Stuff: Two Perspectives

We have in our possession two beautiful and inspirational books, which exemplify two radically different approaches to "stuff". One is "A Perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life" by Mary Randolph Carter; the other is Axel Vervoordt's "Wabi Inspirations"

I suspect most of us are living somewhere in the happy medium gray area. The top picture makes my head spin, but the table at the bottom one isn't even being used! Am I right? Put that table to work!

The designer in me craves simplicity, cleanliness and being able to appreciate the integrity and beauty of the objects I live with unvarnished with "stuff". It's also nice to feel like there is room to move around and the place isn't all "junked up" as my Dad would say. You don't want your things to overtake you, and overpower your psyche; which they can. or to put it another way, You don't want the dress to wear you. Too much stuff can make you feel like your drowning; like you can't breathe and your executive can functions grow somewhat diminished.

But the artist in me likes to leave everything out, mostly so I know what I have to work with; and I like to keep all my pencils and pastels out on the table because I'm never really done using them. And I don't want to be. I want them to be there at the ready for when inspiration strikes. Its too tedious to put everything away and pull everything out time and time again. Pff! Then you become more like a trained animal and less like a creator. "The perfectly kept house..." book features a picture of Alexander Calder's studio/workshop and it's a fabulous shot. He's working away, happily surrounded by a storm of visual ephemera of his own creation.
Perhaps the solution is to have two spaces - if you can - dedicate one to keep calm and clean where you can relax and breathe like a human being, and the other to the storm of creative assemblage and destruction where you can breathe like an artist. (and leave everything out!)


The Wonderful Cabinet of Curiosity

Ah, the curiosity cabinet!


Collections of the wonderful! Most often an assorted stash of the natural world in both its sublime (feathers?) and gross (skulls?) state. And how wonderful it is to actually hold what we read about in books (or on google or kindle or whatever) and to turn it around in our own bare hands! And, we can wonder (with curiosity of course) what the heck is this? where did this come from? How did it get to be this way and how did it form so nicely? A curiosity cabinet in every home would be great, don't you think? We have just about everything in this cabinet below, life studies, pressed flowers, magnifying glasses, skulls-coyotes and crocodile alike, old bones, bugs trapped in lucite, coral, occasional taxidermy, and the odd little artifact you just have to hold on to. I see the Paris Market as one big walk-in curiosity cabinet. You never know what you will find and digging in crates and bins and peeking around the next corner is half the fun.

Our cabinets of curiosities (and pretties):


Melancholia in Black and White: The photography of Jan Reich

Imagine working abroad for a few months, feeling homesick for your country, and traveling back for a visit only to find it drastically changed and changing still. That’s the place Jan Reich found himself in when he returned to Prague in 1969, after spending just less than a year in Paris. The changes were due largely to the Soviet occupation following the 1968 invasion. In a 2007 interview with Radio Prague he described the situation: 
“The borders were now closed and all the magazines I had worked for were no more. I was without work and the whole situation was bleak: a police state.”
This is where his famed series “Prague” was born. Reich set out to capture his changing homeland; Bohemian landscapes, crumbling buildings, decaying monuments - and all the torturous melancholia that comes with saying a long sorrowful goodbye...
"I was worried that areas would disappear before I had a chance to photograph them. The factories and apartment blocks weren't posh but they had a poetry which was wonderful. At least the photographs captured what once existed. Still, for me it's not enough that they document, they must also capture layers of emotion.”
In the well curated "Bohemian Reflections" exhibition at Telfair Academy, the sadness of a fading Bohemia is a smoky fog. The photographs tell the story of loss, and in so many images we see only the ruins of a structure or a statue. You can't help but wonder what it was like before, as a whole. And you can't resist the temptation to think about the image by what it is not, instead of what it is. We view it now in its broken down and disrespected state, and we realize how fragile the threads of people and place are. Or maybe just how much we instinctively ahbore degradation.

The photographs trend towards a dark gray, with the bright areas at times being so whispy and dissipated that you really experience the feeling of a disappearing homeland. Through these photographs we come to understand that people and places define each other, and it begs the question, when a place begins to disappear, who are we? where are we?

I love his photographs of un-peopled landscapes with solitary statues (sometimes angels with wings) and they speak to how we can feel when things begin to shift – like we are the only ones standing guard, and yet we are frozen still, helpless against the inevitable changes of life. You could say that change is the very definition of life, but to loose the beauty of a place you once called home is a bite that stings.
When we know the back story behind these photographs, - An artist returns home to find his country under a foreign power, the buildings in disrepair, the monuments crumbling or toppled over, and the lonely countryside seemingly forgotten in a reckless lack of love - the images become even more poignant. It is a story we all know well: You go home, and nothing is the same.
Some Jan Reich "esque" items we have in the shop: vintage cameras; bellowed and boxed respectively, prints from the stash downstairs, and plaster of Paris architectural elements.

Jan Reich was one of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated 20th-century photographers. Using an older large-format camera, Reich spent decades photographing Prague. His 2005 volume Bohemia won the 2006 Book of the Year prize in the Magnesia Litera Book Awards. He died in 2009.


London's Two, Its a Zoo!

There was some hand-wringing over the rain early that afternoon, but right around 2, (as if on cue), the skies cleared away huffy rainclouds and the sun shone on London and her guests all day long.
                                                                                                                                                       detail photos on left by Jessie Matz; others by lauren de rosa
London, of course, was a blur, and in between womanning the popcorn maker and checking on fuses, I barely caught the little fireball in action. But there was everything you could want at a kid's party. Pony rides, and all of the pony’s friends – geese, camels and lamas, a baby cow and baby goats. We had fun painting faces, spinning cotton candy and of course, popping the popcorn, and did I mention there was a superb live band playing bluegrass tunes that kept us rollicking into the early evening? This party came complete let me tell ya!  Great tasting hot dogs and hamburgers and vanilla cupcakes that just melted in your mouth. And a sweets table that just made you want to jump in.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            photos by Jessie Matz

You can tell I and everyone else there had a great time. I have to say a zoo party really brings kids into their element. Their peaceful, yet rambunctious and free-wheeling spirits really gives you a shot of joy. Lots of smiles, lots of good times, and I only saw a kid trying to climb the bunting pole once. Success! Oh, and the birthday girl was downright darling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          photos by lauren de rosa

You only turn 2 once and you certainly had a great kickoff to two London!
Happy Birthday sweetheart!


New Arrivals: Beautiful Cards and Notepaper

We're currently gushing over the new cards
and notepaper we just got in.

Pretty, simple, clean and hitting just the right note:
(-- sweet, but not overly delicate ---)

Lovely right?

Perfect when you want a joyful, non-sarcastic way to celebrate a happy occasion,
a new baby, sentiments of love or thoughts of gratitude.


Our Autumn Table

Our Autumn Table 
(I won't ruin this with a lot of talk.)


Designers Kelsey and Shelby put this beautiful table together.


Hats off to Fall

Dear Summer, It's not me, it's you. 
You need to change. Into fall.
Yes! Fall is finally here! And we have a great lineup of soft, cozy hats in a refreshing palette of charcoal grays and bright pinks. All manner of checks, plaids, tweeds, herringbone and felted bows await your perusal... This sporty one at the top is one of my faves.

We also just got in these great new leather cuffs that will give a nice punch of color to your autumn ensembles. My favorite is the red - with the metal hardware it makes for a very classic look. These are super cute but they will definitely be gone soon! We barely got them unpacked yesterday and they were already flying out the door.
And that's actually just a small taste of our new arrivals. 
Metallic pumpkins, colorful gourds, new books, new tableware and new glassware is arriving daily. I will be bringing a lot more of our new arrivals to the blog very soon!
Welcome back Fall!


Postcards from Paris: {The Piano Man Crêperie}

There is a red façade crêperie on one of the cobblestone hillsides at the top of Montmartre, and a piano man who plays nightly. I don't know how often this can be expected, but last night he was accompanied by a singer dressed in all black; a man with quintessential French features, a pointed nose and eyes that smile. He sang songs by Edith Piaf and Charles Azanour, and took breaks sitting in a red velvet booth, sipping on Belgian beer. Covering the walls and ceiling are scraps of paper. There are hundreds of passport photographs, metro ticket stubs, loose-hand sketches and scribbled pleas on recipts like, "I don't ever want to leave Paris." and "Je ne veux pas travailler demain." There is a buried layer of scraps that have been stained by cigarette smoke, most likel from the era when smoking was still legal indoors. I noticed one particular brown-yellow stained receipt that read: Pastis, Pastis, Pastis, Chocolat Chaud, and I wondered who the people were, what kind of evening they were having, which one was the person who decided to be different by ordering a drink of chocolate. Or could it had just been one man who had a sweeth-tooth after his Pastis. Stories can be conjured up with each single scrap. The varying seasons, occasions, people from all over. So many potential stories, a single night wouldn't be enough to imagine all of the possibilities. The personalized wallpaper from the varying patrons felt like the main attraction, with food as a second thought and the music merely to entertain the search.
We did eat our crepes, traditional ones, nothing fancy or daring by any means. We had the piano man for that. Our contribution was a few quick doodles done by in black ink on torn out moleskin pages. It was enjoyable and simple on the slopes of Montmartre.

Lunchtime at Tiffany's

It's not terrible if you knock over a glass, but don't be a bore.
Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers was written by Walter Hoving, immediately following lunch with his grandson John Hoving. Though impishly suggesting he had no idea what role he played in such a creative work, his grandfather said to him "Johnny, it takes a person just as much effort to have bad manners as it does to have good manners, so why don't you take the time to learn some good ones." Here Here!
This is the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, (2011)
This is a great book. And although I wasn't raised in a kennel, of course I am (or was) missing a few beats to the measure in this department. Take this gem on page 10,
"When you both have been seated, don't look around like a startled beetle. Turn directly to the young lady on your right and start talking."
I like this idea of never lacking vigor and purpose and of always being at the helm of a moment.
Oh, and the book is small. He doesn't make so much ado about it all that it feels heavy and tedious. It's short, delightful and the writing is clear and concise all the way through; (you know, the way everyone wrote in the 60's). Also, a running theme is that if you mess up at the table, don't apologize (not even for removing grizzle from your teeth), and don't make too much fuss about anything. In a word: Relax. Page 78 tells us:
"If you knock over your water glass, don't say "Oops." Right the glass and keep talking to you partner, Don't start mopping the table with your napkin. If you spill the water on your partner's dress, offer her your napkin and say you're sorry. But don't start mopping her. It might be misunderstood."
Thank you, Mr. Hoving, because yes, it will be misunderstood! At a party in college a boy name Hector spilled beer on me, and then went to town on my shirt trying to mop it up. Thereafter, he was known as 'Hector the Molester'. Unfortunate and unfair, yes; yet totally appropriate and unavoidable.

Missing from the book is a guideline that many Italian (even marginally Italian families like mine) would do well to follow. If someone has had enough food, don't keep asking them if they want more! Or if they are really sure they are full, ad nauseum. Oy! But I guess that would be another book - Manners for the Host. Although Mom, sending us downstairs to eat with the cat when 'we weren't civilized enough to eat at the table' may have been a stroke of genius. And you know, it wasn't that bad. Smokey ate all that weird stuff you made with Campbell's soup. But I digress,

Of course Mr. Hoving hits the basics - what all the forks mean and how you're supposed to hold them and all that. Including what positions your utensils should take to communicate "done" or "still eating" But there's a few bits that might suprise you, like this one -
"Asparagus is eaten with the fingers, unless stalks are too long."
In addition to table propriety, he alights on the social graces as well,
"...Be more interested in hearing the other person's views than in expressing your own. That is the essence of good conversation. When the table 'turns,' don't get left staring into space. Turn immediately to the girl on your left. If she doesn't turn to you, lean over and say something like this, 'How about getting rid of that fascinating fellow on your left and paying a little attention to me?' Don't forget, faint heart never, etc., etc."
Love it!

And finally: 
Remember that a dinner party is not a funeral, nor has your hostesss invited you because she thinks you are in dire need of food. You're there to be entertaining. Be gay. Do your part. Don't be a gloom.

Yes, don't be a gloom!


Pet Pleasures: Be kind to your four-legged friends

Well, we're not the only ones on the planet! If cats and dogs had a Favorite Things blogpost, I think some of these creature comforts would definitely be on it.
1. Belgian Laundry Basket with Moroccan Pillows (makes a comfy bed for your dog or cat, 2. Knitted Dog Dolls, 3. Giant Yarn Ball from India, 4.Price's Fresh Air-Eliminates Odours-Candle, 5. Dogs Book, 6. Knitted Cat Doll, 7. Fresh Lavender Bundle (known to keep fleas away), 8. Leather Pouf in yellow (a perfect spot for your feline or little dog), 9. Spool of Twine (new arrival!) 10. Cement Garden Bird (at least the cat can pretend), 11. Marbles to chase, 12."Treats" Tin, 13. Vintage Swiss Army Dog Vest from France.

What did I miss?

Postcards from Paris: {The Market of Fleas}

I've never journeyed south on line 13 to Le marché aux puces Vanves, but since my friend is in town who shares the same interest as finding trinkets with tales behind them, I had a reason to go and a partner to accompany me. 
The set-up of the market is different compared to Le marché aux puces Clignancourt, tables are all lined up and the potential buyers walk down the alley. One side there are parked vans, most of them with the back doors opened. Some appear to have the objects spilling directing out of the vans onto the table. 
Of course the objects are fascinating and hold stories all their own. With worned characteristic, the flaws often increase the charm. After going to a fair share of brocantes and vide-greniers, my recent interests lie simply on the people-watching. Even more specifically the older men. Now, I will add that often I see whimsical, wirey haired women with thick-rimmed glasses purusing about in an interesting fashion, but typically it's the Frenchmen they are accompanied by who seem to take my interest. Normally in the grey-hair stage of their lives, confident with their bushy, curled mustaches, and wearing foulards tucked in cardigans. At times, such men can be seen puffing on pipes, and often wearing vintage tweed sportscoats with patched elbows. The type of people who are enchanted by the things from a different era channel it in their apparel.
Though the people-watching adds the atmosphere, it is not the main reason to go. One could really get lost in their own lure. Time passes along quickly, and becomes an unusual element to the afternoon. It gets lost, and I often feel as though I have stepped back in time to 
l'âge d'or.