed.

The bedroom of The Hill House, expanded view.

Margaret was an incredibly talented artist and had great influence on her husband’s work. Exactly how closely the two collaborated on the interiors is unclear, but often her initials were added to his drawings and renderings. Particularly notable are her gesso murals and embroidered panels she alone created. One wonders if she lived in a country where her vision was more acceptable, wasn’t hampered by her disagreeable husband who lost clients, had the important social connections and the ability to self-promote what work we would be seeing?

Top image: Elsie de Wolfe's dining room on Irving Place second remodel c. 1900; Last five images: CFA Voysey from John Pile’s History of Interior Design, Mackintoshes Blake, Essential Charles Renie Mackintosh and Swinglehurst, CRM.

Best of: lookbook.nu

By: Vera Gushansky
Lookbook.nu is a website dedicated to exposing people's personal style. Below are some of my favorite, recently posted looks.

The Granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway

By: Vera Gushansky
Everyone is familiar with the works of Ernest Hemingway, but what about the lives of his offspring? Dree Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's granddaughter, is a fashion forward chica who is making her own print on the industry. This 5'9 skinny mini has graced catwalks and the pages of vogue with her striking features.

Christmas in Kansas City...

On the late, late evening of Christmas Eve, after much to eat and much more to drink, my husband and I were traveling home in the midst of one of Kansas City’s worst blizzards since (1979? or 1826? I'm not sure). There were a few stranded travelers along the roads, and we needed to help. After all, moments before my husband was proudly chirping about his “animal” of a car. How his American made car trumped my “fancy” German type that I’m so fond of. Cars were abandoned as we loaded passengers up in his Jeep and safely drove them home.

The wind was violent. It pelted snow into our eyes and forced icy snow crystals down our throats as we got out pushing cars to the side of the roads and escorting our fellow travelers into the car. I was without a hat and my hair was coated with bricks of snowy ice. I didn’t notice at the time -- my stomach full, my veins pumping warm red wine and we were doing a good deed.

Earlier in the evening as I kissed Billy good-bye and darted out the door, I paused for a moment to glance over at my hat and mittens. I left them on the chair. I was going to a Christmas Eve dinner, there was no reason I needed to dress appropriately for a winter blizzard -- my skirt, tights, high-heeled boots and Christmas brooch neatly pinned to my sweater would do me just fine.

Today, I can barely sit erect as my head splits in two, my body aches, my sinus passages throb, my eyeballs heavy as lead cannon balls, and my lungs burn like a raging inferno... I dream of a warm place in the French West Indies.

I vow in my next Midwestern home to create it as a Martinique retreat.

So the next time I have to look outside at this:

I will be inside seeing this:

and this:

and this:

Three images above from French Island Elegance by Michael Connors.
Living room of unidentified French Plantation home; Dining area of La Réunion, Grand Case, Martinique; Maison du Mauduit, a nineteenth-century home, in Guadeloupe.

Black is Back

by: Jade Jorda

It may be "2000 and late" but black lips are my current obsession. If you're gonna go with it, make your eyes as natural-looking as you can otherwise you'll over do it and look like one of the KISS band members. Use light silver, white or nude eye shadow, and a dash of mascara to complete the look. You can also use a little bit of eyeliner but keep it minimal.

NO!! YES!!

Here's a couple lipsticks that'll do the trick. ;-)


1. Yves Saint Laurent Gloss Pur Black, $28, available at: www.sephora.com
2. Lipstick Queen Black Tie Optional: Black Sinner Shine, $22 available at: www.henribendel.com
3. Lancôme Color Fever Gloss in Piha, $48, available at: www.bloomingdales.com

source: style.com

Spotlight on: Natacha Marro shoes

by: Jade Jorda

Price: £485

No. of editions: 10

Delivery Time: 2 weeks

Sizes: Handmade to order

Natacha Marro grew up in Nice before moving to London to study at the world renowned Cordwainers College. After serving a traditional apprenticeship she opened her first shop in South London in 2000. Over the last 14 years she has created her own unmistakeable style (her work is proof of her motto: ‘anything is possible’) that is mandatory wear for the world’s most flamboyant dressers. Her client list includes David Bowie, Gwen Stefani, Goldfrapp, Daphne Guinness, Grace Jones, Girls Aloud, Olivia Newton John and Grayson Perry. Her reputation became truly galactic when she was asked to design Luke Skywalker and Obi One’s shoes in the latest Star Wars films. Natacha has created these fabulous Mary Jane ‘heal-less’ liquid red glitter shoes exclusively for 20ltd.com. Only 10 pairs will ever be made.


source: 20LTD

These are bound to make Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz jealous. ;-)

Addition to My Wish List.

by: Jade Jorda

Santa, pleeeasseeee! ;-)

source: Cheek Magazine issue#14

Zadig et Voltaire Musique

by: Jade Jorda

To prove that fashion and music are in sync, the well-established brand Zadig et Voltaire has started to sell music exclusively online through their own website. The first of a series is Nightology by Playground, which has the similar indie-rock/electro sounds as Cut/Copy. To make that band even more special, the man behind the beats is Firouz Farman Farmaian, a descendant of the Kajar Dynasty that ruled Persia until the mid-Twenties. Well well, that ought to be royal. ;-)

available here.

Here's the music video of Nightology's "Maravillosa".

source: Vogue.com (UK)

Vintage Dresses

By: Vera Gushansky