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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eleish Van Breems

I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with one of my personal design icons, interior designer and antiques dealer Edie van Breems. Edie and her business partner Rhonda Eleish are the founders of Eleish Van Breems and the authors of three of my favorite design books, Swedish Interiors, Swedish Country Interiors, and Reflections on Swedish Interiors.

Edie spent the morning talking with me about her work and how Eleish Van Breems has evolved and grown since she and Rhonda began working together in 1998. Childhood friends, they followed different paths after school, but working together was always on the horizon and when the right moment presented itself, they seized it. A mutual interest in design, a shared heritage with family connections in Sweden, and an affinity for the look and lifestyle made Scandinavia their focus.

Edie gave me a tour of her beautiful house, part of which functions as a showroom for antiques and as the office for her interior design business.

Long known for their selection of fine Scandinavian antiques and home accessories, Eleish Van Breems is now importing a range of beautiful Swedish reproductions. The furniture is crafted in Sweden and includes pieces in a variety of styles from different historical periods. The pair have recently collaborated with Farrow and Ball to offer finishes from F&B's incomparable line of paints. The partnership came about as Edie and Rhonda searched for a manufacturer of high-quality paint whose colors were consistently true to samples.

A basic tenant of Swedish life is maintaining a balance with nature and these pieces are produced with a focus on sustainability and using environmentally friendly materials. Painted by a talented team of artisans in Connecticut, the finishes are rich and durable. Edie showed me a few new arrivals and recent finish samples.

After enjoying an exquisite lunch prepared by Edie in her light-filled kitchen, I pulled out my dog-eared copies of all three of the Eleish Van Breems books and, in true design geek fashion, made Edie sign each one. She was very good natured about it.

Then we hit the road. Our first stop was the Farrow and Ball shop in Westport, Connecticut. Overseen by the charming and dapper Gardner Stevens, the shop has some pieces from the Eleish Van Breems reproduction line painted in colors one would not normally associate with Swedish interiors.

This Ӧstermalm chair is painted a deep aubergine - a non-traditional finish color that offers a modern interpretation of historic Scandinavian design and shows how the pieces can work in contemporary interiors of any style.

From there we went to Lilian August in Norwalk, Connecticut where Eleish Van Breems has an in-store boutique showcasing a selection of their Swedish and Scandinavian antiques and decorative accessories.

At the end of the day Rhoda met us for a cup of tea, and she and Edie talked about the inception of Eleish Van Breems and how, from the beginning, educating the buyer was a priority. A client took home not just a piece of antique furniture, but knowledge of Swedish history, regional styles and folk culture, of stylistic decoration, traditional color palettes and the minerals used to create them. The combination of soulful antiques in the light, uncluttered, elegant Scandinavian aesthetic they championed was irresistible. Rhonda explained that the Swedish principle of functionality in furniture design is why the pieces remain relevant in contemporary interiors.

Today, Eleish Van Breems continues to inspire, demonstrating how the tenants of Swedish style can be interpreted to suit anyone's personal taste. Edie and Rhonda are such a dynamic pair, and clearly so passionate about what they do, it is easy to see why Eleish Van Breems has met with such success and created a devoted following.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Antiquarian's Garden

I spent a few days last month travelling through Connecticut and was fortunate that my trip coincided with the Garden Conservancy's Open Day in Litchfield County. I cannot sing the praises of the Garden Conservancy loud enough; through it I have gained entry into private gardens I have previously only seen in books or magazines, and never imagined exploring in person. In case you missed it, last week I shared photos of Bunny William's garden at Tone on Tone (we are giving away a signed copy of her book on July 8th so stop by if you haven't already) and today I am sharing another - very different but equally inspiring garden - antique dealer Michael Trapp's in West Cornwall, Connecticut.

Tucked behind his shop, the garden is laid out over a series of terraces above a river. Michael's unique style is evident wherever your eye falls; salvaged building materials and re-purposed artifacts give the garden a 'lost in time' quality.

Stone steps lead to the pool and grotto on a lower level:

A small terrace offers a beautiful vantage point over the pool:

One of two studios on the property:

After having visited a variety of gardens, of different styles and sizes, I have arrived at the conclusion that every garden possesses a degree of magic and surely the source is the spirit of the person who looked at an uncultivated plot of land saw in it exactly what was possible.

For information on joining the Garden Conservancy visit their website. Open Days continue across the country through November 1st.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guest Posting at Tone on Tone and A Giveaway

Please pop over to Tone on Tone where I am thrilled to be guest posting at one of my favorite blogs. Loi is sharing my tour of Bunny Williams' exquisite Connecticut gardens and offering the chance to win a signed copy of her beautiful book, An Affair With A House.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Scent, Memory

My grandmother loved a party and she threw several spectacular ones at her house in Rhode Island during the summers I spent with her. The hall was invariably filled with Oriental lilies and to this day their scent transports me. With a fragrance so strong it can travel through rooms - just a few stems are enough to induce a reverie.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Words To Decorate By

"The objects we surround ourselves with form our private language. When we put these into play with personal memories, mythologies, and points of view, we express a rich personal world." - Susan Ferrier in Art of the House.

I have long been a fan of Susan Ferrier's interiors and Bobby McAlpine's architecture, and eagerly anticipated their collaboration in the recently published Art of the House. I was not disappointed. I spent the weekend pouring over this inspiring book. Exquisitely bound, the book is a work of art in itself, and is loaded with rich images and meaningful text; it was time well spent.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Dining Room Update

Back in February when I wrote about the restyled living room at Church Street I mentioned that I would follow up with the consecutive revamping of the dining room. It's hard to believe it has taken me two months but after a hectic winter life has at last settled down here and I was finally able to put this post together.

The main event was the purchase of this fabulous chest from friend and fellow blogger Loi Thai whose Bethesda, Maryland shop, Tone on Tone, is nirvana for those of us who love antique Swedish furniture. Its arrival is what sparked the repainting and redecorating of the room.

I painted eight different samples on the wall and in the end settled on Benjamin Moore's 'Classic Grey', no doubt influenced by my visit to Loi's beautiful home two years ago (read about it here.) The curtain hardware is painted the same color as the wall but in a semi-gloss finish.

Accessories at Church Street rotate according to whim and the seasons; right now these marble finials from a favorite shop in Rhode Island, Cottage & Garden, and a match striker picked up on our mid-winter trip to Charlottesville at a serendipitous find, Roxy Daisy, are on display.

As I mentioned in the living room post, I salvaged the Scalamdre trim when I had that room's curtains redone. It is a favorite, in a sadly discontinued color-way, and I reused on the dining room's new curtains. (And Mr. H still failing to see how thrifty I am!?!) The silver linen, Stone Harbor, is from Kravet.

The dining room chairs were reupholstered with a new treatment that I am loving right now - humble upholstery tacks as the trim detail. The flax fabric, Middleton Linen, is from F. Schumacher.

These paintings, by Vermont artist Glenn Suokko, have moved around the house once or twice but are perfect here in feeling and tone, and the frames satisfy my penchant for having a little gilt in every room.

By now you know that I favor neutral interiors and accessorize with color in small doses, often in the form of flowers, and this room is the perfect palette for that. I have found I can introduce any color into it and it looks fabulous. Right now I am taking advantage of the varied selection of gorgeous tulips that are readily available.

I can't get over how beautiful these are and am a little obsessed with this shade of pinkish purple right now - in a nubby linen or cotton velvet I can see it as some pillows for the living room or in a raw silk upholstering a pair of petite gilt side chairs that I have in storage. We just need to keep that between ourselves because I am supposed to be 'good' now.

I believe staying busy is the key to staying out of trouble so I have signed up for two classes at our local arts center. One night a week I am learning how to use a condensed version of Photoshop, 'Photoshop Elements' and on weekends I'm studying digital photography so I can finally take advantage of all the great features on my 'big' camera. I'll let you know how that works out for me.