Sunday, November 2, 2014

London Calls Again

Following my trip to Washington I was home for less than 48 hours before leaving for London to visit my sister, Irene. I wouldn't normally plan travel like that, but Irene asked me late last summer if I would come over to help her make some decorating decisions and this was the window that worked for us both. We only see each other a few times a year and I relish the days we get to spend together.

We were blessed with good weather and a few bright and sunny, un-London-like days. (In Hyde Park near the sunken garden pond.)

A few hours were devoted to visiting the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre where I always stop in at Nordic Style to admire their displays.

Irene is an art historian (on account of her Ph.D. she is actually Dr. Irene) so a visit to The National Gallery to see the current Rembrandt exhibit was required. I was a little fixated on the architecture which almost rivals the collection.

We spent the weekend in Wiltshire enjoying long walks in the countryside. Evidently the literary agent for one of my favorite (deceased) English authors lives here.

Back in London I did what I could to help with the children's routine as Irene needed to finish some writing. I love doing the school run - the English uniforms kill me and my niece, if you could hear the way she calls me 'Aunt Philly' - well, I can be counted on to indulge things Mummy does not allow.

On my last day I spent some time before school pick-up exploring Notting Hill where some streets have a distinctly bohemian feel very different from other London neighborhoods. And Portobello Road is a lot of fun for both the antique shops and the boutiques.

Irene (below with Spaniel pup Lily) is eight years younger than I am. At dinner one night she mentioned to our companion that when she was two-years-old I saved her from drowning in our swimming pool. While it is not something I've thought about in a long time, it is my most vivid childhood memory. My movements leading up to and following the incident play like a movie in my head. It was no less than a miracle I showed up at the moment I did and for much of my young life I felt acutely responsible for her. Now firmly in middle age, however, it seems roles are reversing and Irene has begun to feel responsible for my well-being because whenever we are together in London she drags me to her gym (admittedly very luxurious and spa-like) and insists I drink green juices.

I want to tell you - probably because another birthday is fast approaching - that despite the age difference and the fact that, given a choice, I would always take wine over kale juice, we were mistaken for twins more than once.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dumbarton Oaks

My daughter and I traveled to Washington, DC last weekend, partly for business but mostly for pleasure. We had beautiful weather, stopped into all my old haunts in Georgetown, saw friends, ate well and laughed a lot. It was a perfect escape. Following are a few photos from the enchanted garden at Dumbarton Oaks.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seize The Week

Most people probably think of Spring as a time of rebirth, but personally fall has always felt like the season for beginning again and starting new projects. This morning the cold weather I've been eagerly anticipating has finally arrived and I am ready to put plans into action.

A few things have been percolating here and the first to go live is that Henhurst has recently partnered with
the brilliant team at Chairish; if you aren't familiar with the site yet, it is a fabulous resource for frequent redecorators. Please click over and have a look at my online shop.

Interestingly enough, fall is my busiest time for decorating work; most new clients reach out to me in September and October. Maybe it is the climate here that inspires that desire; after all, nature herself is redecorating as well.

Wishing everyone a productive week ahead.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Everything’s Bigger in Russia

I am finally getting around to selecting prints for a photo album of our summer travels. (Does anyone else still do this or are you strictly digital?) While I store photos online I don't ever revisit them 'in the cloud' but I frequently return to the albums I began compiling after getting married. The last 19 years have filled a collection of 13 of them (all identical, navy leather from T. Anthony in New York) and they occupy an entire shelf on our family room bookcase. Here are a few shots (culled from about 200) of our visit to St. Petersburg where the palaces, museums and cathedrals were grand on a scale unlike anything else I have ever seen.

Catherine's Palace at Tsarskoe Selo

The enormous tiled stoves appear in nearly every room.

The recreated 'Amber Room.' While the Nazis did not actually make it into the city of St. Petersburg during World War II they did occupy and largely destroy both Catherine's Palace and Peterhof Palace which lie outside the city center. Both have been extensively restored, this room at a cost of several million dollars. Here is an interesting New York Times article on the subject.

The Winter Palace and The Hermitage

The 'Malachite Room'

Church of Our Savior on Blood, built on the site where Tsar Alexander I was assassinated.

The interior is entirely decorated with mosaics.

Peterhof Palace (sadly no interior photography permitted.)

The fountains were designed to rival Versailles.

The Gulf of Finland

St. Issac's Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city.

Malachite and lapis lazuli were used extensively in the interior.

The exterior of the dome of St. Issac's is plated with pure gold; during WWII it was painted over in grey to avoid attracting attention from enemy planes. Do you see the dove suspended in the center?

I have wanted to visit St. Petersburg since reading Robert Massie's biography of Catherine the Great (an excellent book) a few years ago and am very grateful for the opportunity to have made this once-in-a-lifetime trip to be sure.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Autumnal Equinox

My favorite time of year has arrived and with it the usual flurry of seasonal nesting activity - which in my case means purging the house of everything that has become superfluous over the last six months. This activity has taken on an extreme element this September with not just the contents of the house being pared down but with my succeeding in down-sizing my storage unit. By the new year I expect to be able to give it up all together. (Progress. It feels good.)

I have simplifying on my mind right now and the only things I'll be keeping in reserve are seasonal favorites - currently sheepskins and a lot of candles are coming out of summer hibernation.

While temperatures are dropping, we haven't had fire weather yet - but I'm ready and looking forward to it.

This fall finds us in a a transitional place in life; one daughter is applying to college and the other is right behind her. I am focused on maintaining a balance of being a mother and doing everything in my power to make their dreams come true while fostering their future independence, and at the same time carrying on my own fulfilling, creative work. It is a challenging time and an orderly, serene home feels more important than ever.

I've had some long breaks between posts recently but am getting back in the groove so thanks for staying tuned. Wishing you all a happy fall.  xo, Phyllis

Friday, August 22, 2014

Serenity Now!

I hadn't planned on taking a summer hiatus from blogging, but following the blur of camps, colleges and Comfort Inns that July melded into, we left for a three week tour of northern Europe. I posted some highlights of our journey to Instagram along the way but didn't download the almost 2000 photos I took until we landed back at Church Street. Though it feels it like we hit the ground running (right back into work, managing the girls' schedules and losing our beloved 13-year-old Lab, Duncan) I am trying to hold onto a little of that vacation reverie it was so easy to slip into (and so painful coming out of) so am sharing some photos of an addition to my list of favorite small museums, a place that felt like a sanctuary where peace and order prevail, Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen.

Born in 1770, Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen exhibited a precocious talent and entered the Royal Danish Academy of Art at age 11. In 1796 he travelled to Rome where he lived and worked for 40 years, becoming one of the most successful artists of his day. His classical-inspired work can be found all over Europe. Among his more famous commissions is the tomb monument of Pope Pius VII, the only work by a non-Italian in St. Peter's Basilica. Prior to his death in 1844 Thorvaldsen bequeathed his entire estate, including his collection of original models, reliefs, drawings and sketches, to the city of Copenhagen which built an extraordinary museum in his honor. It opened in 1848 and is Denmark’s oldest museum. The building is exquisite - every ceiling and floor in the museum's galleries is an additional work of art.

The museum is built around a large, central courtyard. We visited on a sunny day and the immense windows flooded the galleries with natural light. The effect was magical.

Housed on the second floor at Thorvaldsens are the sculptor's own furniture, books, and his personal collection of paintings and Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. It is truly unique among museums devoted to a single artist's work and a stunning tribute to the sculptor who was considered a national hero. For more information visit the Thorvaldsens Museum website here